12/11/14 10:45am

roak-settegast-kopf-demo1-excavator-bestroak-settegast-kopf-demo1-excavator

An excavator yesterday was hard at work scraping the 3300 block of the west side of Kirby clean.

Bounded by West Main St. and Colquitt St. and Lake St. to the rear, this block was long the site of a Settegast-Kopf funeral home, but like that seemingly straitlaced great-aunt with the closet full of empty gin bottles, the staid mortuary and adjacent buildings descended into drink, spending their final years as taverns Roak, Hendricks Pub, and the OTC Patio Bar.

Here’s what the Kirby frontage looked like in both its sober and lush incarnations:

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Cremation By Excavator
12/09/14 3:30pm

distinctive-life-cremations

“I know what they were going for but I think it’s the ‘We will come to you’ that I find upsetting,” writes Houston Chronicle culture critic Andrew Dansby on his Facebook page.

Dansby tells Swamplot that he spotted the sign in front of the business at 3414 S. Shepherd Dr. while out walking recently and believes it open to two interpretations, other than the no-doubt intended expression of eagerness to provide good service.

One, that they could be so eager, they are ready to pounce on you and cremate you against your will:

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Funeral Blues
12/01/14 10:00am

HAS THE INNER LOOP BEEN RUINED BY OLIGARCHS? Variance Sign at Kirby Court Apartments, 2700 Block of Steel St., Upper Kirby, Houston“A brutal strain of neoliberalism” and Houston’s disdain for its own history taken to “gothic extremes” have allowed developers to transform Inner Loop Houston from a “bastion for the creative class” to an “exclusive playland for the rich” in a few short years, writes Anis Shivani of Alternet. (The essay was later rebroadcast from the bully-er pulpit of Salon.com.) The nexus of Shivani’s lament is Steel St., the oak-lined Upper Kirby avenue that was once home to the Kirby Court Apartments and is now the site of an upcoming Hanover Company apartment building. Shivani, a poet, critic and fiction writer, sees the transformation of Steel St. (where he lives in a townhouse an apartment) as a microcosm for the changes going on across the Inner Loop, where “unoccupied zombie high-rises which are pure investment vehicles for global investors” are displacing the “artists, writers and eccentrics from around the country [who] descended in droves in the 2000s to take advantage of Houston’s livability.” Today’s Houston is “as unaffordable as Los Angeles or New York,” Shivani says. Among the more prominent events in this transmogrification: Last year’s demise of lively public-private space” Taco Milagro, where the “food was very healthy and people from all over the city danced the night away and congregated on the large patio.” Also, changes to the scenery of Memorial Park, where the “drought had supposedly killed” “oaks that were planted in the 1920s by the city fathers.” Shivani writes: “[In] the blink of an eye, without public discussion, the trees were demolished.” [Alternet; Salon; previously on Swamplot.] Photo: Jessie Wilson

11/19/14 12:00pm

DAYS AFTER $300K TREECUTTING SETTLEMENT, WORKERS ARE BACK ON THE JOB AT THE KIRBY DR. WENDY’S Workers at Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, HoustonThe snapper of this story-in-an-image pic taken of the construction site at 5003 Kirby Dr. tells Swamplot that construction crews went back to work on the stalled renovation of the Wendy’s Tuesday morning. Last Friday Mohammed A. Dhanani and HAZA Foods, the franchise owner, agreed to pay the city of Houston $300,000 for the 6 oak trees removed late last month from the city right-of-way in front of the fast-food franchise along Kirby and North Blvd. A permitting logjam had halted work on the ongoing renovations after city officials learned of the street-tree chop-downs. What’s the worker’s gesture in the pic supposed to mean? “I think it was a ‘right on’ fist pump,” reports the photographer. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

11/17/14 1:15pm

Partial Demolition of Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr. at North Blvd., Upper Kirby, Houston

Update, 1:40pm: A revised press release from the mayor’s office now indicates the settlement was for all 6 trees, not 4 as previously indicated. We’ve updated the story below.

A just-announced legal settlement signed late last week means that the owner of the Wendy’s franchise at 5003 Kirby Dr. will be paying a $300,000 fine to the city for the late-night chopping-down and mulching-up of oak trees in the public right-of-way in front of the restaurant late last month. Six trees lining Kirby and North Blvd. were removed in the nighttime incident (illustrated in the before-and-after photos above), which was first reported on Swamplot. Crews from Freddy’s Landscaping and More carried out the tree-removal work under contract; the settlement, however, is to be paid entirely by Mohammed A. Dhanani and HAZA Foods, the Wendy’s franchise owner. All construction work on the restaurant, which was closed and undergoing renovations when the trees were removed, had come to a stop after city officials became aware of the clandestine street-visibility-improvement operation.

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Now That’s Better
11/13/14 12:30pm

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XO Communications Building, 2401 Portsmouth St., Upper Kirby, Houston

XO Communications Building, 2401 Portsmouth St., Upper Kirby, HoustonA grand total of 26 trees (some of them shown in the top photo of the above before-and-after sequence) surrounding 4 sides of the XO Communications building at 2401 Portsmouth St. just west of Kirby Dr. were felled over the weekend. That’s more than 4 times the number of trees turned to mulch in the overnight removal of street trees surrounding the Kirby Dr. Wendy’s just a few weeks earlier. Does the axing of the XO trees along Portsmouth, Park, Revere, and Norfolk streets in Upper Kirby count as another illegal tree massacre?

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Goodbye Oaks, Hello Japanese Blueberries?
11/10/14 12:45pm

Avalon Square Apartments, 2400 Westheimer Rd., Upper Kirby, Houston

A note and FAQ sheet sent to all residents of the Avalon Square Apartments at 2400 Westheimer Rd. last Friday — informing them that the 3-story, 5-courtyard compound is now under new management — does not mention the property’s sale or identify Peak Real Estate Management as anything other than the new management company. But a representative of the firm tells Swamplot that it is also the property’s new owner, and that upgrades are planned for the 210-unit complex, not demolition. Avalon Square, which sits on a 3.72-acre site stretching between Dickey Pl. and Argonne St., was built in 1974; it last changed hands 7 years ago.

Photo: Justin McMurtry

Sold!
11/07/14 2:45pm

DEFORESTED KIRBY DR. WENDY’S BRINGS BACK A LITTLE GREENERY Fencing Around Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, HoustonPassersby hoping to see for themselves precisely what hullabaloo was responsible for the larger-than-normal red tag placed by city officials on the door of the abruptly-paused-during-renovation Kirby Dr. Wendy’s now have an additional obstacle blocking satisfaction of their curiosity. The perimeter construction fencing on the jobsite at 5003 Kirby Dr. — which only went up just as workers were chopping down 6 oak trees on the surrounding public right-of-way late one night last week — has gained a new green-fabric wrapping. “I think it makes the construction look more attractive,” quips the reader who sent in the above photo of the stump-and-fence scene (with the red tag still barely visible through the greenage). That’s nice, the reader notes, since “apparently we are going to be looking at it for a long time.” [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

11/05/14 1:00pm

saint-honore-rendering

What happened to that Fortress French development of enormous $2.2-million-plus townhomes (pictured at top) planned for the former site of Urban Retreat across the street from River Oaks on the corner of San Felipe and Revere St.? Builder Rohe & Wright has scrapped plans for the 10-unit Saint Honoré at 1900 Revere St. — in favor of a reconfigured development that will lack its predecessor’s continental pretensions:

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Wilde Associations
11/03/14 3:30pm

Stump and Red Tag at Wendy's Drive-Thru Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr. at North Blvd., Upper Kirby, Houston

A passerby stopping for an iced tea today at the McDonald’s across Kirby Dr. from the recently deforested Wendy’s restaurant at the corner of Kirby and North Blvd. reports that the once-bustling construction site has gone quiet: “Nothing going on at the site, looked closed, stopped, locked up.” But one bright marker affixed to a window of the mid-redo building at 5003 Kirby did catch our tipster’s eye: “I noticed the largest ‘red tag’ I have ever seen. 4 times the size of a normal one.” Unfortunately, the site is fully fenced, so there”s no way to read it without a good pair of binoculars.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Big Red
10/31/14 3:30pm

Tree Stumps Along North Blvd., Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The owner of the property at the southeast corner of Kirby Dr. and North Blvd. has indicated he might attempt to evict the Wendy’s franchise whose operator appears to have ordered the nighttime removal of 6 oak trees on public property surrounding the fast-food outlet earlier this week. Lias J. “Jeff” Steen, the property’s landlord, says he sent an email saying “I am extremely disappointed he took down the trees under cover of darkness . . . And I am looking at terminating our lease,” according to a report by abc13′s Deborah Wrigley.

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Removed ‘in Good Faith’
10/30/14 10:45am

Chopping Down of Trees along North Blvd. at Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The City of Houston intends to proceed with legal action in connection with the overnight disappearance of half a dozen oak trees from the public right-of-way surrounding the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr., according to 2 separate sources. The trees were chopped down and ground up on site under cover of darkness Tuesday night as part of a renovation of the fast-food spot, which sits at the corner of Kirby and North Blvd. The removals took place on city property, but had not been permitted by the city.

“I have already been assured by the City of Houston’s enforcement officer that the city intends to proceed with a civil case,” writes Trees for Houston executive director Barry Ward in an email sent to members of the canopy-enhancement organization this morning. He calls plans to pursue legal action “a continuation of the recent, positive trend by the current administration to put an end to illegal tree removal in the City right-of-way or on city property.”

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$150K for More Sunlight
10/29/14 1:45pm

Partial Demolition of Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr. at North Blvd., Upper Kirby, Houston

Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr. at North Blvd., Upper Kirby, HoustonNotice any differences between the view of the Wendy’s Drive-Thru at the corner of Kirby Dr. and North Blvd. taken yesterday (at top) and a similar image (above) taken this morning? Well, sure, there’s a new construction fence up, and some of the heavy machinery’s been moved around. But you might also note the sudden disappearance of 6 or 7 mature oak trees lining the streets surrounding the restaurant. How did they vanish so quickly? Tree-removal crews worked very quickly, overnight (see photo above left). Here’s another before-and-after comparison:

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Upper Kirby Trees After Dark
10/28/14 1:45pm

Goode's Armadillo Palace, 5015 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The Goode Company 4-restaurant fiefdom on Kirby Dr. near Westpark is planning another expansion. Plans submitted to the city show the local chain is seeking to expand Goode’s Armadillo Palace with additional covered patio space, a new courtyard facing Bartlett St., and covered walkways connecting them — all on the current parking lot directly across the street from Goode Company BBQ. In addition, a new Goode’s Armadillo Palace General Store is planned for the far eastern end of the site, with a raised covered porch in front of its entrance facing Bartlett St. The single-story structure housing the store, according to the documents, would be built in a “traditional German country style.”

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Moving Around the Corner
10/10/14 2:30pm

Kirby Court Apartments, 2612 Steel St., Upper Kirby, Houston

Kirby Court Apartments, 2612 Steel St., Upper Kirby, HoustonAll remaining tenants of the oak-tree-lined Kirby Court Apartments on the 2600 and 2700 block of Steel St. — across Kirby Dr. from the Whole Foods Market — received notice today that all leases will be terminated on December 31st, a source tells Swamplot. The notices — sent through regular mail and certified mail, taped on front doors, and bearing some lawyerly language — do not indicate the name of any buyer, or describe what might become of the site when it is redeveloped. But according to the source, all portions of the complex have now been sold.

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Upper Kirby