09/15/17 3:00pm

Entire episodes of TLC’s long-running reality TV series The Little Couple were devoted to the construction, outfitting, and decor of the 2-story home at 2802 Fairhope St. in Knollwood Village to accommodate the particular requirements — and dimensions — of the growing family of its owners, Dr. Jen Arnold and Bill Klein. The home has been shown off in magazine features, too (see the above video from People). Since the end of the show’s last season the couple has moved to Florida, however, and as of last week the home is up for sale. But here’s some news that might come as a disappointment to the show’s many fans — some of whom have chosen to show up on the home’s doorstep and leave notes for its stars: The home has already been renovated, and many of those little touches the couple so greatly appreciated (the custom-lower-height countertops in the kitchen, for example) have been replaced.

Non-fans or average-sized house shoppers just looking for a place to live, however, will probably appreciate the renovations just completed by Blackwell Design, which included raising all the shower heads; reworking the kitchen and bathrooms with standard-height counters; elevating the outdoor BBQ, and raising the cabinets in the laundry room and the vanity in the master closet. There’s also a new custom pantry in the kitchen.

Here’s a quick tour of the new interior:

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Moving on Up
09/12/17 10:30am

Here, courtesy of a Swamplot reader, are a few exterior views of the building at 1318 Westheimer after its weekend fire. “The damage is pretty severe,” Shawn Bermudez wrote on Facebook Saturday evening. The owner of Royal Oak Bar & Grill, which shut down in this location last September, had been renovating the property in order to reopen it as a bar named Present Company. That work was a month from completion, Bermudez estimates. Among the additions to the former 1950s home: new steel doors and windows. And here’s a view showing the current state of the new piggyback patio added in back:

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Bar and Grill
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 4:45pm

HOW THE NEW ARCHITECTURE CENTER HOUSTON WILL BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES WHEN HIGH WATER COMES What’s going to happen to the new exhibition, meeting, and office spaces at the Architecture Center Houston — set to reopen next month in its new location in the ground floor and former boiler room of the 1906 B.A. Riesner Building at 900 Commerce St., next to the Bayou Lofts and across from the Spaghetti Warehouse Downtown — in the very likely event that floodwaters rise from nearby Buffalo Bayou? Kyle Humphries of Murphy Mears Architects, the firm chosen to lead the reconfiguration of the space after a competition last year, tells the Architect’s Newspaper’s Jason Sayer that the designers imagined the interior as a bathtub, and accordingly wrapped a quarter-inch-thick plate made of aluminum around the interior on 2 sides: “’Our storefront system that faces Commerce Street is sealed and uses structural steel panels up to 3.5 feet long all along that facade,’ described Humphries. Furthermore, custom fills and seals on the doors (the profiles of which were manufactured in Switzerland) were prescribed with a custom-designed drop-in flood panel that can be operated by one person standing outside.” [The Architect’s Newspaper] Video walkthrough: Murphy Mears Architects

08/16/17 12:15pm

The multi-level steel antenna-support tower that’s long stood on top of the window-deficient AT&T building at 3303 Weslayan St. just north of Greenway Plaza was removed by crane over the last week, a reader reports. At least, that’s what appears to be the case from the ground: The Beck Group construction firm received permits for a partial demolition of the building’s cell tower in June. Also permitted by the city that same month: a Beck Group office remodel of the structure, which is referred to in the permit as the AT&T Weslayan Toll Building.

Here’s a view of the now-dismantled tower from a couple of years ago, as it loomed poolside at the neighboring 3333 Weslayan apartments:

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Hats Off
07/27/17 3:45pm

COMMENTS OF THE DAY: WHEN HOUSTON JEWELRY WRAPPED A SHINY BAND AROUND A COUPLE OF DOWNTOWN BUILDINGS AT 720 RUSK “We bought this building from Star Furniture in 1966 and operated in it until 1983 when we were offered a very generous price at the top of the market. After we left the building stayed empty until the Subway opened. . . . This is how the building looked when it was remodeled by architect Arnold Hendler in 1966.” [Rex Solomon, commenting on Downtown Houston Is Now Down To A Single Street-Level Subway] Photo: Houston Jewelry

07/27/17 2:30pm

Here’s a glance at how the now-redone North Shepherd strip center that used to house the Texas Cafeteria is looking this week, about a month before the second-ever location of sandwich joint Krisp Chicken & Batter opens up on the building’s south end. A raised bit of concrete slab seen on the near side of the building in the photo above will form the foundation of a planned dining patio. According to the building’s leasing flyer, a 1,825-sq.-ft. space in the building is still available for lease adjacent to Krisp; the rest of the building will become a Verizon store.

The center at 2400 N. Shepherd Dr. is immediately north of the former Fiesta lot where H-E-B plans to start construction on a new Heights market late this summer.

According to Culturemap’s Eric Sandler, the owners of Krisp are already planning to open additional locations in Memorial, Bellaire, and Downtown in the next few years — and possibly Pearland and Cinco Ranch after that.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Next Month
07/14/17 5:30pm

Here’s a view from last week of the former Express Wheel & Tire kiosk in Oak Forest, in the midst of its transformation into a yet-to-be-identified coffee drive-thru along Ella Blvd. at W. 34th St., at the eastern end of the shopping center redo Revive Development is working on at that intersection’s southwest corner. Demo crews are removing the overhang connecting the front canopy to the small building behind it. Renderings of the finished development on the Revive website show the canopy is meant to remain — to shade a few prime parking spaces at the eastern end of the development:

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W. 34th St. and Ella
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
06/27/17 2:30pm

The startup 3-barrel “nano-brewery” carving its ferment-and-serve spaces out of the former Bissonnet Auto Service Center garage on Bissonnet St. between Kirby and Greenbriar is scheduled for a Labor Day Weekend opening, according to a recent report in the Chronicle. New glazed overhead doors have been installed in the 2 garage bays, but according to this photo of the spot from earlier today, there’s still a bit of work going on inside.

If future passers-by do a double-take after seeing drinkers out on the front patio of the single-story structure at 2322 Bissonnet, it might be because the brewery-bar will be next door to the former Kay’s Lounge, also a single-story building serving drinks on a front patio, which was demolished last fall. These homes are scheduled to go up on that site.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

06/19/17 2:30pm

YOU WON’T HAVE THE MENIL COLLECTION TO KICK AROUND FOR MOST OF NEXT YEAR Are you one of those architecturally sensitive types who has long suspected that the worn, squishy pine floorboards of Renzo Piano’s Menil Collection building were meant to serve as some sort of metaphor for the tenuous and uncertain nature of Houston’s oft-muddy groundplane? (Plus, they’ve got those underfloor AC registers interrupting it every few yards.) Well, good for you! — but tough luck: Beginning late next February, reports Molly Glentzer, the building will close for 8 months so that those well-worn floors can be refinished. Why should the job take so long? “The staff will continue to operate as usual from the upstairs offices, but some gallery walls will have to be dismantled and the collections shifted through the building during the sanding and finishing process.” Come November 2018, will the experience of walking through the museum be just as exquisitely unstable as it is now? Maybe not: “The leveling mechanisms under the wooden air-conditioning grills in the floor are also being upgraded,” Glentzer warns. Hurry and visit now, while it’s all still worn and creaky! [Houston Chronicle] Video of Sosie Merritt stomping on Menil floors, 2009: Brandon & Kristen Merritt [license]

06/15/17 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THERE’S MORE MONEY IN HISTORY “First of all, this really doesn’t make much difference, as the original art moderne lines of this center were destroyed several years ago with the addition of gun turrets on the corners of the buildings. What I do find interesting is that Weingarten talks about the alterations as being financially responsible decisions to their shareholders. Yet this is the 3rd oldest intact shopping center in the US, and the only two that predate it, AFAIK, are Highland Park Village in Dallas and Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Both of those have owners that have restored them to essentially their original designs and have enjoyed much increased property values. In the case of Highland Park Village, Henry S Miller (a Dallas developer) bought HP Village in the later ’70’s as it was very run down and dumpy, and had the foresight to restore its original Spanish Colonial design and garner a better tenant mix. Though his company no longer owns it, HP Village commands far higher square foot rents than River Oaks Shopping Center. All this is to say that if Weingarten had invested money in restoring their property 10-15 years ago, they probably would have a more valuable asset today.” [ShadyHeightster, commenting on The Other River Oaks Shopping Center Knockdown Hearing Scheduled for This Week] Rendering of proposed alterations to River Oaks Shopping Center, 1997 West Gray St.: Aria Group Architects for Weingarten Realty Investors

06/14/17 11:15am

Across and a little bit down the street from the site where the company proposes to tear down an already altered section of the River Oaks Shopping Center and erect a 29-story apartment tower with 2 floors of underground parking, Weingarten Realty has more plans to make changes to the landmark art deco center. At the corner of West Gray and McDuffie, the company wants to tear down the 2-story western end of the south half of the 1948 section of the shopping center — which now houses a California Pizza Kitchen and the remains of the Evolve Fitness Studio upstairs (and was previously the site of a Birraporetti’s with Sherlock’s Pub above it) — and reconstruct the section as a 12,730-sq.-ft. Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille with significantly taller first and second stories.

The design, by Chicago’s Aria Group Architects, “will maintain historical features” of the building at 1997 West Gray St., the submitted plans (PDF) explain. But not exactly in the same order. Stick-on stone facing was stuck onto lower portions of this section of the art deco structure in 2007 when it was given a new stucco-batter coating and turned into a CPK; the new design shows a tall curved panel of limestone wrapping the corner, but this time on the higher second floor, suspended above a rebuilt portion of the center’s signature curved soffit.

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Raising Perry’s Steakhouse
06/09/17 2:30pm

Has any former Wendy’s drive-thru — or really, any fast-food joint anywhere — ever had such an illustrious culinary afterlife as the one that once stood at 2300 Westheimer, halfway between Kirby and Shepherd? The standalone burger stand never left us — it just went upscale, time and time again: To Torcello’s. To Armando’s. To Dish. To Two Chefs Bistro. To Beso. To Palazzo’s Trattoria. To 60 Degrees Mastercrafted. (Did we miss any?) To the Harwood Grill.

Then there was the time last year when it was supposed to go Berryhill. But that was not to be.

Instead, this extremely mutable property is now on its way to becoming a champagne-themed restaurant called a’Bouzy (pronounced as you’d expect).

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Cheers to A’Bouzy
06/07/17 10:45am

It’s been the better part of a year since Pepino’s on Richmond Ave. started showing signs of closure (namely, since its name signage came down, signaling the end of the joint’s nearly decade-and-a-half run in Castle Court). A nearby reader spotted what looks to be some work to prep the stripmall spot for its next occupant, which was issued a few permits last week under the name Miss Saigon. (That name shows up in Braun’s leasing flier for its newly acquired property, too, though it’s not clear yet whether the name is connected to one of the other Houston Miss Saigon-inspired Vietnamese restaurants, or is merely another independent nod to the musical.)

Speaking of musicals, part of the former Pepino’s space looks to have been absorbed by nextdoor piano cabaret Michael’s Outpost, whose red door is visible above and in a few of the leasing shots of the remodeled center (below):

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Braun Goes Gray