Articles by

Christine Gerbode

06/22/17 11:00am

A congregation of relocated trees — many of which have been plucked out of the way of the bus lane work going on along Post Oak Blvd. in Uptown right now — was spotted this week by a Fifth Ward resident checking out the former KBR site along Clinton Dr. CityCentre developer Midway is gearing up the process of rebranding its new old campus along the industrial stretch of Buffalo Bayou as East River; early marketing materials now floating around say they’ve collected some 300 trees from the Uptown work and are saving them for later redeployment in and around the 136-acre development, as part of parks and streetscaping.

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Save the Trees for Later
06/22/17 9:30am

H-E-B TO SCOOT GROUNDBREAKING BACK TO END OF SUMMER BREAK, SCOOT BUILDING UP TOWARD N. SHEPHERD Work on that Fiesta-supplanting H- E- B on N. Shepherd Dr. is now scheduled to kick off on August 25th, Scott McClelland tells Landan Kuhlmann in The Leader this week. That’s purportedly due to variance-related pushbacks — namely, to H-E-B’s request to put the edge of its proposed 2-story structure closer to the street (like the request it briefly filed around the start of November but pulled just before the alcohol sales election). That variance request was re-filed in January and was granted, but triggered another round of permitting approvals and associated waiting periods, McClelland says. Estimates on an opening date have also slid back to the end of next year’s summer vacation — by which time we’ll know whether the rest of the area’s alcohol sales laws have gone the way of the off-site sales rules H-E-B helped campaign to remove last fall. [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of H-E-B with N. Shepherd setback variance approval, as originally filed in 2016: Houston Planning Commission 

06/21/17 12:45pm

As heralded by yesterday’s daily demo report: Time is up for the little mod condo complex on Welch and Revere streets, which is being cleared out for Pelican Builders’ 9-story not-quite-in-River-Oaks The Revere at River Oaks condo midrise. A reader sends these up-close shots of the demo crew’s work this morning, including the extensive remodeling the once-narrow walkway between segments of the now-empty carport along the south side of Welch:

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1 If By Komatsu
06/21/17 10:45am

CINDY LIKELY TO SKIP THE HOUSTON HOTSPOTS, MAKE A BREAK FOR THE STATE LINE Voluntary evacuation is the name of the game this morning for folks on parts of the Bolivar peninsula (at least for those with health conditions that make the possibility of power failure a big gamble to take). To the east, much of the upper Gulf Coast is already getting hammered with touring bands of pre-landfall rain from Tropical Storm Cindy, and the governor of Louisiana has declared a preemptive state of emergency in anticipation of flooding and tornadoes. But today’s weather models generally peg the bulk of the wind and water from the storm as veering back to the east of Houston itself, Eric Berger notes over on Space City Weather this morning. The worst of the storm seems likely to pull northward toward the swampy, beachy stretch around Beaumont, Port Arthur, the Sabine River, and western Louisiana; only a few feet of higher-than-normal tides and a (relatively) few inches of rain are expected around Houston and near the Ship Channel’s pretty lucky-so-far chemical complexes, along with some pockets of high winds. [Space City Weather] Capture of current conditions on Sunrise Beach: Bolivar Peninsual, TX

06/20/17 11:15am

You may remember that the scootin’ of Texas Junk Company and its boot collection out to Moulton, TX, started up early last fall; while the snake-bedecked garage structure on Welch St. at Taft has been pretty much closed since last November, the building itself was finally marked as up for lease over the weekend, a reader tells Swamplot. That’s following in the wake of April’s sale of the property to a corporate entity bearing the Texas Junk Company name in county records — but tracing back address-wise to the owner of nearby Fairview St. bar Boheme. (The Boheme folks also appear to have purchased the 2-story brick building across Welch to the north in 2013 — and were previously purported to be working on Brewheme Brewery about 6 blocks to the southeast at 2505 Mason St.) The city okayed a permit for some reroofing work in April as well.

Photo: MontroseResident

Junk Co. Refurbishment
06/14/17 1:30pm

TREE RULE REVENGE AND OTHER LOCAL REAL ESTATE TARGETS ON JULY’S STATE SPECIAL SESSION HIT LIST So what all’s on governor Greg Abbott’s to-do list for July’s special legislative session, following the variously dramatic finales to House and Senate business during the normal session last month? Some 19 topics are included in the governor’s shortlist after the maybe-killed-on-purpose sunset legislation (which Abbott has said has to pass before anything else can be done); the extensive extra credit list, he says, is meant to “make [the extra session] count.” Plopped in the middle of property tax reform, caps on local spending, changes to local permitting processes, and changes to how cities deal with construction project rules: a ban on local tree ordinances — at least, the ones that impact tree-decisions on private property. (Why the sudden focus on what the governor calls “socialistic” plant regulations, which is placed even higher up the list than taking another go at a bathroom bill? The leafy beef seems to stem from Abbott’s own run-in with an Austin tree regulation back in 2012, which didn’t ultimately prevent him from getting rid of a couple of large pecans he wanted to remove, but did slow things down.) [Office of the Texas Governor; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

06/14/17 12:45pm

Just a few blocks down the street from that River Oaks Shopping Center highrise site, a reader checks in this week on the French-esque midrise apartment complex that’s been slowly coming together at 1916 W. Gray St. The Houston Ballet’s converted clothing factory headquarters made a grand exit from the site back in the pre-oil-bust days; since then the project has been rechristened from Graybelle to Le Palais, and this sketchy view of a facade has been circulated by the developers:

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Gargoyles in the Wings
06/13/17 1:30pm

FINGER COMPANY POKES INTO THE MONTROSE DISTRICT LAWSUIT FRAY A corporate appendage of the Finger Companies has filed a document to add itself as a plaintiff to one of the lawsuits trying to shut down the Montrose Management District, Nancy Sarnoff reports this week for the Chronicle. The company’s Museum Tower along Montrose Blvd. sits a few blocks south of US 59 in a narrow south-pointing offshoot of the district’s boundaries, making it one of the property owners assessed a regular tax; Sarnoff writes that Finger’s new filing zeroes in on that 2016 petition to dissolve the district, which proponents say has garnered signatures from property owners of about 80% of the district’s land area; the filing claims that the district has been trying to invalidate individual signatures in an effort to bring that total back down below the required threshold for dissolution. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Museum Tower

06/13/17 9:30am


The little swatch of test facade tilted up at 7551 Main St. north of Brays Bayou earlier this spring is still standing, a reader’s drive-by snap attests this week. The piece, which shows off the look of a handful of warmer and cooler beige-and-brown pairings, is likely related to the much taller project planned on the site by Allen Harrison Company, which bought the land last year. The developer has the spot marked for an 11-story residential building (the top 7 of which’ll hold 186 apartments, and the bottom 4 of which’ll hold 285 parked cars). A reader over on HAIF also spotted the recently completed review of the building by the Federal Aviation Administration folks, who okayed the plans for the 125-ft.-tall structure as not a flight hazard.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

Beiges of Brays
06/12/17 12:45pm

These portraits of the Valero station at Westheimer and Crescent Park Dr., now largely bereft of its branding signage and its gas pumps, come from a reader on the scene this morning who speculates that the changes “must have happened very suddenly” on or before Saturday. The fencing has ensnared the Royal Oaks Cleaners’ retail spot as well, though that business’s allegiances and pricing are still proclaimed on nearby signage:

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Gas Station Regime Change
06/12/17 11:45am

Another round of changes appears to be on the horizon for the oft-swapped Asian fusion joint just south of the former Alabama Theater, a reader notes — a leasing sign advertising the shopping center’s (only) restaurant endcap spot was spotted behind the center along W. Alabama St. last week. The space has been serving under the banner of Maiko Bar + Bistro since 2014 (reportedly acting as a test kitchen for the restaurant’s Austin location of similar name); Maiko replaced short-lived Onaga Pan Asian Bistro, which took over from Zake Sushi Lounge.

Any swapouts in the space will follow in the wake of some more skin-deep touchups the shopping center received back in January — the pastel rainbow forehead of Trader Joe’s was redone in a monotone grey-brown, as was the pale yellow block behind Petsmart‘s logo:

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S. Shepherd Restaurant Sequels
06/09/17 12:30pm

All those folks who were wringing hands about last year’s electoral nixing of the rule against carry-out alcohol sales in the Houston Heights possibly opening the door to a future rollback of the area’s other alcohol restrictions — well, you may find yourselves feeling kinda vindicated right about now: the petition process has just kicked off to once again crank up the ol’ special election machinery, this time on the question of alcohol sales for on-site consumption in the Heights Dry-ish Zone. The goal: no more private-club workarounds for the area’s bars and restaurants — just regular drink sales.

What do we know so far about the cast of characters starring in this new season of Heights electoral intrigue? At least one familiar name has entered the picture, so far:

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Heights Moist-Creep
06/09/17 11:30am

A segment of the Heights Waterworks properties at 20th and Nicholson St. should be making its way into the hands of Braun Enterprises later this year, Katherine Feser reports this morning in the Chronicle. Building on Houston’s budding tradition of high profile redevelopment of decommissioned water storage tanks, the company will be turning the handful of pump station and reservoir structures on the block southeast of 20th and Nicholson into a handful of restaurants and bars, catty-corner from Alliance’s planned apartments.

One of the features called out in the city’s 2015 declaration of the property as a protected landmark was the “unusual grass roof” atop the reservoir itself; Tipps Architecture’s design for the structure’s redevelopment shows some grass in place on a rooftop patio, as well as a 3-story glassy extension protruding from the east face of the 2-story building. Other views of the complex show a lawn in between the building labeled Heights Tap & Bar above and the pumphouse to the south:

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Turning the Waterworks Back On
06/08/17 11:30am

THE PIERCE ELEVATED SKYPARK PLAN ISN’T DEAD YET “You can’t just wait until the day that TxDOT asks you what to do with it,” Tami Merrick tells Stephen Paulsen in the Houston Press this morning, in reference to her involvement with the small group working toward publishing an economic study some time next year of those speculative plans to turn the Pierce Elevated into the Pierce Skypark. The segment of I-45 may ultimately be torn down so the right-of-way can be sold, once the planned spaghetti-riffic Downtown freeway reroute wraps up in a decade or so. But Paulsen writes that the planning group is nonetheless optimistic about getting a foot in the door when the moment is right: “At some point, the Pierce Elevated will stop serving cars. And when it does, the group argues, why wouldn’t the city want an innovative, prearranged plan for the abandoned stretch of freeway?” [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of Pierce Elevated as a park: Page/Marcus Martinez via Pierce Skypark