05/12/17 1:30pm


Having trouble sifting through some of the massive freeway jumbles in the latest plans for that major I-45 reroute between Downtown and the Beltway? This new video (making the rounds this month as TxDOT hosts a set of public meetings to chat about the project) may or may not help you out. The 10-minute animation shows off what the project plans look like in multicolored, car-spangled 3D action, dragging viewers slowly along the entire project route from Spur 521 up to Beltway 8.

The project plans pull 45 over to the east side of Downtown, to line up alongside US 59 and dive underground behind the George R. Brown convention center. Various flavors of new express lanes, managed lanes, managed express lanes, and connectors weave into and out of a massive new 45-59-10 junction as shown above, all labeled by color. Here’s a clip of the above video showing just that section of the animation:

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Painted By Number
05/10/17 11:30am

Remodeling along the lines of what’s depicted here is now underway on Amherst St. between Kelvin St. and Kirby Dr., according to a Rice Village District rep. A couple of newly released drawings shown here fill in details to some of the previously mentioned changes planned for the south side of Amherst, including the conversion of part of the roadway itself into more walking and sitting room behind some protective planters. And that narrow passageway in the building, running between Amherst and University Blvd., appears to be getting its own signage labeling it as The Alley (complete with light-up arrow directing shoppers inside).

The plans also call for some rooftop greenery and the chopping off of some pointy brick pediments — a swap which the District says will make all that 2-hours-free rooftop parking more visible, in the wake of the recent parking scheme changes:

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Retail Redistricting
03/28/17 2:30pm

2309 Wichita St., Riverside Terrace, Houston

The Chron’s Craig Hlavaty reports from the scene of still-ongoing renovations to the bedecked and multi-turreted home at 2309 Wichita St., better known as the castle-like former duplex, orphanage, and daycare facility in Riverside Terrace that former owner and VA nurse Charles Fondow spent 31-odd years renovating and expanding as his own quirky residence, inspired by his sightseeing travels in Russia and Green Bay, Wisconsin. Fondow died in 2011, his life’s work incomplete. New owner Nick Ugarov, who picked up the property from a bank sale in 2014, has continued Fondow’s legacy with a multi-year renovation project of his own:

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Almost Done
03/27/17 3:00pm

Houston City Club, 1 City Club Dr., Greenway Plaza, Houston

Houston City Club, 1 City Club Dr., Greenway Plaza, Houston

The Houston City Club, best known to passersby as that parking-garage-like building tucked deep in Greenway Plaza across Norfolk St. from Lakewood Church — and to members and guests as perhaps the best indoor tennis venue in the city — will be shutting down forever on June 12th. On the sorta-main-entrance side off City Club Dr. between Edloe and Timmons, the athletic club and event venue has this classic view onto the Greenway Plaza plaza between office buildings Greenway 9 and 11:

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Club Turnover of a Life Time
03/27/17 1:00pm

Centerfield, Minute Maid Park, Houston

Astros historian Mike Acosta, among others, has posted pics of the new Tacolandia beyond the newly reshaped centerfield wall of Minute Maid Park. Tal’s Hill, the former outfield bump that ramped up the wall, has been gone for months now, but reconstruction of other areas around the wall appears to be still ongoing. Serving burgers and tacos on the pictured mezzanine level in homerunville will be a new Shake Shack and Torchy’s, respectively. The wall, 2 additional food-service options, 3 more bars, and a new Astros-memorabilia store in the rehabbed outfield are expected to be ready for opening day next Monday.

Fans attending weigh-ins for the Geico Bassmaster Classic at the Astros’ stadium over the weekend got peeks at the final stages of construction; photos posted to Twitter this morning indicate progress overnight, as well as the new 409-ft. sign (discounted by 27 ft. from the former centerfield distance) and a plastic-ivy Astros insignia above it serving as a batter’s eye, in all its topiary-like glory:

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Torchy’s, Shake Shack, Home Runs
03/17/17 3:45pm

7818 Bellwood Dr., Bellewood, Houston, 77055

7818-bellwood-02

The resemblance of the front entryway of 7818 Bellewood Dr. to its angular 2001 visage might only be visible to those who knew the house in its earlier days —  before the 15-year-old home was taken down to the studs, then expanded to just over twice its original square footage.  The stripdown and buildout started after Boutros Construction bought the place and its roomy 0.7-acre lot, around the time it was listed for $1.15 million; the new, 6,041-sq.-ft. version is now listed at a smidgen under $2.5 million, and is decked out in slatey blues and greys (with most of the interior not yet committed to paint colors, if the listing shots are still a current indication).

Other than some rounding down of the turret on the right of the entrance, what else has changed? The porch stairs and main mass above the front door are a little more curvaceous, the widow’s walk has evidently been chopped off the top and sealed up during re-reroofing . . . oh, and there’s that brick chimney stabbed into the front of the new master suite off to the side. A more head-on view of the new look is provided by a rendering of the house, though a few details have been tweaked since the drawing was done:

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Hidden In Plan View
03/09/17 5:30pm

610 Allston St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77007

The 2-bedroom home snuggled into the western side of the Alexan Heights apartment complex has hit the market this week, lagging a few days behind this weekend’s discovery of an unidentified skeleton in a wall cavity accessible from the attic. The holdout house was foreclosed on in early 2015 after then-owner Mary Cerruti stopped making mortgage payments; it’s not clear exactly when she went missing, but she reportedly sent someone a Valentine, the Chronicle‘s Emily Foxhall reported earlier this week.  Foxhall noted that while the bones were uncovered along with a pair of cheap red glasses like the ones Cerruti was known to wear, the skeleton had not yet been officially identified (nor had foul play been ruled either in or out).

The recently remodeled house is currently on the market for $439,900; the 1,161-sq.-ft. building sits on a 6,600-sq.-ft. lot, spooned on 3 sides by the Alexan:

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Selling the Scene
01/16/17 11:45am

If you’ve got today off, you could go check out the recently reinstalled Broken Obelisk in front of the Rothko Chapel, dedicated to the doctor back in 1971 (and balanced back in place last month as shown above, following the statue’s extended reparative staycation in Connecticut). Swamplot is pausing for the afternoon to pay a quick visit; we’ll be back tomorrow with our regular coverage of Houston real estate back-and-forth.

Footage of reinstallation of Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk at the Rothko Chapel: Rothko Chapel

Happy Birthday MLK
11/01/16 4:00pm

NEW YORK FIRM PICKED FOR ROTHKO CHAPEL REDO Broken Obelisk by Barnett Newman, Rothko Chapel, Menil Collection, HoustonThe board of the Rothko Chapel has recently pinned down Architecture Research Office for a planned redo of the chapel’s lighting system — which executive director David Leslie mentioned earlier this year has been on the board’s wishlist (possibly to be funded by that February Lynn Wyatt auction, which included couture clothing, art, and a Tilda Swinton Skype session).  The company will also update the HVAC system, “retool the entrance vestibule, and renovate the Chapel’s skylight,” writes Nicholas Korody. Also on the docket — a plan for modifications to the surrounding plaza and the reflecting pool where Broken Obelisk will once again sit (after those out-of-town repairs wrap up); Korody says the plan may also involve “several nearby bungalows.” [Archinect, via Curbed; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk and Rothko Chapel: Ed Uthman[license]

08/25/16 12:45pm

Rendering of Fertitta Center at former Hofheinz Pavilion

Rendering of Fertitta Center at former Hofheinz PavilionThe $20-million basketball stadium donation previously rumored to be on its way from Landry’s owner and UH board of regents chairman Tilman Fertitta was confirmed this morning by the school, which also released renderings of what’s planned for Hofheinz Pavilion — eventually to sport the name Fertitta Center. The depictions of the $60-million upgrade  include some prominent views of a well-labeled Hofheinz Plaza, part of a deal with the Hofheinz family after a lawsuit over the basketball arena’s planned renaming.

Below are a few more shots of the plans, which UH says should be wrapped up by the end of the 2018-19 season:

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Center Moving Forward
08/17/16 5:15pm

3303 Shadowncrest Ln., Spring, TX 77380

3303 Shadowncrest Ln., Spring, TX 77380 Now for sale just across the Spring-Creek-hugging southern edge of Harris County: this 1970s ranch, carefully dressed by the seller in slate panels. The 3-bedroom 2-bathroom property was given a new outer skin (as seen in the top photo) to tie into features of the extensive interior redo, carried out by the seller’s own stone-and-tile-centric remodeling business. New features in the home include stone paneling, a few reshaped windows, and some throwback color schemes (including a black-and-white checkered garage floor), as well as a new pump system for the drought-tolerant backyard landscape (complete with koi pond.)  Asking price is $400,000 — check out more before-and-after shots below:

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Slated for a Redo
08/12/16 12:45pm

VACANT DOWNTOWN DAYS INN TO GET A TOTAL FACELIFT, BECOME WHATEVER HOTEL IT’S BECOMING 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy., Downtown, Houston, 77002SFK Development’s Nadeem Nasir tells Craig Hlavaty that the owners of the long-vacant hotel highrise at 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy. are, in fact, currently “in the process of rehabbing the building,” though they’re still “waiting to get on the same page as a hotel franchise.” Hlavaty writes this morning that the group won’t answer questions about which hotel franchise that might be, but that the structure will be getting a full strip-down and facial reconstruction as part of the process (in the face of a minimum $25-million cost to tear the structure down and build new). Swamplot’s reader on the scene sends fresh word from a worker earlier this week that the site may become a Sheraton — a story which matches up with a few previous rumors — but no official nods or confirmation have come from either the owners or the hotel chain. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy.: Garrett Robles

08/10/16 10:15am

Former Chirps Chicken and Rice, 300 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Former Chirps Chicken and Rice, 300 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008A reader caught sight of some recent stirrings at the southwest corner of W. 20th St. and Rutland, where food truck The Rice Box looks to be setting up a second non-mobile operation in the former home of Chirps Chicken and Rice. Braun Enterprises snapped up the 1,584-sq.-ft. building in mid-2015, when Chirps flew the coop; a TABC permit for the dry zone address was issued to Black Dragon Private Club — an entity listing The Rice Box as a trade name — in early May. Braun also owns the retail strip across Rutland, which replaced those Baptist Temple buildings that were demolished in 2013; the photo above was taken from the Zoe’s Kitchen at the corner.

Photos: Jason B. Cockerell (top), Chirps Chicken and Rice (bottom)

Rutland Remake
07/05/16 2:00pm

UH’S HOFHEINZ PAVILION COULD PICK UP TILMAN FERTITTA’S NAME Hofheinz Pavilion, 3422 Cullen Blvd., University of Houston, Houston, 77204That anonymous naming-rights-sized donation toward the redo of UH’s Hofheinz Pavilion looks to be coming from none other than local real estate mogul and reality teevee star Tilman Fertitta, writes Benjamin Wermund this week. The UH board of regents, which Fertitta also chairs, voted to authorize the basketball arena upgrade last fall after the donation was announced. Fertitta also helped the university navigate the subsequent lawsuit from the Hofheinz family over the potential renaming; the matter was eventually resolved by new plans to rename part of Holman St. and to erect a statue of late county judge Roy Hofheinz near by. Based on a chat with former Georgia Tech Foundation president John B. Carter, Wermund writes that the board “would have to vote to accept Fertitta’s gift and to name the arena after him. It’s not uncommon for members of university governing boards to give large donations to the colleges they represent, but board members who become donors should recuse themselves from any discussions or votes about granting them naming rights on a university building.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Hofheinz Pavilion: University of Houston

06/16/16 11:00am

shops-at-sawyer-yards-rendering
Leasing Materials for Lovett's Sawyer Yards

Lovett Commercial’s latest
markup of the warehouse-turning-strip-mall at the corner of Edwards and Sawyer streets includes the B&B Butchers logo, which has wandered about a third of a mile from the carve-it-themselves steakhouse’s year-old spot 6 blocks away on Washington Ave. All of the other logos included on the Shops at Sawyer Yards flier seem to check out: Hair salon Satori and tooth salon Bayou City Smiles are already up and running in the space, while nail salon Polish Parker & Roe, stop-calling-us-Crossfit gym chain Orange Theory Fitness, and Vietnamese noodle shop Local Pho all appear to have at least a few of their permits in place.

Both the updated rendering of the site (up top, facing southeast) and the labeled plan show a restaurant space at the end of the development with a patio facing Sawyer; the flier also labels the slot as a brasserie (as opposed to a steakhouse). The shaded aerial view below shows the development (labeled as just Sawyer YARDS) in place amid a few of the nearby artsy redevelopment projects (marked in green), new townhomes (marked in purple), and the Lovett office:

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First Ward