05/28/10 4:17pm

Perched amid the Upper Kirby office-building ghetto just west of Eastside and south of West Alabama, the building at 3231 Audley dates from 1961, during developer Gerald Hines’s reign over Richmond Ave. Now that it’s had some midlife body work, the property is for sale again.

The Weather Research Center, a research and education nonprofit located next door at 3221 Audley, bought the building in the mid-nineties, but never occupied the space. (The organization moved to the Museum District in 2006 and opened its doors as The Weather Museum.)

Linda Marroquin, CEO of tech company FrogPad, snatched the shell of the office building on stilts in December 2006 and transformed it. She’d lived in another converted building across the street for 9 years, and says she had her eyes on the property the whole time. Besides running FrogPad, a business that sells one-handed keyboards, Marroquin is a serial renovator. She worked with local designer and contractor Michael X. Flynn to convert the building to a residence; it’s her fourth renovation in Houston. Over the next 2 years Marroquin and Flynn gutted the space and built out another 2,500 sq. ft. on top. The result is the high-tech executive’s interpretation of the Villa Savoye — as it might have landed on a 5,000-sq.-ft. Houston lot just a couple blocks from the Jack In The Box on Richmond.


04/06/10 9:01am

There’s a new sign up across the street from the Jack in the Box at the corner of West Dallas and Waugh, announcing the new Whole Foods Market. And an employee of the building’s architect, Beckham Design Group of Austin, confirms that the project was recently put out to bid to general contractors.

How big will it be? Another source indicates the new store is now scheduled to be approximately 48,000 sq. ft. — including a mezzanine. That’s up a bit from what we’d last heard: that the market would be 40,000 sq. ft. and include “eco-conscious elements and tons of inviting space for neighbors to congregate.” Whole Foods Market signed a 25-year lease for the land with The Finger Companies back in 2008.

Here’s an aerial view of the site the Finger Companies sent out last year:


03/23/10 8:15am

It looks like the former Alabama Theater — known since the early eighties as the Alabama Bookstop, and since last fall as that big vacant space for lease in Weingarten Realty’s Alabama Shepherd Shopping Center — is about to be gutted. A local construction company is currently taking bids from subcontractors for a rather complete interior demolition. The plans, prepared by Heights Venture Architects, show major alterations to the floor, walls, and ceilings.

The theater’s original sloped floor will be buried under a new concrete slab; wood floors inserted during the 1983 bookstore conversion will be removed. For now, the balcony will remain.

Here’s a little before and after to demonstrate:


03/17/10 6:35pm

Never mind that wine bars the Wine Bucket, the Corkscrew, and the Tasting Room in Midtown have all been poured down the drain since January. Krutar Patel says he’s planning to open his brand new wine bar, Winetopia, this May. He’s already added his placard to the giant brick sign in front of the Fairmont on San Felipe at 6363 San Felipe.

The midrise apartment complex with a retail center on its ground level is already home to a martial-arts studio and a Subway. Winetopia will sandwich itself between the two businesses. Patrons will be able to stumble upstairs to their apartments or, if necessary, to the 24-hour St. Luke’s Community Emergency Center in the same center, conveniently located just yards away.