Ever notice that the Wheeler-St. 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:
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 KuraRevolving 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
The 2016 lawsuit that just last week resulted in a multi-million dollar judgment against Houston developer Urban Living isn’t the only litigation the firm’s caught up in right now. Since the beginning of the year, the same plaintiff, Preston Wood & Associates, has filed 4 more suits against the developer and its partners, alleging that at least 6 more Urban Living projects were based of derivatives of the design firm’s copyrighted townhome plans.
One of the projects, dubbed The Modern on Sabine, is shown at top on the corner of Sabine and Bingham streets. Another, The Modern on Austin, went up in place of a few row houses torn down at Austin and Tuam near the end of 2013:
This recent aerial survey of Australian developer Caydon’s 357-unit Fannin St. apartment tower between Drew and Tuam streets shows just how much it now sticks out from the rest of Midtown’s surrounding flatlands, the buffer between Downtown and the Med Center. Though the apartment’s planned 27 stories aren’t complete yet, it’s already one-upped everything in the nearby building-scape — most dramatically, the tiny park structures that occupy the superblock on the other side of Main St.
And there’s more where that came from: The developer still plans to get started on 2 more adjacent towers — in place of the departing Art Supply store and on the block that’s bounded by McGowen, Fannin, Dennis, and Main streets. Both will include all kinds of street-level retail (depicted in renderings that have now been scrubbed from the internet) and should begin rising after the apartments going up now are complete.
With the former Shelor Motor Company building at 1621 Milam St. all but doomed to meet the wrecking ball, historian Stephen Fox digs through some old Chronicle clips to remind us that there’s still a few other old car dealerships lurking down south in Midtown. Sure, they may not be as pedigreed as the ill-fated building to the north, but get this: One of them still sells cars! It’s Midtown Cadillac at the corner of Main and McGowen streets, shown at top. Architect Harvin C. Moore — the brains behind more than 84 homes in River Oaks, as well as Rice University’s chapel — designed it for Sam White Oldsmobile (pictured above), which opened inside in the early 1950s, according to Fox. Sam White and its successor Rice-Menger occupied the building until 1985. It’s been a Cadillac dealership since Don Massey took it over in 1999, followed by Stewart and then Central in 2012.
Catty corner to it, Midtown seafood spot REEF was originally a dealership, too. Built in 1952, the building opened as Smith Chevrolet Co.:
The map above shows the land (in red) that Rice is confirmed to have grabbed around the Midtown Sears (orange) it bought out last October, including 2 new parcels (green) it snatched up through holding companies within the last few months. In an email sent out to university staff on Monday, Rice U. President David Leebron said the school “will ultimately redevelop approximately 14 acres of Rice-owned property,” near the Sears building into what it’s calling the Midtown Innovation District. So what are the latest spots it’s gotten its hands on? The first, catty-corner to the Sears building itself at the corner of Wheeler and San Jacinto, is Jack in the Box‘s nearly half-acre lot; Rice bought it in August.
More recently, the school pushed east by picking up 4201 Caroline St., the brick office building shown below that occupies a quarter-acre directly next to Fiesta:
Spotted on the Instagram story for a not-yet-open venue calling itself The Gypsy Poet: TABC signage going up where it plans to move into Core Church Midtown‘s former home at 2404 Austin St. It’s the fifth liquor-purveying establishment planned for the block — bounded by McIlhenny, Austin, McGowen, and Caroline streets — in the past year-and-a-half, none of which are open yet. But which together have now succeeded in reserving almost all of the space there for themselves.
According to its pastor Jim Stern, Core Church had been negotiating to move into a smaller spot at the back 2404 when the landlord tabled that option and switched its current lease over to a month-to-month agreement. Shortly after, in mid-February, the church was given 60 days to hit the road. It left in mid-March. “I am wondering if we were ‘pushed’ out because of the bars,” Stern tells Swamplot.
AMERICA GARDENS DECLARES VICTORY FOLLOWING 2-MONTH CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN
More than $230,000 have now been raised by online investors who pledged allegiance to the planned bar with their wallets over the summer. Although there had been some work at the property before the campaign kicked off in July, the developer Syn Hospitality claims it’s relying on the additional funds in order to really get down to business at the site on the corner of Caroline and McGowen in what it’s calling “East Midtown.” It plans to keep accepting money until November 15. [Previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Syn Hospitality
The city’s latest proposal to eliminate off-street parking requirements in Midtown and East Downtown got a vote of confidence from the management districts of both neighborhoods when staff members presented it to them last Monday. Shown above are the new areas (in blue and green) that’d supplement Downtown’s existing Central Business District (red) where developers are free to build without leaving room — like the rest of Houston must — for on-site parking spots. To the east, the designation extends out to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and then down to I-45. And to the south, it follows the 527 spur, ending at 59. (If put in place, the whole contiguous zone would fall under a new term the city’s invented for it: Market Based Parking.)
There’s still a ways to go before the map becomes more than a pretty picture: A 30-day public comment period will culminate in a recap next month. Then city council gets its final say on things at a meeting proponents hope will take place before the end of the year.
The Tudor-revival mansion that sits along the bend in I-45 at 2000 Smith St. has been sold to the owner of several car dealerships, including Central Houston Nissan on the S. Loop off the S. Main/Buffalo Spdwy. exit and Central Houston Cadillac off McGowen St. between Travis and Main. Prior to the closing earlier this month, Preservation Houston reported that the buyer didn’t plan to keep the house standing.
Nine blocks away from it, the new owner Ricardo Weitz also has all 3 of the parking lots that surround his Cadillac dealership to the north, east, and west. He purchased the mansion through an entity he owns called Central Houston Auto Properties II.
Vanished from the Midtown benches along Main St. are the potted plants that recently sat on them. The 3 sets of 3 plants each — at Holman St. and on both sides of Main at Winbern — appear to have all been yanked off by force.
Their adhesive residue shows just how attached they were in the first place, with 4 points of contact leaving their marks in place of each pot.
RECENTER REBUILDING GETS GOING ON MAIN ST.
Midtown sobriety nonprofit ReCenter — formerly the Men’s Center — is now getting started building a new building in place of its old campus at 3805 and 3809 Main St. BRAVE Architecture’s design for the new housing, education, and detox facility — shown above fronting the Red Line — hasn’t taken shape yet, but a big hole recently has, according to a passerby, foreshadowing the coming construction. Since demolishing the 2 structures previously on site, the center’s been operating out of the former gas station convenience store just east on the block, at the corner of Fannin and Alabama. (Some additional office space is also tucked inside a converted home at 3816 Fannin.) [Previously on Swamplot] Rendering: BRAVE Architects
RICE PICKS UP 1.75 MORE ACRES NEAR WHEELER TRANSIT CENTER, STRIPPED-DOWN SEARS
A pair of entities connected to Rice University have purchased some extra property near the molted Midtown Sears the school bought along with 3 adjacent acres last year. Included in the deal: the surface parking lot at 4510 Main St. — west of the Wheeler Transit Center — the Shipley Do-Nuts on the corner of Richmond, and the Gulf station next to the Spur 527 overpass. Nothing’s gone down on the land recently except for the gas station; it was demolished in June. But A long list of proposed Houston residential developments put out by mortgage bank Berkadia — now being passed around on HAIF — shows the surface parking now slated for a 243-unit highrise from developer Horizon Real Estate. Last time someone planned to do something with that parcel, ground-floor retail was in the mix, too, with 327 units of affordable housing upstairs. [Berkadia via HAIF; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Lou C.
Here’s some of the new plant life that’s just recently sprung up on the bench outside the Mid Main Lofts near Holman St. (top) and at the southwest corner of Main and Winbern streets (above) outside Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails. Along with another trio stuck to the identical rusty block on the east side of Main at Winbern, they’ve been literally glued to their seats for the past few days, taking over the 3 public rest areas that appeared along with others adjacent to METRO’s Ensemble/HCC Red Line stop roughly a year ago.
The Midtown Redevelopment Authority — the entity responsible for most of the gardening that goes on in the neighborhood’s public right of way — ruled itself out as the planter yesterday morning, saying it’s looking into how the greenery got there in the first place.