11/28/18 11:45am

Note: We’ve appended a photo showing off Caffè Di Firenze’s espresso machine to the end of this story.

New signage is up in the windows of the Henry Brashear Building at 910 Prairie St. downtown on account of Caffè Di Firenze‘s recent move into the place. It’s now serving drinks and food inside and plans to do so on the outside, too, once the city signs off on permission for chairs and tables to go on the sidewalk. The photo at top shows the storefront pretty much the same as it’s been since going red in 2016. Except now some new tri-colored tiling peeks out from underneath the doors.

Inside, there’s this hashtagged wall of greenery:

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New Coffee Grounds
11/27/18 12:00pm

The former Ascent Fitness building next to West Alabama Ice House is taking on a new life as Blue Mambo Hair Salon, according to a building permit filed yesterday. The gym’s 3-year run in the 4,260-sq.-ft. space at 1911 W. Alabama ended last October following the on-site sale of all no-longer-needed exercise equipment. (It took over the building in 2015 from 713 Pilates, now located down the street in the strip center it shares with Siphon Coffee.)

“For lease” signs went up early this year around the property, which includes a back parking lot that wraps the next-door hardware store and kicks out onto Hazard St. That arrangement should give Blue Mambo a bit more space than it’s got currently in the Chelsea Market shopping center off Montrose Blvd., long rumored for some kind of highrise replacement.

Photos: Margo

Dearborn Place
11/26/18 10:30am

A new indoor golf venue is on its way into the Shops at Sawyer Yards, where it’s laid claim to the empty space marked “B” in the site plan above, adjacent to Sawyer St. It’ll be Loft18‘s first step outside Metairie, Louisiana, home to its only existing location. There, an array of 5 golf simulators — essentially turf teeboxes fronted by large video screens — offer customers 95 different courses to play. Along with bar and kitchen service, it’s all wrapped up within 7,000 sq.-ft.

The rendering at top shows what the west face of the converted warehouse building at 2313 Sawyer St. could look like once Loft18 gets situated. No building permits appear to have been filed yet on that address, however, HAIF users note that both a Houston-specific website and Facebook page for the business recently went live.

Rendering: Loft 18. Site plan: Lovett Commercial

Teeing Off
11/21/18 10:15am

Work is underway to divvy-up the abandoned Chuck E. Cheese’s at the Weslayan Plaza shopping center into handful of new retailers. Among them: Torchy’s Tacos. It hasn’t fully materialized yet but looks good on paper in the updated site plan that Regency Centers is now showing off on its website. Next-door — and east of longtime tenant Skeeter’s Mesquite Grill — Sola Salon Studios (number 16) and Sally Beauty Supply (15) are also newcomers, themselves carve-outs from the former mouse-themed pizza and arcade joint as well.

It served its last slice earlier this year, by which time the house animatronic band — once a staple of all Chuck E. Cheese’ses — had presumably left the building. Company leadership axed the mechanical Pizza Time Players from all store locations last August, ending their 41-year nationwide run. “Back then,” Chuck E. Cheese’s top brass Tom Leverton told NPR’s Morning Edition, “kids’ expectations of technology were much, much lower.”

Photo: Phil L. Map: Regency Centers

Bissonnet and Weslayan
11/19/18 2:45pm

Coming soon to the former CVS Pharmacy building at Westheimer and Eldridge Pkwy.: La Michoacana Meat Market. A group with ties to the grocery chain bought the 1.9-acre property earlier this year and filed a building permit last week to get started on the conversion. The photos above show what the 19-year-old building looked like during CVS’s tenancy. It’s been sign-less for the better part of this year.

Photos: Chinh (first) Colliers (second)

Standalone Redo
11/09/18 2:30pm

A Swamplot reader sends the photo at top showing a relative newcomer to the semi-circular metal retail structure in the foreground: Mattress Outlet. It opened for business 6 months ago at the corner of Hempstead Rd. and Post Oak southwest of what’s now the Northwest Mall (and what public and private officials say could become the Houston end of that Dallas-bound high-speed rail line.) The 2 huts have been there for decades were at one time neighbored to the south by 2 more of their kind — until that pair vanished around the turn of the century.

Signage isn’t up yet, but a custom hardwood furniture business is now on its way into larger, blue hut next-door:

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Cozy New Digs
11/08/18 10:30am

Frenchy’s Chicken is gearing up to open a new restaurant on Scott St. so that it’s original — there since 1969 — can get out of the way of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church‘s planned expansion. (You can see the church’s slated roofing peeking out behind Frenchy’s in the photo above.) The restaurant’s new location: 2 blocks south of the current one, in the former O’Sat Auto Detail shop pictured at top on the northwest corner of Blodgett St. There, a spate of building permits filed within the last few months reveal Frenchy’s management is about to get started on renovations.

It’s a bit of a detour from the chain’s original relocation plan. Last May, Frenchy’s top brass Percy Creuzot III (the son of the chain’s founder Percy “Frenchy” Creuzot, Jr.) told the Chronicle‘s Cindy George he’d staked out a spot 5 blocks north of the current one where Alabama St. ends across from UH’s indoor football practice building. Sure enough, Creuzot’s business partner Anthony Gaynor consolidated several adjacent lots he owned at the southwest corner of Alabama and Scott 2 into a single property last year — and a few months afterward, demolished the building it that’d done stints on it as number of different barbecue joints:

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Third Ward
11/07/18 10:30am

The art venue formerly known as galleryHOMELAND has selected Bayou City Cycles‘ old shop at 1303 Cullen Blvd. for its new exhibition space, headquarters, and — as shown in the rendering above — curbside landscaping. The 6-year lease it’s taking across from Kroger should allow it to make a new name for itself as Space HL, a rebranding that Glasstire‘s Brandon Zech explains is supposed to call attention to the organization’s new focus on stuff besides art, like lectures, experimental performances, and other programs. About 1,000 sq.-ft. of the building will be for exhibitions, reports Zech, but don’t discount the backyard — which could host outdoor events, or you never know, he writes, maybe even “built-out shipping container projects spaces.”

That’d be a new one. The gallery’s last location across in the industrial row across Commerce St. from Tout Suite was a shared parking lot. It’d flirted with relocating from there to a quarter portion of the Imperial Linen & Cleaners building on Harrisburg Blvd. that’s slated to get redone as something retail- and restaurant-ready but changed its mind when the building took on Harvey damage, writes Zech.

What’ll become of the paint-job Bayou City gave its building when it took over from El Miramar Bar in 2016?

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Eastwood Micro Galleries
11/05/18 2:30pm

Lovett Commercial’s latest post-industrial venture in East Downtown will take place just 4 blocks down Polk St. from the one it’s already got going at the former Houston Post building. The target this time: 2 blocks between Delano and Ennis streets now home collectively to more than 99,000 sq.-ft. of buildings — including the one where Frankel’s Costume Shop closed early this year. Most of the existing structures will stay standing with new shops, offices, restaurants, and some kind of art exhibition or creation spaces shoved inside them. The aerial at top shows off the whole thing in not-so-fine detail from the corner of Delano and Polk. And the street-level rendering looks in the opposite direction, depicting a patio-ed and pedestrian-ized eastern block with its western counterpart in the background.

A cold-storage box once home to Freedman Meats takes up the whole eastern block right now, shown below from Polk.:

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Polk & Ennis
11/02/18 10:30am

Black Dog Records blew the lid off its classified relocation plans yesterday by filing a permit on its soon-to-be new address: 726 W. 19th St., the strip center storefront previously home to kids’ karaoke venue Gipsy Girls. Incoming management now plans to redo about 1,700-sq.-ft. of space inside and fill it with the vinyl that populated its last shop — shown above — at 4900 Bissonnet St. until about a month ago. (The location between S. Rice and 610 had been a fertile spot for record junkies since even before Black Dog got there thanks to its longtime previous tenant Don’s Record Shop.)

A few of the neighbors Black Dog can expect to meet once it gets situated in its new Heights environs: alcoholic art joint Painting With a Twist (to its immediate west), Gold Rush Collective Tattoo Parlour, Replay Games old school video game shop, and Texas Dry Clean InStep Pilates. Across the street lies Re:Vive Development’s new-ish 2-building retail complex made up of a standalone Benjamin Moore paint store and a strip home to — among others — Fat Cat Creamery.

Photos: Gipsy Girls (Gipsy Girls); Mark B. (Black Dog Records)

Kids Karaoke Takeover
11/01/18 10:15am

  

A handful of building permits filed recently over at the Marq’e Entertainment Center indicate that kids training center Soccer Hub is kicking off renovations directly behind the spot reserved for the new Spaghetti-Warehouse-like eatery the brand’s parent company is calling Warehouse 72. Together, both new venues will be taking over the space Korean buffet Kpop gave up last year on the shopping center’s non-movie-theater side, across the arch-fronted alley from Dave and Buster’s‘s almost-but-not-entirely standalone building. (There’s now a mystery-themed escape room up in its business, as indicated on the map above.)

It’s not an entirely even split: Soccer Hub is getting about 6,000 sq.-ft. while Warehouse 72 will have 8,600 — enough room for seating, prepared food retail fixtures, and a double-sided bar serving both the restaurant’s insides and a planned 750-sq.-ft. patio, reports Eater‘s Alaena Hostetter. Until the 2 get situated — or get beat to the punch by the Hugh O’Connors Irish-themed restaurant opening in space number 25 on the map —specialty soda and candy shop Rocket Fizz will remain the only thing inside the Marq’e’s center building. It’s been there by itself since Cafe Adobe closed in what’s shown on the map as spot number 26, leaving 10,000 sq.-ft. up for grabs.

Photo: Kpop. Map: Levcor

Tag Team Takeover
10/31/18 1:00pm

Here’s another highlight from the city council’s meeting this morning: Plans to get rid of the cloverleaf interchange that moves traffic between Waugh Dr. and Memorial Dr. got the green-light and will be sent over to the Houston Galveston Area Council as part of an application for funding. The idea first emerged in the Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s 2002 Master Plan as a way to make room for more bayou-side park space at the crossroads. Right now, all the land adjacent to the ramps — shaded gray in the map above — is vacant, except for the portions lassoed by the circular roadways, where 4 isolated tree groves continue to undergo seasonal color changes. You can see they’re gone in the east-facing rendering at top included in the Partnership’s plan — replaced by inlets, islands, stormwater detention, and what looks to be a boathouse at the southeast corner of the 2 roads — all accessible from a network of new walkways that link up to existing bayou-adjacent trails.

In total, 16 new acres are expected to become part of the park — providing a continuous swath of green between Spotts Park and Cleveland Park, shown below on opposite sides of Waugh in a map from the 2002 plan:

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Traffic Lights Likely
10/31/18 10:00am

PAVING THE WAY FOR A BIKE LANE ON W. FUQUA This morning, City Council plans to vote in support of some roadwork that’d add on-street bike lanes to W. Fuqua St. between Chimney Rock and Houston’s border with Missouri City, just west of Fondren Rd. Over that 1.7-mile stretch — which crosses over the Fort Bend Pkwy. — a couple upgrades for cars would be put in as well, including turning lanes at Fondren and traffic lights at W. Ridgecreek Dr. in place of what’s now a 3-way stop. It’s all lumped into that application the city plans to submit to the Houston Galveston Area Council in order to get funding for a bunch of other transportation projects around town, too, like that widening and heightening effort on Dairy Ashford. [Houston City Council; previously on Swamplot]

10/29/18 5:00pm

The indie coffee shop and practitioner of advanced siphon-brewing techniques suspended its service last Wednesday so that big-name instant and pre-ground coffee producer Cafe Bustelo could take over barista duties inside for the week. The photo above shows the storefront going off-brand with temporary fixtures that dub it a “Cafecito” using Bustelo’s classic color scheme. Closer to ground level, you can see the new matching window dressings, too — added on too along the store’s glass facade.

Even Siphon’s standalone sign at the corner of W. Alabama and Greeley St. has been transformed:

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Food Substitutes
10/29/18 12:45pm

CITY WISHLIST FOR DAIRY ASHFORD: WIDER ROADWAY, HIGHER BAYOU BRIDGE On city council’s agenda for tomorrow: a vote of support for widening Dairy Ashford Rd. from 2 to 3 lanes on each side between Westheimer and I-10. As part of the roadwork, the existing bridge across Buffalo Bayou would be rebuilt — potentially above 500-year floodplain level, though the city hasn’t decided yet. New, wider sidewalks are on the table, too. With the council’s blessing, Houston’s public works department would next submit an application for the project to the Houston Galveston Area Council, which could choose to help pay for it with state and federal money. [Houston City Council Agenda] Map: Houston City Council