02/14/19 2:00pm

A Swamplot reader up in the St. Josephs Professional building sends these photos looking south to show construction on the new 5-story, 216-unit apartment building that developer Winther Investment has going at 2111 Austin St., as well as the vacant lot just east of it that’s currently serving as a staging area for construction. The developer has been mulling putting a “a 12- or 20-story” building on the empty block, the HBJ’s Fauzeya Rahman reported last month, a project that probably won’t kick off until next year. When it does, some ground floor retail could be in the mix according to Winther Investment’s head honcho, who told Rahman he “would like to see a restaurant” at street level. Plans for the midrise that’s already on the way up include only parking and dwelling space.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

2-Step Process
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
01/28/19 11:00am

Last week, new chain link fencing cropped up around the former League of United Latin American Citizens Council 60 Clubhouse building at 3004 Bagby St., according to a Swamplot tipster, who sends these photos showing what the 2-story stucco structure looks like ringed by the new barriers. The building made news at the beginning of last year when the nonprofit working to preserve it received a $140,000 grant from American Express for planned restoration work, as well as a “National Treasure” designation from the D.C.-based National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since then, however, the fencing has been the only major sign of change at the triangular property, which housed LULAC’s de facto national headquarters for decades after the Latino civil rights group purchased and moved into it in 1955.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

Midtown Mainstays
01/24/19 10:15am

A new restaurant calling itself Taste Bar + Kitchen now has dibs on the very old, 2-story house on Bagby St. a block north of Elgin that’s been dark (but glowing in its listing photo) since Sterling House closed in it last month. The venture is backed by local chef Don Bowie who’s currently in charge of the kitchen at Flower Child, the good-for-you restaurant that took over BB1 Classic’s spot in Uptown Park last year. (It’s now got another location in the works up in The Woodlands.) On the less healthy side of things, Bowie also had a hand in bringing reality TV star and former Ikette Robbie Montgomery’s St. Louis soul food spot Sweetie Pies to Houston in 2017.

Specific menu items for the new spot at 3015 Bagby haven’t yet been revealed, but on his LinkedIn page Bowie boils it down to “Crafted Cocktails and Food.

Photos: LoopNet (aerial); Swamplot inbox (close-up)

Coming Midtown Attractions
01/23/19 10:47am

A Swamplot reader sends the photo at top showing new Korean barbecue signage up on the Louisiana and Elgin St. spot that Holley’s Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar left in late 2017, following a 4 year run inside. The inbound chain has most of its restaurants in southern California, with additional locations in Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, and the north Dallas suburb of Carrollton.

Photos: ThaChadwick (sign); Holley’s Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar (Holley’s)

 

3201 Louisiana
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
12/20/18 4:00pm

Any and all rumblings you may have heard coming from inside the former Greensheet building on Main St. lately should have now ceased, at least for a little while: Demolition and abatement inside the 5-story structure are done and the architects at Metalab studio are thinking over a redo of it that’ll include “creative office space” and “probably retail, food and drink on the ground floor,” writes the firm’s principal Joe Meppelink (adding that before Greensheet moved in, the 1955 structure was occupied by IBM.) That roster of tenants should feel right at home next to the other mixed-use buildings that Australian developer Caydon has said it plans to build between the former Greensheet building and the condo tower — dubbed The Midtown — that it topped out earlier this month 2 blocks to the south, between Drew and Tuam streets.

Inside, the upper-story windows of the office building frame a view of the upper-Midtown skyline:

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Turning the Page
12/19/18 3:45pm

Just because the St. Joseph’s Professional Building isn’t getting a pair of massive exterior arms doesn’t mean it isn’t getting some of the more, um, professional building upgrades you might expect to see in an office structure. Boxer Property CEO Andrew Segal tells Swamplot that the company — which bought the building last year — is adding wine storage to its basement and plans to start work soon on a restaurant for its ground floor. It’ll go at the base of the red brick podium where a couple of cherry-pickers have been spotted in recent months shoring up deteriorating portions of the brickwork. (In place of the illuminated crosses Boxer removed from the building’s upper facades about a year ago, some sort of “fun graphic” is still planned, according to Segal.)

On the 8th story — part of which is shown above — new collaborative office space and adjacent amenities have already cropped up:

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Along the Pierce Elevated
12/19/18 10:30am

The interior is dark and the patio umbrellas drawn tight at Bagby St. bar Sterling House where there’s been “no business activity for over 2 weeks,” reports a vigilant Swamplot tipster. Absent the drinking crowd, the structure’s gone back to looking a bit more like it did before trading up its run-down domestic existence for entry into the Midtown bar scene in 2016. In order to effect the switch-up, workers gutted and largely reconstructed the building, adding a fire escape onto its south facade and new fencing around its outskirts. They also extended the upstairs porch to hug the entire second-story of the building. (Previously, it ended at the edge of the canopy shown on the left, above the business’s dangling signage.)

The house’s namesake: Ross S. Sterling, co-founder of Humble Oil Company and, later, Governor of Texas from 1931 to 1933. He never actually owned 3015 Bagby St.; members of his family did. And even with the recent renovations, it’s a long way off from that other white house (9 bedrooms, 15 baths) he’s remembered for over in La Porte across the Ship Channel from his Baytown factory.

Photos: Swamplox inbox

3015 Bagby St.
12/14/18 11:30am

Last year, Boxer Property told reporters it wanted to do something “iconic” with the St. Joseph’s Professional Building along the Pierce Elevated. Well, how about this idea: bringing the 18-story Midtown office building to life by attaching 2 massive, swinging arms to its east and west sides. Boxer engaged The Art Guys (Jack Massing and Michael Galbreth) shortly after purchasing the building in September 2017 to make it happen. They worked on the project in secret, dubbing it The Walking Building. It had an estimated budget of $2.8 million.

Alas, the vision of a giant robotic pedestrian attempting to cross a busy section of I-45 into Downtown was not to be. Boxer informed The Art Guys 2 months ago that it would no longer pursue the project.

The arms would have swung back and forward roughly once a minute, making for a somewhat leisurely gait:

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St. Joseph’s Professional Building, Reimagined
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]

12/11/18 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE DELMAN THEATER LIVES ON, ON GOOGLE MAPS “If you look at Google Maps satellite view, you can still see the patterned terrazzo floor of the theater.” [Benjy Compson, commenting on How the Marriage of Richmond and Wheeler Came Too Late to the Midtown Sears Building’s South Side]

12/07/18 2:45pm

Ever notice that the Wheeler-Ave. side of the Midtown Sears (shown above) doesn’t quite jibe with the rest of the building? It’s become even clearer since all that beige metal cladding was stripped off the structure earlier this year. Upon its removal, the biggest revelations were cascading green, red, and blue art-deco tile mosaics (shown here) running from top to bottom on every side of the building, except the Wheeler one, where the array of facade openings pictured at top are a bit less architecturally refined despite their prominent positions overlooking crosstown traffic.

So, what gives? Well, it turns out that Sears’s south side wasn’t all that visible when the building opened in 1939. Back then, Wheeler was just a narrow side street off Main and did not flow directly into Richmond as it does now, explains Preservation Houston’s Jim Parsons. Richmond, a much larger thoroughfare, also dead-ended into Main St., across from the Sears and just north of where Wheeler began. You can see the missed connection in the 1950 street map above.

It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the 2 streets were joined through a partial annexation of the Delman Theater property at 4412 Main, catty-corner southwest of the Sears:

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When Roads Collide
11/20/18 1:30pm

ESCAPE ROOM CHAIN NOW GETTING SETTLED IN MID MAIN LOFTS The latest tenant cropping up in the Mid Main Lofts’ Main-St. side: Project Panic, a 3,395-sq.-ft. escape room venue. Judging from the size and layout of the chain’s other Houston location at Fry Rd. and Park Row Dr. — home of zombie-apocalypse-, ski-resort-, abandoned-school-, and hospital-themed challenges — the new spot will probably house multiple rooms. It’s going in between Kura Revolving Sushi Bar’s corner restaurant off Holman St. and the recently-opened URBN Dental office a few doors south of it. [Previously on Swamplot] Map of Mid Main Lofts’ ground floor: LoopNet