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:
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Sears and Friends
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.
Photos: The Gypsy Poet (sign); Core Church (Jim S.)
Change Comes Knocking
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.
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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.
Photo: Preservation Houston/The Heritage Society
The House off I-45
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.
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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.
Photos: Allyn West
You Can’t Sit With Us
COMMENT OF THE DAY: NEW ART SUPPLY WILL CROP UP SOMEWHERE OFF MAIN ST. AHEAD OF PLANNED HIGHRISING
“The owners of Art Supply are moving to a new location. This is a successful store, and the owners have no intention of closing up and retiring. In addition, this building has been used as studios for artists for decades as well as a location for art classes. Their new location will also have art studios.” [Robert Boyd, commenting on Australian Developer Now Has All 3 Midtown Blocks Lined Up for Incoming Highrise Trio] Photo: Keaton Joyner
AUSTRALIAN DEVELOPER NOW HAS ALL 3 MIDTOWN BLOCKS LINED UP FOR INCOMING HIGHRISE TRIO
The Australian developer planning a trio of towers and lower-level retail on 3 adjacent Main St. blocks recently bought a chunk of the middle one — now home to Art Supply on Main — giving it free rein over the entire zone it wants to rebuild between McGowen and Tuam streets. Earlier renderings (since yanked from the interwebs) showed that 30,000-sq.-ft. middle parcel off Drew St. housing a highrise with signage for “The Drew Hotel” and Aussie brewery Little Creatures. The art store doesn’t plan to move out until next spring, says the developer Caydon Property, so any transformative tower work will have to wait. But in the meantime, construction’s already gone vertical on the block directly south of it, where a 27-story building is taking the place of the former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority campus torn down last year. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of Art Supply on Main: Keaton Joyner
WHAT’S ON TAP ACROSS FROM THE MATCH
A building permit filed just recently reveals the latest tenant in the group that’s been ganging up in the ground floor of the double-block-long Mid Main Lofts over the past few months: The Brass Tap. With 8 locations already open in Texas — but none in Houston — the Florida-born, alloy-themed franchise had been looking around town for a good spot to make its local debut, reported the Chronicle back in January. It’s settled on 922 Holman St., putting it around the corner from newcomer Kura Revolving Sushi Bar on Main St. (pictured above in advance of its opening earlier this year), close to that other bar now cropping up on the apartment’s Travis-St.-side, and directly across the street from the MATCH. The number of actual taps that can be expected to operate inside: roughly 60, with supplementary bottled offerings bringing the total beer count to about 200 national and international selections. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of Kura Revolving Sushi Bar: Natalie W
Here’s what’s now being stabbed onto the vacant Midtown block bounded by Gray, Austin, Webster, and LaBranch streets catty-corner to the parking lot fronting St. Joseph Professional building and its recently-fallen cross: a 216-unit apartment building. The 5-story brick-and-stucco structure — pictured in the rendering above from architect Steinberg Dickey Collaborative — rests on 2 stories of parking. Its developer Winther Investment bought the full block along with the adjacent one southeast of it in 2013, where it plans to plant another residential building once this current cube is complete.
Rendering: Steinberg Dickey Collaborative
Stack of Bricks
WHAT CHANCE WOULD THE KIRBY MANSION STAND TO STAY STANDING UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP?
The demolition watchdogs over at Preservation Houston report that a buyer has the 36-room Midtown mansion on the corner of Pierce and Smith St. under contract and “does not intend to retain the building.” Seeking to thwart a teardown, Houston historic commission chair Minnette Boesel met with seller Phlip Azar last week — reports Nancy Sarnoff — and urged him to find someone instead who’ll keep the place upright. Aside from the house’s pedigree (built in 1894 for John Henry Kirby, it was expanded and remodeled 32-years later by architect James Ruskin Bailey), the Tudor at 2006 Smith St. has state and federal tax credits to offer any developer that renovates it for commercial use. That’s what its last would-be buyer Dennis Murphree hoped to do 3 years ago before the sale fell through. His plan: build a 15-story office tower designed “to look as much like the mansion as possible,” right next door to it — reported Sarnoff — and incorporate the 18,000-sq.-ft. house into the complex.[Preservation Houston; more info] Photo: Preservation Houston/The Heritage Society
Almost all the metal siding that covered up the Midtown Sears building at 4201 Main has now been taken down, leaving behind rows of metal brackets used to mount the outer shell. Mayor Turner announced 2 months ago that the building would be turned into a startup incubation headquarters, and work to pull down the cladding began shortly after.
A few decorative details are now visible from the street, as shown below from Fannin:
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