12/07/17 2:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A QUICK ALLEN PARKVIEW VILLAGE RECAP FOR HOUSTON NEWCOMERS “. . . Back in the 1920s, the 4th Ward was Houston’s version of Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. Racist white city officials did not want a thriving African American community right next to a rapidly growing downtown and demolished a huge section of the community to build public housing (the decisive blow to the 4th ward would be extending the freeway through the community, effectively cutting it off from downtown). APV was designed by MacKie & Kamrath and was intended to be public housing. It ended up as all white housing for veterans. Eventually, African Americans moved in as whites moved out and headed to the suburbs. In the ’70s, as the City was booming again, City officials wanted to demolish APV as it, and much of the rest of the 4th ward, was falling into disrepair. Every single move after that was just controversy on top of controversy. The City was accused of moving Vietnamese immigrants into APV to dilute the number of African Americans who opposed demolition. Then, there was a big master plan project proposed to redevelop the entire area, a court case over demolition of APV and designation of APV and the Fourth Ward on the national register of historic places. In the end, more than half was demoed and replaced with new apartments in 2000. The original MacKie & Kamrath designed buildings are architecturally and historically significant. But, like the history of the 4th ward, Houston’s transient population knows very little about the trials and tribulations behind APV. So, it is an easy target to troll for hate on preservationists.” [Old School, commenting on Comment of the Day: An Alternative Plan for the Site Next to Allen Parkway Village] Illustration: Lulu

12/06/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN FOR THE SITE NEXT TO ALLEN PARKWAY VILLAGE “. . . In an ideal world, I think that the City should’ve recognized that there was an opportunity for the HHA to acquire this site and work with a private-sector master developer to completely demolish the existing complex and integrate government housing into a much more intensively developed project on this extremely high-profile site. Doing so would’ve bypassed some of the issues that they’ve since encountered with the adverse SCOTUS ruling. It wouldn’t have been cheap, but it would’ve also tastefully incorporated government housing into a project that could have mitigated the externality of APV on the areas around it and established an open street grid. Doing so would’ve made everything around there and along the Buffalo Bayou much more desirable and accessible, and leveraged the tax base upward over a large area. However, that also wouldn’t have been uncontroversial; some people think that the original Allen Parkway Buildings are architecturally significant enough to warrant their preservation. In any case, that ship probably has sailed. . . .” [TheNiche, commenting on Your Best Look Yet at the Shiny Highrises Fitting Between Allen Parkway Village and the Federal Reserve] Image: Tianqing Real Estate Development/DC Partners

12/04/17 2:03pm

The renderings and site plan shown here give the clearest view yet of what DC Partners and Chinese firm Tianqing Real Estate Development have planned for their proposed 6-acre mixed-use development at Allen Pkwy. and Gillette St., now dubbed The Allen. The image at top shows a 42-floor tower, home to both a Thompson hotel and private condominiums, fronting Allen Pkwy. A 3-story retail building is depicted to its right; behind it is an office tower. The site plan also shows a future apartment tower and medical office building toward the back of the complex.

The development is planned across Gillette St. from the Federal Reserve building, on the northern portion of an industrial site that was home to one of the city’s first garbage incinerators. A pedestrian bridge linking the development to the bayou is absent from the rendering at top, but indicated in the site plan as well as other images of the complex:

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The Allen
06/28/17 3:00pm

The latest of Gensler’s renderings of that midrise parking garage planned atop the recently evacuated location of nightclub and drag venue Meteor shows the structure rocking a swath of greenery in place of the decorative bicycles pictured across the facade in earlier drafts. Cara Smith reports in the Houston Business Journal this week that the garage is one of the projects that Gensler is “future proofing” — that is, designing with an eye to an eventual decline in Houston parking garage needs, whether spurred by the rise of self-driving cars or other shifts in transportation patterns. The firm was featured by Web Urbanist last month in an article discussing some of its other current garage projects, some of which are being outfitted with conversion-minded utility hookup spacing, as well as ceiling heights suited to something other than car stacking; modular features like easy-to-tack-on facades and removable ramps are also in the mix.

There appear to be 6 retail spots in the foot of the garage that will be ready for tenants before such time as the rest of the garage might hypothetically be repurposed (along with a slew of other spaces in the development, per Edge Realty’s leasing flier):

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Prepped for Obsolescence in Fourth Ward
05/25/17 10:45am

The Refinery Burgers & Whiskey is currently in the process of moving past its oil theme dependency and rebranding to pay homage to a different set of Gulf Coast-al tropes: the new name of the joint at 702 W. Dallas St. will be South Bank Seafood Bar, and a menu including some Asian and Cajun-Creole nods is purportedly in the works.

The patio in front of the 2-spot retail strip (which the restaurant shares with barber and beardwrangler Shave) has been getting dressed up and expanded as part of the remodel. And just this morning, a reader caught sight of what may be preparations to slice a service-window-shaped hole into the shipping container now sitting out front:

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Habitat Alteration at Downtown’s Edge
05/24/17 3:30pm

It doesn’t take effect until August — but a new sales permit looks to have been okayed last month for 160 W. Gray St., bearing the name The Ginger Man – West Gray. The Rice Village bar has previously established outposts in locales as far-flung as Austin, Dallas, and Plano (and claims a somewhat looser connection to a trio of spots in New York and Connecticut), but a West Gray location would be the chain’s second spot inside the Loop(s). That spot, meanwhile, is still the home of Junction Bar & Grill, just north of the W. Gray Y with Webster St. — though the building itself (shown above) was listed for lease on LoopNet earlier this spring. Prior to the turn of the decade, the space previously went by The Wet Spot. 

A recent-ish photo from the lease listing (above) shows off the wrapping up of the Dolce Living apartments next door.  Not pictured, just beyond the duo of homes visible to the east below: the charred skeleton of Fuzzy’s Tacos, which was cleared out some time after its November flameout. 

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Midtown Fourth Ward Junction
04/26/17 11:00am

Rendering of DC Partners Allen Pkwy. Mixed Use Site, Allen Pkwy. at Gillette St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

Rendering of Tianqing Group/DC Partners Allen Pwky. Mixed Use Site, Allen Pkwy. at Gillette St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

New renderings of the hotel-office-condo-retail hodgepodge in the works on the northern segment of the former city park and waste incinerator site at Allen Pkwy. and Gillette St.  were released into the digital wild by DC Partners this week. The buildings appear smoother and sleeker overall than some of the possible early depictions turned up last August (like the Downtown-facing view shown second above for comparison), though some elements of the cluster also appear a bit shorter and stouter. The main tower along Allen Pkwy. has been given a twist in the middle, with a floorcount appearing to number somewhere in the 40-plus range; the lowrise retail complex next door is shown with a bridge over the parkway leading directly into Buffalo Bayou Park.

Perennial rendering sleuth Urbannizer also dug up a different view of the new scene over on HAIF, showing how the whole bundle would fit in amid the Federal Reserve complex, the park, and the section of Fourth Ward surrounding what’s left of the Freedman’s Town Historical District:

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Like a Bridge Over Allen Pkwy.
03/21/17 12:30pm

Dolce Living Midtown construction, 180 W. Gray St., Midtown/Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019Dolce Living Midtown rendering, 180 W. Gray St., Midtown/Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

Leasing signage was tacked up not too long ago at the Dolce Midtown apartment development straddling Bailey St. along the north side of W. Gray, notes a reader relaying years of curiosity about the project’s slow-but-maybe-not-always-so-steady progress. The development’s website doesn’t offer any clues as to when move-in might be possible, but the company has opened a leasing office down the street (in one of the not-getting-knocked-down-any-time-soon segments of the River Oaks Shopping Center).

A few of the hawk-eyed cranewatchers over at HAIF claim to have spotted some backward clock-ticks on the work in the form of partial de- and re-construction of the 2 midrises’ upper stories during late 2015, possibly related to all the torrential rain that year on the building’s siding and wooden framing. But the buildings apparently re-reached their full heights not long after; as of last Friday, there’re even some relatively complete-looking facade sections on the eastern midrise (as shown above). The western building of the 2 still looks to have only been issued its Hardi-plank balcony flaps, however:

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Ups and Downs in Fourth Ward
12/09/16 10:45am

Midtown Entry Portal site, W. Gray at Matthews St., Midtown/Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

Where exactly, these days, does Fourth Ward end and Midtown begin? That may be a little bit clearer before long (depending on how you define the 2) — a reader notes that someone looks to be getting ready to stake a visible claim for Midtown on the narrow strip of land at the crotch of Webster and W. Gray streets, just west of Matthews St. and the latest add-on to the Post Midtown Square development. (The yellow signage of that recently scorched Fuzzy’s is visible on the left.)

The silt fencing rimming the median segment as of late comes with a construction sign calling the spot “Midtown Entry Portal — Site 3.” That grassy sliver does sit at the end of a short but pointy finger of land jutting out of the northwestern boundary of the area’s tax increment reinvestment zone, which as of 2009 is shaped about like this:

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TIRZspotting
12/02/16 1:45pm

CITY WANTS TO CREATE HISTORIC DISTRICT TO PROTECT WHAT’S LEFT OF FREEDMEN’S TOWN HISTORIC DISTRICT Following last month’s sudden brick relocation incident, Mayor Turner has announced a plan to make a plan to create a “cultural district in Freedmen’s Town — one that would preserve historic churches, schools, and homes,” as Andrew Schneider describes it this week. A section of the Fourth Ward roughly bounded by W. Gray, W. Dallas, Genessee, and Arthur streets has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1985 as the Freedmen’s Town Historic District — but that national designation didn’t provide much local protection to the area’s architecture, and many of the buildings listed in the district’s nomination form to the register have since been demolished. Archi-historian Stephen Fox told Claudia Feldman back in February that a city of Houston historic district designation, however, would be different; Fox noted that “it might require gerrymandering to pick up the proper concentration of historic buildings. But it could be done.” [Houston Public Media and Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Freedmen’s Town Historic District sign: Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition

11/28/16 12:15pm

The Garage Car Detail & Hookah Lounge, 1818 W. Dallas St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

The latest new identity for the 1930s-ish auto service station across W. Dallas St. from the Gregory Lincoln Education Center: The Garage Car Detail & Hookah Lounge. The property at W. Dallas and Taft St., which was occupied by dry cleaning chain Pilgrim Cleaner’s prior to the turn of the decade, has hosted a succession of car cleaning services since then, including the latest group to set up in the space. The property sold last summer to an entity called Rockfort Builders, and is now offering on-site hookah for waiting customers in the artistically tire-spangled alleyway shown above.

Here’s a look inside at the hookah collection and some other car-parts-turned-decor:

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Where There’s Smoke on Dallas St.
11/21/16 5:15pm

Brick tearup in Freedmen's Town Historic District, Andrews St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019Brick tearup in Freedmen's Town Historic District, Andrews St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

Some more friends of historic bricks — this time, specifically, of the bricks in the Freedmen’s Town Historical District in Fourth Ward — caught contractors tearing up part of the brickwork on Andrews St. this morning, reports Jeff Ehling. Mayor Sylvester Turner says via Twitter from Mexico that nobody was supposed to have messed with the bricks, which were put under a protective order last year after another short-lived bout of street tearup; Turner adds that he’ll deal with it when he gets back. A reader on the scene snapped a few photos of the torn up section, at the intersection with Genessee St. east of the Gregory-Lincoln Education Center campus:

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Second Stop in Fourth Ward
10/20/16 12:30pm

Cowboys & Indians, 1901 Taft St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77006

The palm-tree-garnished signage for Juan Mon’s International Sandwiches is now down at 1901 Taft St., shown above near the tail end of the space’s conversion into Cowboys & Indians Indo-Tex Kitchen. The 1920s building hit LoopNet in the spring after about 7 years of serving globally-themed lunch options, and the Juan Mon’s folks appear to be helping to ease neighborhood diplomatic relations for the space’s new Texan-South-Asian-fusion operators. The space has been remodeled during the transfer of power: those covered drivethru lanes out front at the corner with W. Webster St. are now serving as a covered patio, and the building’s coat of flag-worthy primary colors have been replaced with a more neutral suite of grey-browns. Here’s the old look, for comparison:

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Culinary Alliances
08/31/16 4:00pm

Wharton T-Buildings at Gregory Lincoln Education Center, 1101 Taft St., Fourth Ward, 77019 Wharton T-Buildings at Gregory Lincoln Education Center, 1101 Taft St., Fourth Ward, 77019

A fresh batch of temporary buildings have recently made an appearance in the W. Dallas-adjacent field at the Gregory Lincoln Education Center, a reader notes. The buildings, some 21 in all, are a complete temporary campus set up for use by elementary school Wharton Dual Language Academy, whose own land less than half a mile away at W. Gray and Columbus streets is being turned over to construction crews for a $35.6-million expansion.  A 3-story building will be tacked onto the north side of the existing Wharton structure, closing off a new interior courtyard; below is a look through the renderings and floor plans for the expansion, as well as the layout for the anticipated 2-year-long of Gregory Lincoln squeeze-in:

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Sporting Something New
08/26/16 5:45pm

Rendering of Tianqing Group/DC Partners Allen Pwky. Mixed Use Site, Allen Pkwy. at Gillette St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

A look at what could be headed for the rest of that 10.5-acre Gillette St. former city park-slash-brownfield property comes from Tianqing Group, the Chinese firm involved with DC Partners’ recently announced mixed-use development at the site (to be funded via the EB-5 investment-for-greencards program). The northern 6 acres of the property (which at various points in its storied history has housed San Felipe Park, a SWAT substation, and the Gillette St. garbage incinerator) were sold to a then-unnamed investor last year, and DC Partners snagged the land in May.

The view above, displayed on Tianqing’s description page for the project, shows 3 highrises and 2 midrises in place at the edge of Fourth Ward, with the Downtown skyline visible in the distance to the right. Another of the renderings includes slightly clipped logo marks from both DC Partners and architecture firm Gensler; that rendering (below) provides a closer look at the towers from the west, as well as some green rooftop terraces:

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West of Downtown