02/05/16 11:30am

Fitzgerald's, 2705 White Oak Dr, Heights, Houston, TX 77007

Trashed interior of Fitzgerald's, 2705 White Oak Dr, Heights, Houston, TX 77007

Cleanup and updates are planned over the next month for Fitzgerald’s, as owner Sara Fitzgerald returns to management following the previous operator’s recent eviction. Fitzgerald told the Houston Press that the venue at the corner of White Oak Dr. and Studemont St. will be redoing its back patio with an eye to making it food-truck-friendly, as well as painting and cleaning the space. Fitzgerald also says the venue will have to get its liquor license reinstated, and that the bar might have to “give something away” during shows they hold in the interim; the venue will likely not fully book until the cleanup and changes are complete.

The venue’s newest former management team left the space earlier this week, kicking up a cloud of photos purportedly documenting the satanic-graffiti-and-toilet-paper-heavy aftermath of a farewell gathering of the former tenants the night before their planned exit date.  The termination of the tenants’ relationship related at least in part to a rent disagreement: Freshly-ex-GM Josh Merritt told the Houston Press that the rent rates being charged were unfair given the building’s condition, while Sara Fitzgerald maintained that the rent was merely unpaid. Merritt emphasized that the former tenants wouldn’t have done anything to the building that would jeopardize their $50,000 security deposit.

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Party Like a Rock Star
02/01/16 12:15pm

Japanese Garden, Hermann Park, Houston, TX 77005 Japanese Garden, Hermann Park, Houston, TX 77005 Delicate pink surveyor’s flags echo the magenta of the early cherry blossoms in Hermann Park’s Japanese Garden, where maintenance, new features, and a new gate are under construction. Sections of the 5.5-acre space are currently sectioned off by orange construction fencing, and many of the larger water features (including the one pictured in the top photo) are temporarily in rock garden mode.

The Hermann Park Conservancy’s website estimates wrapping up the first phase of the renovation project this summer. Currently, the koi that inhabit some of the garden’s ponds are set up in temporary housing along the eastern edge of the park:

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Fish in a Barrel
02/01/16 9:15am

Jugs Draft, 3109 S. Shepherd Dr., Dearborn Place, Houston, 77098

A reportedly sober driver crashed into the strip center at the southeast corner of S. Shepherd Dr. and W. Alabama St. in the early hours of Sunday morning, according to KPRC. The unplanned beer run left the Jugs Draft storefront shattered open, and gave the Shepherd branch of Jenni’s Noodle House a new side entrance. Strip center neighbors Burn Smoke Shop, Mega DJ, and Mattress 1 are seemingly undamaged; all involved humans are reportedly undamaged as well.

Rare beers, however, were a major casualty of the event: The SUV crunched into Jugs’s bottle coolers, prompting the craft beer shop to liquidate what was salvaged of its chilled inventory in a $2 firesale yesterday. (Jugs is named for its 64-oz. growlers-to-go of draft beer, but also sells bottles and kegs.)

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Party Foul
01/25/16 5:00pm

Wright-Bembry Park, W. 23rd St., Shady Acres, Houston, 77008

This after-dark snapshot of a lone excavator hunched atop a pile of its own debris comes from Wright-Bembry Park last Friday — tear-up work at the Shady Acres greenspace, located between W. 23rd and W. 24th Sts. west of Durham Dr., began last Monday, according to a reader’s report. The work is part of a redo of the entire park, as shown in the plan below (oriented with west at the top of the frame):

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Shady Acres
01/25/16 12:30pm

Blue Mercury, 2506 University Blvd., Rice Village, Houston, 77005

The western corner space at University Blvd. and Kelvin St. in the Rice Village now has a coat of white paint over its brick facade, though the storefronts to either side have yet to follow suit. The space, last occupied by a Sprint store prior to a multi-year vacancy, appears to be setting up as the next link in the Blue Mercury cosmetics-spa chain, while street and utility work progresses at the corner.

The former Village Arcade (now being rebranded as, simply, the Rice Village) consists of the shopping centers on University on either side of Kelvin St.; the buildings were acquired from Weingarten in 2014 by Rice University, which already owned the land beneath the center and employs the same St. Joe brick in many of its campus buildings. Rice also employs development company Trademark to manage the Arcade property; the company released a few renderings of the first phase of the center’s intended makeover last fall, just before work began:

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University Redo
01/14/16 5:00pm

Former Schlumberger Building, 2720 Leeland st., East Downtown, Houston, 77002

2720-leeland-st-3

Take a gander at the 0ld Schlumberger building at the corner of Leeland St. and Delano. New photos of the 25,000-sq.-ft. building show a structure now slightly less windowless than back in 2013, when mobile app developer ChaiOne announced an intended Spring 2014 move to the top floor.  A reader in the area reports that work such as drywall and A/C installation appeared to be happening this past summer, but seemingly stopped again in July, with little activity visible on the property since.

Plans for ChaiOne’s renovation, designed by Austin firm Bercy Chen Studio, incorporated ground-floor retail beneath 2 floors of offices:

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Will They, Won’t They?
12/31/15 11:00am

Houston Chronicle Building Remodel, 4747 Southwest Freeway, Pin Oak, Houston, TX 77007

The north wall has been breached — windows have been carved into the facade of the Houston Chronicle’s freeway-front structure at the corner of the West Loop and 59 (where most of the paper’s staff will relocate early next year.) The multi-building campus under renovation at 4747 Southwest Freeway was bought from the Houston Post in 1995 after the competing newspaper folded; the Chronicle’s Texas Ave. space was bought by developer Hines in October.

The main building was powerwashed back to a gleaming beige over the summer — to brighten things up further, sections of the 1960s raw concrete Brutalist facade are currently being whitewashed as well, in line with exterior renderings released earlier this year by Gensler:

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59 @ 610
12/21/15 11:30am

YOU MAY YET HAVE YOUR CHANCE TO LIVE ON TOP OF THE SUR LA TABLE BY THE RIVER OAKS THEATER River Oaks Shopping Center rooftops Senior Leasing VP Gerald Crump of Weingarten Realty Investors told Nancy Sarnoff of the Chronicle last week that even bigger changes are likely on their way to the River Oaks Shopping Center section on the north side of W. Gray between McDuffie and Driscoll, currently housing Sur La Table, Brasserie 19, and Cafe Ginger, among others (shown here from above, facing a distant Kroger’s). Still-nebulous plans for revamping the space include incorporating residential units, more retail or more parking. Any changes to the center, which is designated a historic landmark by the City, would need the nominal thumbs-up of the Houston Architectural and Historic Commission — though need for that approval can be bypassed by letting a 90-day waiting period expire, David Bush of Preservation Houston told Sarnoff. Crump says that the company will work to communicate plans to the surrounding community as they develop, but also tells Sarnoff that “as an owner and developer, you have to remain relevant”. The redo, whatever shape it eventually takes, could take that shape as early as 2019. [Houston Chronicle, previously on Swamplot] Photo: bjoelio via Swamplot Flickr pool

12/08/15 9:45am

Oui Banh Mi, 1601 Richmond, Montrose, Houston, 77006

Lucky Burger, 1601 Richmond Ave. at Mandell St., Montrose, HoustonHere’s a photo of the new construction underway on the now-barrel-bereft lot at 1601 Richmond, future home of drive-thru Vietnamese sandwich shop Oui Banh Mi. The new structure, shown above from Mandell, is currently shrouded in housewrap. (The historical photo of Lucky Burger is taken from the Richmond side.)

The Lucky Burger barrel, which stood on the corner for more than 40 years, was demolished on Halloween under the cover of citywide flood warnings.

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Oui Banh Mi, No Barrel
07/15/15 1:45pm

2223 N. Main St., Near Northside, Houston

2223 N. Main St., Near Northside, Houston

Hop on or off the Red Line train at Quitman and you’ll find this 1940 red-brick structure a-renovating at the northwest corner of N. Main St. What’s being fixed up? Here are a couple of before-and-during shots showing the transformation of the 11,850-sq.-ft. office building at 2223 N. Main St. so far:

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Storefronts
07/07/15 1:00pm

Former Chili's Restaurant, 1040 W. Sam Houston Tollway, Spring Branch, Houston

Not a whole lot has been going on at the former Chili’s at 1040 West Sam Houston Tollway next to the HCC Spring Branch campus, a reader notes. Last September, Montrose-born Greek restaurant Niko Niko’s announced it would be opening its fourth Houston-area location there, near the overpasses connecting I-10 to Beltway 8.

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Not There Yet
07/01/15 10:00am

1925 E. T.C. Jester Blvd., Shady Acres, Houston

1925 E. T.C. Jester Blvd., Shady Acres, HoustonA reader notes there’s been some construction activity in and around the entrance and rear drive-thru window of the former Eckerd-turned-CVS Pharmacy along the White Oak Bayou Trail at the corner of T.C. Jester and 18th St., on the west coast of Shady Acres. That’s a notable turn of events: The building has been vacant for about 5 years. The standalone structure’s prospective new tenant appears to be another SignatureCare Emergency Center — last week, a note on the website for the local chain of health clinics had listed 1925 E. T.C. Jester Blvd. as the location of its upcoming “Heights” facility, but the address has since been removed.

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SignatureCare
06/25/15 11:15am

Western Facade of The Secret Group, 2101 Polk St. at St. Emanuel St., East Downtown

It’s not clear how quickly interior work is progressing on the planned comedy club and music venue in the former Malloy Register Company building at the corner of Polk St. and St. Emanuel in East Downtown, but notable changes have taken place to the building’s exterior since Swamplot reported on the project last month. The graffiti scene spray-painted onto the building’s western wall earlier this year, facing the I-69 overpass a block away (at top in photo above) has been updated to show police chief Clancy Wiggum — wearing an HPD shoulder patch — apprehending Bart Simpson, a stand-in for the site’s own tagging team (at bottom). Also added: the Twitter username for the Secret Group.

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East Downtown Building Funnies
06/17/15 12:00pm

Construction of Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts in Former Church's Fried Chicken, 601 Heights Blvd., Houston Heights

Work has begun transforming the former Heights Blvd. Church’s Fried Chicken — which left its longstanding spot on the corner of 6th St. (aka White Oak across the street) back in March — to the long-promised Lee’s Fried Chicken & Doughnuts. Back in 2012, the team behind Liberty Kitchen (and BRC Gastropub as well as Petite Sweets) had intended to open a Lee’s Fried Chicken in the long-vacant drive-thru behind Liberty Kitchen at 1132 E. 11th St. — after initial plans to open a coffee house in that space were switched.

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Church’s to Lee’s and Donuts
06/15/15 11:15am

Former Houston Post Building, Future Houston Chronicle Headquarters, 4747 Southwest Fwy., Houston

“It looks amazingly shiny without the 50 years of grime,” notes the reader who late last week snapped these photos of the former Houston Post building at 4747 Southwest Fwy., tucked into the lifted right armpit of the I-69-610 intersection. The brutalist main building of the 7-building campus, designed in 1970 by Astrodome architects Wilson, Morris, Crain, and Anderson, is being powerwashed — with a significant portion of the work complete just in time for this week’s heavy rains.

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Powerwashed!