08/17/18 2:30pm

Don’t be fooled by the old marquee fronting the OST Plaza strip near Scott St. — the property is turning the page with a new front facade and a new forward-thinking tenant to go inside it. No Regrets Tattoo Removal parlor is the first business to arrive following renovations to the building, completed August 1. Didjah Tax Insurance, Motherland African Hair Braiding, and the On The Rocks bar all held out during the work. But everyone else took a hike before it got started, including Guarantee Loans. (Despite the honorable mention, it dropped the “s” and opened a new location at 4310 OST a few years ago.)

New wood paneling now tops the storefronts where the awning went away as part of the redo. And in place of all that yellow, stone walls fill in around the doors and windows:

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Clean Slate
08/17/18 11:30am

Pictured above is the first action this shuttered Macaroni Grill by the Galleria has seen since changing hands last October: the erection of new green fencing around its empty stone and stucco building. Its new-ish owner is Hillstone Hospitality, the group behind the Houston’s restaurant chain as well as several other single-location eateries across the country.

Hillstone has been in the neighborhood even before getting its hands on the empty restaurant, however; the nearest Houston’s is just west on the corner of Fountain View Dr.:

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New Westheimer Barricades
08/16/18 10:00am

A vast pet boarding facility is now taking over the Winport Furniture building at 6393 Richmond — which stretches back south nearly the entire block along Unity Dr., pictured above. After sitting on the place for 6 months, the pet resort operator that bought it filed a building permit yesterday indicating it’s about to rejigger the former 19,497-sq.-ft. showroom with the help of Slattery Tackett Architects.

Before shifting its focus to office furniture in 2016, the building dealt in home items and called itself The Chair King:

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Gone to the Dogs
08/15/18 10:15am

A CURTAIN CALL FOR THE HIDDEN WESTERN UNION BUILDING BEFORE BANK OF AMERICA CENTER DIGESTS IT? With workers now punching holes in the facade where the Bank of America Center wraps the dead Western Union building it swallowed in 1983, city planner David Welch asks the question: “Will we be able to see the hidden building during construction?” It should be hard to miss; according to one Swamplot reader: “It is completely intact, tar and gravel roof included.” Size-wise, it takes up nearly a quarter of the B of A building’s ground floor, its northeast corner wrapped by the skyscraper’s own at Lousiana and Capitol streets — where the new openings are taking shape now. But its emergence may be brief: Once the planned new restaurant and cafe get situated inside it, the structure’s time-capsule mystique will be gone. And after new interior entrances open its innards to the tower’s own central lobby corridor, the telegram building will be completely metabolized. [David Welch; previously on Swamplot] Photo: David Welch

08/14/18 5:15pm

The biggest eye-level change to the former Social Junkie restaurant building is the one shown over the Acura in the photo at top. And while it’s definitely less of a statement than its predecessor — a nod to the Texas Real Estate & Co. office across the parking lot — what exactly it means is more of a mystery. Renovators are still putting the finishing touches on the structure — blackwashed earlier this year — so the lettering could just be a sign of things to come.

Or maybe it’s there to stay, like the 2 Shell Shack signs and adjacent menu teasers that went up not long ago beneath the butterfly roof:

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Art Goes Here
08/13/18 4:00pm

NEARLY 100 MEYERLAND HOUSES WILL SOON BE UP OFF THE GROUND Forty homes total have now been elevated in Meyerland and 57 are currently on the way up, reports Nancy Sarnoff. Their boosters are seeking the same degree of flood protection enjoyed by the 29 percent of Meyerland homeowners whose houses have never flooded in the past. A few elevations have been paid for by the City of Houston; others were self-funded. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo of 4718 N. Braeswood Blvd.: Christine Gerbode

08/09/18 5:15pm

Houston’s latest Bacco-branded wine venue Bacco’s Wine Garden has begun its takeover of 3611 Montrose Blvd. by adding this corral to the house’s front parking lot, although nothing’s being consumed on site yet; a TABC application is still pending approval. Now enclosed within the pen: the gable-roofed sign once colored by the logo for Tony’s Place, the homeless center for LGBT youth under 26 that relocated last summer to a Midtown space it shares with the Salvation Army’s own youth shelter on McGowen St.

On the north side of the building, Bacco’s’s own sign is now up:

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Bacco’s Wine Garden
08/09/18 2:15pm

A Swamplot reader sends a photo (top) of the trees that appear to have grown up outside the former McGowen Cleaners real fast since plant life was first added to the bed (above) earlier this year. That’s because the crew now converting the place into a restaurant called Vibrant tore out the bushier trees just over a week ago and replaced them with a row of taller new cedars.

The swap-out left the bed short on plant life last Wednesday and Thursday:

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Growth Spurt
08/08/18 1:30pm

Add F45 Training to the list of businesses taking over warehouses next to where I-45 will run over a few of its own once its rerouted through East Downtown. That’s the gym’s black box in the photo at top, neighbored by the Ferris wheel that new-ish bar Truck Yard recently installed in its own next-door lot. North of an adjacent portion of the building that F45 hasn’t touched, exterior work added new horizontal siding a couple shades darker than the previous off-white onto the structure, as well as the doorway — pictured above — atop which the national fitness chain has been flexing its COMING SOON signage for the past few months.

A permit filed yesterday for the building at 1110 Hutchins indicates rehab work is about to head inside to deal with a 2,650-sq.-ft. portion of its space. It’s 10,000 sq.-ft. total and backs up nearly halfway down the block on Lamar St. where it stands off from the south side of the Kim Hung Supermarket, long-whispered to be about to be demolished for something much taller.

Photos: F45 Training

Bodybuilding Buildings
08/02/18 12:30pm

Magnolia’s Ice Cream & More is now grooming the former Park Place Pharmacy building 2 blocks west of the Gulf Fwy. for what’ll be its second creamery. Although the pharmacy building lost its original signage — pictured above in 2012 — sometime before MMA gym Metro Fight Club took it over a few years ago (to be followed briefly by Friends Lifestyle Lounge), the rest of the exterior has remained more or less frozen in time since its construction in 1950.

Already the corner of the building has earned its stripes (and drive-thru window) as part of its entry into food service. In its final form, the structure will also feature a new ice cream sign in place of the former RX mark:

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The Best Medicine
08/02/18 10:30am

SOUTHWEST KEY SAYS EMANCIPATION DETENTION CENTER NEARLY READY TO WELCOME KIDS, CITY SAYS NOT WITHOUT PROPER PAPERS The nonprofit looking to house unaccompanied children who crossed the border illegally in the complex at 419 Emancipation Ave. tells the Chronicle‘s Lomi Kriel and Mike Morris it’s only seeking one more permit — okaying a commercial kitchen — before it plans to open the East Downtown facility. And even if that paperwork doesn’t arrive, company officials say, they could just open up anyway with food procured by some other means. But according to city officials, 2 permits the building received back in June — a certificate of occupancy and safety survey — are void because both came through based on the structure’s designation as a “shelter.” Houston’s fire chief now says the complex is more of a “custodial care facility” — a classification with different requirements for city sign-offs since “the occupants are not going to be free to enter and exit as they wish.” His recommendation: start the application process for those 2 documents over from scratch. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: LoopNet

08/01/18 1:00pm

After and before views show off the dramatic change of face that’s transformed 311 Travis St. as part of the prep-work for its new Tiki-themed bar occupant Kanaloa. The monochrome makeover began on the lower façade a few weeks ago before proceeding upstairs where it wrapped up last week. “We want this to be a hidden oasis in downtown,” the venue’s owner told Eater in March, hinting at plans to renovate the 126-year-old Alltmont Building. Its canopies, window arches, and pediment are pretty well-hidden now — though the building does seem to stand out a bit as a whole amid the row of adjacent lighter brick structures fronting Market Square Park.

When Kanaloa opens, it will pick up where Market Square Bar & Grill — pictured below — left off last year:

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Tiki Torched
07/30/18 4:15pm

A Swamplot reader sends photos of a few street-fronting changes over at the new Pizza Motus moving in next to West University Masonic Lodge No. 1292: There’s now a sign on the storefront and some benches on the sidewalk outside it. A bit tougher to spot is the door in the middle of the concave façade; it recently turned green.

Former tenant Edloe St. Cafe had the whole place painted red during its time inside:

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On Deck in West U.
07/30/18 12:00pm

The owner of the vacant, 3,476-sq.-ft. King’s Center retail building a few blocks outside Beltway 8 has installed Smoothie King as its first new tenant. But the beverage chain doesn’t quite have the place under sovereign domain: developer Ancorian is still marketing the structure’s 2,400-sq.-ft. vacant majority.

In the photo above, you can see some of the circular residue on the tower left behind by previous tenant Logan Farms Honey Glazed Hams & Market Café. The less-aptly-named restaurant left the building it had occupied in full for greener strip center pastures down the street on the corner of Wilcrest Dr. at the end of 2016.

It had the place done up like this during its residency:

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By Royal Decree
07/30/18 10:15am

The complicated thing about trying to turn an old Heights home — like this one at 733 W. 24th St. — into a coffee shop is that the neighborhood’s original lots are smaller than Houston allows for commercial use. Although the house pictured at top sits on a pair of adjacent 25-ft. lots, their combined frontage still falls short of the 60-ft. minimum required to lump them together into a space for something other than single-family residential.

But that’s not stopping the owner that bought the house earlier this year from seeking an exception to the rule. On Thursday, Houston’s city planning commission will consider a variance that’d allow the plans to go ahead anyway by consolidating the lots into a single 50-ft.-wide, business-friendly parcel.

Then comes the question of parking. Right now, a driveway leads up to a carport on the west side of the house:

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Cafe Conversion