11/13/17 4:00pm

Here’s what’s expected to park in the garage at Montalbano Tire and Auto Service after the business shuts down next week: a restaurant or 2, retailers, and office tenants. Kaldis Development Interests purchased the .81-acre property at 1302 Houston Ave in mid-October and plans to renovate it before reopening it as a 15,000-sq.-ft. retail-and-office center.

On the Houston Ave front (see top drawing), windows would be fitted into the building’s current garage bays, with a restaurant patio facing the street at the northern end. On the south side, the metal structure facing Dart St. would be punctured with new window bays as well as doors for individual storefronts.

According to the site plan for the proposed new development (below) 7 head-in parking spaces off of Houston Ave would remain after the redo:

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First Ward Redo
11/13/17 1:00pm

The retirement sale sign up now in front of Montalbano Tire and Auto Service at 1302 Houston Ave isn’t just advertising tire replacement: Owner Tony Montalbano sent out a letter last week to customers informing them that the 76-year-old business would close on November 17, though a source tells Swamplot that date has since been pushed back about a week. The 13,915 sq.-ft. car care building on the corner of Houston Ave and Dart St. went up in 1960 and sits on just over three-quarters of an acre. The first photo above shows the store’s front entrance on the corner looking north up Houston Ave.

Across Houston Ave, Montalbano’s much larger neighbor of the same surname — Montalbano Lumber — remains open for business.

Photos: Marc Longoria

First Ward
08/28/17 4:30pm

Water levels from Harvey have made the underpass just north of Center St., where Houston Ave. tucks under the rail lines, impassable. But there are consequences to trying to drive around the underpass structure, as this photo taken yesterday afternoon by a Swamplot reader attests: The ground drops off sharply on the south side of the tracks to the west of the street, and that’s not so easy to see if you’re driving south.

Photo: Kelsie H. Dos Santos

Avoiding High Water
07/19/17 1:30pm

The self-styled “House of a Million Parts” at 1225 Sawyer St. once known as Johnny Frank’s Auto Parts Company was torn to pieces last summer. Freshly applied to the chain-link fence surrounding the now-vacant lot: a new TABC notice, announcing to passers-by that an establishment named the Sawyer Ice House is hoping to sling cocktails on the premises before too long. The land is across the road from those arted-up rice silos on Sawyer St., which are across Edwards St. from the Shops at Sawyer Yards. It appears to be another of the projects in that neck of the woods that trace back to Lovett Commercial, which is working on parking lots and a slew of other developments in the area as well. Here’s what Sawyer Ice House might look like, per what appears to be the bar’s new save-the-name Facebook page:

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Car Lot Reincarnation
06/02/17 12:45pm


The partially ruined former Jefferson Davis Hospital nurses quarters at 1225 Elder St. — until very recently in the running for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places — was recommended for demolition at last week’s Harris County Commissioner’s Court meeting following a public hearing the day before. The building, tucked west of the elevated freeway tangle where I-45 splits from I-10 near Downtown, would have joined the nextdoor former Jefferson Davis Hospital itself on the historic registry — instead, it looks like the structure will finally meet meet the ‘dozers after its long slow decline, accelerated by damage from a fire in 2013 that lead to last year’s semi-collapse.

Next door, the 4-story hospital structure (built in 1924, and replaced by 1938 with another Jefferson Davis Hospital where the Federal Reserve building now stands on Allen Pkwy.) cycled through various modes of use and disuse until its early 2000’s restoration into the Elder Street Artist Lofts, which serve as low-rent apartments and studios for artsy types. That redevelopment, of course, involved carefully digging around the dozens of unmarked graves turned up on the surrounding land, which beginning in 1840 had served as the second city cemetery (and as the final resting place for a hodgepodge likely including  Confederate soldiers, former slaves, victims of the 1860s yellow fever epidemics, people who died in duels, Masons, and a variety of others). The hospital’s name is still carved above the lofts’ entrance:

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First Ward Fire Damage by HFD
02/02/17 5:15pm

CLUB NOMADIC SHOWS OFF LATEST TRENDS IN JUST-IN-TIME NIGHTCLUB DELIVERY Club Nomadic, 2121 Edwards St., First Ward, Houston, 77007Temporary 3-story nightclub and performance venue Club Nomadic has received its final checks and OKs from the city for tonight’s 9pm opening — with just over 6 hours to spare, if the time a city rep gave to St. John Barnard-Smith and Mike Morris is correct. Both Club Nomadic’s owner and folks at the city permitting office say it’s totally normal for a temporary event structure like this one to cut the permitting process close; the temporary nature of the project also means on-site parking is not required for the 9,000-or-so visitors expected, and organizers are stressing that tow trucks will be on the prowl. The Club is currently selling parking passes for the 1600 Smith St. garage, with plans to shuttle guests between the garage and the club site at 2121 Edwards St.; other enterprising Houstonians appear to be getting in on the action as well. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 2121 Edwards St.: Club Nomadic

01/20/17 4:00pm

1920 Houston Ave., First Ward, Houston, 77007

1920 Houston Ave., First Ward, Houston, 77007Despite being marketed previously as a potential site for up to 15 freestanding townhomes, the townhome-fringed lot at the corner of Houston Ave. and Spring St. now sports a TABC permit notification instead. A reader caught some evening views of the corner and the sign announcing mixed-beverage and late-night plans for its little 1996 building (which names Spring Street Beer and Wine Garden as the incoming occupant). New owners (at least the 6th to purchase the property since 2005, per county records) purchased the property in the fall, and the Attack of the Killer Condos mural previously facing the Heights Hike & Bike Trail along Spring St. has already been painted over:

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Holding the Line in First Ward
11/14/16 1:15pm

Proposed Las Ventanas development at Goliad and Crockett St., Old First Ward, Houston, 77007

Down at the Old First Ward corner of Goliad and Crockett — catty-corner from where New Hope Missionary Baptist Church made its last stand in August — another crop of townhomes is moving off on the digital drawing board and toward construction phases, according to a rep from Titan Homes. (Bypassing opportunities for thematic streetname tie-ins, the company appears to have steered away from the Alamo-nouveau aesthetic deployed in its project on the newly-thinned edge of Little Thicket Park in Shady Acres.)

The 6 members shown above of 8 home set (together called Las Ventanas by the developer) face Goliad St.; newly drawn lot lines on file with the city suggest the 2 other houses will face Crockett. A rendering from one of the 4th floor terraces facing toward downtown suggests a view unobstructed by all the other townhomes cropping up in the area:

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Winds of Change in First Ward
09/09/16 1:00pm

Cafeza at 1720 Houston Ave., First Ward, Houston, 77007

As of tomorrow morning, any missed-the-memo visitors to the former Blank Slate Laser Tattoo Removal space at 1720 Houston Ave. will at least have the option to drink to forget (assuming that’s not what got them into trouble in the first place). Spanish-Latin-American-themed cafe Cafeza will open to the public around 6 a.m. with coffee, food, and wine on the menu. The shop is tucked into northern storefront of the 1925 building at the corner with Crockett St., with Belgium-minded companion Cafe Brussels occupying the adjacent space next door. The view above is from the Crockett side, where the scribbles-welcome Grateful Heart chalkboard hangs out these days:

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European Influences on Houston Ave
08/30/16 1:15pm

Former New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, 1221 Crockett St., First Ward, Houston, 77007

The brutal Sunday scene at the former New Hope Missionary Baptist Church was caught by a reader on Goliad St. in First Ward this weekend.  The 1940s structure is making way for new CitySide townhomes; 3 lots in the new 7-way split will face Goliad, while the other 4 keep watch on Crockett St. Here’s a look from Crockett at building’s insides spilling out under the guiding influence of that excavator, and of the corner tower’s last stand:

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Last Stand in First Ward
07/21/16 10:45am

Thornsen Streetlab Silver St. Redo

In the small but growing city tradition of redoing street plans in your spare time, urban planner and general Houston improvement brainstormer Jesse Thornsen has recently launched a website to showcase weekly ideas for making bits the local streetscape easier to navigate (by bike, foot, car, or other means). This morning’s addition: how to smooth out the westward jog in Silver St. as it crosses Dart St. The spot (shown in the above left-to-right conceptual before and after) is southeast of Annex Houston automobile storage and the Silver Street Studios complex; not quite due west lies the Shops at Sawyer Yards warehouse retail redevelopment.

Thornsen’s plan adds sidewalks and a landscaped median (to discourage vehicles from taking the most direct route straight through the jagged intersection). Thornsen points out that the section is designated for both bikes and cars by the Houston Bike Plan; his redo includes bike lanes, including a queuing spot big enough for multiple cyclists to cozy up together as they wait to turn north. Here’s a close up and a cross section:

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Squaring Up in First Ward
06/29/16 3:45pm

Mecom Fountain from COH
2120 Sabine St., First Ward, Houston, 77007This morning the city announced that it’s giving protected historic landmark status to the Mecom Fountain, in the wake of this year’s partial tuscanization of the 1960s mod landmark (and subsequent crowdfunded reversal thereof). All that bright blue primer has been cocooned over, and full de-restoration was scheduled to be finished by the end of last month.

Also getting the same protective status bump today: the 1883 house at 2120 Sabine St., formerly the First Ward home of state representative August von Haxthausen, who in the late 1800s ran Houston’s German language newspaper the Texas Deutsche Zeitung. That house got its own (more permanently) colorful restoration in 2015 — below are some close-up photos of the newly-technicolor wraparound porch from a previous listing of the property on HAR:

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Colorful Histories
06/24/16 11:15am

Avenue Grill, 1017 Houston Ave., First Ward, Houston, 77007

Avenue Grill, 1017 Houston Ave., First Ward, Houston, 77007 The holdup on Houston Ave. this morning, reports a reader stuck in the resulting traffic, is the aftermath of a minor fire at the Avenue Grill on the corner with Center St. The 1940s structure (which the restaurant’s operations purportedly moved into in 1962 after 12 years of business across the street) appears unharmed by the flames, which HPD tells Dale Lezon started in the building’s electric sign. The restaurant’s property went stealthily onto the market back in August of 2014 before it was found out the following March; county records don’t appear to show a change of hands since then.

Photos of fire response at Avenue Grill at 1017 Houston Ave.: Swamplot inbox

What’s Cooking in First Ward
06/20/16 1:45pm

Former New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, 1221 Crockett St., First Ward, Houston, 77007

The Texas Revolution-themed southeast corner of Goliad and Crockett streets looks to be getting blanked out to make way for more townhomes in the increasingly formerly industrial section of First Ward between Sawyer St., Washington Ave., and White Oak Bayou. Chris Andrews  noted the planning commission application asking  the city to chop up the land beneath the former New Hope Missionary Baptist Church buildings into 7 smaller pieces. Also probably getting chopped up into smaller pieces: the structures themselves, which the city’s archaeological and historical commission says may have been among those designed by 1940s African-American church architect James M. Thomas.

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Remember Goliad Grove
06/16/16 11:00am

shops-at-sawyer-yards-rendering
Leasing Materials for Lovett's Sawyer Yards

Lovett Commercial’s latest
markup of the warehouse-turning-strip-mall at the corner of Edwards and Sawyer streets includes the B&B Butchers logo, which has wandered about a third of a mile from the carve-it-themselves steakhouse’s year-old spot 6 blocks away on Washington Ave. All of the other logos included on the Shops at Sawyer Yards flier seem to check out: Hair salon Satori and tooth salon Bayou City Smiles are already up and running in the space, while nail salon Polish Parker & Roe, stop-calling-us-Crossfit gym chain Orange Theory Fitness, and Vietnamese noodle shop Local Pho all appear to have at least a few of their permits in place.

Both the updated rendering of the site (up top, facing southeast) and the labeled plan show a restaurant space at the end of the development with a patio facing Sawyer; the flier also labels the slot as a brasserie (as opposed to a steakhouse). The shaded aerial view below shows the development (labeled as just Sawyer YARDS) in place amid a few of the nearby artsy redevelopment projects (marked in green), new townhomes (marked in purple), and the Lovett office:

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First Ward