08/15/17 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: FROM THE SOIL OF A DEAD MALL, LET A BUNCH OF APARTMENT TOWERS BLOOM “Malls that are about to die need to utilize their best asset and that is having large AC filled connector hallways that can hold pretty much any small business such as coffee shops/barber shops/pet supplies/retail obviously. Using the large department store areas like Macy’s/Sears/Dillards/Palais Royal, investors could make 6-8 story apartment/condo towers. Plenty of parking lot space around in case the apartment towers needs to be built wider than what the old department stores have to offer in space. The location at I-45 & North Beltway is great and parking lots will have exits to both feeders. Residents would be able to enjoy not just living in a nice condo lifestyle but also have AC filled hallways with all kinds of small businesses, I could see baby boomers loving this since many of them are early morning mall walkers anyway. It would be a long process, especially getting 4 different towers completed; but since they are all at different corners of the mall, residents will not have the construction headaches that you might assume would come along with it. I think its a better idea than just tearing old malls down.” [mas, commenting on The End of the Greenspoint Mall Is Upon Us] Photo of Greenspoint Mall: Colliers International

08/10/17 12:45pm

Corazon — your Hyde Park source for guayaberas, Lucha Libre masks, and other assorted crafty and gifty south-of-the-border imports — has lost its lease and will be leaving its longtime spot at the northwest corner of Waugh and Fairview within a month, store owner Chris Murphy reports. The 6,250-sq.-ft. lot it sits on, which includes a recently demolished property at 1410 Fairview, is now under contract after being marketed as a redevelopment site.

Corazon moved into its current home in 1998 — from a location in the former Gramercy Apartments on Montrose Blvd. across from Bell Park (where the Museum Tower now stands). The corner spot at 2318 Waugh Dr. has a craft-y history: Previously a furniture refinishing shop, the building reportedly earlier had gigs as an antique store, a glass-blowing studio, a general store, and a smithy. Murphy says he expects it to be demolished — and replaced with townhomes.

The structure is perhaps best known to passers-by, however, as a frame for the fifth-ever red dot, painted by Red Dot Boys (and former Houstonians) Robert Ramos and Rick Carpenter, as shown here in this undated image from the Red Dot Boys website:

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Folk Art History
08/08/17 4:45pm

The 25-story SkyHouse River Oaks apartment tower, completed at the end of 2015 on a portion of the site of the former Westcreek Apartments just west of the San Felipe Target, has actual streetfront retail on its ground floor. And as of last week, it’s all full and open. That’s when Inferno Pizza began serving in the 2,400-sq.-ft. space at 2031 Westcreek Ln. Suite N1. The neighboring space has been a Glow Spa and Nails since last year.

There’s designated parking for spa- and pizza-goers in the first floor of the building’s garage. Pizza Inferno’s interior is organized like most fast-casual you-tell-us-how-to-assemble-it restaurants, though the buildout also added a 600-sq.-ft. mezzanine dining area and some patio seating (tables are coming in a few weeks) in front:

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Tower Pizza
07/28/17 3:45pm

All construction work appears to have stopped, a reader notes, on the transformation of the former Pilgrim Cleaners and (later) Shriners Hospital clothing donation drop-off building at 4005 N. Braeswood into a second location of the Bacco wine bar. (The building, at the corner of Stella Link, backs up to Brays Bayou.) A red tag from city’s floodplain management office sticky-noted to the window beside the front door and dated July 3 gives a hint as to why: “Remodeling without floodplain permit in the floodplain,” it reads. On the next line, it adds another bit of advice: “Need electrical, plumbing, and structural permits as well.”

Photo: Swamplot inbox

When It Pours
07/27/17 2:30pm

Here’s a glance at how the now-redone North Shepherd strip center that used to house the Texas Cafeteria is looking this week, about a month before the second-ever location of sandwich joint Krisp Chicken & Batter opens up on the building’s south end. A raised bit of concrete slab seen on the near side of the building in the photo above will form the foundation of a planned dining patio. According to the building’s leasing flyer, a 1,825-sq.-ft. space in the building is still available for lease adjacent to Krisp; the rest of the building will become a Verizon store.

The center at 2400 N. Shepherd Dr. is immediately north of the former Fiesta lot where H-E-B plans to start construction on a new Heights market late this summer.

According to Culturemap’s Eric Sandler, the owners of Krisp are already planning to open additional locations in Memorial, Bellaire, and Downtown in the next few years — and possibly Pearland and Cinco Ranch after that.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Next Month
07/26/17 11:15am

DOWNTOWN HOUSTON IS NOW DOWN TO A SINGLE STREET-LEVEL SUBWAY With the shuttering last week of the Subway sandwich shop at the corner of Milam and Rusk streets — catty corner from Pennzoil Place, in the ground-floor space below the Level Office at 720 Rusk St. (pictured here) — the national sandwich chain is now down to a single Downtown location that can be accessed from a sidewalk. Another streetside Subway, in the ground floor of the Americana Building 5 blocks to the south at the corner of Milam and Dallas, exited its space before demolition began on that structure in February. A total of 8 Subways are located Downtown, but they’re all now harbored in tunnels or lobbies or food courts — except the lone fresh-air holdout at 405 Main St., at the corner of Preston. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of former Subway space at 802 Milam St.: cmoney_htx

07/25/17 1:45pm

The former Heights Finance Station post office at the corner of Heights Blvd. and 11th St. — its parking lot and front door face Yale St. — is coming down in a hail of lovingly painted bricks today. The post office was closed at the end of 2015 and subsequently purchased by developer MFT Interests. The single-story building was later festooned with an assortment of romance– and ZIP-code-themed murals.

MFT is calling the new development it has planned for the 1050 Yale St. site Heights Central Station. It’ll consist of two 2-story painted-brick buildings fronting 11th St.:

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Heights Central Station
07/14/17 9:15am

MORE HOUSTON RETAIL BREAKUPS: ALFRED ANGELO BRIDAL CALLS IT QUITS Bridesmaid- and wedding-dress store Alfred Angelo appears to be shuttering all 62 of its locations nationwide, amid reports of a possible sudden bankruptcy filing. That would leave the Galleria-area Al’s Formal Wear all alone — it sits next door to the Alfred Angelo Bridal in the strip shopping center at 1801 Post Oak Blvd. It should leave the Al’s Formal Wear in the Baybrook Square shopping center kinda lonely too — it faces the Gulf Fwy. right next door to the Alfred Angelo Bridal at 1201 W. Bay Area Blvd. in Webster. The third Houston-area Alfred Angelo location — pictured above in the Commons at Willowbrook shopping center, across from the Willowbrook Mall at 7550-A FM 1960 West — is a little more sequestered from its tuxedo counterpart: Alfred Angelo sits between a DSW Shoe Warehouse and a Ross Dress for Less; the Al’s Formal Wear is wedged between a Panda Express and a Beck’s Prime on the opposite side of the shopping center parking lot. [abc13] Photo: Alfred Angelo Bridal

07/10/17 2:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE OLD URBANISM “None of these places achieve anything like the feel of a real town because they abandon all of the design elements which actually create that feeling. There are no real walkable main streets with mom and pop stores lining the sidewalks. No town squares at the heart of real (albeit small) downtowns. It’s all just strip malls and McMansions along freeways and 6-lane collector roads. If you want a small town feel you have to start with traditional pre-WW2 urban design.” [Christian, commenting on Still Selling a Little Place in the Big City] Illustration: Lulu

07/06/17 3:00pm

Actual neighborhood hardware store East End Hardware (see inset second photo) went belly-up only a few years after its 2012 opening at 3005 Leeland St. (at the corner of Ennis St. in East Downtown). Now opened in its place, as of the first of this month, is a replacement (pictured at top): East End Hardware.

Among the changes: a revamped exterior, with the name of the establishment now rendered in vintage Houston blue tile; a dog-friendly patio; and a new beverage menu that includes 20 beers on tap, mixed drinks, and “boozy” New Orleans-style sno-balls in flavors such as piña colada, tiger’s blood, and screwdriver. Also: food.

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EaDo Hard Drinks and Wares
07/05/17 11:00am

The metal garage-and-office structure that once housed the Neff Rental location at the southwestern corner of Independence Heights has now been obliterated, a reader notes — sending the above photograph to serve as evidence of the building’s absence. Site work began at the property last month.

When construction is complete next year, a 30,000-sq.-ft. 365 by Whole Foods Market will face the North Loop feeder road, in front of an attached tilt-wall 12,000-sq.-ft. structure slated for a Houston Heights ER. A parking lot of 242 spaces will front Yale St. Immediately to the north on Yale, a 19,200-sq.-ft. strip center will be surrounded by additional parking.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Enough for Neff
07/05/17 9:30am

HOW THAT NEW HOUSTON LOOK KEPT MAKING ITS WAY FROM OLD EUROPE “I have always felt that this North Boulevard house was the one that changed the way Houston looked at decor and antiques,” writes West U design blogger Joni Webb about a stucco mansion in Broadacres by Rice University architect William Ward Watkin, who designed it in 1923 for a drug-company executive after a 4-month inspirational European tour. The property at 1318 North Blvd. later served for more than a decade as the home of Tootsie’s founder Micky Rosmarin, who died after a heart attack last month; it’s now up for sale for $4.75 million. “Back in 1995,” Webb writes, “it was featured on the cover of Veranda and I think it was this house that marked the true beginning of the Houston Look — the white slipcover, seagrass, antique filled aesthetic whose origins I attribute to designer Babs Cooper Watkins . . . it launched Watkins into prominence.” Watkins, Webb explains, “used antiques in a casual way, her interiors were never about a hands-off approach. She mixed in religious relics and priceless antiques with vintage chairs slipcovered in inexpensive plain linen. She repurposed outside garden elements to be used inside the house. And Babs was one of the first ones who favored dramatic paint treatments that turned ordinary sheetrock into centuries old grottos.” Watkins passed away in February of last year. But Webb recalls how the home launched a store — and a whole new Old World orientation for Houston interiors: “The Veranda photoshoot not only created a new aesthetic, it also created a new partnership and the Watkins Schatte antique shop on Bissonnet was born.” The shop (still at 2308 Bissonnet, but now known as Watkins-Culver Antiques) “was an instant hit and during those days, lines would form when a new shipment was unveiled.  Everyone wanted to see what Babs and Bill [Gardner] and Annette [Schatte] had bought in Europe.” [Cote de Texas; previously on Swamplot]

06/28/17 3:00pm

The latest of Gensler’s renderings of that midrise parking garage planned atop the recently evacuated location of nightclub and drag venue Meteor shows the structure rocking a swath of greenery in place of the decorative bicycles pictured across the facade in earlier drafts. Cara Smith reports in the Houston Business Journal this week that the garage is one of the projects that Gensler is “future proofing” — that is, designing with an eye to an eventual decline in Houston parking garage needs, whether spurred by the rise of self-driving cars or other shifts in transportation patterns. The firm was featured by Web Urbanist last month in an article discussing some of its other current garage projects, some of which are being outfitted with conversion-minded utility hookup spacing, as well as ceiling heights suited to something other than car stacking; modular features like easy-to-tack-on facades and removable ramps are also in the mix.

There appear to be 6 retail spots in the foot of the garage that will be ready for tenants before such time as the rest of the garage might hypothetically be repurposed (along with a slew of other spaces in the development, per Edge Realty’s leasing flier):

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Prepped for Obsolescence in Fourth Ward
06/26/17 3:30pm

HOW AMAZON AND WHOLE FOODS MARKET COULD CREATE THE NEW BUILDING BLOCKS OF URBAN COMMERCE, AND WHAT SOME OF THEM MIGHT LOOK LIKE Will Amazon transform Whole Foods Market into a grocery services building block for farmers, restaurants, and specialty grocers — on the model of the way Amazon Web Services now serves software developers? Joshua Rothman provides a brief overview of current thinking about Amazon’s possible plans for the grocery chain — and how the result might transform the landscapes of cities: “It’s increasingly easy to imagine,” he writes, “that a few decades from now, we’ll tell our kids about how we used to ‘go to the store’; they’ll look at us and say, ‘What?’ Earlier this month, Amazon filed a patent application describing large, multi-story drone towers in urban centers. Probably, in the future, such buildings will seem unremarkable. The hive-like towers will have loading docks and warehouses on the lower floors and bays for drones higher up; the drones may be repaired and supplied by robots. ‘There is a growing need and desire to locate fulfillment centers within cities, such as in downtown districts,‘ the patent application says.” [The New Yorker] Image from Amazon’s patent application for drone-delivery warehouse tower: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, via SiliconBeat

06/23/17 2:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WAIT, THERE’S AN OPEN SEARS IN MIDTOWN? “No joke, I’ve lived here for 4 years now – always in Midtown – and I had no earthly idea that the Sears at Richmond and Main was actually an open and operating retail location until I read the comments on this post. It looks abandoned from the street! Mind blown.” [RS, commenting on Southeast and Southwest Houston Sears Stores Going South] Photo of Sears at 4201 Main St: Fox E.