02/06/15 2:00pm

Thor Equities came out with a video this week showing whiz-around views of the Kirby Collection, its ready-to-go but (as of late January) still seeking construction financing mixed-use complex on the Kirby Dr. block surrounded by W. Main, Colquitt, and Lake St. And the New York development group is at long last dropping the (big) name of the design architect for the long-promised $125 million project: Richard Keating Architecture, which operates out of L.A. (Houston’s Kirksey Architecture is producing the construction documents.)

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Kirby Collection
01/28/15 2:30pm

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

The end of the year marked the end of residency for all tenants of the Kirby Court Apartments. Renters of the 2-story 1949 townhouse-style units fronting oak-lined Steel St. across Kirby Dr. from the Whole Foods Market were required to move out no later than December 31st. Houston-based Hanover Co. had a portion of the complex under contract, and was planning to complete the transaction early this year.

But funding for the apartment tower Hanover had planned for that parcel (marked down to 30 stories and 300 units at last report) fell through sometime in December, a company rep tells the Houston Business Journal‘s Paul Takahashi; since then, the company has been “scrambling to find new investors.” Hanover has now postponed completion of the purchase until August. The architect, Solomon Cordwell Buenz, is still reportedly working on the design.

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Funding Dries Up
01/23/15 5:30pm

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A ski-slope of a roof tops a 1974 townhome complex designed by Burdette Keeland — on land his mother owned in College Heights, now part of  the Upper Kirby District. The late architect taught at University of Houston’s College of Architecture for 40 years and served on the City of Houston’s planning commission for 30 years. Located at the center of the 5-plex property, the contemporary home is described as being in near-original condition. Since mid-December, the listing has been priced at $379,900. You can hit the slopes with a look-see scheduled by Houston Mod for this Sunday afternoon.

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Lift Lines
01/12/15 1:46pm

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

Burger King and Diminished Oak Tree at 5115 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

A regular Kirby Dr. street-tree watcher sends in this pair of recent images showing the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr. (at the far western end of oak-tree-bedecked North Blvd.), which reopened after renovations the week before Christmas, and its neighbor a few driveways down, the Burger King at 5115 Kirby Dr. (at the far western end of similarly shaded South Blvd). The photos show the aftermath of a series of chainsaw incidents that took place last year.

The daring but probably not death-inducing trimming of the lone surviving Kirby Dr. street tree in front of Wendy’s (shown at top) took place after the franchise’s owner, Ali Dhanani of Haza Foods, paid the city a $300,000 settlement for the nighttime removal of 6 other oaks on city property surrounding the restaurant shortly before Halloween. A report in November indicated that the city’s legal team was investigating the more aggressive paring of oak limbs in front of the neighboring Burger King, as well as another Burger King owned by Houston Foods, the second-largest Burger King franchisee in the country, which is run by Dhanani’s brother, Shoukat Dhanani.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

The Giving Trees
01/09/15 10:45am

Fly High Little Bunny, 3120 S. Shepherd Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

From the Swamplot reader known as Googlemaster comes this parting photo of jewelry store Fly High Little Bunny at 3120 S. Shepherd Dr., featuring — in the view from Sul Ross St. — a new mural. The building stands in the way of a new drive-thru building meant to add heft and balance to a new CVS Pharmacy going in at the corner of Shepherd and West Alabama St. Sunday was the last day of business at the shop.

Photo: Googlemaster

Resistance Is Futile
01/05/15 5:00pm

Ruggles Green, 2311 W. Alabama St., Upper Kirby, Houston

Gables Upper Kirby, 2305 W. Alabama St., Upper Kirby, HoustonThe last day of business for the original Ruggles Green location, in the Persona Day Spa shopping center at 2311 West Alabama St. east of Kirby Dr. (above), was New Year’s Eve. But the restaurant claims it won’t be gone from the neighborhood for too long. A new Ruggles Green is scheduled to open up in the street-facing retail space on the ground floor of the Gables Upper Kirby apartments going up next door (portrayed above left), once construction on that project is finished. That’ll be this spring, a note on the Ruggles Green website promises. The new address, 2305 W. Alabama St., will be one door down from the former Mission Burrito, recently renamed Überrito Mexican Grill to avoid tortilla torts.

Meanwhile, up in The Woodlands, a brand new Ruggles Green in the shopping center at 2501 Research Forest Dr. is scheduled to open any day now — “whenever the chairs arrive,” the company’s Facebook page declares. Here’s a pic of that standing-room-only (for now) location:

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But First, The Woodlands
12/31/14 10:00am

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Reader Sean McManus was on the spot for yesterday’s demolition proceedings at the southwest corner of W. Alabama St. and S. Shepherd Dr., where Roeder’s Pub, Ruchi’s taqueria, Fly High Little Bunny jewelry store and the River Oaks Dry Cleaners are being swept away in favor of a CVS pharmacy.

“As I was taking [the pictures], one of the deconstruction workers asked if he could help me,” McManus writes. “I told him that I was just taking a couple of quick photos. His response:Pfft… Memories.’”

More hot demo porn after the jump:

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Fly High, Little Ruchi and Roeder
12/11/14 10:45am

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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

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“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