COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO MAKE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD’S NEW STRIP CENTER MORE PEDESTRIAN-FRIENDLY
“Just walk around to the other side and pretend that’s the front. Then the parking lot will be in the back! A walkable solution!” [Memebag, commenting on The Strip Center with Offices Above Planned for the Corner of Chimney Rock and San Felipe] Site plan of Shops at Tanglewood proposed for San Felipe St. at Chimney Rock Rd.: Edge Realty
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE THIRD WARD’S RIVERSIDE GENERAL HOSPITAL CAMPUS?
The 3-acre Riverside General Hospital campus is home to 3 buildings: Houston’s first hospital for black patients fronting Elgin (pictured above) and a former nurses’ quarters along Holman (both opened in 1926 as the Houston Negro Hospital), as well as a newer 1961 hospital building. The entire facility closed in 2015 after its former CEO Earnest Gibson III was convicted of Medicare fraud. Earlier this week, the Harris County Commissioners Court voted to buy all 3 buildings. If they don’t become a part of the new mental health facility the county plans to open on the site, what purpose might the 2 older buildings serve? The neighborhood may get a chance to review smaller-scale proposals for those historic structures: a job training center, small business incubation facility, maker space, cultural museum, library, youth hostel, swing dance club, chess club, or dominoes club. UH architecture professor Alan Bruton tells Houston Matters host Craig Cohen that the Emancipation Economic Development Council — a Third Ward nonprofit — invited him to collect residents’ ideas for the space. His students next fall will create designs for some of those concepts; the Council may use them to raise money and rally support for the proposals. [Houston Public Media; audio] Photo of former Houston Negro Hospital building at 3204 Ennis St.: Ed Uthman [license]
YOUR GUIDE TO THE HOUSTON TOYS R US STORES NOW GETTING READY TO CLOSE
As part of the bankruptcy filing it submitted this morning, Toys R Us announced plans to close or sell all of its 735 stores nationwide. Thirteen of those locations are in the Houston area: at the corner of Kirby and Old Spanish Trail, on Westheimer just east of Fountain View, in the Village Plaza at Bunker Hill shopping center on the Katy Fwy., in the Katy Mills mall, in the Houston Premium Outlets on 290 just east of the Grand Pkwy., on Beltway 8 just north of Fairmont Pkwy., in Pearland Town Center, in the Willowbrook Court shopping center next to the Willowbrook Mall, in Sugar Land’s Colony Square, in Baybrook Square on the Gulf Fwy., on the East Fwy. in Baytown across from the San Jacinto Mall, in Texas City’s Tanger Outlets on the Gulf Fwy., and in The Woodlands’ Pinecroft Center. Standalone Babies R Us locations are on the Katy Fwy. at N. Fry Rd., on Cypress Creek Pkwy. just west of I-45, on 59 northeast of First Colony Mall in Sugar Land, and on the Gulf Fwy. at El Dorado Blvd. in Friendswood. The OST and Westheimer Toys R Us boxes (both of which include in-store Babies R Us departments) measure 45,000 sq. ft. [USA Today] Photo of Toys R Us at 1212 Old Spanish Trail: Nhan N.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT’S STILL MISSING FROM THE TOP OF THE CENTRAL SQUARE PLAZA REDO “After all the beautiful exterior enhancements, does Claremont plan to update and restore functionality of the enormous electronic retro clock on top of the building? The building now looks so nice. I can’t believe the clock sitting on top has not been restored, paint peeling off and not turned on, especially when it completes the whole retro-mod feel of the entire project.” [Unsure About This, commenting on Midtown’s Redone Central Square Plaza Looking To Lure Tenants to Its Empty Ground Floor] Photo of former Central Square Plaza clock: meltedplastic [license]
SWAMPLOT’S HOTEL ALESSANDRA DOWNTOWN GETAWAY GIVEAWAY: WE HAVE A WINNER! Congratulations to Swamplot reader Jesus Torres, whose entry was chosen at random as the winner of the Downtown getaway giveaway Swamplot ran last week. He’ll be receiving a free overnight stay at the Hotel Alessandra — Downtown’s newest hotel — with valet parking, a spa-upgrade voucher, and discount certificates for Lucky Strike and III Forks in nearby GreenStreet included. Did you miss out on entering — or just want a rematch? Stick around — we’ll have another giveaway coming up soon!
THE TIPLINE IS STANDING BY Indoor rock climbing gym opening up in an old cement plant? To cover this city well, Swamplot needs your tips. So if you spot something interesting going on in your neighborhood, let us know! Taken some nice pics from around town? Send them to our Flickr group. If you’ve uploaded a video to YouTube you think we might be interested in, send us a link. While you’re at it, be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and sign up to be on Swamplot’s email list.
SWAMPLOT’S HOTEL ALESSANDRA DOWNTOWN GETAWAY GIVEAWAY ENDS TODAY Today’s your very last day to enter to win an overnight stay at Downtown Houston’s Hotel Alessandra (plus some accompanying perks) in Swamplot’s latest giveaway. Maybe you’ve already signed up. But do you really want to win the prize? Maybe you’ve seen how you can earn a few extra “entries” (really, additional chances to win) by following Swamplot on social media after you sign up. But did you know at least one entrant has now accumulated more than 200 extra entries (and counting)? How do you do that? Easily: Just spread word about the giveaway on social media or in emails to friends, either by using the links on the confirmation page (there’s a link to that page in your confirmation email), or by using your special link code listed there. For each person who sees your post and then signs up for the giveaway after clicking on it, you’ll be credited with 10 additional entries. Yeah, wowza. But hurry — signups end tonight at midnight!
SWAMPLOT IS GIVING AWAY A FREE DOWNTOWN HOUSTON GETAWAY AT THE HOTEL ALESSANDRA One day left: Swamplot is giving away a free overnight stay at Downtown’s newest hotel — the Hotel Alessandra — plus a few accompanying perks. It’s easy to enter! And if you’ve already signed up, you can greatly improve your chances of winning the prize: Just post about it on social media (or send emails to your friends) and you’ll get credited with extra entries when people sign up as a result. To learn more about this giveaway or to sign up for it, click here.
10-STORY CELL TOWER WANTS TO SPIKE UP ALONG FIFTH WARD RAILROAD TRACKS
A new cell tower is proposed behind a warehouse on Schweikhardt St., just north of where the road ends at Clinton Dr. Vertical Bridge Development, an entity that manages towers for telecom companies, filed an application with the city’s Tower Commission for permission to build the 100-ft. tall structure just north of the train tracks that cross Schweikhardt late last year. The tracks are more or less the dividing line between the industrial zone that spreads out along Buffalo Bayou between Hirsch Rd. and Route 90, and the residential portion of the Fifth Ward that extends south of I-10. City rules require a waiver for towers to be built in residential neighborhoods, and in order to get one, the owner of the 1.5-acre lot where the tower is proposed argues that the parcel is deep enough for the antenna to hang back far from the road. Still, however, the nearest residential property would be just over 200 ft. away from the new sky wire. [Houston Tower Commission Agenda] Photo of signage at proposed tower site: Swamplot inbox
SWAMPLOT GIVEAWAY: WIN A DOWNTOWN HOUSTON GETAWAY AT THE HOTEL ALESSANDRA Swamplot is giving away a free overnight stay at Downtown’s newest hotel — the Hotel Alessandra — plus a few accompanying perks. It’s easy to enter, and you can improve your chances of winning the prize by getting others to enter as well. To learn more about this giveaway or to sign up for it, click here.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW THE RUSTY RESTAURANT LOOK MADE ITS WAY TO HOUSTON
“I blame Austin. Check out Uchi on Westheimer with its weathered metal patio screening. Or the late, unlamented Doc’s across the street, resplendent in the sort of patina that can be attained only through time (several hours’ worth of antiquing). Both had their roots in that fair city. If property owners want to transform their buildings into movie sets for Larry McMurtry stories, I suppose it’s their business (and businesses). Frankly, any change from the ubiquitous cheap stucco and warped sheet metal panels that clad Houston’s lesser buildings is welcome. There will be more attempts at false history; eventually, this trend will run its course.” [Big Tex, commenting on The Heavy Metal Taco Redo Now Taking Shape on N. Main off I-45] Photo of former El Taquito Rico, 3701 N. Main St.: Swamplot inbox
THE ARMY CORPS SAW ALL YOUR ADDICKS AND BARKER LAWSUITS COMING — 23 YEARS AGO
A 1995 Army Corps of Engineers memo obtained by the Chronicle shows that the agency considered the possibility that dozens of lawsuits could be filed against it by flooded homeowners both upstream and downstream from the Addicks and Barker dams. “Given the nature of the expensive homes that would be flooded and the quality of legal representation these owners could afford, there is always the possibility of an adverse ruling,” but the likelihood of such an outcome would be low, it concluded. Those downstream from the reservoirs would have a weak case, the memo argued, because their home values benefit from the dams in the first place. And those upstream — inside the Addicks and Barker flood pools — would have to prove that flooding wasn’t just sporadic, but “frequent and inevitably recurring to amount to a taking of interest in property.” Regardless, says the document, “it would be prudent for Harris County to make sure owners, future developers, and future buyers are put on notice that they are in a reservoir.” That didn’t happen. [Houston Chronicle; memo] Photo of Barker Reservoir Near Addicks Clodine Rd. after Harvey: Kyle Steck
SIGNS ARE ON THE DOOR TO WEWORK’S NEW DOWNTOWN BRANCH AT 708 MAIN
The building on the corner of Main and Capitol — known since 2003 as the Great Jones building — is showing signs of the new WeWork office that’s heading into it. Last April, the workspace provider signed a lease for 86,000 sq. ft. in the building — originally billed as its first Houston location, although a smaller WeWork branch snuck in and opened on 3 floors of the Galleria I tower last December. 708 Main St. has been undergoing renovations since 2016 when its developers Midway and Lionstone Investments announced they planned to link the structure to its neighbor — the JP Morgan Chase building on the corner of Main and Rusk — via a first floor and mezzanine common area dubbed the Currency Lounge. The entire block between Capitol and Rusk is now being marketed as a single property termed The Jones on Main. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of WeWork entrance: Swamplot inbox
14 PEWS’ SURPRISE NON-ENDING
On her way into a new job as executive director of a larger church-turned-arts center in Portland, Cressandra Thibodeaux appears to have had a change of heart. Which means 14 Pews — the microcinema and performing arts venue that picked up where the Aurora Picture Show left off 8 years ago — will not be closing any time soon. The original movie house at 800 Aurora St. took over the building from the Sunset Height Church of Christ in 1997 and hosted screenings, plays, workshops, and art exhibitions there (as well as a few weddings and memorial services) before turning it over to Thibodeaux in 2010. Since then, programming has continued along those same lines — even as audiences anticipated the venue hitting the market in mid-Februrary. With that plan scrapped, Thidobeaux writes: “We are now teaming up with community leaders to curate several film series, as well as talking with other organizations about bringing unique festivals to Houston.” [14 Pews; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Ed Schipul [license; modified from the original]
SWAMPLOT’S CHEF FEST 2018 GIVEAWAY: WE HAVE A WINNER! Congratulations to Nick Adams, whose entry was chosen at random today as the winner of the Chef Fest 2018 giveaway Swamplot ran last week. He’ll be receiving 2 free tickets to the food-and-drink event, which takes place March 4. Did you miss out on entering — or just want a rematch? Stick around — we’ll have another giveaway coming up this week.