05/17/18 11:45am

Title Boxing Club is the latest tenant on its way to the block-long former Midtowne Spa at 3100 Fannin St. Braun bought the building the same year the bathhouse shuttered in 2016, set up a 4,664-sq.-ft. office on the second floor, and began ushering other tenants into the building. Two months ago, Verizon opened at the south end of the structure, on the corner of Elgin and Fannin. In between it and the national boxing chain’s new location, a Bishops hair salon is planned.

The bathhouse — pictured above from the north before its recent whitewashing treatment — had been in the building since at least the ’80s. Other locations still operate under the same brand in Denver and Los Angeles.

Its first floor included this swimming pool and hot tub setup:

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No Longer Midtowne Spa
05/09/18 4:30pm

Construction broke ground in March on America Gardens, the star-spangled first venue Syn Hospitality has planned as part of a 4-bar complex dubbed Midtown Common it’s developing on Caroline St. And already, Core Church Midtown has fled the block and taken refuge in the CrossWalk Center, a 2-story structure in the Near Northside. Formerly home to Employment Training Centers Inc., it’s on N. Main 3 blocks south of Quitman — next door to Label Warehouse’s building — and houses a facility that assists convicts recently released from jail.

The 5,000-sq.-ft. now-vacant strip center in Midtown had been home to the church since 2016. When the neighboring construction wraps up, America Gardens and its 3 planned accomplices — Don Chingon, the Social House, and Wishful Drinking — will abut the empty building’s west side, as indicated in the map below:

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Midtown Common
04/13/18 5:00pm

Crews are now peeling back the corrugated metal paneling that covers over the original façade of the Sears building on the corner of Main and Wheeler, exposing some of the 1930s art deco details underneath. The plain skin was added onto the 4-story structure in the 1960s. It remained in place after the company that manages Rice University’s endowment bought out Sears’ lease on the property 6 months ago and the department store closed in January.

Yesterday, Mayor Turner announced that an extensive redo of the building — overseen by Hines and designed by Gensler along with New York-firm James Carpenter — would transform it into a startup incubation center, the anchor of a 4-mile “innovation corridor” planned between Downtown and the med center. The vertical mosaic pattern pictured above on the south side of the building is one of the first hidden touches to see the light of day as part of the work that’s now beginning to restore the exterior.

Also uncovered is the row of metal beams used to mount the outer shell:

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Art Deco Unveiling
04/12/18 1:00pm

Coming soon to the strip of vacant 1920s storefronts along Main — catty-corner to the Greyhound bus station at Webster St. and directly north of the Shell station at Hadley: a new bar dubbed Pour Behavior. The 12,600-sq.-ft. building — once home to the Houston Spinal Pain Center, Ambassador Shoe Repair, Liviko’s Printing, Gold & Silver Buyers & Sellers, and the Salvation Army — sits on just over 3 quarters of an acre. A parking lot neighbors it on the corner of Travis and Webster where Downtown Body Shop was demolished a couple of years ago.

The aerial above pictures the whole property with some two-tone manipulation courtesy of the Oxberry Group, which had — but dropped — plans to redevelop it and bring in new restaurants and retailers a few years after the auto shop vanished. A new developer bought the building last year. The rendering above — released on Facebook by the bar’s proprietors last week — views the building from the corner of Travis and Webster streets and shows a patio fronting the current parking lot. Further down Webster to the east, a few windows reopen what was once the entrance to Webster St. Pharmacy, adjacent to the parking lot.

Here’s what the Salvation Army’s front face next to the gas station looked like before it closed:

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Pour Behavior
03/27/18 12:00pm

The massive illuminated crosses that once adorned the St. Joseph Professional Building next to the Pierce Elevated have been stripped from the structure’s east and west sides by its new-ish owner, but haven’t yet been removed from the block. West of the tower and adjacent to the highway, the fenced enclosure pictured above now holds the de-crucified metal parts along with the Scrabble-like remnants of the lettering that once spelled out the building’s name below the crosses.

The scrap yard borders the surface parking lot that fronts the 135,586-sq.-ft. building’s garage podium on La Branch St.:

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Cross-Word Jumble
03/13/18 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT’S STILL MISSING FROM THE TOP OF THE CENTRAL SQUARE PLAZA REDO “After all the beautiful exterior enhancements, does Claremont plan to update and restore functionality of the enormous electronic retro clock on top of the building? The building now looks so nice. I can’t believe the clock sitting on top has not been restored, paint peeling off and not turned on, especially when it completes the whole retro-mod feel of the entire project.” [Unsure About This, commenting on Midtown’s Redone Central Square Plaza Looking To Lure Tenants to Its Empty Ground Floor] Photo of former Central Square Plaza clock: meltedplastic [license]

03/12/18 4:00pm

A building permit filed recently on the Central Square Plaza complex that takes up the block of Travis St. between Gray and Webster reveals Kraftsmen Coffee as the latest restaurant slated for the renovated tower’s empty ground floor. Work to install plumbing for the 1,768-sq.-ft. space that the owners of coffee shop plan to take over began last year.

The photo at top views the west portion of the building’s ground floor, which sits about halfway down the block on Gray St. and faces Milam. A parking garage is off-camera to the right. Around the corner — on the building’s north side — a TABC flyer for Malawi’s Pizza still hangs in the window of the empty storefront on Gray where it was originally posted back in 2016:

 

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Kraftsmen Coffee
03/05/18 4:15pm

Yet another sign of incoming retail is up on the Mid Main Lofts, where both Kura Revolving Sushi Bar and a 9Round kickboxing gym made their marks last week. Big Mike’s Entertainment LLC is the applicant named on the TABC notice that’s posted on the apartment building’s Travis St. side, near the corner at Holman and across the street from the Holman Draft Hall bar. The photo at top — taken by a Twitter user who’s been monitoring street-level activity outside the Lofts — shows where the storefront is situated, just north of the entrance to the garage that occupies nearly all of the complex’s frontage along Travis.

Photos: Natalie W

Big Mike’s
03/05/18 11:45am

A new banner is up in place of La Baguette’s lettering in the Mekong Center — on Milam St. between Drew and Tuam — announcing the coming Fukuoka Sushi Bar & Grill. The former Vietnamese sandwich shop shuttered in the space at the end of last year, leaving a void between Pho Saigon and the dentist’s office in the L-shaped retail center which includes parking on its roof. When the new raw fishery moves in at 2808 Milam, it’ll bring the Mekong Center back to full occupancy.

Photos: Chibuike O. (Mekong Center); Natalie W (Fukuoka Sushi Bar & Grill)

Below the Parking Pad
02/22/18 4:30pm

Update, 7:00 pm: At the request of the copyright holder, the images of Caydon Properties’ proposed development have been removed.

The Australian company that’s already begun construction on a residential tower in place of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Association building on the corner of Main and Tuam has plans for a pair of additional towers on the 2 blocks north of that site, along Metro’s red line. These renderings from visualization studio Large Arts show the extent of the complex — including a hotel, offices, residential space, and street-level retail fronting the rail up to McGowen St.

The rendering at top views the development from the corner of Main and Drew St. to show the new southern tower — home to a hotel — fronting Fannin while the northern one faces Main. Further up the tracks, a train pulls into the northbound McGowen St. station stop — shown lined with storefronts that sit below the north tower. An alley runs along the north end of the development, between the building and Greensheet Media’s former office — just out of view on the left at the corner of Main and McGowen.

More retail fronts the alley, adjacent to the McGowen platform:

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New Main Drag
02/20/18 3:45pm

2 new signs are now up on the Main St. side of the Mid Main Lofts across from MATCH: one for Kura Revolving Sushi Bar, and the other for kickboxing gym 9Round. The photo at top looks across the platform of Metro’s Ensemble Theatre stop to show Kura’s new name tag affixed near the corner of Main and Holman. Identical markings appear on the Holman St. side of the new raw fish restaurant, which uses touch screens and an automatic conveyor belt to deliver your food. The 3510 Main location is Houston’s second Kura; one opened in the Westchase Shopping Center last year. Another debuted in Sugar Land last month.

9Round — shown in the photo above — sits further south down the block on Main, near Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails’s spot at Winbern. All 18 of the workout venue’s current locations are in west South Carolina. The new gym follows 4 others the chain already operates inside the 610 Loop.

Photos: Natalie W

And in This Corner
11/03/17 4:45pm

Sable Gate Winery, a local affiliate of the Waters Edge chain of franchised vineyard-less wineries, has its grand opening tomorrow at 2600 Travis St., just south of McGowen and behind Reef in Midtown. The new wine spot, which began serving last weekend, took over the space from GAGE Lounge. Customers who want to make, cork, and bottle their own-label varieties at Sable Gate can choose from the chain’s selection of pre-crushed grapes shipped in from more vineyard-friendly climes around the world; if you’re in a greater hurry than the 5 to 7 weeks it normally takes to ferment and blend a batch of imported grape must, you can commandeer one Sable Gate’s already got going — or just order a glass at the bar.

Photos: Sable Gate Winery

Sable Gate Winery
10/10/17 3:15pm

MIDTOWN SEARS CLOSURE NETS RICE 9 ACRES NEAR THE WHEELER TRANSIT CENTER The company that manages Rice University’s $5.3 billion endowment last week bought out the 28 years remaining on a 99-year lease the university had signed with the Sears department store on its Midtown property back in 1945. The Sears at 4201 Main St., which opened in 1939, will close in late January, after a liquidation sale beginning early next month, it was announced today. Rice also bought 3 adjacent acres owned by Sears, giving the university a multi-block 9.4-acre chunk of land near Metro’s Wheeler Transit Center and the Southwest Fwy. it can now decide what to do with. Among the properties on that land: the Sears Auto Center at 4111 Fannin and the Fiesta Mart at 4200 San Jacinto, which has a lease that runs for 2 more years. The Sears’s original art deco façade was covered with metal panels in the 1960s. Rice prez David Leebron says the university will now “initiate a process of thoughtful planning for the future use of this land,” with a yearlong study of options directed by the Rice Management Company. [Houston Chronicle; Click2Houston] Photo: Pete Molick via Swamplot Flickr pool

10/09/17 1:30pm

Somebody carefully disassembled the recently installed quilting sculpture in front of the Bermac Arts Building at 4101 San Jacinto St. just south of Cleburne St. late last week, leaving behind a patchwork of colorful powder-coated-steel pieces on the former bus-stop platform next to the sidewalk. The 8-ft.-tall blue, orange, magenta, yellow, and metallic silver sculpture, called Quilt Peace, was erected at the site on September 20th. It was meant to remain there for 3 months — through next month’s International Quilt Festival at the George R. Brown Convention Center — before being moved to a different Midtown site.

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Street Art Taken Apart
09/29/17 11:30am

It may have been erected on a one-way northbound street in Lower Midtown, but this new sculpture now standing in front of the oak trees outside the San Jacinto St. entrance to the Bermac Arts Building just south of Cleburne was designed to flag down visitors from Downtown: Quilt Peace, constructed of powder-coated-steel, marks the entrance to the offices and exhibition space of the Community Artists’ Collective, where the Jubilee Quilt Circle meets twice a week to stitch works by hand or with the computer-controlled longarm flatbed stitcher onsite. “Quilt Peace is our tribute to the November 2017 International Quilt Festival at the George R. Brown Convention Center,” explains artist Michelle Barnes — who also happens to be the Collective’s executive director. “. . . We want to demonstrate our connection with quilting to the thousands of convention visitors.

Photo: Community Artists’ Collective.

Quilt Peace