06/29/18 11:30am

A view from up in the U.S. Home building at 1177 West Loop South shows the white house originally home to architecture firm Caudill Rowlett Scott — and for the last couple decades home to Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists — now getting crunched along Buffalo Bayou. The properties now occupied by 1177 and its nearly-demolished neighbor at 1111 West Loop South were bought together as a single tract by CRS in the late ’60s.

A 1997 feature on the iconic (and difficult to photograph) building in Cite magazine by architect Jay Baker explains that prior purchasing the land, the firm had been working out of the Dow Center at the corner of Richmond and Edloe — but having become the largest architectural practice in Houston, its execs wanted to get into a more eye-catching workspace. The 8-acre, largely-in-the-floodplain property they bought, however — which included a 40-ft. drop-off — proved tough to design on . . . and its tenants tough to design for. In June 1967, CRS founder Bill Caudill wrote to his mother: “Boy what a week I am having . . . In my twenty years of practice I have never had such a terrible client. Imagine an architect doing a building for 15 other architects.

The completed building went as much into the site as on it: Two office levels were fitted facing bayou-side greenery, low enough (and ultimately beneath the 100-year-flood level) to allow a 50-ft.-long bridge from the 610 feeder road to access the roof-deck parking lot that was placed on top.

Here’s a closer-up view of the ruins:

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The Final Photo
06/18/18 1:00pm

The first stretch of concrete is down along a northern portion of the dedicated bus route that’s set to run up the middle of Post Oak Blvd. between Westpark Dr. and the West Loop. The photo at top looks north to show the freshly-paved southbound lane lying in the middle of the existing roadway, where it’s now making a stop at San Felipe St.

Its next drop-off point: Ambassador Wy., as indicated in the map below:

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Trailblazing
05/04/18 4:15pm

The 2 new METRO bus lanes — linking a proposed Bellaire transit center to the new middle-of-the-road path up Post Oak Blvd. — won’t run over the actual building at Chick-fil-A’s Richmond Ave location, but they will cut through the property. Last month, the fast-food company agreed to vacate its spot at 5005 Richmond after the State of Texas initiated an eminent domain proceeding against it — and the location subsequently closed. (The 4 strip tenants in Weingarten Realty’s surrounding Richmond Square Shopping CenterBestBuy, Mattress1One, Cost Plus World Market, and Luggage & Leather — are also targeted in the proceeding.)

Adding the new transit route (shown in the map below as a vertical orange line partly covered-over with yellowish-gray) is part of a whole tangle of changes TxDOT has planned for the 610-59 interchange:

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Eminent Domain
11/07/17 1:00pm

In case you were curious what the 9th-floor 1-bedroom condo in the Cosmopolitan owned by southwest Houston charter school Accelerated Interdisciplinary Intermediate Academy looks like, here are some photos taken when the property was listed for sale in February of 2011, for $468,500. The school purchased the condo that June. 250 elementary and middle school students attend Accelerated Interdisciplinary Intermediate Academy on its mostly bare 7-acre campus at 12825 Summit Ridge Dr., near the intersection of Alt. 90 and the Fort Bend Pkwy. Toll Rd. The taxpayer-funded school’s 2 buildings have no windows.

So what’s the condo for? An unidentified school representative emails the Chronicle‘s Jacob Carpenter to explain it’s used for “”back office support and SECURE storage of historical records.” Repeated break-in attempts, according to the representative, prevented the records from being kept at the school. “The writer also reasoned that the charter preferred buying property instead of paying rent, and that its options were ‘very limited,’” writes Carpenter. “The author didn’t explain why the school opted for the condo when cheaper storage and office space were available.”

The almost-floor-to-ceiling windows and balcony in the school’s Cosmopolitan condo face south, down Post Oak Blvd.:

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A Charter School’s Uptown Holdings
10/02/17 3:30pm

Here’s evidence that the scheduled reconstruction of the entire West Loop—I-69 interchange just southeast of the Galleria is about to begin. “Crews have been ripping out trees and other vegetation,” reports reader and 610 traveler John Greiner: “Much more than could be argued for improving traffic sight lines.”

These pics show the scene:

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Foliage First
05/17/17 5:00pm

A waste-no-time tipster briefly stuck on the southbound West Loop earlier this week spent the downtime documenting some of the current activities of various cranes hanging around north of the US 59 junction. On the right is Tilman Fertitta’s The Post Oak, being fleshed out behind the Landry’s headquarters as part of a new mixed-use development; the previously tipped hand of 4 logo diamonds are already being framed at the top:

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Uptown Updates
02/24/17 4:30pm

5922 Richmond Ave., Uptown, Houston, 770575922 Richmond Ave., Uptown, Houston, 77057

The markings left behind by the Key Maps store in the wake of its second move since 2015 are still hanging out this afternoon alongside the leasing notice near the shop’s former place at the east end of the Richmond Avenue Shopping Center strip mall, just east of Fountainview Dr. The Key Maps folks are back inside the Inner Loop again, this time on Durham St. next door to the Dirty Hairy Dog Wash. The most recently former Key Maps location, shown above, has picked up a new neighbor itself since the cartographymonger’s departure: the ex-Subway at the end of the strip is about to reopen as essentialist fried chicken joint Krisp Bird & Batter. A sign on the door says Krisp will be open on Monday: 

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Fried Birdwatching
02/16/17 11:15am

Uptown MD and TIRZ 16 Boundaries

A new lawsuit was filed yesterday against TIRZ 16, the Uptown Development Authority, and the city, alleging that the creation of the reinvestment zone in the Galleria area was in violation of Texas law, since the zone can’t reasonably be considered “unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted.” Rather, the filing claims, the city ordinance that originally created the TIRZ used the justification that the Uptown area needed traffic decongestion to avoid losing its status as one of the wealthiest districts in the city, and to avoid draining business to the city’s ever-expanding suburban fringe. A hearing is going on today over a possible injunction on further spending or work on Uptown projects, and Mike Morris says that city council delayed a vote yesterday on allowing Uptown an additional $65 million in debt.

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Uptown Up for Trial
02/13/17 5:00pm

houston-isd-outline

A letter up on the website of the Texas Education Agency — addressed to the HISD Board of Trustees and dated to last Thursday — provides what the state organization says is a preliminary list of the high-value Houston properties that might be detached from the district and tacked onto Aldine ISD. The transfer is the proposed response to last fall’s election by HISD residents not to authorize that payment of over-the-per-student-cap property tax revenue to the state for redistribution to other districts. Campaigners had hoped the “no” vote on the resolution would cause the Legislature to look at reforming the state’s education funding scheme (which the state high court raised an eyebrow at last year, but left in place).

On the same day the letter was issued, the HISD board voted to call a new election on the recapture/detachment question; the TEA has also set a lower figure for the district’s initial required payment to the state, in light of the fact that HISD doesn’t collect some potential property tax revenue because of homestead exemption rules. The letter tallies up the marked-for-snagging properties at more than $8.024 billion in total assessment value, and includes the Galleria, the Williams Tower, a slew of downtown office buildings, the CityWestPlace complex near Beltway 8, and 2 refineries. The list itself mentions only addresses and parcel numbers, connected mostly to the buildings below and a number of their associated parking garages:

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Election Rerun
02/08/17 11:00am

HOW MANY DOWNTOWNS DOES HOUSTON HAVE? Williams Tower, 2800 Post Oak Blvd., Galleria Area, Houston, 77056The list of Houston neighborhoods with potential to be mistaken for Downtown by outsiders, Blake Mathews of KHOU writes this week, is long, and includes at least “Uptown (Galleria), the Texas Medical Center, Greenspoint, Greenway Plaza, The Woodlands and perhaps even Westchase.” So what makes a Downtown? Mathews runs through some factors for consideration, ranging from the city’s population density center (which falls somewhere west of Downtown) to total office space (Uptown has less than downtown Houston, but more than downtown Denver) to building height (with a specific shoutout to the Williams Tower, pictured here.) [KHOU] Photo of Williams Tower: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

12/05/16 5:00pm

Merchant, 1707 Post Oak Blvd., Uptown, Houston, 77056

The back-alley Post Oak strip center corner previously occupied by a franchise of not-quite-ice-cream purveyor Tasti D-Lite appears now to be operating under the banner of New Orleans-based Merchant Cafe, whose signature noun list was spotted over the weekend by a reader in the shopping center. The new cafe is catty-corner to Berryhill Baja Grill, and flanked by Five Guys Burgers and Fries and The UPS Store. The city planning department  started issuing permits for a remodel of the space by September of last year, though some appear to have been given the OK as recently as October. 

The vicinity’s softserve niche is currently filled by a branch of pay-by-the-pile California frozen yogurt shop Pinkberry, facing San Felipe right across Post Oak Blvd. Tasti D-Lite, meanwhile, appears to have largely pulled out of Houston altogether over the last few years, with a lone holdout franchise remaining in Katy.

Photo: jatorres

NY to NOLA
10/19/16 11:00am

3111 Chimney Rock, Lamar Terrace, Houston, 77056

The graffiti on the tall face of the former Big Woodrow’s spot at 3111 Chimney Rock Rd. has been joined lately by new signage for Rotana Mediterranean Restaurant. The 2-story 2-bar space north of Richmond Ave. shut down near the end of August last year after a planned temporary closure for building repairs turned into an unplanned permanent landlord dispute, and the building went up for lease around the same time. Some of those repairs to the 5,928-sq.-ft. space may have been getting done over the past year since the closure, if building permits issued in March and at the start of this month are any indication.

Photo: MiraDry team at Mosaic Clinic Dermatology

Rotana Remodeling off Richmond Ave.