10/28/08 1:38pm

MORE SHOPPING CENTERS LIE IN WAIT FOR THE GRAND PARKWAY Under previous owners it was going to go residential, but now all the site at the southeast corner of Kuykendahl and Spring Stuebner in Spring needs is an offramp:Steve Gregory, president of Hopkins Commercial, said the site is a long-term investment for a retail center that will be built, possibly in one to three years. The site is attractive to the company because a leg of the Grand Parkway that will start construction in late 2010 will go by the 56 acres. The site is just north of a big collection of retailers at FM 2920 and Kuykendahl, including Wal-Mart SuperCenter, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Kroger, Palais Royal and 24 Hour Fitness.” [Houston Business Journal]

09/09/08 12:25pm

Demolition on Bolsover St., Rice Village, October 2007

Having torn down an entire block of buildings in the Rice Village for a condo project the company can’t get financed, Randall Davis has a better idea: Why not demolish the buildings on the other side of Bolsover — so they can build the second phase instead?

The Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff reports that Davis and company have been unable to get a $100 million construction loan for the Sonoma mixed-use condo development he’s been marketing for a couple of years. Hey, that’s no problem! Just move on to the next project, and double down on the demo:

Now they’re negotiating for a $70 million loan with 40 percent equity to build the smaller second phase of 85 units.

“Hopefully they’ll respond positively since we have so many sales,” said Davis.

The sales, however, are for the first phase of the project, which has been 50 percent pre-sold.

And the second phase is on the south side of Bolsover, where Walgreen’s has a lease until January.

After the jump: marginal views of phase two!


09/09/08 9:03am

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Pf-c5jVm1g 400 330]

Pay no attention to that dying possum by the side of the road! Lou Minatti takes a bike ride through a neighborhood of new Royce and Centex homes in Katy and finds lots of building going on — and plenty of “sold” signs!!! But . . . is anybody actually living here? And uh, some of those signs look awfully familiar — from a ride through this same area back in May.

After the jump: some of the same scenes, 4 months ago!


09/08/08 11:23am

Mirabeau B. Sales Center, 2410 Waugh, Hyde Park, Montrose, Houston

The new sales center for the Mirabeau B. is looking pre-fab! Now at the northwest corner of Hyde Park and Waugh: two 20-ft. recycled shipping containers, outfitted with a solar array on a digitally fabricated rack. The website for Metalab, the architecture firm in charge of the project, claims the solar panels will generate 180 kilowatt hours per month. What’s that figure converted to condo sales?

Oh, but selling condos is apparently only this structure’s day job for now:

Solar panels on the roof can fold shut at night or during bad weather, said Andrew Vrana from Metalab.

“We would like to further develop this as a solution,” he said. “People could have one of these made and put in their backyard and supplement their energy with solar power.”

Below: more pics!


09/05/08 11:41am

Section of Proposal for Center St. between Sawyer and Sabine by Taizo Horikawa

Landscape students attack the Washington Ave. Corridor! A modest proposal for widening Washington and Center St. between Sawyer and Sabine — from LSU student and SWA summer intern Taizo Horikawa:

During Week 3 I focused on the area along Washington Avenue between Sawyer Street and Sabine Street, pushing the idea of Colors of Ribbons forward. The underused area between Washington Avenue and Center Street is developed as a human-scale, vibrant commercial area with two-story commercial buildings. The north-side sidewalk of Washington Avenue is widened to be 30 feet with a row of shade trees. It works as linear plaza where people spill out from the commercial buildings and lounge around.

After the jump: one-way streets!


09/05/08 10:00am

Rendering of Mirabeau B. Condos, 2410 Waugh Dr., Hyde Park, Montrose, Houston

How could anyone hope to top the opening line of River Oaks Examiner reporter Kirsten Salyer’s story about the Mirabeau B. condos?

Pigs flew over Hyde Park as residents and developers came together to promote Houston’s first green condominium.

This full-priced condo building is slated for the former site of Half Price Books, at the corner of Hyde Park and Waugh in Montrose. The 4-story development will have 14 units, priced mostly from $400,000 to $600,000 — though one penthouse unit will go for a cool million.

If they can sell 6, developer Joey Romano tells Salyer, they’ll actually build it!

And here’s some of the promised greenishness: The Mirabeau B. will leave 5 large oak trees and a large open space on the site. There’ll be a green roof, a solar array to shade one of the walkways, and cisterns to capture runoff. Harvest Moon Development says it’ll use low-flow plumbing fixtures, low-E glass, and low-VOC paints. A single central heating-and-cooling system to save energy. Attention to natural light in each unit. An in-condo recycling area. And actual native plants!

Plus a few more things that go with the hoped-for LEED-Silver rating: 10 percent of all building materials will contain recycled content, and 20 percent will come from within 500 miles. Half of all construction waste will be recycled.

What’s the punchline? How about . . . the architecture firm is from Austin?

More images of the Mirabeau B. below!


08/06/08 2:46pm

Bridge over Railroad Tracks, First Ward North of Edwards St., Houston

It seems son-of-a-son-of-a-guv Paul Hobby wasn’t quite clear at first what to do with a huge industrial site he bought in the First Ward:

Over the years, Hobby says, there was interest in turning it into an indoor soccer facility. There was also talk of growing lettuce inside the large warehouse. But a year ago, Hobby came up with the idea to create a data center in the space.

But that’s just the start of it. The site is the former Budweiser distribution plant Silver Eagle Distributors left behind when it built its new bunker further west on Washington Ave. Hobby bought the First Ward facility quietly from Silver Eagle in 2004 and leased it back to the company for a while before it left. The site stretches along Edwards St. from Sawyer to Silver, a few blocks north of Washington.

Indoor farm . . . server farm . . . why not? The possibilities are endless! But then, there’s always . . . townhomes!

A row of eight to 10 townhomes are slated to be built along Edwards Street. And an undetermined number of units are being considered for the eastern-most part of the property.

Of course! But it gets better . . .


07/22/08 2:41pm

WHY WE NEED THE GRAND PARKWAY BETWEEN 290 AND I-10 “If the commissioners approve it, it’s because they want new subdivisions built in the open space of the Katy Prairie. We’re building a highway for people who don’t live here yet in hopes that developers will build houses for them and that they will want to live on a toll road 30 miles from Downtown in a world of $4 gas.” [Intermodality]

07/18/08 3:34pm

AND JUST IMAGINE HOW WELL THEY’D DO IF THERE WERE JOBS OR SHOPPING NEARBY! Discovery at Spring Trails, Land Tejas’s gated and solar-panel-badged community north of Spring, is selling well, says Lisa Gray: “. . . only a few weeks after Discovery put itself on the market, and without even a finished house that would-be buyers can tour, most of the lots ready for building have been optioned, and the developer is scrambling to make more available fast. In fact, Discovery is off to the fastest start of any development in the company’s 11-year history, and Land Tejas expects demand to pick up even more this fall. Already, propelled mostly by Google searches, 200 to 300 people a week are touring the neighborhood’s ‘Discovery Center.'” [Houston Chronicle]

07/17/08 6:56pm

Rendering of Lakeview Business Park, 14502 Fondren Rd., Missouri City, Texas

The Willowisp Country Club is being transformed — from not-loved-enough golf course . . . to tilt-wall paradise! First, the clubhouse was clubbed. Then somebody probably had to go around and remove all those holes. Now the first three buildings of Trammell Crow’s new 168-acre Lakeview Business Park are under construction, reports Amy Wolff Sorter in Globe St. They’ll be complete next year, and total 240,000 sq. ft.

Whether the remainder of the park goes spec, build to suit or a combination of both depends on the market. “We’re offering the buildings for sale or for lease, which is a little different from our typical program,” says James Casey, TCC’s managing director in Houston. TCC’s more traditional MO is to keep and lease what it builds.

“This method offers us greater flexibility since we have a lot of land for the business park,” Casey tells GlobeSt.com. “We’d like to get this park developed as quickly as we can and think offering these for sale will accelerate velocity of bringing users to the park.”

After the jump: a site plan, plus public-transit-friendly views of the first three buildings!


05/21/08 2:50pm

Rendering of Proposed River Oaks Shopping Center Building at Shepherd and West Gray, Houston

And here it is: Weingarten’s two-story replacement for the northwesternmost River Oaks Shopping Center building at West Gray and Shepherd the company tore down last year.

One goal of this design seems pretty clear: Build a wedge building that helps forge a split between the two tiny groups that might otherwise join together to raise a stink about Weingarten’s larger redevelopment plans for that shopping center, the River Oaks Theater across the street, and the Alabama Theater Shopping Center further south on Shepherd. Preservation-preferring sentimentalists, ready to grumble that this isn’t the curve you expected or the black-and-white Art Deco-ish look you wanted, say hello to your design-elite friends, who are already breathing a sigh of relief that the new building at least isn’t going to be fakey retro. No, it’s not the cleanest Modern thing they’ve seen, but they know it’s the closest they’re likely to get from Heights Venture Architects. Look, Ma! No cornice!

There’s no sense catering to that second group too much though, because Weingarten will need them to be somewhat dispirited so the rest of the strategy can work. No, this wasn’t the wedge we expected, but hey, it’ll do! And it’s sure to draw attention away from the parking garage. Now remind us why we wanted to save that theater again?

After the jump: Close-ups! Site plans! Come back, Jamba Juice — all is forgiven!


05/21/08 2:31pm

Landscape Plan for River Oaks Shopping Center

In case it hadn’t already become obvious from watching the construction, that uh . . . “stealth” four-level parking garage in back is the real game-changer for the River Oaks Shopping Center.

Clearly, what’s unfolding is a strategy even more ingenious than anyone could have imagined. With a new monster garage looming behind the next targeted would-be landmark, Weingarten will soon have people begging it to rip down more of the north side of the center and build something taller, just to screen those four stories of cars from West Gray. Meanwhile, focusing attention on the complaints of a few pesky neighbors in back is a classic outrage-bait move. Throw in a little hush money to make sure those protests aren’t too loud, but then make sure news of the offer gets leaked, so the decoy works. Send in the demo crews, redevelop, and repeat!

The site plan above comes from a Weingarten variance request that will go before the Planning Commission on Thursday. The city’s landscape ordinance apparently requires the new development to switch out some of those existing sickly-but-iconic palm trees for live oaks. Naturally, Weingarten wants to save the palms!

River Oaks Shopping Center landscape plan: Heights Venture Architects, via Houston Planning Commission

05/01/08 10:56am

Proposed Office Tower at 1600 West Loop South, Uptown, Houston

From Ziegler Cooper Architects’ website: Renderings of a 20-story office tower the firm designed back in the early 1990s.

As we reported in February, the Novati Group plans to build the 500,000-square-foot spec tower, along with an 8-level parking garage, at 1600 West Loop South — next to Post Oak Motor Cars, on land purchased from Landry’s. The only changes from the original design will be adjustments so the building can qualify for LEED Silver certification.

So what if the design is old? Worrying that your brand new building already looks dated is so . . . last decade!

After the jump: the marble in the lobby will be old, too!


03/31/08 11:52am

Alley Behind Townhomes Between Clay and W. Dallas, Houston

If you’re curious what the upper reaches of Montrose Blvd. look like from the viewpoint of an actual pedestrian, you’ll want to see blogger Charles Kuffner’s recent annotated photo walking tour of the area. Kuffner, who lived on Van Buren St. in the nineties, describes more recent developments on and around Montrose and Studemontfrom West Gray north to Washington:

I did this partly to document what it looks like now – if you used to live there but haven’t seen it in awhile, you’ll be amazed – and partly to point out what I think can be done to make the eventual finished product better. . . .

My thesis is simple. This is already an incredibly densely developed corridor, and it’s going to get more so as the new high rise is built [see Swamplot’s story here] and several parcels of now-empty land get sold and turned into something else. It’s already fairly pedestrian-friendly, but that needs to be improved. And for all the housing in that mile-long stretch of road, there’s not enough to do.

Kuffner’s guide is a Flickr photo set. You’ll get the most out of it if you view it as a slideshow with the captions turned on (on the link, click on Options in the lower right corner, then make sure Always Show Title and Description is checked).

After the jump: A few more photos from Kuffner’s tour, plus an ID on those new condos behind Pronto!


03/28/08 11:34am

Arturo’s Uptown Italiano Restaurant in Uptown Park, Houston

Interfin Companies president Giorgio Borlenghi, who developed Uptown Park and the Hotel Granduca, explains how it’s done:

. . . developers must not forget the principles we Houstonians like so much such as ease of access to the various components of the building and plentiful and readily available parking. As an example, when we planned Uptown Park, we decided to keep it exclusively retail to allow our patrons to park directly in front of the shops and restaurants without having to deal with multistory parking structures.

Keeping Uptown Park “exclusively retail,” of course, meant that his luxury hotel had to go across the street:

I created Hotel Granduca as a unique, elegant and extremely exclusive boutique hotel for the Uptown/Galleria area. I wanted it to be very different from all the other hotels: It had to feel very Italian, of course, and to have a true residential setting, so that it could be someone’s home away from home. What surprises me is that a number of people in Houston are still not understanding this very European concept and somehow think that Granduca is not a regular hotel, but some type of apartment building.

Photo of Arturo’s Uptown Italiano restaurant in Uptown Park: Flickr user heyjebbo