07/08/15 2:15pm

Demolition of Strip Center at 4122 Willowbend Blvd., Willowbend, Houston

The 1959 strip center that once hid the top-secret bar known as Carolyn’s — as well as the Fruit of the Spirit Community Church — is all gone now. Demolition crews tore down the 18,600-sq.-ft. center at 4122 Willowbend Blvd. 3 blocks west of S. Main St. last week and the week before (see in-action shots below, sent to Swamplot by an area resident). And in late May, the planning commission approved a couple of variances to allow the all-in-a-line seeding of 29 3-story townhomes on the lot, in 2 rows facing Willowbend, like so:

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Summer Crop
06/30/15 11:15am

1055 Gessner Rd., Energy Gateway District, Spring Branch, Houston

What looks to be the last structure standing in the way of MetroNational’s hush-hush Energy Gateway District project across I-10 from its headquarters is now ready for its exit. The 32-year-old PoMo style strip center at 1055 Gessner Rd., which formerly housed an HPD substation, Terrace Limousine, and the Asiana Garden restaurant, appears fenced off and ready for demolition in this photo sent to Swamplot by a reader. The center stands at the far northern end of the 24-acre property, which — following the city’s approval of a variance request last month — will be bisected by the extension of Mathewson Ln. to Gessner Rd. from Conrad Sauer Rd.

Photo: Bayan Raji

Going Soon
05/13/15 1:30pm

Conrad Sauer Detention Basin, Energy Gateway District, Spring Branch, Houston

Here’s a purty watercolor-filtered drawing that shows how a portion of the concrete-lined Conrad Sauer Detention Basin extending north from the I-10 feeder road between Gessner and Conrad Sauer Dr. is supposed to look after MetroNational and TIRZ 17 upgrade it into a grassy, bike-lane-crossed area with park space that improves on its current ditch functions. It sits directly across the little ol’ Katy Fwy. from MetroNational’s ‘Death Star‘ HQ; the normally secretive company reveals a tiny bit about its plans for the area around the detention basin, lining the northwest corner of Gessner and the outbound I-10 feeder, in a variance application that’s scheduled to be discussed and possibly voted on in a planning commission meeting this Thursday.

MetroNational is calling the cleared 24-acre site (shown below) the Energy Gateway District.

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From the Death Star to You
02/20/15 11:45am

NO PARKING VARIANCE FOR HEIGHTS MERCANTILE RETAIL REDO ON 7TH AND YALE Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston HeightsDespite a recommendation from the planning department staff to allow the development to proceed with significantly fewer parking places than required by ordinance, the planning commission yesterday denied a parking variance for the proposed Heights Mercantile mixed-use building complex along 7th St. between Yale St. and Heights Blvd., the longtime site of a warehouse complex for the Pappas Restaurant group. The Finial Group, the project’s developers, had hoped to be allowed to count 58 existing head-in public parking spaces along 7th St., many of them fronting the MKT Hike and Bike Trail, toward the development’s off-street parking requirements. [Previously on SwamplotRendering of proposed new building along Yale St.: Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

02/13/15 1:15pm

Proposed Saudi Arabia General Consulate of Houston, Wilcrest Dr. Between Richmond Ave and Meadowglen Ln., Westchase, Houston

“Does a building have diplomatic immunity to local ordinances if [its site] is deemed international soil?” asks Architect’s Newspaper reporter Jay Thomas, reporting on the variance request made on behalf of a new General Consulate of Saudi Arabia complex in Westchase — which Houston’s planning commission denied in December. The applicants for the variance appear to say yes, it does: “The Consulate should be considered foreign soil and should be allowed to develop the property as they have planned as long as it doesn’t harm the public in any way,” reads the application.

But the design team went ahead and applied for the variance anyway. Why?

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International Setbacks
02/05/15 12:45pm

Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston Heights

Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston HeightsResidents near the section of 7th St. between Yale St. and Heights Blvd. have been discussing plans to turn the group of warehouse buildings long held by Pappas Restaurants into a 4-building “creative neighborhood and shopping destination” called Heights Mercantile. The Finial Group, which bought the properties from Pappas and a few other landowners last year, hired Austin architect Michael Hsu to come up with plans for renovating 3 of the buildings lining 7th St., tearing down the long warehouse lining Yale St. and replacing it with the new 2-story structure pictured above. The new project is a joint venture between Finial and a local investment firm called Radom Capital.

A notable feature of the 1.4-acre site plan is 3 stretches of head-in parking along 7th St. The plan shows 36 spaces on the north side of the street, facing the row of wooden bollards lining the hike-and-bike trail converted from the path of the former MKT rail line and 2 banks of 11 spaces in a row on the opposite side. Although head-in parking configurations dominate in some portions of the city (Rice Village, for example), new stretches of more than 4 spaces in a row have been prohibited by city regulations for decades.

The Pappas warehouses have head-in parking along 7th St. The developer not only wants to preserve and adjust that arrangement for the new development, but is asking the city to count these on-street spaces toward the required number of off-street spaces. The planning commission is scheduled to rule on the associated parking variance application this afternoon.

Here’s a site plan:

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Retail Revamp
01/06/15 1:30pm

Variance Sign for Living Green, MDI Superfund Site, 3617 Baer St., Fifth Ward, Houston

Signs have gone up around the former metal foundry site at 3617 Baer St. in the Fifth Ward indicating that a hearing is scheduled for this Thursday to get city approval for the latest rejiggering of homesites on the 35-acre tract. Developer Frank Liu of Lovett Homes, InTown Homes, and a few other local builder brands plans to put a total of 538 homes (down from 589) on the EPA-monitored property, known as the MDI Superfund Site after the last owner of the metal-casting operations, Many Diversified Interests, which shut down in the early 1990s (previously, the plants were owned by TESCO). The property, which lies just south of I-10 about 2 miles of east of downtown, was listed on the EPA’s list of priority Superfund sites in 1999, after tests showed the soil and groundwater was contaminated with lead and other hazardous metals.

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Living Green
11/10/14 1:45pm

2901 Rusk St., East Downtown, Houston

The proprietor of The Green Bone is hoping to turn this former office warehouse at the far eastern edge of East Downtown into a new home for the doggie daycare, hemp-treat outlet, and espresso stop. The Green Bone currently operates in this still-for-sale building at 2104 Leeland St., 1 mile to the southwest. Its envisioned future home in the warehouse at the corner of Rusk and Paige, which The Green Bone purchased at the beginning of this year, would encompass 3,429 sq. ft. at the corner of Rusk and Paige.

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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
08/14/14 11:15am

Variance Sign in Front of Hollywood Vietnamese Restaurant, 2409 Montrose Blvd., Montrose, Houston

A variance notice now up on the south side of Fairview St. at the corner of Montrose Blvd. is one sign that a full-block apartment complex is being planned for the site. Another clue: A reader tells us the Hollywood Vietnamese & Chinese Cuisine restaurant at 2409 Montrose Blvd., which occupies the only building on the block, is planning to shut down before the end of the month. A spokesperson for the planning department says a complete set of documents for the variance hasn’t been received yet.

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Farb Montrose
08/13/14 11:00am

Kuhl-Linscomb, 2424 W. Alabama St., Upper Kirby, Houston

Penguin Arms Apartments, 2902 Revere St., Upper Kirby, Houston (4)The application for a parking variance submitted to the city by the owners of design store Kuhl-Linscomb last week is notable for the details it reveals about the company’s plans for a 17,489-sq.-ft. addition to the Googie-monument Penguin Arms Apartments (pictured at right) it bought in 2011. But it’s also an entertaining read for the stories Pam Kuhl-Linscomb and Dan Linscomb tell about their own retail venture, in making the case that their soon-to-be 7-building campus in Upper Kirby doesn’t need as much off-street parking as city ordinances otherwise require: “Kuhl-Linscomb sells expensive, high-end designer goods, furniture and kitchen systems in a 6 building campus near Kirby and West Alabama,” the application reads. And it goes on to explain why its parking situation is different from those of other design and home-goods stores:

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Reaching for Penguin Arms
08/12/14 2:30pm

Penguin Arms Apartments, Kuhl-Linscomb Campus, 2902 Revere St., Upper Kirby, Houston

The owners of the quirky Kuhl-Linscomb home-goods store, arrayed in 6 separate repurposed buildings just east of the Upper Kirby Whole Foods Market, have plans to attach a large addition behind and next to the Penguin Arms apartment building at 2902 Revere St. — and to turn the completed building into an additional showroom. The proposed addition to Arthur Moss’s distinctive 1950 structure (above), one of the best surviving examples of the Frank-Lloyd-Wright-meets-diner-mashup ‘Googie’ style, would almost quadruple the amount of space in the building, from the current 5,938 sq. ft. to 23,427 sq. ft. A proposed site plan submitted to the city shows how the addition would hang back and to the side of the structure, preserving views of 3 of the rock-and-glass building’s corners:

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To Preserve and Expand
08/11/14 5:15pm

Kirby Court Apartments, 2612 Steel St., Upper Kirby, HoustonThe apartment tower the Hanover Company is planning to replace the northeastern chunk of the Kirby Court Apartments on Steel St. and a few surrounding properties will defer to a range of cuisines. Sure it’ll be directly across the street from the Whole Foods Market on Kirby Dr. But it’s also leaving alone the property on the corner of Kirby and Kipling St., where Becks Prime will continue to pump out burgers to customers passing through its drive-thru. If that bit of culinary contrast doesn’t impress, wait for the building to be finished: According to documents submitted to the city for the variance the developer is seeking, the ground floor of the 370-unit Hanover River Oaks apartment complex will have lease space for restaurants.

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Stand Back from Steel
08/11/14 12:00pm

kirby-court-and-sign

Variance Sign at Kirby Court Apartments, 2700 Block of Steel St., Upper Kirby, HoustonApartment developer the Hanover Company appears to be the purchaser of the Kirby Court Apartments — or at least a portion of it. A chunk of the 1949 garden apartment complex, which faces Steel St. west of Kirby, directly across from Whole Foods Market, is outlined in a variance application submitted to the city by Hanover for what the company is calling the Hanover River Oaks. The property earmarked for the development extends halfway (or 350 ft.) into the block between Kipling St. and Steel St. from Kirby Dr., but leaves out the Beck’s Prime drive-thru on the northeast corner.

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Just South of West Ave
06/17/14 1:45pm

Black Eyed Pea, 4211 Bellaire Blvd., Houston

Variance Sign at Kilmarnock Dr. and Gramercy  St., Ayrshire, Braeswood Place, HoustonHere’s the variance sign (at right) that went up over the weekend at the intersection of Gramercy St. and Kilmarnock Dr., backing up to the power-line easement and ditch that separates the city of Bellaire (beyond the sign) from Houston. Supra Color Enterprises, the Florida-based landlord of the Black-eyed Pea restaurant at 4211 Bellaire Blvd. (above), is requesting a variance from the city as part of an effort to redefine its 1.8-acre property at that address as an “unrestricted reserve.” The variance application doesn’t reveal Supra Color’s plans for the land, but it does refer to a “proposed multifamily development” on the site.

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Development Rumors and Mashed Peas