03/13/18 4:30pm

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]

03/12/18 4:00pm

A building permit filed recently on the Central Square Plaza complex that takes up the block of Travis St. between Gray and Webster reveals Kraftsmen Coffee as the latest restaurant slated for the renovated tower’s empty ground floor. Work to install plumbing for the 1,768-sq.-ft. space that the owners of coffee shop plan to take over began last year.

The photo at top views the west portion of the building’s ground floor, which sits about halfway down the block on Gray St. and faces Milam. A parking garage is off-camera to the right. Around the corner — on the building’s north side — a TABC flyer for Malawi’s Pizza still hangs in the window of the empty storefront on Gray where it was originally posted back in 2016:



Kraftsmen Coffee
03/09/18 12:45pm

Crews are now clearing out the northern portion of the strip center at the corner of Airline Dr. and Parker Rd. that Kroger departed last year. The photo at top, sent in by a Swamplot reader, shows the no-longer-automatic doors fronting the former grocery store space next door to Tostada Regia, Yumar Beauty Salon, Texans Discount Liquor, and others.

A building permit filed just over a week ago on location at 6749 Airline lists its occupant as El Ahorro. The grocery chain specializing in Mexican foodstuffs already has one nearby spot in Northline — on Irvington Blvd. just north of Berry Rd.


Dietary Cleanse
03/09/18 11:00am

No longer the Eternal Food Ministry food pantry, the awninged brick building at 6801 Hwy. Blvd. is about to become Katy’s first board-game-themed brewery. The location is a short drive west from Katy High School and was abandoned when the food bank relocated to Pin Oak Rd. within the past few years. Now, the owners of the new competitive drinking venue, dubbed Wood for Sheep Brewing, are getting ready to resurface their parking lot and pipe in new plumbing for the 6,000-sq.-ft. building. Only a fifth of the space in the brewery will be devoted to its main feature: a pub and cafe area with a library of board games. The rest of it will be used for brewing, storage, offices, and other logistical functions.

Photos: Wood for Sheep Brewing

Wood for Sheep Brewing
03/08/18 2:15pm

Construction fencing is now up in Uptown Park, marking the last call for cornices, pilasters, pediments, faked balcony windows, and assorted handcrafted Styrofoam façade detailing slated for removal as part of renovations planned for the vintage 1998 shopping center parked along the West Loop feeder road.

The new project — announced last October by owner Edens Investment Trust — will pare down the complex’s Olde World gewgaws, leaving behind simpler and more modern exteriors. Live oak trees are to be planted near some of the parking lots’ sunnier spots. (Former owner AmREIT’s plans for adding hotel and residential buildings to the complex were scrapped when Edens bought the entity in 2015.)

The 2-story space shown in the photo at top (next to Cafe Express) was abandoned by women’s wear store BB1 Classic at the end of last year. Soon, it will be remade into a restaurant dubbed Flower Child. The vacant, porticoed east side of the building in the northwest corner of the center — pictured above — is also now fenced. (Class, however, is still in session at the MISS Academy finishing school on the west side of the structure.)

This parking-space corral is now up at the building’s northeast corner:


Just a Trim Trim
03/02/18 2:00pm

Repairs on PJ’s Sports Bar’s patio have the outdoor space back up and running after a sports car hopped the curb near the corner of W. Gray St. and Stanford and nearly totaled the seating area in January. One driver was hospitalized, but there were no major injuries at the scene pictured above; it was past last call when the accident occurred. The bar’s patio, however, remained in pieces for nearly 2 months after emergency workers removed the projectile.

Now, only one pre-crash item remains absent from the bar’s frontage at 614 W. Gray: the fluorescent crosswalk sign shown on the ground in the photo below:


High-Speed Corners
03/01/18 11:15am

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

02/28/18 1:30pm

Facial adjustments to the building at 3701 N. Main have left it rustier than it was when El Taquito Rico shuttered in the same space last May. The former Woodland Heights Mexican restaurant’s yellow sign has been removed, as has the standing seam mansard roof-style awning that wrapped its frontage on N. Main. In their place, a headband of corrugated metal now hugs the top of the structure — which sits on a narrow 8,375-sq.-ft. lot at the end of Pecore St., just west of I-45 (and across the street from the O’Reilly Auto Parts building that Asia Market is moving into).

Floor-to-ceiling windows that lined the restaurant’s entryway have also been truncated:


Heights Wrap-Up
02/26/18 1:00pm

Crews took down the letters on KHOU’s antenna tower one by one last Friday — as shown in the drone footage above — leaving the channel’s signage absent from the vacant studio next to Houston’s main drainage channel, Buffalo Bayou. At the beginning of this month, the station reported that an undisclosed buyer had the 1945 Allen Pkwy. property under contract.

For the past 5 months, the teevee crew has been broadcasting temporarily from Houston Public Media’s office at UH, which it expects to leave for a permanent home at the end of this year. The whereabouts of the new newsroom — which will incorporate the original KHOU signage in its design — haven’t been announced yet. However, plans were revealed last December for a coming satellite studio that’s slated to open opposite Discovery Green in the GRB before the station goes live from a new main headquarters.

Video: Shern-Min Chow

Channel Changes
02/26/18 11:45am

Postino hasn’t opened yet, but there’s already been a notable change to the decor at the Arizona-based wine cafe chain’s first Texas location. Gone from the construction fencing outside the restaurant’s patio are the signs pictured at top that read, “DRINKING WINE AT LUNCH IS NOT A CRIME.” In their place, new banners featuring only Postino’s name and social media handle have appeared. The photo above views them from the west side of the Heights Mercantile development at the corner of 7th St. and Yale.

Here’s another look at the current fence abutting Rye 51’s storefront on 7th St.:


Restaurant Rebranding
02/22/18 11:30am

Radom Capital is entertaining 2 different ideas for the former Stages theater on the block of Rosine across D’Amico St. from its planned new complex: either a hotel or a combination of retail, restaurant, and office tenants. The developer bought Stages’ current spot in the long structure at 3201 Allen Pkwy — built in 1929 to house the Star Engraving Company — as well as the warehouse behind it last year. Renovations are now slated to begin on both the Star building and the warehouse behind it — both indicated in the site plan above — once the theater takes off in 2019.

The rendering of the warehouse at top put out by Radom shows new openings in its exterior, including a boxy balcony on its second floor and an entrance at ground level fronting D’Amico. An outdoor staircase ascends from where the greens-skinned building meets its western neighbor — the parking garage for the Reata at River Oaks condos — and heads up to a second-story entrance. Stages’ new theater sits across D’Amico, opposite a front lawn at the other end of the colorful crosswalk on the left.

Here’s a look at the new playhouse — dubbed The Gordy — sitting in its own renovated warehouse with touch ups by architecture firm Gensler:


North Montrose Ensemble
02/13/18 3:45pm

4 new restaurants of 4 different culinary persuasions are planning their migration to the Galleria’s coming chow center — beyond the curved wall that fronted Saks Fifth Avenue before the department store moved to a straighter-edged building just next door along Westheimer. Renovations to transform the building’s face into something new tenants could get behind have been in progress for the past few years. The site plan above from Simon Properties shows where Blanco Tacos + Tequila will arrive below Japanese restaurant Nobu, east of the building’s main entrance hall. West of the hall is where Fig & Olive as well as its upstairs Indian neighbor Spice Route will move in. They’ll go behind and in front of the new first- and second-story windows pictured at top — punched in the building’s facade last year.

Heavily blanched renderings put out by Fig & Olive show the patio fronting its 7,000-sq.-ft. interior:


Multicultural Cook Off
02/06/18 12:00pm

A sideways glance at the renovations underway on 1815 Washington — formerly home to the Pandora Lounge nightclub, and even more formerly to Throne Ultra Lounge — reveals 2 new openings in the building’s east side ahead of its coming grand opening as Houston’s first Gus’s Fried Chicken location. The older listing photo above depicts the full building on the block between Silver and Sabine back when its street frontage was a wall of bricks. The white wall and front door shown on the right in the photo at top had replaced the brick face and garage entrance by the time Braun Enterprises bought the place in late 2015.

Renderings of the building released by Braun around the time Gus’s signed up for it in 2016, however, showed plans to rebrick it, as well as add new windows and a patio on its east side:


Tennessee Transplant
02/05/18 4:30pm

TABC signage tacked to the 2-story office structure at 1803 Pease St. notes that AZ Furniture is applying for permission to serve beverages into the late hours on site. Could it be that a boozy cabinetry boutique is in the works, or a couch showroom that fronts a speakeasy? No, according to building permits filed to convert the 5,952-sq.-ft. building into a bar. The name listed on those permits is more suited for a venue located 3 blocks southeast of the Toyota Center — it’s Slam Dunk Bar & Grill.

Renovations began on the building last year. The photo below views it from its adjacent parking lot on the corner of Pease and Chenevert:


The Hard Court
02/02/18 5:00pm

Construction on Shake Shack’s new burger hub in Rice Village — next door to the coming Rice University clothing boutique on Amherst — looks about medium well now that the brick building has been blackened, stripped of its awnings, and shielded by a metal frame bearing all-caps signage. La Madeleine restaurant left the building last March ahead of renovations planned for the entire Village Arcade structure between Kirby and Kelvin.

A Rice Village property manager announced in 2016 that the born-in-Manhattan chain with current locations as far-flung as Bahrain was on its way to Kirby. Back then, Houston was completely Shack-less, but that changed when a debut location opened in a Galleria parking lot later that year. Since then, one other Shake Shack has cropped up in the city — behind center field in Minute Maid Park.


Faster Food