01/31/19 12:45pm

The first illustrations of what Rice University wants to do with the Midtown Sears building it bought 2 years ago and has since stripped down emerged yesterday, casting a glance across Fannin St. to show what the northeast corner of the building — to be renamed The Ion — could look like once it’s been reworked into a nexus for tech entrepreneurs and students of various academic institutions who want to be like them. Among the Art-Deco-era bells and whistles shown intact are the sets of vertical mosaic tilework that flank the building’s corner entrance; they’ve got some new shine going on courtesy of light fixtures that appear to be installed directly above and below them. Up above the original late 1930s structure, the 4 architecture firms at work on the building (Gensler, James Carpenter Design Associates, James Corner Field Operations, and SHoP Architects) propose adding a 2-story glass-curtain-walled topping that’d help funnel sunlight into a whole bunch of empty space they’re calling a “central light well.” It would run vertically through the building’s interior, from the roof down to the lobby.

Work and meeting areas would go along the perimeter of the abyss:

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Midtown Growth Spurt
01/29/19 11:00am

Note: A previous version of this story misstated the planned location of the new building as that currently occupied by Momentum Volkswagen. The building is planned across the street from Momentum Volkswagen, at the southeast corner of Richmond Ave and Revere St. formerly home to a different dealership, Momentum Audi.

Here are a few views of the new senior living apartment building that’s making an appearance in this week’s Houston city planning agenda, on the spot occupied by Momentum Audi at the southeast corner of Richmond Ave and Revere St. (That’s right across the street from the currently open Moment Volkswagen of Upper Kirby dealership at 2405 Richmond.) Architecture firm Munoz Albin’s design for the building appears to be a 7-story setup, with some new landscaping planted along the sidewalks that encircle the structure.

Here’s what the site looks like now:

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Upper Kirby Swap
01/25/19 10:30am

Narrowing in on the corner of Fannin St. and Cambridge St. which will soon go by the name The Commons at Hermann Park, landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh and his associates have sketched out a few potentially transformative ideas for the area, such as the rocket-ship-shaped children’s play structure depicted at top with a mock jetway linking it to the hill on the right. And above, a handful of other new outdoor features that seem to be a hit with the faceless crowd of park-goers shown engaging with them in various forms of recreation.

To find out what real people think about the proposals, part of the 20-year Hermann Park master plan, the Hermann Park Conservancy is asking folks to weigh in on them during a public meeting to be held in the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion at McGovern Centennial Gardens off Hermann Dr. on Thursday, February 7 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Speaking of pavilions, there’s one included in Van Valkenburgh’s plan, too, as a complement to the existing one off Fannin St.

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Fannin at Cambridge St.
01/22/19 2:30pm

Renderings that Houston developer Sluco Realty has released of the new double-decker retail building it’s planning on Shepherd show 2 sides to what it hopes will eventually fill the structure: to the north (above) your typical ground-floor restaurant setup, and to the south (top), something a little more potentially lifesaving. For privacy’s sake, the planned urgent care clinic forgoes the windows that open up the rest of building, dubbed Heights Forum. But the all-caps signage perched atop the awning shown at top should make clear what’s going on inside.

Additional therapeutic offerings like a dance studio and martial arts dojo appear to be planned upstairs. To get there, take the highlighter-green staircase at the front of the building or the side stairwell shown below behind the restaurant:

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Heights Forum
01/15/19 11:00am

MIDTOWN APARTMENT DEVELOPER COULD OUTDO ITSELF ON THE OTHER SIDE OF LA BRANCH ST. The developer with a 7-story apartment complex underway at 2111 Austin St. “is debating putting a 12- or 20-story high-rise on a second piece of land” across the street,” its president tells the HBJ’s Fauzeya Rahman. Winther Investments bought both the formerly vacant parcels in 2013 and broke ground on the first project last June. It’s going up catty-corner southwest of the St. Josephs Professional Building off the Pierce Elevated. [HBJ ($)]

01/11/19 2:45pm

Last night Houston’s planning and development department spelled out a proposal to run a new pair of protected bike lanes on Austin St. from Buffalo Bayou to HCC’s main campus in Midtown. South of the college, the officially-designated bike route would continue down to Hermann Park along La Branch and Crawford streets but without anything to buffer it from the rest of the road.

Throughout Downtown and the northern portion of Midtown ending at McGowen St., plans show the bike lanes separated from the street by 2-ft.:

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A Fairly Straightforward Route
01/08/19 5:00pm

Crescent Communities appears ready to deliver on the promise it made last summer to residents of The Georgian apartments at Westheimer and Willowick: that after tearing down their building, the replacement would include not just rental units, but some kind of “integrated retail” as well. The rendering at top shows just that: A 14,000-sq.-ft. collection of storefronts fronts both Westheimer and an off-street inlet wrapped by the planned 8-story building. In the second image, you can see the main entrance to the building and its 300 units off Willowick. Overhead signage on that facade bears the project’s name: Novel River Oaks.

Excavators starting demolishing The Georgian complex shortly before the new year, but still have some more left to pick apart. Over on HAIF, a handful of demolition photographers have been documenting the apartments’ final days since deconstruction began.

Renderings: Crescent Communities

Novel River Oaks
01/08/19 10:15am

Here’s a look at the new HQ that Houston nonprofit Avenue CDC wants to build at 3527 Irvington Blvd. just north of the road’s fork with Fulton St. and east of Moody Park. The rendering emerged yesterday following news that the United Arab Emirates was coughing up $6.5 million of the $10 million it pledged to give Houston after Harvey. After its donation gets disbursed to a handful of local recipients, Avenue CDC will come out with $2.6 millionreports the HBJ’s Olivia Pulsinelli — all of which it plans to put toward the 3-story, 30,500-sq.-ft. building. An additional $8.7 million for the structure will be collected from elsewhere.

According to a press release from the folks set to inhabit the new HQ, their idea is to “conveniently co-locate a variety of vital resources for residents” inside, such as a health clinic, early childhood education center, post-disaster housing counseling offices, and a realty office. The residents they’re talking about include homeowners in the CDC’s nearby Avenue Place development — a  neighborhood of 95 three- and four-bedroom homes — as well as Avenue Terrace, an adjacent 192-unit apartment project. Both communities went up on what used to be FedEx’s 20-acre truck depot off Irvington and Weiss St. over the course of the last few years.

Rendering: Avenue CDC

Near Northside
01/07/19 1:15pm

Documents put out by Houston’s planning commission reveal that Sweetgreen isn’t the only tenant signed up to take over Doc’s Motorwork’s empty structure at 1303 Westheimer; there’s also a Steel City Pops on the way to the back of the building. The site plan at top shows it grabbing about 900 sq.-ft along Graustark St., leaving the rest of the 4,400-sq.-ft. building reserved for the plant-based anchor tenant.

This is Sweetgreen’s first step into Texas, according to Eater’s Alaena Hostetter (or second, if you count the other not-yet-open location it has planned for Rice Village) and it wants to make Doc’s building look like this before setting foot in it:

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On Deck Along Westheimer
01/04/19 3:45pm

The rendering above looks east from the corner of Westheimer and Eastgrove St. to show the first few floors of a new 20-story condo tower that developer Randall Davis wants to build on the just-under-0.4-acre lot formerly home to the Krispen Home furniture store. Plans for the highrise made their first appearance before Houston’s city planning commission yesterday, where they were deferred until the group’s next meeting in 2 weeks, but not before residents and representatives of the site’s neighboring subdivisions got a few words in. Roughly a dozen speakers from Westgrove Court — the 2-dozen-home residential neighborhood that lies southwest of the would-be tower, along Westgrove and Eastgrove streets — were particularly loud in decrying it. They noted that Westgrove St.’s current narrowness already makes creates tight squeeze for passing traffic.

The same goes for Eastgrove St., where a site plan submitted by the developer shows curb cuts giving access to a driveway at what’d be the southwest corner of the building:

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3723 Westheimer
12/31/18 10:30am

The rendering at top of a new West-Loop-fronting hotel shows 2 different signs adoring its upper facade: one for Holiday Inn Express, the other for Staybridge Suites. Both brands will be housed under one roof in the planned 14-story building that’s due to crop up between Public Storage and the Stages Stores corporate office building north of Westheimer and east of the West Loop. On the second floor, you can see the pool deck that’s planned. No word yet on how that outdoor area or the building’s 319 rooms will be divvied up between the 2 brands, or if there will be any distinction at all.

InterContinental Hotels Group is the corporate overlord behind both Staybridge and Holiday Inn. Its logo makes a sly appearance on one of the flags in the rendering.

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2-in-1 Deals
12/18/18 1:30pm

Wondering where the developer of that new boutique hotel on the corner 20th and Ashland St. plans to fit all the required 37 parking spots (one for each room)? After all, the property — home to that 100-plus-year-old house until last week — where the hotel is planned measures just over half-an-acre.

A notice mailed out to nearby residents last week reveals where the extra parking space lies: across Ashland St. on the property currently occupied by the Heights Floral Shop. Although the store already neighbors 3 parking lots to the north, west, and catty-corner southeast, they’re all owned by the St. Joseph Medical Center on the other side of 20th St. And so in order to carve out space for its own auto accommodations, the hoteliers plans to replace the florist with 13 parking spots, accessible from Ashland and the alley behind the business.

They’d supplement 19 spots and a bike rack planned behind the hotel — to be called Maison Robert — and adjacent to a side motor court that lets in traffic from Ashland:

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Tales from W. 20th St.
12/18/18 10:30am

THE ALLEN’S LATEST MIXED-USE MAP NIXES THE PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE ACROSS ALLEN PKWY. Remember that pedestrian bridge that previous maps and renderings for The Allen showed crossing Allen Pkwy. in order to link the planned development to Buffalo Bayou Park? Well, it appears to be gone now: New marketing materials put out by Transwestern include no indication of it whatsoever. (Earlier versions of the map above had shown it plugging into the building labeled 1, a lowrise retail structure.) All 6 acres of the site — between Allen Parkway Village and the Federal Reserve building — remain vacant right now, except for a tiny portion near the southwest corner where a newly-poured concrete foundation has given rise to a yet-unidentified wood-framed structure over the past couple of days. [Transwestern (PDF) via HAIF; previously on Swamplot] Map: Transwestern

12/17/18 9:45am

BAYOU PARK APARTMENTS HAVE ABOUT A YEAR BEFORE THE HIGHRISING STARTS Nitya Capital, which closed on the ’70s-era Bayou Park Apartments at 4400 Memorial Dr., east of Shepherd, last month “plans to carve out a spot for a high-rise condo tower” as soon as a year from now, reports the Chronicle’s Katherine Feser. That shouldn’t be too hard, seeing as the new tower will take up “less than an acre,” says Nitya CEO Swapnil Agarwal, within the 15-acre environs of the 3-story complex that’s there now. Some of its existing 679 units should be receiving a few touch-ups under the new landlord: “new floors, granite counters, stainless steel appliances,” and “new lighting and fixtures,” reports Feser. And outside, she writes, plans call for “fresh landscaping, new signs and changes to the leasing center,” which neighbors a handful of retailers in the spot shown above where the complex lets out onto Memorial. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Apartments.com

12/12/18 2:45pm

Landing with a thud on the city planning commission’s dais this week: the rendering above depicting what Arizona-based beer and pizza chain Bottled Blonde wants to do to the former Weiner’s Dry Goods Store No. 12 at 4901 Washington Ave. Most of the building’s original architectural details — for instance, the signage and storefront entrance shown above at Durham Dr. —  are long-gone according to Tim Cisneros of Cisneros Design Studio, the firm responsible for the planned makeover.

And so the renovations Bottled Blonde has planned will look more forward than backward in order to reshape the structure from what it is now, a shuttered Cash America Pawn branch:

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4901 Washington