KNOCKING THE TREES AROUND PEGGY SHIFFICK PARK The duplex at 720 Bomar St. adjacent to East Montrose’s tiny Peggy Shiffick Park is back on the market, a week and a half after its prospective purchaser, developer Vinod Ramani of Urban Living, scaled back his plans to build 3 townhomes on the site (pictured at left) to just 2, and just a few days after backing out of the deal altogether. Some neighbors concerned the planned 3-1/2-story townhomes would clip a large portion of the branches and roots of the park’s signature oak tree had opposed 2 variance requests Ramani had submitted for the project. In the meantime, both Urban Living and neighborhood groups were alarmed to discover that city-contracted workers had severed the main roots of large trees on the property at the corner of Bomar and Crocker earlier this month while installing sewer-line connections. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Image: Urban Living
No, the Turnberry Tower luxury highrise planned for a prime Galleria spot next to the Water Wall Park never got off the ground, but office workers and shoppers nearby have been able to enjoy a good old-fashioned Houston-style sendoff for the project. The 5-year-old, 12,000-sq.-ft., multimillion-dollar sales center for the toilet-heavy tower at 5048 Hidalgo St. is being demolished. Hines, the new owners of the property, will have no use for the structure in the new 7-story One Waterwall apartment complex it’s building there and expects to complete in 2014:
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A MUSEUM DISTRICT RESTAURANT CONVERSION CUT SHORT How far along did Randy Rucker get turning the 3,624-sq.-ft. former doctors’ office directly behind the Asia Society Texas Center into a restaurant — before the plug was pulled? Restaurant conāt will not be opening at 5219 Caroline St., the lone holdout on the Museum District block demolished for architect Yoshio Taniguchi’s first freestanding new building in the U.S., which opened officially earlier this month. Rucker writes he’ll “continue to search for a location to help give life to restaurant conat & make it a reality”; he’d been working on the project with pastry chef Chris Leung. The partnership with building owner Balcor Commercial, announced last August, has been called off. [29-95; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia
DOWNTOWN BREWERY CAN’T GET THE TAPS FLOWING San Antonio’s Freetail Brewing Co. has announced an “indefinite suspension” of its plans to build a 3-story, 20,000-sq.-ft. brewery, store, and restaurant in an unidentified existing building near the corner of Main and Prairie St. The problem: plenty of hops, not enough yeast: “I began to run into an increasing level of resistance in capital markets,” brewery owner Scott Metzger politely explains in a press release. He tells beer blogger Ronnie Crocker he wasn’t willing to scale back the $4.2 million project, and will keep fiddling with the company’s San Antonio operation instead. [Beer, TX; previously on Swamplot]
Whatever happened to that Park 8 condo tower, hospital, and strip-mall development planned for Beltway 8 next to Arthur Storey Park, just south of Bellaire Blvd.? The Chronicle‘s Purva Patel surveys the wreckage of the self-styled “Land of Oz”: The highrise project has long been in bankruptcy, the contractor and lender are battling over ownership of the land in court, and 2 different groups of investors and condo buyers are suing developer David Wu for their investment losses (totaling more than $2 million), alleging he has or had no intention or ability to complete the project, and that he misled them about funding and leasing commitments. Neither Wu nor his attorney would respond to the reporter’s questions.
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A reader is wondering what mysterious forces have brought to a halt plans for the sushi restaurant at 7801 Westheimer on the corner of Stoneybrook, a block west of Hillcroft — the former site of the ABC Flower & Garden Center. Construction on The Fish and Knife Sushi Bar and Club (at least that’s what the sign calls it) began about 3 months ago, says our reader: “They were blowing and going 7 days a week. Then, about 6 weeks ago, all construction halted.” Nothing’s been going up since, save a healthy serving of weeds.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
Those trains from Spain that gave the feds cause to complain yesterday are gonna delay the completion of all three light-rail lines now under construction, Metro announced today. The transit agency backed off its earlier ETA for the North, Southeast, and East End lines, saying that meeting the previously announced October 2013 completion date is no longer feasible. The problem: getting at $900 million in grant money from the Federal Transit Administration, which Metro had been expecting to arrive soon. The FTA is now requiring a promise from the transit agency to rebid the railcar contract before it’ll continue considering the application for the bulk of those funds. Sez Metro: “A delay of up to one year is anticipated.”
Drawing of future Southeast Corridor light rail line on MLK near Madalyn Ln.: Metro
EVEN IF SHAYA BOYMELGREEN CAN MAKE IT THERE, HE WON’T BE BUILDING TOWERS HERE In his first interview with a reporter in 3 years, international developer-in-distress Shaya Boymelgreen tells the New York Observer he’s back in Manhattan, scouting for “new development opportunities,” and singing an old movie tune: “Unless I get an offer I can’t refuse, I would like to concentrate now in Manhattan. I believe this is now the opportunity and the time. If I cannot make it in Manhattan, I don’t know where else I can make it.” Translation: His long-threatened twin condo tower development planned for San Felipe at the end of Woodway in Houston is officially toast. [New York Observer; previously on Swamplot]
The ambitious mixed-use “eco urban” project shown here — intended for the site of the former AstroWorld — was the idea of a south Florida developer who had the property under contract for an extended period of time, a source tells Swamplot. Called Epicentre Houston, Vantage Plus Corp.’s gargantuan development was meant to be a “city within a city” — combining typical mixed-use elements (1.6 million sq. ft. of shops, 5.2 million sq. ft. of offices, 1500 hotel rooms, and 1840 residences) with 1.9 million sq. ft. of medical space, all within walking distance of Reliant Park, the light-rail line, and the South Loop Sam’s Club.
The developer was scheduled to close on the property approximately 5 months ago, but was unable to, says the source. The 104-acre lot just south of the South Loop has since been sold to Fort Worth developer Michael Mallick, who doesn’t appear to be hiding any fancy renderings of transparent banana-shaped multipurpose buildings up his sleeve.
Oh, but what might have been! More zoomy images of the theme-park redo:
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A CONDO OWNERS FAN SITE FOR SHAYA BOYMELGREEN Still waiting for the developer of the twin-tower condo development proposed for San Felipe near the end of Woodway to provide an update on the project? Some New Yorkers would like a word with him too. The residents of the Newswalk Condominium in Brooklyn have created a website called Shame on Shaya, documenting in Russian, Hebrew, and English the “extraordinary number of construction defects” in developer Shaya Boymelgreen’s first high-profile development, constructed in 2002: “The building is now undergoing a two-year, $7 million construction remediation project. Newswalk residents are currently in legal action against Boymelgreen with a suit seeking no less than $10 million in damages.” Spokesman Michael Rogers explains: “Many of us got to know Shaya in the early days of Newswalk, and found him friendly and likeable. He may not fully understand what the residents of Newswalk are suffering, and this campaign is a way to bring him up-to-date.” [Previously on Swamplot]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: STILL WAITING FOR PARK 8 TO ARRIVE IN THE LAND OF OZ “Do you have any update on this project? I’m very curious to find out more about the status and what the projected outcome will be for the many buyers of this condo that is 3 years behind schedule.” [Caroling, commenting on Park 8 Chinatown Condo Project: Parked?] Rendering: Marketing Park8
How cheaply did the Ponderosa Land Development Co. pick up the 1.3 acres of land under Otto’s Bar B Que on Memorial Dr.?
“I won’t be able to ride off into the sunset with what I’m getting,” Otto’s co-owner June Sofka tells Jennifer Dawson of the Houston Business Journal. And that’s our only clue. Well, that and the fact that the shopping-center developers still had enough money left over to buy the property next door.
A new 2-story building on the 1.8-acre site between Asbury and Reinicke, on the southern border of Rice Military, is being designed by Kirksey.
The portion with Memorial frontage that will also be torn down to make way for the new project is owned by two sisters, one of whom is Wanda Greb. Their property contains Bibas Greek Pizza, M-T Nails, Memorial Barber Shop, Rich Cleaners and the hamburger restaurant segment of Otto’s, which is leased by the Sofkas.
Ponderosa intends to scrape the entire site and develop a 22,000-square-foot center with retail, restaurant and possibly some boutique office space. The project is expected to cost $6 million to $8 million, not including the land cost.
But wait, maybe not all of those businesses are disappearing from that location!
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE RUTLAND ST. SCARECROWS “Those houses are still in various stages of uncompleteness. Woe looks to be the fate of anyone who tries to get anything done there. Bill Baldwin is now the latest to try and for his sake, I hope he succeeds. But those places have been eyesores for awhile now.
Personally, I think that places like the old Eighth Avenue Elementary site and 2200-2207 Rutland serve as scarecrows of a sort, scaring off townhome developers, much like the ones at 15th and Yale used to before a community garden went in there. . . .” [Martin Hajovsky, commenting on Heights Home Composting: The Amazing Disappearing Waterhill Townhomes; previously on Swamplot]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: INNER LOOP REUNION OF THE EX-PRESIDENTS’ HEADS “I wish someone would get all of the presidents back together! They are very sad now. A kind donor, say perhaps the magnanimous Landed Gent who always boasts of his splendor here on Swamplot, should cut a deal for the Wilshire Village property and foster the development of a Presidential Park.
I’m sure it’s like a buy 20 get one free sort of deal, so maybe we could get that nifty telephone too.” [Bobby Hadley, commenting on Pearland Heads Cut Off: The WaterLight District’s Giant Presidential Bust]
The property intended to be home to the Waterlights District — the proposed mixed-use shopping and eating extravaganzorama in Pearland — has been posted for foreclosure by its main creditor, Amegy Bank. The 1.9 million-sq.-ft. development was to feature condos, luxury apartments, office buildings, retail space, restaurants, 2 hotels, a conference facility, a “water wall,” and a Venice-like “Grand Canal.”
The site, off the Shadow Creek Pkwy. exit on the west side of Hwy. 288, has been marked for more than 2 years now by a curious semicircle of David Adickes sculptures, a preview of the development’s Presidential Park and Gardens. That park was to feature giant white busts of all 38 U.S. Presidents. But unlike Adickes other presidential suite, I-45’s Mount Rush Hour just north of Downtown Houston — in which each of the sculptor’s busts rests on its own podium — in the Waterlights grouping the 7 Presidents moved to the site appear from the freeway to be buried in the earth up to their chests, somehow managing to keep their heads above the often-times-soggy land around them. Yes, it was the perfect marker for a freeway-side development buried in debt and treading quicksand just to keep itself afloat:
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