06/19/17 2:30pm

YOU WON’T HAVE THE MENIL COLLECTION TO KICK AROUND FOR MOST OF NEXT YEAR Are you one of those architecturally sensitive types who has long suspected that the worn, squishy pine floorboards of Renzo Piano’s Menil Collection building were meant to serve as some sort of metaphor for the tenuous and uncertain nature of Houston’s oft-muddy groundplane? (Plus, they’ve got those underfloor AC registers interrupting it every few yards.) Well, good for you! — but tough luck: Beginning late next February, reports Molly Glentzer, the building will close for 8 months so that those well-worn floors can be refinished. Why should the job take so long? “The staff will continue to operate as usual from the upstairs offices, but some gallery walls will have to be dismantled and the collections shifted through the building during the sanding and finishing process.” Come November 2018, will the experience of walking through the museum be just as exquisitely unstable as it is now? Maybe not: “The leveling mechanisms under the wooden air-conditioning grills in the floor are also being upgraded,” Glentzer warns. Hurry and visit now, while it’s all still worn and creaky! [Houston Chronicle] Video of Sosie Merritt stomping on Menil floors, 2009: Brandon & Kristen Merritt [license]

06/15/17 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THERE’S MORE MONEY IN HISTORY “First of all, this really doesn’t make much difference, as the original art moderne lines of this center were destroyed several years ago with the addition of gun turrets on the corners of the buildings. What I do find interesting is that Weingarten talks about the alterations as being financially responsible decisions to their shareholders. Yet this is the 3rd oldest intact shopping center in the US, and the only two that predate it, AFAIK, are Highland Park Village in Dallas and Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Both of those have owners that have restored them to essentially their original designs and have enjoyed much increased property values. In the case of Highland Park Village, Henry S Miller (a Dallas developer) bought HP Village in the later ’70’s as it was very run down and dumpy, and had the foresight to restore its original Spanish Colonial design and garner a better tenant mix. Though his company no longer owns it, HP Village commands far higher square foot rents than River Oaks Shopping Center. All this is to say that if Weingarten had invested money in restoring their property 10-15 years ago, they probably would have a more valuable asset today.” [ShadyHeightster, commenting on The Other River Oaks Shopping Center Knockdown Hearing Scheduled for This Week] Rendering of proposed alterations to River Oaks Shopping Center, 1997 West Gray St.: Aria Group Architects for Weingarten Realty Investors

06/14/17 11:15am

Across and a little bit down the street from the site where the company proposes to tear down an already altered section of the River Oaks Shopping Center and erect a 29-story apartment tower with 2 floors of underground parking, Weingarten Realty has more plans to make changes to the landmark art deco center. At the corner of West Gray and McDuffie, the company wants to tear down the 2-story western end of the south half of the 1948 section of the shopping center — which now houses a California Pizza Kitchen and the remains of the Evolve Fitness Studio upstairs (and was previously the site of a Birraporetti’s with Sherlock’s Pub above it) — and reconstruct the section as a 12,730-sq.-ft. Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille with significantly taller first and second stories.

The design, by Chicago’s Aria Group Architects, “will maintain historical features” of the building at 1997 West Gray St., the submitted plans (PDF) explain. But not exactly in the same order. Stick-on stone facing was stuck onto lower portions of this section of the art deco structure in 2007 when it was given a new stucco-batter coating and turned into a CPK; the new design shows a tall curved panel of limestone wrapping the corner, but this time on the higher second floor, suspended above a rebuilt portion of the center’s signature curved soffit.

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Raising Perry’s Steakhouse
06/09/17 2:30pm

Has any former Wendy’s drive-thru — or really, any fast-food joint anywhere — ever had such an illustrious culinary afterlife as the one that once stood at 2300 Westheimer, halfway between Kirby and Shepherd? The standalone burger stand never left us — it just went upscale, time and time again: To Torcello’s. To Armando’s. To Dish. To Two Chefs Bistro. To Beso. To Palazzo’s Trattoria. To 60 Degrees Mastercrafted. (Did we miss any?) To the Harwood Grill.

Then there was the time last year when it was supposed to go Berryhill. But that was not to be.

Instead, this extremely mutable property is now on its way to becoming a champagne-themed restaurant called a’Bouzy (pronounced as you’d expect).

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Cheers to A’Bouzy
06/05/17 3:00pm

There’s been a bit of activity inside the former restaurant space under the slanted roofline at the 2311 W. Alabama St. mini-mall on the corner of Revere St., a reader notes. A dumpster is parked outside; workers have been poking, prodding, and injecting all sorts of reconfigurations to the interiors.

No new restaurant is going in, though: Ruggles Green decamped from the space at the beginning of 2015 — and reopened a few hundred feet to the east the following year. The adjacent Persona Medical Spa is now expanding into the 2,122-sq.-ft. former dining space, making more room for its full range of massaging, de-wrinkling, plumping, resurfacing, pricking, heating, and cooling services.

Photo: sfalumberjack

Revere St. Retail Reinvigoration
05/31/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE NEXT ASTRODOME ELECTION IS ALREADY SCHEDULED, ANYWAY “Great to see that a bill specifically tailored to torpedo the Astrodome has been shot down. The state politicians should not meddle in local county affairs. Did anyone ever ask Houston and Harris County voters to spend millions upon millions to host another Super Bowl? Or to upgrade Reliant Stadium to please McNair? If the county’s financing plan is legitimate (no bonds issued, and a referendum not required), let them continue. Harris county voters have already spoken by voting Emmett and others in. They’ll have their chance to vote them out if needed. The revitalized Dome could be something special — why waste a unique structure and a Houston landmark?” [Blake, commenting on The Bill To Force an Astrodome Garage-ification Election Is Dead, Again, For NowIllustration: Lulu

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]