01/10/18 4:45pm

The pile of signage lying on the grass in the photo above is on its way up over the front door of Ethiopian restaurant Blue Nile ahead of its planned opening on Saturday at 3030 Audley St., just off Westheimer. Blue Nile is expanding to Upper Kirby from its original location on Richmond between Gessner and Fondren, which opened in 1994. Luigi’s Cucina Italiana closed down in the gabled building last year after moving into it from Galveston in 2014.

The new restaurant’s signs are replacing Luigi’s old ones — now fully unlit and unmounted:

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Cherry-Picked
01/09/18 5:00pm

The steel is up on the site of Lamar High School’s new campus, nearly in its sophomore year of construction adjacent to the existing building at 3325 Westheimer. Photos of the new schoolhouse — which will front Eastside St. to the east of the old building — show it still in assembly on what used to be the high school’s track and athletic field. When it’s done, the planned 4-story structure will house 2,800 to 3,100 students, who will spend most of their class time in the new building, but still be able to access its neighbor through a 2nd-story concourse that links to it.

The perspective section below from architect Perkins + Will slices open both the planned and existing buildings and peers south into their classrooms. On the right, it shows the concourse plugging into the old building’s gray exterior:

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Secondary Education Building
11/06/17 2:15pm

Latest promised opening date for the new beer-and-wine serving, credit-card accepting (cash still preferred, and please pay before eating) Cleburne Cafeteria, now appearing in the late stages of construction at the corner of Bissonnet and Edloe St.: sometime this month. Photos from the scene show a new sidewalk, accompanied by 8 new trees from Trees for Houston, making an appearance along the Bissonnet frontage, in place of what used to be a portion of the restaurant’s parking area.

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Opening in November
09/13/17 1:30pm

A new banner advertising a Christian’s Tailgate (pictured above) went up today on the vine-covered fence in front of the Amazón Grill at 5114 Kirby Dr., directly across from the Burger King between North Blvd. and Bissonnet St. The Cordúa Restaurants fast-casual outlet shut down yesterday after 15 years in the same location. The restaurants’ parent company, which also operates Américas, Artista, and Churrascos, plans to continue Amazón Grill as a delivery-only business.

As of today, the space is being renovated — with plans for a quick turnover and reopening as a fifth location of Christian’s Tailgate Bar & Grill on October 1st.

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Lower Upper Kirby
09/12/17 12:45pm

Sometime over the weekend the row of a dozen-plus street trees lining the west side of Kirby Dr. between W. Main St. and Colquitt got cut down, a Swamplot reader reports. This leaves the eastern front of the Kirby Collection construction site fronted by an alternating pattern of high and low streetlights and stumps. The wooden construction fence that stood for about a year just inside of the sidewalk in front of the mixed-use project is now gone. The photo above shows the view looking south now from the corner of W. Main St.

The removed “highrise” oaks had been installed 9 years ago with the reconstruction of Kirby Dr. — replacing the larger 20-year-old oaks that had been there earlier.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Upper Kirby
07/21/17 4:00pm

THE INVENTION OF UPPER KIRBY Among Houston’s grids, strips, and cul de sacs, let a million neighborhoods bloom! Perhaps the story of how the area around upper Kirby Dr. came to be known as Upper Kirby can form some sort of template for this city’s vast numbers of undifferentiated districts just waiting to be branded? “We weren’t Greenway Plaza, we weren’t Montrose, we weren’t Rice Village,” Upper Kirby Management District deputy director Travis Younkin tells reporter Nicki Koetting. It was a section of town that lacked identity. “This nameless neighborhood, Koetting adds, “was the sort of place you drove through on the way to other, named neighborhoods.” One helpful step along the way: Planting the shopping areas with red phone booths. “The authentic British phone booths are an homage to Upper Kirby’s acronym, and actually operated as phone booths for a few decades until cellphones became the norm,” Koetting notes. “Now, the telephone booths are lit from within and locked, serving today as a visual indication to visitors that they’ve arrived in Houston’s own UK.” [Houstonia] Photo: WhisperToMe

07/06/17 10:30am

THE NATIONWIDE MCMODERN INVASION HAS BEGUN, AND THE UPPER KIRBY AND GREENWAY PLAZA AREA IS ITS GROUND ZERO “The typical McMansion follows a formula: It’s large, cheaply constructed, and architecturally sloppy,” writes Kate Wagner on Curbed. “Until around 2007, McMansions mostly borrowed the forms of traditional architecture, producing vinyl Georgian estates and foam Mediterranean villas.” But Wagner, who regularly dissects and ridicules the housing type on her McMansion Hell Tumblr page, notes that McMansion purveyors of late have increasingly begun borrowing, distorting, misunderstanding, and enlarging aspects of a newer type of home. “We are witnessing the birth and the proliferation of modernist McMansions: McModerns,” she writes. Where can we find these sleek new specimens? “In cities, McModerns are frequently constructed in rapidly gentrifying areas, such as the Greenway/Upper Kirby neighborhood in Houston, where $1 million, five-to-10-bedroom, builder-designed McModerns have been increasingly sprinkled among houses selling for $200,000 to $700,000: an earmark of speculation based on the increasing land values brought by rabid development.” [Curbed] Photo of 3003 Ferndale St.: HAR

06/13/17 10:30am

Developer Giorgio Borlenghi may have just shelved plans to build the 26-story condo tower he had dubbed Villa Borghese on the 1.43-acre site a block south of Westheimer at Bammel Ln. and Earl Ln., but work clearing the property of the 15 separate cottage-y structures that once stood in the way of the now-on-hold project has not stopped. A reader sends pics of the scene from last Thursday, as workers from Cherry House Moving mounted the houses-turned-shops-and-offices surrounding the shuttered wedding venue known as the Gardens of Bammel Lane onto steel rails and prepared them for exit:

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There They Go, Borghese or Not
06/12/17 11:45am

Another round of changes appears to be on the horizon for the oft-swapped Asian fusion joint just south of the former Alabama Theater, a reader notes — a leasing sign advertising the shopping center’s (only) restaurant endcap spot was spotted behind the center along W. Alabama St. last week. The space has been serving under the banner of Maiko Bar + Bistro since 2014 (reportedly acting as a test kitchen for the restaurant’s Austin location of similar name); Maiko replaced short-lived Onaga Pan Asian Bistro, which took over from Zake Sushi Lounge.

Any swapouts in the space will follow in the wake of some more skin-deep touchups the shopping center received back in January — the pastel rainbow forehead of Trader Joe’s was redone in a monotone grey-brown, as was the pale yellow block behind Petsmart‘s logo:

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S. Shepherd Restaurant Sequels
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
05/30/17 5:00pm

NICE PARK IF YOU CAN GET TO IT, AND OTHER HOUSTON ENCAPSULATIONS George Ristow’s take for OffCite on the recently unveiled public-private redo of Levy Park? It’s become “one of Houston’s best outdoor public spaces” — as long as you can get yourself there: “The park is tucked away from view, dwarfed by the Kirby Grove building, which undermines its connection [to] Richmond Ave. (bringing visitors from Upper Kirby). Although there are sidewalks immediately surrounding the park, no sidewalk exists on either side of Eastside St. between the park and Richmond. Just one block south of the park, the Southwest Freeway, with a right-of-way as wide as the park itself, walls off West University’s upper reaches as if it were an international border crossing. Consider the Olive Garden restaurant, surrounded by a typical suburban parking lot, built within the same time period as the Levy Park facelift just on the other side of the freeway. Here we have Houston in a nutshell: a state-of-the-art destination public park next to a 19-lane freeway next to a chain restaurant, with no way to walk between them.” [OffCite; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Levy Park Conservancy

05/22/17 12:30pm

The pointy glass Gardens of Bammel Lane conservatory isn’t the only structure on the block southeast of Bammel Ln. and Earl St. getting picked up and hauled elsewhere as part of the block’s cleanout for the 26-story Villa Borghese condo highrise. A handful of Cherry House Moving trailers were spotted on the site this weekend, hanging around and under several of the bungalows on the block (which date between 1900 and 1950 per the county’s records, and were used most recently as commercial spaces). As of Saturday, the conservatory structure (shown above in wedding attire) had already departed the site (presumably headed for its new home at the Madeley Gardens events space in Conroe).

Some of the bungalows have already been shuffled around on the block. The former law office at 2714 Sackett St. was spotted stripped of its hedge and address markers, with a moving trailer poking out from beneath the front porch:

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Upper Kirby Shuffle