06/03/16 12:45pm

A very quick summary of a long, long peek over the construction fence at Kirby Dr. and Colquitt St. shows the progress to date on the mixed-use Kirby Collection development. Developer Thor Equities has been working over the former site of the Kirby funeral bars since last fall, and has reached the top level of the complex’s parking garage. Thor plans to have the main skeleton of the office tower done by November and to put the last structural bits of the ellipse-footed residential tower in place by early 2017.

Video: Thor Equities

Making Short Work Of It
05/25/16 4:45pm

DRINKING AGE RISES TO 23 AT KIRBY ICE HOUSE Kirby Ice House, 3333 Eastside St., Greenway/Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098No-longer-blue Upper Kirby Kirby Ice House announced this morning that it will no longer allow customers younger than 23 into the venue. A message on the company’s Facebook page cites a month and a half of customer feedback since the bar’s opening at 3333 Eastside St., and a need to maintain the venue’s diverse clientele — adding an apology to the segments of that same clientele who areunder 23 (and an invitation to come back in a few years). [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Kirby Ice House

05/23/16 12:00pm

Corporate Plaza I Demolition, Kirby at Norfolk, Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

Here’s this morning’s view of the former Corporate Plaza site, now sans the skeletal midrise that spent much of May wasting away. Standing at the edge of the rubble is the Texas Direct Auto billboard, visible here from its non-dayglo-yellow backside above the cluster of excavators picking over the last of the former midrise. On the left (at the corner of Kirby and 59) is the separately-owned Shell service station property, boxed in by the increasingly empty lot throughout the entire demo spectacle.

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And Then There Was Shell
05/20/16 1:30pm

Proposed University Light-Rail Line

A letter from the Federal Transit Authority released this morning by the office of long-time light-rail derailer US representative John Culberson announces that the comatose plans for rail construction along Richmond Ave. have now lost eligibility for federal funding due to the project’s lack of major progress, reports Dug Begley for the Houston Chronicle.

Previous plans for the University Line show it running from the Wheeler Red Line station along Richmond to Cummins St., where a turn south would take the line down to Westpark Dr. before continuing out to the Hillcroft Transit Center just past 59 — connecting along the way to the also-stalled Uptown rail-turned-bus-line). The Richmond part of the route includes a 1.7 mile stretch west of S. Shepherd Dr. that falls in Culberson’s district; the rest of the route to Hillcroft falls within 7th district territory as well.

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Use It Or Lose It
05/19/16 4:45pm

Corporate Plaza I Demolition, Kirby at Norfolk, Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

Corporate Plaza I Demolition, Kirby at Norfolk, Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098Here’s the raw scene captured around lunch time today, when a small pack of excavators was sighted rooting through the debris at the base of the former Corporate Plaza I midrise. The increasingly see-through office building was fully de-striped some time between yesterday (second photo) and noon today (top); below is a quick video of the excavator crew gently yanking down a piece of what appears to be the 4th-story floor: 

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Break Another Little Piece
05/10/16 1:00pm

3501 W. Alabama, Greenway,

The walls came down last week at the southwest corner of Edloe and W. Alabama streets, in the wake of a demo permit issued the week before. A few readers had eyes and lenses on the spot, which is currently listed for lease on LoopNet as 3000 Alabama Ct. but goes by 3501 W. Alabama in other county records. The walled complex (shown mid-teardown at the start of last week) was sold to St. Luke’s in 2009 by Metsun Senior Living, though it’s rumored to have been a former residence of deceased Greenway Plaza mastermind Kenneth Schnitzer.

St. Luke’s, whose main land holding sits catty-corner to the Alabama Ct. property, also owns the office park across Edloe, visible to the east of the freshly-emptied lot in this shot below from later last week:

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Alabama Ct.
05/04/16 12:45pm

3319 Virginia St., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

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.

Ready to peek inside?

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Green Machine in Upper Kirby
04/28/16 11:30am

Former 59 Diner, 3801 Farnham St,, Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

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 next door to 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.

Photo: LoopNet

Upper Kirby
04/27/16 4:45pm

Corporate Plaza I Demolition, 2600 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

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 garage nearly demolished part of the demo team back in February.

Photo: Lulu

Office-Appropriate Cut on Kirby
03/22/16 12:45pm

Ruggles Green Alabma, 2305 W. Alabama St., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

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.

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Sprouting Next Door
03/16/16 4:00pm

Corporate Plaza I Demolition, Kirby at Norfolk, Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

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.

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Status Check
03/02/16 11:30am

Blue tile sign at 2500 block of Westheimer Rd., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

Houstorian James Glassman sends this photo of a shiny new blue tile street 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:

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Westheimer Blues
02/10/16 2:00pm

Yesterday’s unexpected acceleration 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.

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Turnabout at 59 and Kirby