Signs are up outside AT&T’s West U. building on Bellaire Blvd. announcing the changes the carrier wants to make to allow service vehicles to load and unload gear in its backyard. Laid down on a row of 4 former residential lots in 1970, the parking lot was expanded by 2 parcels in 1975 and now backs both the telecom building and the Whole Foods–anchored shopping center adjacent to it. Service vehicles and their associated personnel have used the lot since it was first paved, according to the company’s rezoning application.
West U. officials signed off on the land’s new use for parking back when it was first paved. The question now is what is what sort of backyard activities are permitted within that area — an issue on which the city has flip-flopped. In 2016, it gave AT&T the all-clear to keep conducting service activities in the lot. But following a challenge from a neighboring resident that same year, officials changed their minds. AT&T filed a lawsuit in response, but just this January agreed to work toward a settlement with the city.
A public hearing on the zoning request was originally scheduled for June 11 but was postponed to a date TBD — prompting some timely yard sign edits like the one shown below
When architect Tom Wilson designed a contemporary residence for himself in West U back in 1977, he divvied the lot down the length, giving home and extensive poolscape each narrow side-by-side footprints. Twenty years later, the current owners took over, paying $535K for the privilege. Last week, the property popped up on the market with a $1.45 million price tag. Architectural guides peg the design as “a low-key medium tech house” engineered with steel and panels of metal and wood. The “front” door is on the side; it lies inside the porch and privacy screen (above) facing the street, which is located south of University Blvd. and west of Buffalo Speedway.
Which sections of this bi-level West University house were part of the 1938 original? Don’t count on the listing aerial map’s (incorrectly placed) marker to find it; the property sits one lot south of University Blvd. on a street east of Buffalo Speedway. The $1.578 million listing from mid-January features an actual occupied basement, though it isn’t pictured.
Tweaks and conversions over time appear to have shifted around room assignments. The dining room (top), for example . . .
Looks like the typical rush to get rid of empties right after New Year’s could be a little compressed this year from Rice Village to Upper Kirby. A Swamplot reader sends in pics of the new sign that’s gone up at the sort-it-yourself recycling center at 5004 Dincans St., across the street and behind Goode Co. Seafood. West University’s city council voted in October to close the 24-hr. drive-up facility, and the sign announces the January 2 closing date.
If this West U mansion on Buffalo Speedway brings to mind a game of Clue, chalk it up to its interior layout — and its inadvertent role in a jewelry pilfering attempt by a house-hunting poseur earlier this year.
As with the classic board game, the listing identifies each room by its function. There’s a Music Room. A Loggia. Even a Billiards Room. It was in a Bedroom back in January, however, that an unassuming early guest at an open house allegedly rummaged through a jewelry drawer. He left quickly and empty-handed, but first “body-slammed” the sales agent who had interrupted him. An account of the incident that appeared in the Village News at the time (no longer online, unfortunately) said the perp, believed to have been working high-end open houses in 2 cities, was quickly ID’d, due in part to a fast-and-furious word-of-mouth campaign among Houston-area Realtors to name him and flush-out his whereabouts — and to remind fellow agents to be careful when showing properties.
The upshot? Don’t be surprised one of these days if you’re asked to show an ID and pose for a cell phone photo at a slightly less open open house. No ID required for this tour, though:
The Gami family purchased the lot directly behind their own house to transform it into a new backyard, and they said they wanted to somehow give back to the community in the process. That’s when they decided to donate the old cottage in the 4200 block of Byron Street to the fire department for a few weeks before demolishing the house. . . .
The training at the Byron Street house has been so lifelike it has garnered attention from many residents on the street. Henry Stelzig, who lives right next to the house, said he thought it was a real emergency, and he wished firefighters would have notified neighbors not to worry.
“We were alarmed because, gosh, they had two ambulances out here, they had two fire trucks, they had everything,” Stelzig said. “We thought the house was on fire.”