09/04/17 9:30am

If you or someone you’re helping has been accepted into FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance program — meant to clear out shelters by providing people who can’t return to their homes a hotel or motel room for a limited period of time — you may want to use the map shown here. It marks the locations of every eligible hotel or motel in the Houston area approved by the program. Using the map should make it easier to find an acceptable one nearby. To view the map in its own browser window, click here.

This map is yet another whipped-up-by-volunteers-in-a-jiffy product of Sketch City — this one created by the civic hacking group’s founder, Jeff Reichman. Sketch City volunteer and college sophomore Nile Dixon (who earlier created a similar tool to help people find nearby shelters) has created a simplified text-it-to-me version of it as well: Just text your ZIP Code to 832-981-4926 and a bot will send back contact info for the nearest verified accommodations in the program.

You can find out more about U.S. government Harvey assistance, including the TSA program, from the FEMA Harvey website.

Map: Sketch City

Harvey Maps
08/11/17 11:15am

The new Holiday Inn Express about to begin construction at 3401 N. Main St. in the Near Northside will have some consistently quiet neighbors and some occasionally very loud ones — with the steady drone of the adjacent North Fwy. available to somehow bridge the gap. The 1.44-acre site, where the Casa Grande Mexican Restaurant stood until it was torn down 2 years ago (and Stuarts Drive-In before it), sits across N. Main St. from the Hollywood Cemetery (yes, the same cemetery featured in Wes Anderson movie Rushmore). And it’s just a bit more than a quarter-mile up N. Main from the White Oak Music Hall complex, whose outdoor concert habit spurred nearby residents kept up late at night by the noise to file suit against the venue — and later, the city of Houston — for failing to follow (and enforce) local sound ordinances.

Late last month, crews removed the concrete paving left behind after the Casa Grande demolition (see photos above). Just this week, a city permit was granted for a 58,929-sq.-ft., 95-room Holiday Inn Express on the site — up 10 rooms from the 85 promised a couple of years ago, when the developers submitted these drawings as part of an application for a variance that would allow them not to have to extend or widen Norma St., on the north end of the lot:

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Near Near Northside
07/28/17 2:45pm

Workers who began removing windows earlier this month from rooms in the long-vacant 30-story abandoned hotel tower at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. haunting the southern reaches of Downtown have reached a critical height. Photos sent to Swamplot show that the systematic effort to yank off the fenestration of every room of the former Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel (it also spent time as a Days Inn, a Holiday Inn, and a Vedic school) have now reached the 13th floor above the structure’s parking garage. This now affords viewers above a certain height — from a neighboring office building, say, or driving along the Pierce Elevated — actual views through the building.

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Acts as an Air Filter, Too
07/10/17 3:30pm

There appears to be some uh . . . work being done to a few of the (long-time-since-they’ve-been-rented) rooms at the former Downtown Days Inn building at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy., also known as Houston’s last remaining (for now) abandoned skyscraper. Look at the lowest level of windows above the parking garage in the top photo. See how the windows appear to be busted out —in a way that’s maybe somewhat different from how many of the other windows are busted out? A somewhat systematic regime of glass removal appears to be working its way up the building’s southern façade, according to a quick comparison of the shot at top, taken today, and this one, from a slightly different angle, taken almost exactly a month earlier:

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Windows Ate
07/07/17 4:00pm

The highrise hotel with apartments River Oaks District developer OliverMcMillan has been promising for a couple years as a tower feature of a promised second phase of the mixed-use development will be an Equinox, according to documents submitted to the city planning department. There’s already an Equinox fitness club in the River Oaks District, fronting Westheimer; the new Equinox hotel will be on the west side of Westcreek Ln., on the rear parking lot portion of the 3.4-acre Sullivan’s Steakhouse–Le Peep shopping center along Westheimer closer to the West Loop that OliverMcMillan leased almost 2 years ago.

The hotel portion of the site is 1.91 acres and set back from Westheimer. Equinox is seeking a variance from the city to allow the hotel to take access from Westcreek Ln., which further to the north also serves as an entry road for the SkyHouse River Oaks and the Wilshire condo towers.

The variance application doesn’t mention how tall the building will be, but renderings of the imagined hotel dating from 2015 (below) show a structure of approximately 25 stories, with a lower parking garage immediately to the west. A shorter building is shown on the 1.5-acre southern portion of the site facing Westheimer:

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Phase Two
06/23/17 12:15pm

Reader Bayan Raji sends these pics of the new Hotel ZaZa as it nears completion deep in the superblock just east of Bunker Hill Rd. and south of I-10 in Memorial City. The design by Kirksey Architecture is somewhat reminiscent of the shape of the Hotel ZaZa in the Museum District, except instead of looking out onto the grand traffic circle around the Mecom Fountain and Hermann Park beyond, the double wings of this one will look out past a surface parking lot (shown in the foreground above) to the 20-lane-wide (including the feeders) Katy Fwy. To the west and south, the hotel is flanked by shorter parking garages; directly to its east (behind the construction fence pictured here) will be a green space reserved for live music and festivals.

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Rooms in Memorial City
06/20/17 2:00pm

Here’s a shot from a recent hard-hat tour of the Hotel Alessandra, under construction on a corner of the GreenStreet don’t-call-it-a-mall Downtown. The view hints at what a poolside scene might look like when the hotel opens in October, though not exactly: Marlowe, the 20-story Randall Davis Company condo seen rising in the left background (in front of the Hilton Americas), should look a bit less stubbly stubby by then.

Next, a few pics from the Alessandra lobby, highlighting the swervy ceiling:

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And Other Sneak Peeks
04/24/17 4:00pm

Proposed Blossom Hotel on Lehall St. at Bertner Ave., Cecil Street Courts, Houston, 77030

1128 Lehall St., Cecil Street Courts, Houston,  77030The little house on the corner with Lehall St. is no longer standing in the would-be shadow of that hotel planned on the 7100 block of Bertner Ave. (seeing as it’s no longer standing at all). Developers with Zhejiang Blossom Tourism Group Houston had originally sketched up a 9-story hotel with a footprint dipping around the holdout corner lot. Adolfo Pesquera notes over at VBX that the latest plans now show a 16-story structure, and an expanded footprint of the site was okayed for commercial use by the planning commission after the property sold.

Here’s a glance back at what the hotel looked like in its earlier iteration, minus a few floors and motarboards:

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Sprouting South of Brays Bayou
09/23/16 5:30pm

Ivy Lofts Retail Listing Images, September 2016

Actually, the rendering above is not the newest look for the Ivy Lofts, PR head Jared Anthony tells Swamplot this afternoon. Anthony says that the 3-week-old images posted in Wednesday’s since-pulled listing for ground floor retail space in the development had been planned for release that same day during a meeting with folks who have reserved units in the project — but some totally different designs came in from the new architect on Tuesday. Anthony says the newest plans will be shown off in mid-October when the sales center relaunches (complete with another scale model of the planned building), and that groundbreaking is now planned for January, with no change to the estimated completion date.

Images: Powers Brown Architecture

East Downtown Loft Swapping
09/22/16 5:15pm

Ivy Lofts Retail Listing Images, September 2016

Update, 9/23: Ivy Lofts PR director Jared Anthony tells Swamplot that another even newer design is in the works following an architect switchup — more info here.

Ivy Lofts Rendering, Leeland at Live Oak, East Downtown, HoustonIs this the new look planned for the Ivy Lofts? A fresh LoopNet listing is now using the top rendering (and another view from the back) to advertise retail space on the yet-unbroken ground at 2604 Leeland St. The images show a building with roughly the same J-shaped double tower proportions seen in the original Ivy Lofts renderings, but with a smoother, gently curved facade and some vertical green striping.

Novel Creative Development VP Wen Pin Tsai did tell Paul Takahashi back in July that there were major condo-hotel-hybridization-related changes being hashed out for the planned highrise after the initial buy-up went more slowly than planned: the 550 units got attention from only 68 buyers — most of whom were actually investors looking to lease out the condos to that same coveted young professional set that wasn’t signing up to purchase them.

Most of the renderings and details up on the Ivy Lofts’ marketing webpage were taken down some time in the wake of the missed June groundbreaking date, and not many new ones been posted yet — but a new floor plan is included with the retail leasing info, showing distinct condo and hotel lobbies: 

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New Angles in East Downtown
08/12/16 12:45pm

VACANT DOWNTOWN DAYS INN TO GET A TOTAL FACELIFT, BECOME WHATEVER HOTEL IT’S BECOMING 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy., Downtown, Houston, 77002SFK Development’s Nadeem Nasir tells Craig Hlavaty that the owners of the long-vacant hotel highrise at 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy. are, in fact, currently “in the process of rehabbing the building,” though they’re still “waiting to get on the same page as a hotel franchise.” Hlavaty writes this morning that the group won’t answer questions about which hotel franchise that might be, but that the structure will be getting a full strip-down and facial reconstruction as part of the process (in the face of a minimum $25-million cost to tear the structure down and build new). Swamplot’s reader on the scene sends fresh word from a worker earlier this week that the site may become a Sheraton — a story which matches up with a few previous rumors — but no official nods or confirmation have come from either the owners or the hotel chain. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy.: Garrett Robles

08/10/16 1:30pm

801 Saint Joseph Pkwy., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Is this time the charm for the long-vacant all-but-freeway-side former hotel at 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy., on at least its 3rd round of intended redevelopers since it was vacated in 1998? The building began its career in the early 1970s as a Holiday Inn, later becoming a Days Inn before being turned into Heaven on Earth hotel by a group founded by embraced-then-renounced Beatles spiritual advisor Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. That group eventually shut down their increasingly dilapidated hotel and turned the place into a Vedic school before code violations forced the structure’s not-just-for-summer vacation; the spot has been courted by fickle would-be-remodelers on and off ever since.

But some work permits have been issued this year to the most recent owner, SFK Development, which bought the site in late 2012 per county records, and Catie Dixon reported last fall that the building will be turned into a Sheraton (an assertion backed up by some more recent tidbits from the structural scrutinizers over at HAIF). Meanwhile, reader Garrett Robles reports that the site is now the most active he’s seen it in 5 years of wandering around the area. Robles sends this set of recent photos peering at, around, and into the ground floor of the structure:

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Rebuilding Heaven on Earth
02/04/16 11:30am

Proposed Apartment Tower at 6750 Main St., Medical Center Area, Houston, 77005

Greystar plans to squeeze a 375-unit apartment highrise on the same 1.35 acre lot at 6750 S. Main St. as an in-the-works hotel from Medistar. That Medistar project, which was originally planned as a 220-unit hotel-slash-apartment building on the same spot, will now be a 357-room just-hotel, and will share a lobby with Greystar’s apartment tower on the southern half of the block between Travis St. and S. Main at Old Main St. (across the street from the Texas Women’s University building.)

The two towers (rendered above styled as 1850, seemingly in reference to the Old Main address) will slip in between a Best Western and a Wyndham Hotel, and would total in the neighborhood of 800,000 sq.ft. of floorspace, Greystar’s David Reid tells the HBJ’s Cara Smith.  The apartment unit floorplans range significantly in size— the largest 2 suites measure in around 3,800 sq.ft., and the smallest bottom out at an Ivy-Lofts-esque 349 sq.ft.

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Old Main St. at Main St.
12/08/15 11:30am

Melrose Building, 1121 Walker St., Houston, 77002

After more than 2 decades of abandonment, the Melrose Building at 1121 Walker is getting some TLC: a total makeover as part of conversion of the building to a Le Meridien hotel. Permits were issued the week of Thanksgiving to begin a complete overhaul of the interior; the exterior will receive an update as well.

The remodel will attempt to restore the youthful good looks of Houston’s oldest Modern skyscraper — as shown in the rendering below, the renovation will bring back the building’s original color scheme:

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Going Retro
07/09/15 2:15pm

Fire at Courtyard By Marriott Hotel, 18010 Park Row Dr., Ten Oaks, Park Row, Energy Corridor, Houston

12 hours after the Courtyard by Marriott under construction at the corner of Park Row and Barker Cypress burst into flames, fire crews are still dumping water on the building, a reader reports. Here’s a post-conflagration view of the soaking going on at Texas Western Hospitality’s hotel project. The 135-room, 4-story hotel on a 5.2-acre site at 18010 Park Row Dr., next door to the West Campus of Texas Children’s Hospital, had been scheduled to open in October. No injuries have been reported.

Photo: Brian Walz

Courtyard by Marriott