03/21/11 11:44am

59 BORDERS: THE END Late addition to the Borders Books store closing list: The company’s 27,483-sq.-ft. store at that retention-pond-by-the-freeway shopping center in Stafford, Fountains on the Lake. The Stafford location is expected to be the only Houston-area casualty of the company’s bankruptcy, and is scheduled to close by “late May.” It and 2 dozen other stores around the country were added to the 200-store axe list at the end of last week. [Revised closing list (PDF); previously on Swamplot] Photo: Melissa M.

02/16/11 1:50pm

HOUSTON’S BORDERS WILL REMAIN OPEN As expected, the Borders Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today and announced the closing of 200 of its 644 bookstores nationwide. Nine of the announced store closings are in Texas, but Houston survived this round of cuts. All 7 Houston-area stores — on Kirby at West Alabama, in the Galleria, Meyerland Plaza, the Baybrook Mall, at IAH, in Stafford, and the Woodlands — will remain open. [Wall Street Journal; list of store closings; previously on Swamplot]

02/11/11 6:09pm

CLOSING MORE BORDERS Liquidators are already bidding to run going-out-of-business sales for as many as 200 Borders and Waldenbooks bookstores nationwide, ahead of an expected bankruptcy filing from the book retailer that could come as early as Monday, reports the WSJ’s Mike Spector. Closings of an additional 50 of the chain’s total 674 stores could come later, according to sources who spoke to Spector and reporter Jeffrey Trachtenberg. There are 7 remaining Borders locations in the Houston area — in the Galleria, Meyerland Plaza, on Kirby at West Alabama, in Bush Intercontinental Airport, in the Baybrook Mall, at Fountains on the Lake in Stafford, and in the Market Place Shopping Center in The Woodlands. The company closed its locations in the Willowbrook Mall, in Houston Center, in the Northwest Mall, and at Westheimer near Gessner early last year. [Wall Street Journal; previously on Swamplot]

07/27/10 11:42am

WHERE THE ROYCE LAND WENT The Bryan farm-lending coop that ended up with 618 acres near Tomball after the collapse of Royce Builders has finally sold the property — to the Caldwell Companies, a land development and investment firm. Royce had planned 1,261 home lots in Cypress Lake Crossing, which is northeast of the intersection of Telge Rd. and Boudreaux and only a couple miles north of the sprawling Cypress home of former Royce president John Speer. (Speer’s Royce-built compound off Telge Rd., pictured above, now serves as the home address of one of his new ventures, Vestalia Homes.) “Bill Heavin, a land broker at Grubb & Ellis Co., says Royce Homes had completed quite a bit of development work on the tract, such as soil and water testing and the establishment of Harris County Municipal Utility District #416. Royce Homes began seeking an investor or joint venture partner on the large tract in late 2006 or early 2007. . . . the asking price was $30,000 an acre, or $18.5 million.” [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot]

07/06/10 7:50am

PARK PLACE APARTMENT FIBERFEST Workers from Inland Environments will be taking “extra precautions” with the demolition of 4 apartment buildings at the corner of Park Place and Telephone Rd., the mayor’s office promises. There’s plenty of asbestos to go around in the Park Place Apartments at 7410 Park Place Blvd., but the buildings, which have been sitting vacant for 20 years, aren’t considered structurally sound enough for the asbestos to be removed. A bankruptcy filing by the owner last week delayed the city-ordered demolition, but it’s now scheduled to begin at 9 this morning. Update, 2:10 pm: Now there’s video! And the dust is flying. [Mayor’s Office; previously on Swamplot]

06/11/10 10:11am

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN YOUR JACK SACK SOON Bankrupted weight-loss guru Shaun Kelley, who abruptly shut down his fitness center on Voss near San Felipe last month and announced plans for a new business venture with “a major food company,” is also gone from Donald Trump’s multi-level-marketing scheme, where he had planned to promote “custom pharmaceutical-grade vitamins”: “Kelley says he’s no longer working with the Trump Network, but instead is moving yet another concept. ‘I have a new investor who didn’t want me to have anything to do with the gym anymore and we’re solely focused on the food industry,’ he says. ‘We’re currently in negotiations with Jack in the Box to offer a low fat healthy food for $3 to $7.’” [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot]

05/26/10 12:19pm

On his Facebook page, Shaun Kelley claims to be just “moving my business.” But abc13 is reporting that the Shaun Kelley Weight Control storefront at San Felipe and Voss shut its doors for good yesterday — shortly after the local fitness guru declared bankruptcy.

An unspecified nearby gym will take on Kelley’s trainers and clients, according to the report. Shaun Kelley Weight Loss Center memberships cost $15,000 a year, though shorter memberships were available.

Kelley gained national attention 2 years ago after the FBI interviewed a former employee to determine if Roger Clemens might have obtained steroids or human growth hormone through Kelley or his clinic. The employee claimed Clemens had met with Kelley at that location, but Kelley claimed Clemens was an acquaintance who had never visited the clinic.

Okay, then. But what about Donald Trump?


05/18/10 11:01am

The Triyar Cannon Group has been threatening to give shopworn Greenspoint Mall a $32 million makeover since 2006. Most of what appears to be planned shows up in this knock-’em-down video: a new outdoor plaza at the mall’s east entrance, and a connected 22-story office building off Greenspoint Dr., designed by Ziegler Cooper. Just last week, demolition began on the vacant JCPenney building, site of a proposed Premiere Cinema multiplex that’s supposed to share a new parking garage with the tower. Not in the plans, but already happened anyway: the closing of Sears.

When will the rest of this happen?


05/17/10 9:37am

AT RISK ON RUSK Earlier this month Cameron Management lost the 2000 St. James Place office building to foreclosure; now CEO Dougal Cameron is trying hard not to lose the Houston Club Building Downtown. So the Cameron-controlled limited partnership that owns the 18-story 62-year-old office building at 811 Rusk is declaring bankruptcy. Cameron had visions of converting the building into a hotel or high-end apartments when his investment group bought it from JPMorgan Chase in 2007; more recently the company hired PageSoutherlandPage to plan an “educational facility” to take over several floors. The building has 5 levels of parking. The Houston Club, which counts George Bush as one of its members (and as the name of one of its rooms), has a low-cost lease on four floors that expires in five years. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Silberman Properties

04/16/10 10:14am

A reader notes that the little Piney Point Village add-on project that TV executive Douglas R. Johnson and his then-wife Melanie bought in 1996 as a 6,000-sq.-ft. starter home is back on the market with a new agent, a new set of photos, and a new price that’s 60 percent lower than the original. But is that an air of desperation wafting up from the listing?


C’mon everybody, that’s more than 23,000 sq. ft. now for only . . . $8 million! What will you do with all the money you save?!!

How about hiring the domestic staff that’s gonna be hard at work dusting and polishing this:


04/01/10 3:40pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT ROYCE BUILDERS SOLD ME “I bought a home from them in oct 2007 and got riped off. First I am still trying to figure out how I even got financed based on my income. I was making about $1200.00 a month and my notes where almost $900.00 a month. Then I have an adjustable rate morgage which would go up every 6 months. I thought about it after the fact (I had to give up my home) that they must have messed with the figures to get me in the home at the first place. I couldn’t get them to come fix things that come with the home warranty. If anyone knows what kind if any lawsuit is out on them would you please let me know.” [monmon, commenting on No-Charity Case: Royce Builders Education in Bankruptcy]

03/10/10 11:43am

Did that more-than-half-off sale on the Piney Point Village bayou-front estate of Doug and Melanie Johnson work any magic? The cozy 8-bedroom, 10 full- and 3 half-bath playhouse recently disappeared from the MLS, but a Swamplot reader suspects something’s up:

I don’t think it sold because I watch it and I never saw it go into sale pending. I think they gave up trying to sell.

The 21,640-sq.-ft. home at 11682 Arrowwood Circle debuted on the market as a $19 million divorce listing back in 2007. According to a Chronicle blog post last year written by Shelby Hodge, that price was set by now-bankrupt broadcast executive Doug Johnson (his company, Johnson Broadcasting, is the “debtor in possession” of local TV station KNWS). After a couple of uneventful years at the top of the listings, the home’s price was eventually cut to $9.5 million — and the commission doubled to 12 percent — after Melanie wrested the right to control the sale herself.

What does it matter that it’s out of the listings? Really, don’t you think a quirky little property like this would do better in a . . . uh, private offering?


01/06/10 11:44am

Real estate agent Sandra Gunn informs us that the Montage, the second glass Almeda St. tower across from Hermann Park, was foreclosed on yesterday. Originally named Mosaic to match its adjacent twin directly to the north, the Montage has been a rental property since it was completed.

Almost exactly a year ago, the developer of both buildings — a limited partnership between Phillips Development & Realty and Florida Capital Real Estate Group — declared bankruptcy in order to avoid foreclosure on the Mosaic, which at the time was officially a condominium tower. And Florida Capital’s chief operating officer expressed hope that the Montage’s separate $71 million loan with Corus Bankshares could be renegotiated.


12/08/09 9:55am

WONMORE IN BANKRUPT ENDEAVOUR The sale of 44 unsold condos in high-flying developer Robin Parsley’s bankrupt Endeavour highrise on Clear Lake in Pasadena was approved by a court last week. “The winning bidder was a partnership named Wonmore Ltd. The group agreed to pay $9.5 million plus past-due taxes and interest, according to Houston attorney Walter Cicack, who represented Wonmore. The group also said it would pay normally budgeted homeowner assessments for 2010 for any condo owner current on their assessments for 2009. . . . The 30-story Endeavour, at 4821 NASA Parkway, had been in legal limbo since earlier this year when its developer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection the day before the building was scheduled to be sold in a foreclosure auction. Regions Bank was listed as a creditor in the bankruptcy with a claim of $20.8 million.” [Houston Chronicle]

11/24/09 11:32am

Channel 2 investigative reporter Amy Davis sends a KPRC newschopper to buzz the 80-acre Cypress party pad estate of former Royce Builders president John Speer. More than a year after we featured the innumerable builder upgrades of that Mack-Daddy mansion on Swamplot, it’s still sitting on the market — for the same $9.8 million.

Meanwhile, less than a mile to the west, sales aren’t going so well either in former Royce Homes subdivision Grant Meadows:

“Houses are in disrepair. Fences are in disrepair,” explained homeowner Matt Adams. “The whole neighborhood’s been left in ruins.” . . .

Royce stopped paying the bill for the street lights in Grant Meadows in July 2008.

Reliant recently switched them off, and told homeowners they must pay the $14,000 owed before they can turn them back on.

“It’s pitch black out here at night,” said homeowner Evit Byrd, who planned to retire in Grant Meadows with his wife. “You can’t see anything.”

But there’s some good news: Speer has been building again! His new company, Vestalia Homes, which Speer founded 3 weeks after he closed down Royce, is busy constructing and selling homes a little closer to FM 1960, in a subdivision called the Lakes of Cypress Forest.