03/06/18 11:15am

Longtime Upper Kirby resident Chateau Domingue has packed up the floor tiles, doorknobs, and candlesticks at its former W. Alabama St. showroom just west of Edloe St. and left for a new location in Timbergrove. An entity connected to energy businessman Douglas Foshee bought the building that housed the antique furniture and building materials store at the end of 2016. Fencing went up around the site last week, and on Friday, a permit was filed to disconnect the structure from the city’s sewer system — typically a sign that a demolition is imminent.

Chateau Domingue’s old location is abutted on one side by a complex of warehouse buildings that runs south from W. Alabama toward the middle of the block. At its new location on W. 12th St. between Hempstead and Seamist Dr., the showroom is now hugged entirely by industrial structures.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

02/21/18 3:30pm

Spear Street Capital is teasing a rendering of what it has planned for Exxon Mobil’s former Buffalo Spdwy. research campus, a new complex that takes the initials of River Oaks without daring to speak its name: The RO. The glossy new view above looks west across Buffalo Spdwy. to show 3 new highrises planted on the Upper Kirby site — the stockiest of which rests atop a 3-story windowed pedestal likely to house retail between W. Alabama and a new roadway.

The new street appears in place of the driveway that entered the 16.9-acre complex on Buffalo Spdwy. and ran just north of the 1962 building MacKie and Kamrath Architects designed for the oil giant. The aerial photo above shows what that building looked like from the south before crews began tearing at it last year. South of the new street and directly in place of the MacKie and Kamrath structure, a complex of retail buildings with upper-level patios retreats along a pedestrian corridor that starts at Buffalo Spdwy. and heads toward the 2 other highrises on the west side of the site, near Mercer St. A few outdoor seating areas front Buffalo Spdwy. — one by the footpath, another on the north side of the new street. A larger patio appears on the corner of W. Alabama.

The buildings shown shaded on the left in the rendering likely make up other additions planned for the block. Here it is viewed from its backside looking toward Buffalo Spdwy. last year:


A Twilit View
02/13/18 11:00am

The addition of H-E-Bs planned new supermarket on Kirby will create — as checkout counter intelligence agent Jason Estrada notes on Twitter — a mile-long corridor along W. Alabama of 4 grocery stores, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and the existing H-E-B off Dunlavy. Already 11 other grocery stores lie within a 2-mile radius of the new H-E-B site, indicated on the far left in the map above.

Food Oasis
02/09/18 1:00pm

Here’s the block of land off Kirby between W. Alabama and Steel St. that H-E-B bought last month and plans to plant with a new store, across from the existing Upper Kirby Whole Foods. H-E-B’s idea, reports the Chronicle’s Paul Takahashi, is to pair up with developer Midway to build a new mixed-use complex on the site — mapped out in the middle of the survey above, just south of the block that Stolz Partners and Hanover have already divvied up for their respective Giorgetti Houston and Hanover River Oaks residential buildings. Renderings of what the grocer has planned for the site haven’t been released yet, nor have any details of its where its entrances will be. But plans submitted to the city last year for the 3.8-acre parcel dub it Kirby Crossing.

The block’s northern frontage along Steel St. is lined with dual rows of oak trees that once provided cover for the Kirby Court Apartments, torn down on both sides of Steel in 2015. South of the tree lines and the vacant field in place of the former residences behind them, a retail strip runs along W. Alabama. The photo at top looks across W. Alabama from Bed Bath & Beyond’s parking lot to view J Sussan Interiors former furniture store now repurposed as Giorgetti’s leasing office on the corner of Kirby. East of the office, Allen Cleaners does its business in a smaller building:


Supermarket Corridor
02/07/18 1:00pm

Been a while since your last Kirby Dr. drive? Here’s a look over developer Thor Equities’s collected works — dubbed the Kirby Collection — now standing tall between Colquitt and W. Main. The complex just north of Richmond began rising back in 2015 on the site of Cafe Express and a set of bars carved out of the former Settegast Kopf funeral home. A few pioneers have already settled in the 25-story ribbed apartment tower, shown on the left in the photo above. A boxier 13-floor office building rises at the south end of the block, on the right.

On the complex’s Kirby-fronting side, you can see where street-level shops will move into the Collection’s 65,000 sq. ft. of retail space, north of its ringed entrance court:


In the Upper Kirby Air
01/18/18 4:00pm

Excavators are now moving dirt around on the corner of Kirby and oak-lined Steel St. where a 39-story apartment tower dubbed Hanover River Oaks is planned. Hanover bought a 1.6-acre portion of the former Kirby Court Apartments along Steel St. in 2016; funding issues had left the project in limbo for most of the prior year. The photo above, taken from the highrise at 2727 Kirby, looks southwest past the corner tower of the Gables West Ave apartments to show a portion of the crater where the new apartment tower is now under construction.

Although the project has a Kirby Dr. address, the building won’t actually front the street. Instead, it will sit behind Becks Prime at the corner of Kirby and Kipling (partly visible in the bottom left of the image above). Earlier renderings showed a new standalone restaurant building fronting Kirby just south of Becks Prime. West of the drive-thru restaurant zone, an entrance driveway for the apartment will run between Kipling and Steel.

A recent rendering from architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz views the tower from southeast of 2727 Kirby:


Hanover River Oaks
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:


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:


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.


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.


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