11/14/17 11:45am

More new features are imagined for the center of Houston than just the new Green Loop highlighted in the just-released Plan Downtown proposal. There’s also a mysterious new Downtown island. Where did it come from?

It’s the result of digging the long-whispered North Canal Channel Bypass, a re-linking of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous north of Downtown. Existing bends and narrow banks along the 2 bayous just east of Main St. restrict the flow of stormwater during flooding events. According to reports, engineering studies have estimated that cutting a straighter diversion channel to bypass the oxbow could reduce flooding Downtown by 3.5 ft.

But digging a new canal while maintaining the existing path of the bayou would create an island out of the area just north of Commerce St. An imagined map of the area in Plan Downtown’s report (rotated so North is aimed down and to the right) shows what car and pedestrian bridges might link it to the mainland:

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Plan Downtown
11/13/17 4:00pm

Here’s what’s expected to park in the garage at Montalbano Tire and Auto Service after the business shuts down next week: a restaurant or 2, retailers, and office tenants. Kaldis Development Interests purchased the .81-acre property at 1302 Houston Ave in mid-October and plans to renovate it before reopening it as a 15,000-sq.-ft. retail-and-office center.

On the Houston Ave front (see top drawing), windows would be fitted into the building’s current garage bays, with a restaurant patio facing the street at the northern end. On the south side, the metal structure facing Dart St. would be punctured with new window bays as well as doors for individual storefronts.

According to the site plan for the proposed new development (below) 7 head-in parking spaces off of Houston Ave would remain after the redo:

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First Ward Redo
11/09/17 3:30pm

Is Houston ready for yet another loop road? Here’s the proposed Green Loop, a 5-mile network of parks, trails, and other public spaces that the neighborhood supergroups behind Plan Downtown imagine ringing in Houston’s bicentennial — if it’s completed by 2036. One of 10 separate proposals in the plan, the city’s littlest loop is meant to take advantage of TxDOT’s proposed rerouting of I-45 to the east side of Downtown — by wrapping the district tightly with a transportation and recreation circuit that could attract adjacent development and help link the city center to adjacent neighborhoods.

Plan Houston’s new report flags ideas and renderings for 3 spots along Downtown’s proposed Emerald Choker: At Buffalo Bayou, on top of I-69 and I-45 once they’re sunk behind the George R. Brown, and on Pierce St. at the Midtown border.

New buildings at the northwest corner of Downtown would face Buffalo Bayou as well as the surrounding streets, lining the waterfront with flood-worthy attractions:

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It’s a Wrap!
11/08/17 3:15pm

Coming soon to the complex of light-colored industrial buildings across 34th St. from the Pat H. Foley funeral home and its accompanying embalming services facility, the Hare Krishna Temple and Cultural Center, and the Foster Family YMCA between them just south of Oak Forest: a 17,831 sq.-ft. retail and restaurant center redo. Revive Development’s Stomping Grounds, which will also include 5,000 sq. ft. of upstairs office space, is to be carved out of 4 buildings on a 3-acre site formerly occupied by vehicle-repair and service companies and the Bank Shot pool hall.

Drawings from Cisneros Design Studio show the 2-story metal building at 1229 W. 34th St. (pictured above) formerly occupied by a succession of electrical companies cleaned up, reconfigured, and outfitted with cantilevered balconies and glass curtain walls. A new building modeled after it is shown to the east, with an 8,000 sq.-ft. lawn bordered by patios fitted between.

224 parking spaces will surround the center’s main buildings and garden. Here’s a plan of the entire site:

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Garden Oaks, Oak Forest, or Thereabouts
11/07/17 4:00pm

Interior demo work is mostly complete on a 75-year-old single-story brick warehouse lining Walker St. in East Downtown, ahead of its opening next spring as what its promoters are calling Houston’s premier soccer bar and restaurant. What might confer premier status on this venue, called Pitch 25  — beyond its location across the street from BBVA Compass Stadium? Perhaps the presence of an actual indoor soccer field inside, hosting league play.

Among the transformations planned for the 25,000-sq.-ft. structure in its coming rehab: knocking a large hole in the roof off the building’s Hutchins St.–facing west end — to let sunlight and rain into an outdoorish beer garden planned for the interior. Also, to provide sunlight for the interior trees:

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And a Hole in the Roof
10/31/17 11:30am

A DOUBLE-DECKER H-E-B FOR MEYERLAND PLAZA Ralph Bivins reports that grocery chain H-E-B is planning a new 100,000-sq.-ft. store on the western edge of Meyerland Plaza, near the mall-turned-big-box-collection’s JCPenney. The company announced earlier this month that it would not reopen its store at South Braeswood and Chimney Rock, which flooded after Hurricane Harvey. Stores at Meyerland Plaza, on Beechnut at 610, were damaged by flooding as well. The new structure H-E-B is planning there, Bivins says, would be 2 stories; if the configuration is similar to the company’s new Bellaire and Heights locations, that would mean the store itself would be built on the second floor, on top of a parking-only lower level. [Realty News Report; previously on Swamplot] Photo of parking lot in front of Meyerland Plaza JCPenney: Melanie H.

10/31/17 10:30am

MUD AND WATER AT THE PINE CREST GOLF COURSE Aerial, Pine Crest Golf Club Tomorrow City Council is scheduled to approve a new municipal utility district for a proposed development on the Pine Crest Golf Course at Gessner and Clay Rd. in Spring Branch that would include enough new homes to house 800 residents. MetroNational is selling the 116-acre site to Meritage Homes. “The district would be served by the City’s regional plant, West District Wastewater Treatment Plant,” reads the agenda item. “The nearest major drainage facility for Harris County Municipal Utility District No. 552 would be Buffalo Bayou, which flows into the Houston Ship Channel.” [City Council; previously on SwamplotPhoto of Pine Crest Golf Course: Meritage Homes

10/18/17 1:00pm

A sandwich update is in progress along Dairy Ashford directly opposite Fern Dr., across the street from Stratford High School and the Spring Branch ISD athletics complex. The Subway sandwich shop sandwiched between the shuttered locations of a printing company and a small used-car dealership has now been torn down after a brief Harvey reprieve. A reader sends in the above series of photos panning the combined and now-cleared 1.1-acre site at 851 Dairy Ashford, where a new 4,640–sq.-ft. Panera Bread building is scheduled to rise.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

Up from Subway
10/17/17 4:45pm

A couple of Houston architects have a proposal for the northern portion of the soon-to-be-shuttered Greenspoint Mall at the northeast intersection of Beltway 8 and I-45: Turning it into a driving range surrounded by 3 golf holes. Why such an abbreviated course? Well, there’s only so much land available. But Paul Kweton and Hidekazu Takahashi of Studio Paulbaut consider the paring down an attractive update to convention that could help to make the sport more accessible:

“It takes up to 5 hours to play a decent round of golf,” they write. Their Greenspoint green would offer a quicker golfing proposition: A round of golf in 60 minutes. 

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Greenspoint Greens
10/04/17 2:30pm

Update, 6 pm: At the request of Lovett Commercial, the company’s renderings of this project originally included in this story have been removed.

Hadn’t heard that Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture have been designing the massive redo planned for the 16-acre campus around Houston’s shuttered Barbara Jordan Post Office at 401 Franklin St. Downtown? Or that the project’s owner and developer, Lovett Commercial, is boasting that the 530,000-sq.-ft. redevelopment, on a site along Buffalo Bayou, will include the world’s largest urban rooftop farming operation, supplying a 40,000-sq.-ft. festival food market below? Maybe that’s because none of this has been officially announced yet.

There’s more to the plans being waved about: apartments, live-work studios, coworking and maker spaces, parks, events venues, a combined 100,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor markets and even a digital library honoring Barbara Jordan. More than just that library is being named after the former post office facility, however: As of last year, the entire venue has been dubbed Post Houston (or Post HTX for sorta-short.) Also, because it’s what comes next for the city — get it?

“Post Houston aims to be a world class creative campus for technology, the arts, culture, and dining,” announces a Lovett Commercial leasing brochure. Here’s a walkthrough of some of the ambitious project’s proposed main features, using images that appear to date from earlier this year:

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Post HTX
10/03/17 12:30pm

The sleepy 1.33-acre site at the eastern end of the Target parking lot on San Felipe just inside The Loop was rudely awakened from a long slumber last week with the action of some demolition equipment. A couple of structures that formerly housed Dream’s & Bros. Hand Car Wash and Lube, opened by former UTSA basketball player and brother-of-Hakeem Afis Olajuwon in 1998, had sat vacant on the lot at 4303 San Felipe St. since its closing in 2014.

Judging by the name given to the site in a replat document filed with the city in April of this year — “Bank of America River Oaks,” with the address taken down a couple notches to 4301 San Felipe — it’s likely a new bank branch will be going up in its place.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

Sitewashing
09/27/17 2:30pm

Here are a couple renderings from the Michael Hsu Office of Architecture in Austin of the new 3-story building the firm is designing for the corner spot at 2132 Bissonnet St. in Boulevard Oaks. A representative of the Platform Group, the building’s developer, tells Swamplot an “all-day cafe/coffee shop” is being planned for the ground floor, and that the upper 2 floors will contain “boutique office space.” The cafe won’t be a Gringo’s Tex-Mex, but the developers do have a connection to that restaurant chain: The Platform Group is headed by a son and daughter-in-law of Gringo’s owner Russell Ybarra.

In the top rendering, the 11,300-sq.-ft. building is shown lining Shepherd Dr., with an L-shaped parking lot wrapping around it. A patio with outdoor seating will go in front of the structure along Bissonnet St. The Houston office of SWA Group is designing the landscape.

Here are views of the current site from similar angles:

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Remaking Boulevard Oaks
08/24/17 1:00pm

The City of Houston website may still describe Jones Plaza as a “fully renovated” public square that forms the centerpiece of the city’s Theater District downtown, but Houston First appears ready to fully renovate it again. The quasi-public agency says it will select 5 teams from among any “experienced urban design firms, landscape architects or architects capable of creating an inspired, iconic, accessible and welcoming design” that apply before September 5 to create preliminary designs for a redo. Among the possibly familiar items listed for inclusion on the redesign menu: a water element, a “green oasis with seasonal plantings,” a performance space, an art installation, and a 4,000-sq.-ft. fast-casual restaurant.

Jones Plaza’s current design, which features similar items, dates from a 2001 rebuild led by Bricker+Cannady Architects; that renovation lowered and canted the previously raised plaza surface so that all steps could be removed from the Louisiana St. side facing Jones Hall:

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Do-Overs
08/17/17 2:00pm

Buckhead Investment Partners tells Swamplot that the work crew, excavator, and large drainage pipes spotted on location yesterday and today at the east end of the site of the residential building known as the Ashby Highrise at 1717 Bissonnet St. constitutes nothing more than “on-going site work.” Multiple permits to construct the proposed 21-story Boulevard Oaks tower have been issued over the past decade — the most recent ones a little less than a year ago. And construction crews have been active on the site before. But Buckhead reports to Swamplot that there is “nothing else meaningful to report at this time.”

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Just Digging It
08/14/17 4:30pm

With the newest location coming to the Pearland Pkwy. pad site shown at the center of the image above in the Centre at Pearland Parkway shopping center just behind the H-E-B fronting Broadway, the density of Chick-fil-A restaurants in an axis stretching from FM 518 in Pearland to I-45 in Webster is fast approaching Texas Medical Center–level concentration, and may soon exceed it. (There are 4 Chick-fil-As in the TMC area, 3 of them conveniently located inside hospitals — though no drive-thrus.)

Less than 2 miles to the west along Broadway from the pictured location (expected to open in January) is the Chick-fil-A at FM 518 and Dixie Farm Rd.; further to the east are the spots in the Baybrook Mall and along the Gulf Fwy. at El Dorado Blvd. Between them, and possibly on the horizon, looms the planned Chick Fil A location at the intersection of FM 518 and Leisure Ln. in Friendswood. The owners of that property withdrew a rezoning application that would have allowed restaurant uses on that site after residents complained before the Friendswood City Council in April that adding the Chick-fil-A would make the city too much like Pearland. But a new rezoning request for the same property is up for consideration with the council this week, and the owners tell the Chronicle‘s Dana Guthrie that Chick-fil-A is still very interested in building a restaurant there.

Site plan detail, Centre at Pearland Parkway: Stream Retail

FM 518, Chicken Alley