OXY IN TALKS TO BUY CONOCOPHILLIPS’ CAMPUS
Occidental Petroleum has its eyes on the 62-acre campus on N. Dairy Ashford off I-10 that ConocoPhillips has been planning to vacate since last year. In an email to Oxy employees, CEO Vicki Hollub said the company had found “a unique opportunity to acquire an office campus with the space and amenities to create a more modern work environment.” Oxy arrived in Greenway Plaza a few years after ConocoPhillips set up shop in its then-newly-built Dairy Ashford complex during the early 80s. Renovations made over the Conoco campus — pictured above — in 2008, but last year, the oil giant announced it’d be taking off for the 22-story Energy Center 4 building it had leased on the other side of I-10. The highrise neighbors the 2-stories-shorter Energy Center 3 tower, where employees of Conoco’s Lower 48 business unit are already stationed. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of ConocoPhillips headquarters, 600 N. Dairy Ashford Rd.: W.S. Bellows Construction
The sheet metal façade backed by an assortment of shipping-container parts is now gone, and mountains of stuff have been removed from the longtime junk emporium at 317 W. 19th St. in the Heights, perhaps better known as the open-air building with a front but no roof that lent the shopping district its perhaps now diminished air of funk. The photo at top, sent Swamplot’s way by a flabbergasted reader, shows the now-vacant lot with everything removed. Below it, a rare aerial view from a few years ago reveals secret stashes maintained behind the lot’s corrugated streetfront.
But perhaps what you remember of this lot is different: a mysterious supply house behind whose shiny gate backdrops for hundreds of street scenes emerged over the years? Or a backdrop for fashion shoots?
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Is the site of shuttered gay bar Montrose Mining Company destined to become a parking lot for nearby restaurant Baba Yega Cafe? The new owner of Baba Yega, developer Fred Sharifi, bought the 39-year-old bar on the corner of Pacific and Grant streets from longtime proprietor Charles Armstrong last month. When the bar closed in 2016, Armstrong said he was working on plans to bring a new restaurant to the building within 18 months. A sign posted on the door of 805 Pacific St. now directs would-be patrons to one of Armstrong’s other hangouts across Pacific — JR’s Bar & Grill. Above that flyer, a notice from the city dated December 14 — 2 days after the 2,809-sq.-ft. building was sold — tells its owners to stop all unpermitted plumbing and structural work on the site.
Sharifi has now purchased at least 5 Montrose properties within the last 2 years, including Baba Yega, Montrose Mining Company, and 3 sites slated to be part of a project he’s developing on Fairview Ave. — one of which was home to Armstrong’s nightclub Meteor. In addition to his projects in Montrose, Sharifi also owns Hungry’s Cafe in Rice Village.
Armstrong still appears to own a vacant, 6,648-sq.-ft. property that wraps around the east side of Montrose Mining Company:
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Old Gay Bars of Avondale
MOSAIC SOUTH TOWER ONLY NOW GOING BY HANOVER HERMANN PARK The 29-story, 394-unit glass apartment building at 5927 Almeda Rd. known as the Mosaic South Tower, and before that the Montage, and before that the south tower of the Mosaic, shall henceforth (or until it sells again, probably) be known as the Hanover Hermann Park. (It’s pictured at right in the above photo.) Last week PGIM, the real estate division of Prudential Financial, bought the building, which fronts Hermann Park and backs up to 288 — along with the retail portion of the building’s gone-condo identical twin immediately to the north, still known not-at-all-confusingly as the Mosaic on Hermann Park. The seller was Winthrop Realty Liquidating Trust, which (in case it’s not obvious from that company’s name) is in the process of selling off every property it owns. In case the name change wouldn’t be enough of a clue, a note sent last week to residents by the seller indicates that the building will now be managed by the Hanover Company. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: elnina, via Swamplot Flickr pool
HOW A CANADIAN PENSION FUND FOUND ITS WAY TO SWALLOWING A BUNCH OF HOUSTON OFFICE BUILDINGS Ralph Bivins explains how it came to pass that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, with its now-completed purchase of REIT Parkway, became the owner of 8.7 million sq. ft. of office space in Houston, including Greenway Plaza, CityWest Place, San Felipe Plaza, the Phoenix Tower, and Post Oak Central: “At one time Cousins and Parkway were separate companies with sizable holdings in Houston. The Houston office market tanked when oil fell from a high of $107 a barrel in June 2014 to less than $30 a barrel in early 2016. Houston energy firms laid off thousands of employees and vacated huge chunks of office space. Publicly traded firms with significant portfolios of Houston office space were under pressure. Security analysts criticized them. So Cousins and Parkway merged, all of the Houston properties were stripped out and placed into a new company, Parkway Inc. Now, the oil markets have stabilized. Houston’s office market is still soft and vacancies are high, but it appears to be on the road to recovery.” [Realty News Report] Photo of Greenway Plaza: Brent Oldbury, via Swamplot Flickr pool
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
THE PIERCE ELEVATED’S GREAT UNCROSSING What’s going to replace the giant crosses on the east and west sides of the St. Joseph Professional Building towering over the Pierce Elevated once its new owner takes them down and redoes the exterior? “I want something that’s going to be iconic to Houston,” Boxer Property CEO Andrew Segal tells Katherine Feser. The company has commissioned artists to develop ideas for the 18-story building’s new cross-free exterior look, Segal says: “It may be something that changes at night. It could involve a projector.” Also in the plans for the 135,586-sq.-ft. building at 2000 Crawford St., which dates from 1965: new shared lounges, workspaces, and conference facilities, changes to its ground-floor retail spaces, and a new name TBD. The steel crosses were added to the building in 2009. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Russell Hancock, via Swamplot Flickr pool
WHEN GOOGLE MAPS REVEALS YOUR HOME’S SOGGY SHAME “Google Maps has outed us as a city that floods,” laments meteorologist Brooks Garner, giving voice to would-be sellers of flooded homes worried that recent soggy aerial views will remain in the mapping system for years: “It should be said that legally, home owners must disclose if their home has ever flooded (or even if their property has flooded, while their actual house stayed dry). While that’s defeating enough to have to do, words are less influencing to a buyer’s decision than seeing an actual image of the inundated neighborhood. It arguably gives the impression that the water is still that high. . . . KHOU 11 has featured Realtors on our News at 4pm who’ve speculated that once people ‘forget’ about the floods, depressed home values in submerged areas will return to their pre-Harvey prices. (At least one realtor with that opinion was a victim of flooding himself, so I wonder if that fact influenced his statement.) . . . Here are several other ‘unfair’ things: Neighborhoods which experienced short-term flooding, but saw it subside after a day or two, were largely missed by the Google satellite update. They look high and dry. The only ‘tell’ in some is the trash which is piled high along the sidewalks. Drywall, couches, mattresses and furniture making up these walls of debris. It’s so extensive in places like Meyerland you can see [it] from space. In other areas like Hall Rd. off Beamer in southeast Houston, the satellite-update at time of this blog’s publishing apparently ‘missed’ the neighborhood and as a result, things look totally normal despite the huge mounds of refuse still present today.” [KHOU] Screenshot of Cinco Ranch on Google Maps: KHOU
COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: TRUST, BUT VERIFY “My home didn’t flood, though a few blocks away, others did. I wonder if we could get a ‘Certificate of Nonflooding’ or some such official thing. I always laugh when I see a home listing with the words ‘Never flooded, per owner.’ Yeah, right!” [Gisgo, commenting on Metro Back in Service; Public Health Threats; A 12-Step Program for Houston’s Flooding Problem] Illustration: Lulu
POPEYES, BURGER KING KING TAKING A BIG BITE OF LA MADELEINE, SWALLOWING CYCLONE ANAYA’S Sugar Land’s Dhanani Group, owner of 501 Burger Kings and 240 Popeyes as well as 130 Houston-area convenience stores — and ranked as the country’s third-largest restaurant franchisee — has just added all 16 Houston-area La Madeleines to its holdings (plus 10 more in Austin and Louisiana), as well as the entire Cyclone Anaya’s Mexican Kitchen chain. The La Madeleine purchase, which includes the right to open an additional 57 locations of the French bakery-café chain, was completed by Sugar Land-based HZ LM Casual Foods, whose owner, Amin Dhanani, is a Dhanani Group general partner. Another Dhanani Group entity, Heritage Restaurant Group, is buying all 6 Houston-area locations of Cyclone Anaya’s from Ricardo Valencia, the youngest son of wrestling champ Cyclone Anaya, and says it has plans to open additional locations. It was Dhanani Group’s Houston Foods unit — the owner of its local Burger King franchises — that was cited by city officials in 2014 for excessive oak-hacking, after street trees surrounding several of the company’s restaurants were found cut back to tall-stump status. [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Photo of original Cyclone Anaya’s at 1710 Durham Dr.: Accent Graphics
The broker representing the new and prospective owners of the shuttered Macy’s and Dillard’s buildings at Greenspoint Mall gives just a hint of the rancor between the groups who now appear to be negotiating the mall’s future: Maddox Properties’ Jim Maddox tells Bisnow’s Kyle Hagerty that any supposed redevelopment plans hinted at by the investment group led by Chinese developer Feng Gao that now has the mall itself under contract are “full of sh*t.” [Hagerty’s punctuation.] Maddox says he hung up the phone on area Chamber of Commerce prez and mall redevelopment partner Reggie Gray after Gray complained to him that plans in place by the owners of the retired department store buildings would ruin redevelopment plans for the area.
About those plans: Spring Real Estate Investment’s Zulfiqar Karedia, Hagerty reports, is seeking to develop a truck stop on a 4-acre portion of its newly purchased Macy’s property fronting I-45. Maddox says a restaurant distribution business is slated to take over the Dillard’s property in the mall’s southwest corner — after a sale he brokered last week closes in September.
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Full of It
THE END OF THE GREENSPOINT MALL IS UPON US Greenspoint Mall may close its doors for good in as little as 60 days, a source tells Click2Houston reporter Sophia Beausoleil — after news broke late Friday that the hobbled 42-year-old shopping center at I-45 North and Beltway 8 is under contract for purchase by an investment group headed by Chinese investor Gao Feng. Global Plaza Union says it is still considering several different redevelopment concepts for its newly acquired property. Not included in the purchase, but expected to be added to it for any transformation to take place: the 3 independently owned anchor store sites within the property. The Sears store at the southeast corner of the property closed 7 years ago; the Macy’s, in the northwest corner, shut down earlier this year; the Dillard’s in the southwest corner, closest to the freeway interchange, is one of only 2 anchors still operating in the mall. (The other is a Palais Royal.) [Click2Houston; Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: Colliers International
COMMENTS OF THE DAY: WHEN HOUSTON JEWELRY WRAPPED A SHINY BAND AROUND A COUPLE OF DOWNTOWN BUILDINGS AT 720 RUSK “We bought this building from Star Furniture in 1966 and operated in it until 1983 when we were offered a very generous price at the top of the market. After we left the building stayed empty until the Subway opened. . . . This is how the building looked when it was remodeled by architect Arnold Hendler in 1966.” [Rex Solomon, commenting on Downtown Houston Is Now Down To A Single Street-Level Subway] Photo: Houston Jewelry
Houston doesn’t show up anywhere in Attom Data Solutions latest rankings of the nation’s home-flipping hotspots, but zoom into the heatmap accompanying the company’s first-quarter report and you’ll find some interesting neighborhoods highlighted. Attom defines a home flip as a single-family home or condo that sells twice within a 12-month period in arms-length transactions (as recorded in public sales deeds). From January through March of this year, it counted 14 flippy transactions in the 77088 Zip Code — which is bounded roughly by I-45, W. Little York, the Tomball Pkwy., and Houston-Rosslyn Rd. and includes Acres Homes — accounting for 18.7 percent of sales in the area — the highest percentage in Houston. Next-strongest home-flipping hotspots: 77096 (Meyerland and Westbury), with 10 flips accounting for 13.7 percent of sales; 77089 (Southbelt and part of Pearland) also with 10 flips totaling 12.2 percent; 77373 in Spring with 22 flips (but only reaching 11.6 percent); and 77018, (Garden Oaks and Oak Forest), which saw 11 flips, or 9.4 percent of that area’s transactions.
Acres Homes for Sale, Twice
LAND PURCHASES BEGINNING ALONG PROPOSED HOUSTON-TO-DALLAS BULLET TRAIN ROUTE Texas Central Railway’s CEO tells Realty News Report’s Ralph Bivins that owners of some properties in the projected path of the planned Houston-to-Dallas 200mph rail line have already agreed to sell their land to the company, which is hoping to get started on construction of the 90-minute route next year. Tim B. Keith says he’s “encouraged with the progress” of what he refers to as the project’s “voluntary land purchase program.” He notes that “Texas’ Constitution and state statutes have long granted eminent domain authority to railroads such as Texas Central, as well as pipeline companies, electric power companies and other industries,” but calls eminent domain “a last resort.” The line’s Houston station is now planned for “the area along the 610 Loop between 290 and I-10″ after a Federal Railroad Administration review rejected the idea of a Downtown stop because of projected high costs and environmental impacts. [Realty News Report; Houston Public Media; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Tokaido Shinkansen Tokyo-Osaka line: Texas Central Railway