02/22/19 4:30pm

You’ve probably never noticed it from the bike trail, but at the corner of Nicholson and 12th St. lies a tiny flat-roofed structure that’s been that way for decades. It’s pictured at top from its less-heavily-trafficked side, to the south. That’s where the various shrubbery gives way to a gravel walkway and you can sort of make out an address on the rock to the right of the pergola: 723 W. 12th St.

Step on through the double doors and here’s what greets you, for $750,000:

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Beyond the Bamboo Shoots
02/22/19 1:00pm

East Downtown’s self-styled “come-as-you-are beer garden & adult playground” Truck Yard is now taking reservations from parties of up to 20 people who want a spot where they can sing like nobody’s listening. What better location that than inside one of those thick-walled shipping containers piled up near the bar’s entrance? Workers outfitted the inside of a steel box on the left near the entrance off Dallas St. with bench seating, a crop of LPs serving as ceiling decorations, an iPad-controlled sound system, 3 flat screen teevees to display lyrics, 2 microphones, and a whole bunch of foam soundproofing panels sporting photos of Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Elvis, Aretha Franklin and other professional talent, perhaps for inspiration. $25 plus a drink minimum buys you an hour inside.

Photos: Truck Yard (interior); Gail G. (shipping containers); Marc Longoria (courtyard)

Adaptive Reuse
02/21/19 4:00pm

Amid the hodgepodge of roadside restaurants and retailers shown fronting the I-10 westbound feeder in the leasing map for the Village Plaza at Bunker Hill shopping center, a newcomer has cropped up: Chuy’s Tex-Mex. Its mark is shown on the 5,800-sq.-ft. portion of the building at the west side of the complex that previously housed Boudreaux’s Cajun Kitchen.

Whether the new Chuy’s is planned as a replacement or companion for the chain’s existing standalone restaurant 3 miles away on Westheimer near Gessner is anyone’s guess seeing as that location’s still doling out burritos the like. Unlike the existing spot however, the new location will have a bit of competition to contend with: Freebirds World Burrito is at the opposite end of the building it plans to move into. In the space between, Bora Bora Nails, the Sacred Heart emergency medical clinic, Clear Direct Orthodontics, Memorial Tailors, Great Clips hair salon, and skin care clinic Skin 101 fill out the rest of what’s leaseable.

Photo: Jon B. Map: Fidelis Realty

Off the Katy
02/21/19 2:00pm

Months after the chain that once operated them declared bankruptcy and retreated to Canada, the pair of empty Toys R Us stores situated almost directly opposite each other off the Katy Fwy. at Bunker Hill Rd. are getting ready to go their separate ways. Off the highway’s westbound side, the more recently vacated toy store pictured above at 9730 Katy Fwy. will give way to a new 40,000-sq.-ft. Burlington clothing store, but not entirely; its former Babies R Us portion remains unleased, as indicated by blank blue rectangle in the site plan at top of the Village Plaza at Bunker Hills shopping center.

The shopping center was brand-new when Toys R Us opened there in 2010 as a replacement for the chain’s older, standalone location at 9655 Katy Fwy., on the other side of the highway about half a mile east of Memorial City Mall. Developer Moody National bought the older Toys R Us in 2016, by which time it had been empty for just about a decade (although the building’s distinct rainbow trim is still intact). Along with an adjacent single-story retail strip and the 164-unit La Renaissance apartment complex at 970 Bunker Hill, directly west of the toy store, the developer now controls nearly 10-acres near where the I-10 feeder meets Bunker Hill Rd. (According to county records, however, the BBVA Compass bank on the corner isn’t included in that tract.)

Its plan is to swap out the apartments, strip building, and Toys R Us and put a pair of 6-story office buildings with ground-floor retail on the site:

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Toy Story
02/20/19 12:00pm

STUDY OF GIANT UNDERGROUND DRAINAGE TUNNELS TO BEGIN ONCE COUNTY CASHES FEDERAL CHECK Remember that massive network of underground tunnels that the county’s flood control experts said they were looking into last year as a way to drain floodwaters from at least 7 different bayous before discharging it into the Ship Channel? This week, the Harris County Flood Control District received a $320,000 federal grant that — along with $80,000 of local funds — will pay for a 4-month study to determine whether the tunnels are worth building. Of particular interest: whether Harris County’s soft soils and high groundwater table could realistically house the deep-underground cylinders, which would measure 20 ft. or more in diameter, according to the county. “If the use of tunnels is found to be feasible, future efforts could examine potential tunnel routes, complete hydraulic analyses to determine the required tunnel diameters, and determine proposed inlet and outlet shaft locations.” The 2018 flood bond program that county voters approved last August includes $20 million to pay for that work, as well as other early-stage engineering efforts for the tunnel network. [Harris County Flood Control District; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Harvey flooding near UHD: Kelsie H. Dos Santos

02/19/19 5:00pm

Now posted on the property once home to the Memorial Club Apartments: signs boasting this rendering of what developer Greystar wants to put in their place between Westcott and Arnot streets. The planned new building looks to be about 11 stories including the 3-level parking podium depicted at its bottom. That puts it up a notch from its 6-story counterpart across Westcott St., Elan Memorial Park, which Greystar completed in 2016 in place of what used to be the Memorial Club complex’s other half. Now that the last of Memorial Club has crumbled under pressure from demo crews — shown above wrapping up their work — there’s nothing standing in the way of the new building’s arrival at the southeast section of the Westcott St. roundabout.

The full sign sets a 20-month timeline for it to crop up:

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Rice Military
02/19/19 11:30am

Work is underway to turn the 2-story brick house Kaye Marvins Photography occupied for 70 years into a new location of Memorial Tailors, currently a 2-spot chain with shops in Cypress and the Village Plaza at Bunker Hill shopping center. The photo at top shows all the doors and windows torn out of the 1920s-era former photo building as part of the renovations that the builder Ecological Living is overseeing. Also vanished: the long green awning that once extended out from the front door to the curb on the east side of Montrose Blvd.

Here it is from across the street:

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Roseland Estates
02/15/19 3:30pm

At least one Swamplot reader was left puzzled by the recent appearance of this strange, standalone tower and surrounding scaffolding off Richmond Ave, just west of the Spur 527 overpass. Turns out it’s an elevator bank, planned to serve the upper stories of a not-yet-built building on Jack St. that’ll house a new location for workout venue Timberline Fitness. An entity connected to the gym’s owner Dean Theriot bought the long-vacant parcel of land where the structure is now going up in 2017. The gym’s current location is just a few blocks away, on Branard St. off Montrose Blvd.

For the past few years prior to the beginning of construction, the property has done stints as a parking lot. It’s been empty ever since a pair of houses were demolished on it in the mid-2000s.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Timberline Fitness Warmup
02/15/19 11:30am

Now that the former Espiga de Oro tortilla manufacturing facility on Shepherd Dr. between 14th and 15th streets has been torn down, work has begun on the new 337-unit apartment building — dubbed The Tortilla Factory — that’s taking its place. The photo at top looks north up Shepherd to show a crane and some construction vehicles at work beyond fencing emblazoned with the mark of the project’s developer, Alliance Residential. It bought the 2-acre site from the folks behind the tortilla operation late last year, following an undercover ICE operation that revealed about half of the factory’s employees between 2011 and 2015 were undocumented immigrants. After entering a guilty plea, Espiga de Oro agreed to pay the feds $1 million for “conspiracy to induce and encourage unlawful immigration.”

The new Tortilla Factory will stretch almost the entire length of the block between 14th and 15th:

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Where Espiga de Oro Left Off