On the market as of 2 weeks ago: the home-slash-power-plant on the corner of Virginia and Colquitt streets, a block west of the now-rising Kirby Collection. The listing claims the building is Houston’s first LEED-Platinum certified home (though others have since followed suit), and by Houston standards, Adams Architects took extreme measures to reduce the 1,900-sq.-ft. house’s dependence on city utilities networks.
Rooftop solar panels send excess energy to the power grid during the day, and a back-up battery system is in place in case the grid ever goes down. Tucked out of sight below the 3-bedroom structure are geothermal conduits which circulate water down to hotter strata 300 ft. deep, collecting energy to heat and cool the house. A 7,000-gallon cistern beneath the recycled-plastic deck also collects rainwater for use in the space.
The original Shepherd-side location of 59 Diner is now up for lease, with teal-and-bubblegum exterior still intact. The whole 59 chain shut down suddenly at the end of February, amid a tangle of formal and informal disputes regarding employee pay. The listing indicates that the 6,000-sq.-ft. building (officially located at 3801 Farnham St.) can be divided, as long as the future tenant wants at least 2,000 ft.
The ex-diner property is just north of the smaller building now housing The Halal Guys, whose red-and-yellow striped canopy is visible on the right in the east-facing photo above. The former carwash reopened as the New-York-food-cart-gone-international-chain’s first Texas location a few weeks before the 59 closures; hundreds of customers lined up outside the tiny venue during the opening weekend rush, some allegedly filling 59’s parking lot while waiting for hours for gyros and chicken.
That’s 2 stories down and 8 left to go for the last holdout in the former Corporate Plaza office park, seen here from the northeast looking across Kirby Dr. toward 59. The freeway-facing and side facades of the once-10-story midrise have been totally removed, and the remaining facade is beginning to look a bit patchy around the top; piles of debris can be seen stretching out to the north of the structure, across the now-barren Upper Kirby plain where the partially demolished Corporate Plaza parking garagenearly demolished part of the demo team back in February.
Here’s a peek at the new space of Ruggles Green, back open this week at 2305 W. Alabama St. next door to the restaurant’s original shopping center spot by Persona Medical Spa. Ruggles announced the move out of the westernmost suite of 2311 W. Alabama at the end of 2014, and the doors closed on New Year’s Day. The restaurant has now reopened in the street-facing ground floor retail space at the northeastern corner of the 5-story Gables Upper Kirby apartment midrise, which opened across W. Alabama from the less-dense Gables Waterford Square complex last year.
The progress on the piece-by-piece disassembly of Corporate Plaza I can be seen in the above overcast shot of the building’s increasingly skeletal profile, here partially obscured by 2 American Red Cross buildings and by a Texas Direct Auto billboard. The 1972 midrise on 59 just west of Kirby Dr. is the last and tallest of the 3 similarly-clad office buildings previously occupying the site; the tower’s facade started to go missing shortly before the way-faster-than-intended teardown of the last of the plaza’s 7-story parking garage, which nearly turned the tables the demo team on its way down last month.
Houstorian James Glassman sends this photo of a shiny new blue tilestreet sign along a Westheimer Rd. curb just east of Kirby Dr., where months of road and sidewalk construction is wrapping up. The fresh mosaic is in the style of those installed around Houston in the 1920s and into the 1950s before the rise of auto traffic made foot-level street markers less practical than eye-level signage.
The new sign doesn’t yet appear on the online map maintained by Joey Sanchez of the Blue Tile Project, which documents the locations of the original tile markers, though Sanchez noted the sign this morning on the project’s Twitter feed:
Yesterday’s unexpectedacceleration of the parking garage demolition at Corporate Plaza hasn’t stopped plans to continue the ongoing deconstruction at Kirby Dr. and 59. An office worker across Kirby caught video of the narrow remaining slice of the 7-story structure tipping over and collapsing onto the excavator that had been tugging at a spot on the 5th floor.
The video (which also contains running commentary and a few surprised expletives) shows the other excavator and the rest of the demo team gathering as the dust clears to check on the operator, who emerges from the machine unscathed moments later. A Cherry Companies spokesman told CBS that the demolition work would continue as scheduled despite the office park’s attempt to turn the tables.
A reader with eyes glued to the unfolding carnage sent the above overview shot, which shows the Corporate Plaza I midrise hiding unsuccessfully behind the disappearing parking garage as it awaits its own upcoming erasure. The next-door headquarters of the Houston chapter of the American Red Cross are visible on the right side of the photo, as a West University water tower gives the building bunny ears.
Another reader sends these shot of an excavator gingerly yanking at the bottom of one of the interior support beams of the 7-story structure early yesterday afternoon:
Down the street from Lamar High School, thewould-have-been-Little-Woodrow’s now going instead by Kirby Ice House (“A Neighborhood Pearl”) is setting up shop at 3333 Eastside St., between the parking lot used for the weekly Urban Harvest Farmer’s Market and the Bammel Park townhomes. A post to the establishment’s Facebook page earlier this week shows that the under-construction building has just finished turning an icy blue, and the accompanying caption says that work is moving into “the detail phase”.
The bar’s across-the-street neighbors include nonprofit women’s career services center Dress for Success and the main building of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston — both groups expressed concern about the bar’s location in 2014 after the president of the Bammel Park Homeowner’s Association sounded a neighborhood-wide email alarm. Dress for Success filed a protest of the ice house’s TABC license that July; the license was issued in December of that same year.
A rendering of the building’s exterior shows the ice house standing next to a townhouse-free field:
All eyes (well — at least 4) were on 3910 Kirby just north of 59 yesterday as excavators began snacking on the space formerly occupied by South Indian restaurant Madras Pavilion: reader J. Clark captured some sky-high views of the ongoing demolition; another anonymous tipster snapped shots from lower levels and the ground. The Corporate Plaza III building (shown en déshabillé above) also previously housed Central-American restaurant Red Onion and sushi joint Miyako.
A fence has gone up around both Corporate Plaza III and Corporate Plaza II, next door at 3930 Kirby. Demo permits for both structures were issued on Friday, and work began yesterday morning to bring the northern building down. Corporate Plaza I, the taller sibling of the doomed twins, is visible on the right behind the parking garage on the same property:
The casement windows are out from the 1949 Kirby Court Apartments along oak-lined Steel St., just west of Kirby from the Whole Foods Market. There’s been no formal announcement of plans for the site; Hanover, for the time being, is laying back from its plans to build an apartment tower and restaurant row along the Kirby frontage at the north side of the street.
The last residents of the 2-story, townhome-style apartments moved out at the beginning of the year. Here’s a quick tour of the scene on the very quiet street, which appears ready for demolition:
The sixth and last of the replacement street trees was planted in the public right-of-way surrounding the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr. over the weekend. “It is a big specimen tree, taller than what was removed,” writes the reader who sent in these photos of the installation paid for by a special city fund for Houston parks — so we can all see for ourselves. The previous weekend, 5 replacement oaks were put in along the side street, North Blvd. Crews hired by the franchise owner, Mohammed Ali Dhanani of Haza Foods, had chopped down 6 trees on adjacent city property last October. You can compare the current scene in these photos and in our story last week with how it all looked before the chainsaws were fired up.
Crews are gutting the innards of the Kirby Court Apartments on Steel St. just west of Kirby, a reader tells Swamplot. Dumpsters are on the scene, chain-link fences are up, and trash is being thrown out of the backs of the 2-story townhouse-style garden apartment buildings; to our source it appears that asbestos abatement may be in progress.