02/13/18 3:45pm

4 new restaurants of 4 different culinary persuasions are planning their migration to the Galleria’s coming chow center — beyond the curved wall that fronted Saks Fifth Avenue before the department store moved to a straighter-edged building just next door along Westheimer. Renovations to transform the building’s face into something new tenants could get behind have been in progress for the past few years. The site plan above from Simon Properties shows where Blanco Tacos + Tequila will arrive below Japanese restaurant Nobu, east of the building’s main entrance hall. West of the hall is where Fig & Olive as well as its upstairs Indian neighbor Spice Route will move in. They’ll go behind and in front of the new first- and second-story windows pictured at top — punched in the building’s facade last year.

Heavily blanched renderings put out by Fig & Olive show the patio fronting its 7,000-sq.-ft. interior:

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Multicultural Cook Off
12/11/17 12:00pm

A new banner just tacked to the forehead of the building on Richmond Ave., barely east of I-610 announces what’s due to move in: a second Galleria-area showroom for Nazar’s Fine Jewelry. The photo at top, sent in by an on-the-spot Swamplot reader, shows workers getting a boost to place the sign at sundown on Sunday. The northeast crotch of the 59-West Loop interchange is visible south of the building at 4901 Richmond.

Interior renovation permits for the 25,890-sq.-ft. building — formerly home to Morton Kuehnert Auctioneers & Appraisers, and, even more formerly, to Parvizian Signature Rugs — were filed in September. Before it closed down in October 2016, the auction house’s windows were covered with photos of artifacts:

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Richmond Riches
11/07/17 1:00pm

In case you were curious what the 9th-floor 1-bedroom condo in the Cosmopolitan owned by southwest Houston charter school Accelerated Interdisciplinary Intermediate Academy looks like, here are some photos taken when the property was listed for sale in February of 2011, for $468,500. The school purchased the condo that June. 250 elementary and middle school students attend Accelerated Interdisciplinary Intermediate Academy on its mostly bare 7-acre campus at 12825 Summit Ridge Dr., near the intersection of Alt. 90 and the Fort Bend Pkwy. Toll Rd. The taxpayer-funded school’s 2 buildings have no windows.

So what’s the condo for? An unidentified school representative emails the Chronicle‘s Jacob Carpenter to explain it’s used for “”back office support and SECURE storage of historical records.” Repeated break-in attempts, according to the representative, prevented the records from being kept at the school. “The writer also reasoned that the charter preferred buying property instead of paying rent, and that its options were ‘very limited,’” writes Carpenter. “The author didn’t explain why the school opted for the condo when cheaper storage and office space were available.”

The almost-floor-to-ceiling windows and balcony in the school’s Cosmopolitan condo face south, down Post Oak Blvd.:

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A Charter School’s Uptown Holdings
11/06/17 11:00am

THE NEW GALLERIA STORE THAT TRACKS YOUR GLANCES Dwight Silverman explores the tech offerings at products-from-startups-showcase b8ta, which opened in the Galleria last month a couple doors down from the new Saks Fifth Avenue: “The stores are also bristling with cameras, which is common in modern retail stores. However, these cameras — 170 of them in the Galleria store — don’t necessarily capture video. [b8ta CEO Vibhu] Norby said they turn images of individuals into data, and then track them as they move about the store.’ We are not tracking the person’s face, we are tracking the geometry of their face,’ he said. ‘We hash it, then we watch the hash as it’s interacting with products. There’s no identification information; this is just a blob doing these behaviors.’ Behavioral data are then shared with the product makers. Someone who walks into b8ta may look at two or three products before they buy one. Their pathway is provided to b8ta’s vendors.” [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo: Vibhu Norby

10/02/17 3:30pm

Here’s evidence that the scheduled reconstruction of the entire West Loop—I-69 interchange just southeast of the Galleria is about to begin. “Crews have been ripping out trees and other vegetation,” reports reader and 610 traveler John Greiner: “Much more than could be argued for improving traffic sight lines.”

These pics show the scene:

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Foliage First
09/06/17 9:30am

HARVEY NOW READY TO HIT GALLERIA THEATER A WEEK LATER THAN EXPECTED Opening night for Mary Chase’s 1945 Pulitzer Prize–winning play Harvey at the Jeannette and L.M. George Theater is now set for September 15th — just a week after its originally scheduled opening date was preempted by a downgraded Hurricane bearing the same name. The A.D. Players‘ brand-new playhouse at 5420 Westheimer, just west of the Galleria, did not flood and suffered only “minor leaks” from the storm, but in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey the theater-ministry group announced a decision to postpone its season-opening production, which stars an invisible rabbit named Harvey. New executive director Jake Speck says some new “arts-access and fundraising initiatives” will be announced soon. [A.D. Players; American Theatre; previously on SwamplotPhoto of George Theater: A.D. Players

08/29/17 12:15pm

HARVEY UPSTAGES HARVEY The A.D. Players‘ new 450-seat Jeannette and L.M. George Theater at 5420 Westheimer just west of the Galleria, which opened earlier this year, “has stood the storm well,” its operators report today on Facebook. But not so much the very first set of shows in the resident theater company’s new season: Because of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, a production of Mary Chase’s 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a 6-ft., 3-and-a-half-in.-tall invisible rabbit named Harvey (scheduled to begin a 3-and-a-half-week run on September 8th) has been put off — for a while, at least: “Harvey the storm has not been our friend. ‘Harvey’ the show will go on — more details to come,” reads a note posted by the theater last night. “When it does, we want it to be a lighthearted lift to our beloved community, which has suffered so much in just a few short days.” The theater company began planning its production of Harvey months ago, but says it had been promoting the production “in earnest” for only a little more than a week. [A.D. Players] Photo of George Theater: A.D. Players

05/17/17 11:30am

Now hanging in the newly remodeled central nook on the Galleria’s curved facade along Westheimer Rd.: these strips of hexagonal rings spotted early last week by a passing bus rider. (That curved wall is where Saks Fifth Avenue used to be, before the store scooted into the boxy new building next door.) The rendering up top was released last fall, around the time Simon Properties confirmed that Nobu and Fig & Olive would be taking up 2 of the 4 restaurant spaces shown.

For comparison, here’s what the entry through the Philip Johnson-designed facade looked like as of last August, after the new windows had been cut (but before the top edge of the facade got trimmed off): 

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Westheimer Faceoff
04/06/17 1:30pm

Roostar Vietnamese Grill, 5551 Richmond Ave., Westheimer Gardens, Houston, 77056

Former Napoli at  5551 Richmond Ave., Westheimer Gardens, Houston, 77056Roostar Vietnamese Grill is just about done moving into the southern slot of the perpendicular 2-man segment of the Richmond Ave. strip center east of Chimney Rock Rd., a reader notes. The Vietnamese kinda-fusion restaurant’s first location opened in Spring Branch a few years ago as Vietnam Poblano, swapping to the new name and stylized but literal melded bird-star logo not long after. Ronnie Nguyen and Linda Nguyen, the 2-link chain’s forgers, had hoped the new location (in the space formerly occupied by Napoli) would be up and running in time for all that Super Bowl hubbub; looks like the new plan is for an April opening.

Next door to the nearly-hatched restaurant is the former Starbucks spot, which had shut down by the time that shiny new freestanding one opened up on the corner across the street last year:

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Coffee Out, Roostar In
04/03/17 4:30pm

Zone D'Erotica, 2626 West Loop South, Galleria Area, Houston, 77027

The always-open pink-and-purple site of adult accessories shop Zone d’Erotica, which has long served as a retina-searing guidepost to westward-bound Galleria traffic, is currently listed as for lease on the website of retail real estate brokerage The Retail Connection, a keen-eyed reader noted this morning. The trapezoid-heavy building is tucked on a trapezoidal plot of land between the yellow-bedecked corner Shell station and the austere gray facade of Dillard’s, and served as a Luke’s Hamburgers in a past life before making the Zone transition well over a decade ago (presumably with the aid of Houston’s lack of zoning laws). Just down the road along the Galleria’s Westheimer Rd. edge, a younger, prettier pad site (built recently as part of the Galleria’s ongoing makeover and reconstruction) has now been filled in with the likes of Michelin-starred dim sum joint Yauatcha, which opened last week.

Photo: The Retail Connection

Westheimer Zone-ing
10/31/16 5:30pm

POLAROID NOW HIRING FOR FAKE FILM PHOTO STORES IN THE GALLERIA, WOODLANDS MALL The Woodlands Mall, 1201 Lake Woodlands Dr., The Woodlands, TXIn the apparent leadup to setting up shop in several major Texas cities, a few job postings are up this month for Polaroid Store positions at locations in the Galleria and Woodlands Mall. The stores’ raison d’être: to pull photos from customers’ electronic devices and social media accounts to turn them into pseudo-Polaroids of various sizes. The Polaroid company launched its Fotobar stores in Florida earlier this decade; after a few years of interstate spread and subsequent shutdowns, a 2014 variation on the business model shifted focus onto 300-sq.-ft. mall kiosks, before the store’s founders announced a rebranding last year. No word yet on opening dates for the 2 Houston-area shops, though they appear to be hiring under the wing of Austin-based toy and calendar outfit Calendar Holdings; the postings mention that locations are also in the works in Austin, Frisco, and San Antonio.  Photo of Woodlands Mall: GGP

10/28/16 12:45pm

Rendering of Shake Shack Houston, 5015 Westheimer Rd., Uptown, Houston, 77056

The first Houston Shake Shack will be opening on November 4th near the mall’s new parking lot jewel box pad site, a rep for the New York burger chain announced this morning. On the menu, on top of the usual fare: a handful of concretes made with donuts from Morningstar on N. Main, Houston roaster Greenway Coffee‘s coffee, and baked goods from Fluff Bake Bar on the western edge of Midtown. On the exterior: a living moss wall created by Austin-based Articulture Designs, as seen in the rendering released back in January. The firm designed a plant-covered wall for the Shake Shack that opened in Austin last year as well — here’s a shot of how that one turned out, with an accompanying succulent planter out front:

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Side of Greens
10/19/16 11:00am

3111 Chimney Rock, Lamar Terrace, Houston, 77056

The graffiti on the tall face of the former Big Woodrow’s spot at 3111 Chimney Rock Rd. has been joined lately by new signage for Rotana Mediterranean Restaurant. The 2-story 2-bar space north of Richmond Ave. shut down near the end of August last year after a planned temporary closure for building repairs turned into an unplanned permanent landlord dispute, and the building went up for lease around the same time. Some of those repairs to the 5,928-sq.-ft. space may have been getting done over the past year since the closure, if building permits issued in March and at the start of this month are any indication.

Photo: MiraDry team at Mosaic Clinic Dermatology

Rotana Remodeling off Richmond Ave.