Articles by

Christine Gerbode

04/28/17 9:30am

6529 Beverly Hill St., Woodlake/Briarmeadow, Houston, 77057

The recently remonikered Margaret Long Wisdom High School is prepping for its scheduled student body transplant as the school year winds down. The shot above shows the main entrance of the school’s almost-ready new building, tucked behind the old one along Hillcroft Ave. south of Beverly Hills St. That older structure, which cut its Confederate ties about a year ago, should be getting erased altogether starting in June, a reader involved with the project tells Swamplot.

Here’s the flip side view of the glassy main entrance above, which should be unlocked in time for fall classes:

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Creeping South on Hillcroft
04/27/17 5:15pm

5124 Palm Royale Blvd., Sugar Land, TX, 77479

5124 Palm Royale Blvd., Sugar Land, TX, 77479The 7-bedroom house at 5124 Palm Royale Blvd. isn’t the only one of the street’s “10,000-plus-square-foot Mediterranean extravaganzas” (as archi-historian Steven Fox put it to Lisa Gray on a Sugar Land driving tour a few years back) to cuddle up against a couple of the golf fairways winding through the neighborhood. (The 12,400-sq.-ft. house may well be one of the homes most directly in the line of incoming golf balls, however.) Inside, the 1995 house is fully coated with intricate calligraphy, carvings, and geometric patterns; the massive star-shaped chandelier above dangles through a star-shaped hole in the second floor, coming to rest above the indoor courtyard-style fountain.

To get to it, you’ll need to dodge the pride of lions ringing the other fountain out front: CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Par for Sugar Land
04/27/17 2:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE MARCH OF PROGRESS, AS PERFORMED BY HOUSTON MIXED USE PROJECT PLANS Rendering of Tianqing Group/DC Partners Allen Pwky. Mixed Use Site, Allen Pkwy. at Gillette St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019Rendering 1: Shiny multifamily tower, midrise condo and office buildings, multilevel retail center with parking neatly concealed in above- and below-ground garages tucked under the buildings. Sleek architecture looking like something on Vancouver Island or in Dubai. Rendering 2: [Single] midrise office building and 6-story stucco apartment complex with hats. Big parking garage with a 2 story retail strip center wrapped around one side. Rendering 3: 4-story ‘Houston wrap’ apartment complex. One-story strip center with big parking lot. Final rendering: Large strip center with big box anchor and acres of parking. Architecture identical to retail center recently built in Pearland. [Old School, commenting on New Gleaming Mixed-Use Visions of a Former Fourth Ward Incinerator Brownfield] Outdated rendering of mixed-use development planned along Allen Pkwy.: Tianqing Group

04/27/17 11:30am

Beheaded Trees at Lyric Center garage site, 440 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002
 
A weekend wanderer sends a few photos of the new sprouts now poking out of some recently beheaded trees alongside the Lyric Centre parking garage construction site on Smith St. It’s unclear exactly when the shortening occurred, though a shot taken of the site back in late October seems to show at least a few of the trees still tall enough to peek over the construction fencing:

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Stumped Downtown
04/27/17 10:15am

EARLY VOTING OPEN NOW FOR HISD’S SPECIAL MAY 6TH ‘YOU SURE YOU WANNA DO THAT?’ ELECTION houston-isd-outlineEarly voting opened this past Monday and goes through next Tuesday, May 2nd, if you don’t wanna wait for the official May 6th election day to weigh in a second time on HISD Prop. 1. The ballot question, as Andrew Schneider notes this week for Houston Public Media, addresses the same funding recapture proposition that didn’t pass in November (meaning HISD voters opted not to send the state of Texas some $160-ish million in property tax money, as required under the current state education funding system.) The state responded in the spring with a list of $8 billion worth of skyscrapers, malls, refineries, and other properties it could pluck from HISD’s boundaries if the district doesn’t pay up; it also dropped the amount potentially owed this year down to $77.5 million as a nod to potential HISD revenue lost to the city’s homestead exemption. [Houston Public Media; previously on Swamplot] Map of HISD and surrounding school districts: Texas Education Agency District Locator

04/26/17 5:15pm

Construction at N. Shepherd at I-10, Cottage Grove, Houston, 77007

For now, this is the new order of things on the block between Shepherd and Durham drives along the northern I-10 feeder road. The former Fresh Car Wash, whose owners appear to be the ones behind that combo car wash and hookah bar at the corner of Dallas and Taft now going by the same name, was knocked down some time after it showed up on the demo roster last month (paired with the nextdoor branch of Big 10 Tires). In their places will go what could well be the third Inner Loop incursion of Raising Cane’s, which has now staked out more than 20 spots around Houston for its steadily creeping chicken fingers.

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Nesting on I-10
04/26/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW HOUSTON GOT ITS SPRAWL, AND OTHER TALES OF PSEUDOZONING Illustration of Oversized Parking Lot“Blame our city’s efforts at ‘planning’ in lieu of zoning. In the early 70’s, due to insufficient wastewater infrastructure, the city enacted a ban on apartment buildings of more than 4 units inside the Loop (driving much of apartment development to Uptown and Meyerland) and enforced a 5000-sq.-ft. minimum lot size. This gave rise to the Montrose 4-plex (of which there are still some examples remaining), but put a cap on residential density inside the loop. Then in the 1980’s, we got 25-ft building setbacks, followed by mandatory minimum parking requirements. This added a cap on commercial density to go with the cap on residential density. The rest is history: for the next couple of decades, the car became the focal point of the built environment, and we became the low-density city we are today. With repeal of some of the more retrograde density caps we’re starting to get some residential density, but setbacks and parking minimums are still getting in the way of the necessary commercial density needed for real walkability.” [Angostura, commenting on Comment of the Day: No, Sprawl’s Not Just a Number After AllIllustration: Lulu

04/26/17 2:45pm

Help WantedAre Houston’s peculiarities something you’re passionate about? Do you enjoy delving into this city’s neighborhoods, architecture, and strip-mall secrets? Would you like an editorial position that puts you in prime position to sift through, explore, and explain the latest happenings in the local real estate landscape? Would you enjoy interacting with a dedicated and highly engaged fan base of tipsters, readers, and commenters — as well as other site contributors?

Good news for you, then: Swamplot is looking for an editor!

This is the perfect gig for someone who can research, report, and write quickly and well; who’s attentive to detail, careful with facts, and has a good sense of humor; who can work independently but also bring out the best from collaborators in a small editorial team; and who can produce accurate and entertaining posts at a steady clip. We’re seeking someone who understands this site and how it works (or can come up to speed on that quickly) — but who also has the vision, ideas, and energy necessary to help Swamplot evolve into something better.

This is a full-time position; salary will be commensurate with experience. (If you are a real estate professional, though, this is not the job for you.)

Here’s how to apply:

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A Job Posting
04/26/17 2:00pm

Krispy Kreme shell, 4601 Spencer Hwy., Pasadena, TX 77504

Krispy Kreme shell, 4601 Spencer Hwy., Pasadena, TX 77504The pointy partially built retail shell spotted last August— empty, glassless, and seemingly left to fallow in the field at 4061 Spencer Hwy. — has since been covered over with the usual Krispy Kreme trappings, Lauren Meyers notes. Construction accessories were still parked on-site as recently as last week, and the grass growing freely beyond the Comerica Bank hedge was fully scraped away some time early this spring, presumably as part of the parking lot growth process. The site has yet to be added back to the company’s list of planned grand openings, however. And that other partially-baked location, just inside the South Loop west of Main St., was still wrapped in little more than its summer Tyvek as of Easter.

Photos: Lauren Meyers

Spencer Hwy. Dressup
04/26/17 1:00pm

UBER CLAIMS IT’LL BE TESTING A FLYING TAXI NETWORK IN TEXAS BY 2020 Meanwhile, in Dallas: Uber announced yesterday that the company plans to have a set of flying taxis called the Uber Elevate Network in testing stages in both the DFW area and Dubai in about 3 years. If everything goes as planned, the network would deploy VTOLs (that’s vertical take-off and landing vehicles, which mix elements of a small helicopter and a plane) that run entirely on electricity. Uber’s set to work with Dallas-based Hillwood Properties to develop landing sites equipped with recharging stations — though the technology for VTOLs themselves still has to be developed, too. [Texas Tribune; more herepreviously on Swamplot]

04/26/17 11:00am

Rendering of DC Partners Allen Pkwy. Mixed Use Site, Allen Pkwy. at Gillette St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

Rendering of Tianqing Group/DC Partners Allen Pwky. Mixed Use Site, Allen Pkwy. at Gillette St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

New renderings of the hotel-office-condo-retail hodgepodge in the works on the northern segment of the former city park and waste incinerator site at Allen Pkwy. and Gillette St.  were released into the digital wild by DC Partners this week. The buildings appear smoother and sleeker overall than some of the possible early depictions turned up last August (like the Downtown-facing view shown second above for comparison), though some elements of the cluster also appear a bit shorter and stouter. The main tower along Allen Pkwy. has been given a twist in the middle, with a floorcount appearing to number somewhere in the 40-plus range; the lowrise retail complex next door is shown with a bridge over the parkway leading directly into Buffalo Bayou Park.

Perennial rendering sleuth Urbannizer also dug up a different view of the new scene over on HAIF, showing how the whole bundle would fit in amid the Federal Reserve complex, the park, and the section of Fourth Ward surrounding what’s left of the Freedman’s Town Historical District:

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Like a Bridge Over Allen Pkwy.
04/25/17 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE THAT DAYS INN TOWER FALLS ON THE HOUSTON ABANDONED HOTEL SPECTRUM Former Holiday Inn, Days Inn, and Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel, 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St., Downtown Houston“As much as I would prefer to see a building like this having some kind of economic use or value in its function, as long as it is not inviting of crime or danger, I don’t have issue with a building just sitting there — that is the owner’s prerogative. (Remember the Sheraton-Lincoln hotel? It sat vacant for years, graffiti-less and fully windowed; no one would have given it a second thought driving by.) In the past few months, the graffiti has exploded, and more and more windows are being broken out. I don’t know what happens when you smash a window 300 feet in the air, but I’m pretty sure those pieces come raining down near and around the building and onto the street. The owners need to do their part to keep the building secured to prevent the criminal activity, and prosecute the trespassers and vandals. Otherwise they are no better than the owners of the Southwest Inn.” [tmr, commenting on Downtown’s Preeminent Dilapidated Hotel Tower Now Outfitted To Greet I-45ers with New Nametags, Fewer Window Panes] Photo: Bob Russell

04/25/17 3:15pm

Water Main Strike during Demolition of Town & Country, 10565 Katy Fwy., CityCentre, Houston

Following that recent gentle but firm excavator tipover of the last bits of the Town & Country III mod office midrise near CityCentre, demo work on the broader office complex has moved underground — apparently far enough underground to puncture a water main, a camera wielder on the scene speculates this afternoon. As of 2pm, word from the reader was that water was still flowing, “and has made a nice-sized pool,” filling up the footprint of a mid-demo former underground parking garage structure (and providing lakeside views to parts of Trammell Crow’s CityCentre branch of its Alexan apartment chain.)

fuller sequence of garage take-apart and fill-up over the last few days is laid out below, starting with a rainy Tax Day shot facing the Alexan and the I-10-Beltway-8 tangle:

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Lakes of I-10