02/11/19 12:00pm

The Memorial Club apartment complex at the Westcott St. roundabout is down to its final quarter following weekend deconstruction activity that left the 4-building, not-yet-redeveloped half of the complex itself cut in half. (Across the street, a 5-builidng portion of Memorial Club has been missing since new apartments dubbed Elan Memorial Park replaced it in 2016) By Saturday morning, the whole southern section of Memorial Club’s remaining half was gone according to a Swamplot reader, who sends the photo at top looking west to show that vanished portion, visible behind the oak trees.

Taking note of the demo, Google Maps has replaced its old photo of the apartments with one more indicative of current events:

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At the Roundabout
01/11/19 10:00am

A Swamplot reader sends this photo from Arnott St. showing ominous new chain-link fencing wrapping what’s left of the Memorial Club apartments at the Washington Ave roundabout. New Years was the deadline for residents to move out of the four 3-story buildings to the west of Westcott St. so that Greystar could tear them down and build a new set of apartments in their place. It already replaced Memorial Court’s other, former 5-building half on the east side of Westcott with a 297-unit Elan Memorial Heights building in 2016. Back when the developer purchased the complex in 2013, Greystar said it hoped to have a grand total of 550 units spread across both sides of Westcott.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Back for the Last of ‘Em
12/26/18 9:30am

NEEDVILLE WATER TOWER WILL STAY STANDING FOR NOW ON ACCOUNT OF IT MIGHT BE COVERED IN LEAD Needville’s city council appeared unmoved by local preservationists’ 2-year campaign to repaint and rehab the town’s signature WWII-era water tower earlier this month when it voted 3-2 to demolish the, um, patinaed structure. But just last Friday, 2 people with land near the tower took a new approach to preserving it, arguing in district court that the structure’s worth saving not just for its looks but because lab tests, their attorney wrote, showed that its exterior “was coated with six layers of lead-based paint,” each containing a high level of the chemical. A temporary restraining order granted against the City of Needville the same day now bars anyone from toppling the tower until “safety protocols are established by competent experts,” to ensure that “no environmental contamination” will result from the teardown. (“The contractor hired by the city council is a nice guy,” one of the plaintiffs, Rick Sinclair, told the Chronicle’s Kristi Nix, “but I don’t believe he is licensed or accredited to handle this level of lead abatement.”) A hearing to consider the lawsuit is now set for January 19. According to the plaintiffs, “Restoration coating systems have been identified” that would protect the tower while also sealing in the lead. [abc13] Video: Picture Perfect Productions

12/24/18 10:15am

For the past 2 weeks, workers have been gutting the gray-painted 1940s bungalow at 1408 Sul Ross St., opposite the Rothko Chapel. In some cases, they’ve chucked the removed house parts in the dumpster that’s parked in the driveway.

In other cases, they’ve been saving them for reuse by stockpiling them inside:

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Special Exhibition
12/21/18 4:00pm

The view from the Wallgreens parking lot at Westheimer and Weslayan St. has been a bit more scenic than usual this week since the 55-and-up Georgian apartment complex across the street started collapsing in order to make way for the new complex Crescent Communities wants to build in its place. So far, the set of 3 parking canopies that once buffered the building from Westheimer appear to have vanished. And the front façade of the building has been punched through, opening up the complex’s inner courtyard to the outside world.

Residents got some insight into what would be replacing their 114 units back in April when a letter giving them 6 months to vacate indicated that retail would be included in the new construction. Since then: silence about what those retailers might be. If they do end up flocking to some portion of 3.4-acre property, their likeliest location would be on Westheimer, in between the corner Cadence Bank branch and Frank’s Americana Revival restaurant that bookend the lot.

Photos: Philip Alter (demolition); Georgian Apartments (apartments)

Emptied Out of Empty-Nesters
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.
12/17/18 3:45pm

The new owner of the Pasadena’s tallest empty building has 2 items on its agenda for the 1962 structure: air it out and tear it down. For nearly 2 decades, the 12-story office tower at 1002 Southmore Ave. — originally known as the First Pasadena State Bank building — has managed to get by untouched by those who want it gone. (It came this close to vanishing in 2005 when the city issued a demolition permit for it, but a new owner scooped it up before anything went down.) In June, the city filed a lawsuit demanding that the property owner demolish the tower or reimburse the city for taking matters into its own hands. The defendant did neither, and instead passed the building off in October to the Pasadena Economic Development Corporation — which, having secured financial help from Pasadena’s city council shortly after the sale closed — now plans to go through with the teardown.

It’ll cost about $2.5 million to get rid of structure, the private development group estimates, after having negotiated the terms of its demise with various demolition and asbestos abatement contractors. According to the PEDC’s meeting minutes following the purchase: “the roof leaks so badly that water has gone through the whole building.

When Houston architectural firm MacKie & Kamrath designed it for what was to become the commercial center of Pasadena in the early ’60s, the challenge was to make something “that signalled the former Strawberry Capital of the World‘s transition into the era of manned spaceflight,” according to the Chronicle’s Lisa Gray. It became an icon in town — showing up on school report cards and in the logo for the city’s chamber of commerce — and beyond, as a notable waypoint between downtown Houston and NASA’s then-new manned spaceflight facility further south off I-45.

Looking from closer up, you can see the corner holes in the building’s cantilevered roof overhang:

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Breaking the Bank Building
12/13/18 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT ELSE LEFT MIDTOWN WHEN RICHMOND AVE MET WHEELER ST. “In addition to the Delman Theater, an adjacent retailer named the Delman Juvenile Shop was also destroyed. The popular 1950s children’s clothing store featured a behemoth machine, the “Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope,” that zapped the kids’ feet with unshielded x-rays, ostensibly to make sure the new shoes were a correct fit. In reality, it was used as a babysitter while Mom shopped. I couldn’t wait to grow tall enough to actually peer down the metal tube to view my wiggling skeletal toe bones.” [Patsy Schillaci, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Delman Theater Lives On, on Google Maps] Photo of Delman Theater and adjacent retail: Predator [license]

12/13/18 12:00pm

So long to that double-decker dwelling on the corner of 20th and Ashland St. After being tagged for demolition on Monday, the 1904 house came down yesterday. It’s departure leaves 8 contiguous lots, totaling 28,000-sq.-ft., lined up for development along 20th St. And recent permit filings reveal what’s likely to be next: a hotel.

It’ll shoot the gap between 2 existing commercial neighbors: the Heights Hospital for Animals to the east, and Heights Floral Shop to the west, across Ashland. As noted when commercial realty signage first sprouted in front of the house at 347 W. 20th St. last year, it’s the only property at the intersection not already occupied by some kind of money-making enterprise.

Photos: Swamplox inbox

Hidden Heights Holdover
10/03/18 5:00pm

WHO PUSHED THE BUTTON THAT BLEW UP THE DOWNTOWN MACY’S According to the Vice President of Demolition at Cherry Companies, which oversaw the demo: “the person who bought the building had his son do it.” His push triggered 1,500 pounds of explosives — the demo exec estimates on the Chronicle’s latest episode of LoopedInobliterating the structure and clearing the way for the 23-floor Hilcorp Energy Tower his dad would later commission Hines to build in its place at Dallas and Main St. Although technically a partnership connected to Doug Kelly, president of Hilcorp Ventures, “bought” the building around the time of the teardown in 2013, it was more of a shuffling-around than a hand-off. Hilcorp had already owned the former Foley’s since 2010; the later transaction just transferred it over to different entity under the same umbrella of corporate oversight. [Previously on Swamplot]

08/27/18 12:00pm

A pile of building parts is now all that stands in the way of the 4,500-sq.-ft. strip that Houston developer Ancorian wants to place at Yale and E. 27th, opposite the other shopping center it’s now ushering tenants into across the street. In place of the standalone Church’s Fried Chicken drive-thru — pictured above before and after its demo last week — a rendering now shows 3 newcomers lined up next to each other at 2702 Yale.

One of them carries on the site’s fast-food legacy with more of a niche focus:

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Chickening Out on Yale
08/02/18 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: DEMOLITION FOR A BETTER FUTURE “When we do not preserve our past, we are able to have a wide open future. A future with more efficient, ecologically congruent buildings. Buildings with modern HVAC, windows, flood control. Tearing down old cool looking buildings is just that. We lose cool looking buildings from another time. I personally live in a renovated old house, and before that lived in another cool-looking old house. I preserved each. I don’t think renovating/preserving has anything to do with the future of either location. So, while the Deco style is great and would be fantastic if someone saw the residual value, it’s not crucial to anything. The market has spoken. If they build an unappealing, out-of-touch new building — the buy side will also speak, and not reward the owner with their business. This is how the world should work. Forcing a property owner through regulation to appreciate the styling of yesteryear is anti-productive. I have a heart a for gray area on this when it comes to public buildings. Then it is owned by the public, and needs to be considered more broadly on how the tax-paying public feels about the continued use/retention of a historic or interesting-looking, dated building. Think City Hall.” [Bo Darley, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Fannin Flames] Illustration: Lulu

05/24/18 3:30pm

This just in: Photos from a Swamplot reader show the wreckage at KHOU’s 58-year-old Buffalo Bayou–side headquarters, abandoned since staff fled it for Houston Public Media’s less flood-prone Elgin St. newsroom shortly after Harvey. Following a few days of demolition, the building at 1945 Allen Pkwy has been almost entirely leveled.

The second photo above shows the Service Corporation International building looming over the dead news building. An entity connected to SCI — a national funeral home business — recently acquired KHOU’s former 3.2-acre spot.

KHOU’s antennastripped of its lettering since February — is now the only thing that fronts the neighboring tower’s west side:

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Breaking News
05/07/18 3:30pm

ORTHODOX SYNAGOGUE MULLS CROSSING THE LOOP TO SOMEWHAT HIGHER GROUND The roughly 820 homeowners in Willow Meadows are now voting on a deed restriction change that — if passed — would allow the United Orthodox Synagogue to build a new structure outside The Loop, in place of 5 houses that sit 3 quarters of a mile south down Greenwillow St. from the congregation’s previous home at the corner of S. Braeswood. Many congregants walk to the synagogue — which could soon be leaving the 100-year floodplain for the 500 after flooding 6 times in the last 25 years, including 3 in the last 3. “According to preliminary renderings,” reports the Jewish Herald Voice’s Michael C. Duke on Studio Red’s proposed design, “the synagogue would be a single-story structure, measuring an ultimate height of 30 feet. Based on new building codes, the finished floor of the building would be built some 3 feet above curb height, and the building itself would have the same 25-foot setback as homes in Willow Meadows.” Passage of the proposal “would prompt Houston’s largest Orthodox congregation to hold its own congregation-wide vote on whether to stay at its current location north of I-610 South and rebuild portions of its campus at a significantly higher elevation; or, to move.” Most of the congregation’s 57-year-old building was demolished last month, except for a few portions including its social hall and mikvah. [Jewish Herald Voice; previously on Swamplot] Photo of United Orthodox Synagogue’s demolition, 9001 Greenwillow St.: United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston

03/27/18 4:00pm

MEMORIAL BEND’S WILDER DAYS “My family was the first to own 419 Electra back when it was first built and I was 6,” a reader writes. “My siblings and I loved playing in the bird sanctuary beyond the back fence (Is the treehouse we built still there?) And swinging on rope swings over the creek with all the water moccasins! One time the dad at the house next door pulled out a tree stump in his backyard and a whole nest — literally dozens — of baby rattlesnakes crawled out. All the dads in the neighborhood ran to the house with hoes and shovels and the moms kept all the kids back. On summer nights, there were so many tiny baby frogs on the sidewalks you couldn’t walk without stepping on one. I imagine all those kinds of critters are gone now. It was a sweet, family neighborhood, with lots of kids playing games, biking in the street, and listening for the dinner bell. Of course, there was the peeping tom who lived next door in the now-McMansion, and the exhibitionist across the street who stood in the doorway with his open robe when all the neighborhood kids home from school, but doesn’t every neighborhood have its charms?” The house came down last month — one of about 19 demolitions approved for the neighborhood since Harvey. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of 419 Electra Dr.: Memorial Bend Architecture