Anyone in the habit of leaving the house knows that Houston’s streets are really best appreciated from a distance. And although he’s not a native, Seattle artist Peter Gorman appears to agree. His recent work, “Intersections of Houston,” shown above, is a series of 20 mini-maps depicting some of the city’s most notably tangled roadway crossings. Some — like the nexus of Scott, Polk, York, and Clay streets (top row, second from the left) — take shape at the borders between Houston’s multiple, incongruous street grids. (The Allen brothers laid out the oldest grid parallel and perpendicular to Buffalo Bayou; later planners favored a more north-south orientation. In both cases, the resulting frameworks are some of the longest-lived legacies of the city. We’ve been stuck with them far longer than most of the buildings they contain.)
Others meander to get around park space: See Lamar, Crawford, and Dallas (third row, third from the left). And then there’s that special subset: intersections that do less to fit into their surroundings than they do to stand out as products of intrepid traffic engineering approaches. Take Lockwood Dr. and Wallisville Rd. (fourth row, third from the lift) for instance; it’s really just a claw-like take on a T-intersection.
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Left, Right, Left
A Swamplot reader writes in to report that the JCI Grill across I-45 from the Home Depot near Gulfgate Mall is now closed. No need to get too close in order to tell; the electronic sign fronting the feeder road gets the message across to highway drivers as shown above. Behind it, you can see the new ramp TxDOT’s been working on to connect 610 eastbound to I-45 northbound — as well as the shadow it’s cast on the restaurant’s parking lot.
A flyer posted on the building says the construction was in part what inspired the closure:
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The Dog Days Are Over
A Swamplot reader sends these 2 photos showing what longtime Avondale brunch spot Baba Yega Cafe looks like after a Friday night fire did a number on the building. Damage to the roof has mostly been covered up now by a blue tarp. At ground level, new orange fencing signals the business’s current status: closed until sometime next year, say the owners.
Next-door, scattered debris and furniture are at rest in the parking lot behind the former Montrose Mining Company. Both the Mining Company and its lot are owned by one of the same partners behind Baba Yega, Fred Sharifi, and have remained empty for the past few months while the shuttered gay bar gets reshaped into Houston’s second Postino Wine Bar.
Photos: Swamplox inbox
You may remember the Jack in the Box at 2001 N. Shepherd that was left high and dry in September after shutting down. It’s got a new owner: an entity connected to New York brokerage firm Edry Real Estate. The sale closed last month and includes just over half an acre at the northwest corner of Shepherd Dr. and W. 20th St.
Photo: Swamplox inbox
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE MONTROSE DUAL DEALERSHIP WELCOME THAT WASN’T
“Too bad . . . I had imagined an identical building being constructed, and as bookends would have made a fantastic ‘gateway‘ into the Montrose/Museum area.” [city cynic, commenting on Stahlman Lumber Up for Sale by Landowner That Didn’t Replace It with a Car Dealership] Photo of Audi Central Houston: Audi Central Houston
Ever notice that the Wheeler-St. side of the Midtown Sears (shown above) doesn’t quite jibe with the rest of the building? It’s become even clearer since all that beige metal cladding was stripped off the structure earlier this year. Upon its removal, the biggest revelations were cascading green, red, and blue art-deco tile mosaics (shown here) running from top to bottom on every side of the building, except the Wheeler one, where the array of facade openings pictured at top are a bit less architecturally refined despite their prominent positions overlooking crosstown traffic.
So, what gives? Well, it turns out that Sears’s south side wasn’t all that visible when the building opened in 1939. Back then, Wheeler was just a narrow side street off Main and did not flow directly into Richmond as it does now, explains Preservation Houston’s Jim Parsons. Richmond, a much larger thoroughfare, also dead-ended into Main St., across from the Sears and just north of where Wheeler began. You can see the missed connection in the 1950 street map above.
It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the 2 streets were joined through a partial annexation of the Delman Theater property at 4412 Main, catty-corner southwest of the Sears:
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When Roads Collide
ARE THE NEW FITZGERALD’S OWNERS PLANNING TO BRING DOWN THE HOUSE?
“They came and tested for asbestos,” Fitzgerald’s longtime owner Sara Fitzgerald tells the Chronicle’s Marcy de Luna, “so I think they’re looking to tear it down. It was their original intention to build a high-rise there.” Fitzgerald sold Fitzgerald’s along with 3 home lots behind it on E. 6½ St. in July to the same Chicago-based company, Easy Park, that’s been planning that automated parking garage a few blocks west down White Oak Dr. in place of the existing, analog garage next to Tacos A Go Go (which it also owns, along with some other retail nearby). She’s now renting the building at 2706 White Oak from her new landlord and running the 41-year-old business remotely from Seguin, Texas, outside San Antonio, de Luna reports. Following a spree of farewell shows scheduled throughout the month, the club will close with a New Year’s Eve party featuring ’70s and ’80s cover band SKYROCKET! [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Caramels D.
Evidently, those plans to put another car dealership across 59 from the existing 7-story Audi Central Houston won’t be panning out since the land where it would’ve gone is now up for sale. A newly-erected sign at the corner of the Greenbriar and the Southwest Fwy. feeder road advertises its availability.
A group connected to Sonic Automotive bought the property — which stretches all the way east to Shepherd Dr. — in January 2017. When news orgs got wind that it’d changed hands, Sonic’s executive vice prez Jeff Dyke told them he’d have more info on what the dealership would end up looking like near the end of the year. The parcel’s 2.4-acre size prompted at least one guess that’d the plans — like those Sonic implemented across the street — would involve something tall.
Amidst all the hubbub, it’s been business as usual at Stahlman. It’s entering its 59th year at 4007 Greenbriar Dr.
59 at Greenbriar
THE MARQUIS II IS GETTING ITS SECOND ENCORE
Well, that was fast. After shutting down on Sunday without any timeline for a return, the Marquis II reopened at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a note posted on Facbeook by longtime bar employee Al Jara. According to the Chronicle’s Marcy de Luna, Jara is now the owner of the place, having purchased it from his boss during the 2-day timeout. The last time a Marquis employee pulled a stunt like this, it was a pair of devoted cocktail waitresses who bought the place after the owner, their boss at the time, died in the late ’60s. (Adding “II” to the name was their idea.) In this case the former owner is still alive, just sick of dealing with the sustained construction activity outside the bar on Bissonnet St., which Jara says has cost the business $1.2 to $1.5 million since it began in 2014. “They’ve broken up our parking lot and we are not getting business because people can’t access us,” he tells de Luna. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Marquis II
NOW EVERY KATY BUC-EE’S BATHROOM STALL WILL HAVE A LIGHT ON IT TELLING YOU WHERE TO GO
Tooshlights is the brand name of the latest amenity that the Guiness-World-Record-winning Buc-ee’s off the Katy Fwy. wants to add to its 40 bathroom stalls, reports Dan Solomon over at Texas Monthly. It’s a spin on the technology you’ve probably seen on twinkling in certain parking garages: individual LEDs that light up red when a spot is occupied and green when it’s vacant. Along with Buc-ee’s’s Temple location, the Katy store will be the first of the chains 34 branches to roll it out. [Texas Monthly; previously on Swamplot] Photo of restroom at Buc-ee’s #40, 27700 Katy Fwy., Katy, Texas: Jennifer N.