After the owner of the yellow bungalow went to jail in 2015 for conspiracy, the townhome neighbors bought it and begun looking to put some distance between the house and their own. Last Wednesday, the city’s historical commission reviewed their plans however and told them no can do. The extra 7-ft.-8-in. they wanted to add between the 2 structures would take the bungalow — part of the Heights South Historic District — out of its original 1920 location at 922 Columbia St. And the other change — sliding it 5-ft.-3.5-in. back from the curb to line up with its taller neighbor — would make it less prominent along the street.
The decision is binding, so there’s no shying away now from the current situation:
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Close Quarters on Columbia St.
BROTHERS TACO HOUSE’S BACKYARD COULD CHANGE HANDS ANY DAY NOW
The 1.3 acres situated behind Brothers Taco House are now under contract after just over a month on the market. Aside from the 6,000-sq.-ft. northeast portion of the block occupied by the restaurant and its parking lot, the rest has long been empty. It’s all overlooked by a row of townhouses put up along Bastrop St. in 2008. [HAR via HAIF] Photo: Swamplox inbox
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
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.
THE BUILDUP TO TEAR THINGS DOWN FOR THE NEW I-45 HAS BEGUN
“I’ve noticed a trend in lower Fifth Ward to start building or planning to build in the path of the upcoming I-45 reroute,” writes a Swamplot reader. “Is there a chance that developers can make more money on their buyout if they have developed plans?” Developed or not, there’s certainly been some action along the right of way that TxDOT plans to crater for the new highway segment — like that recent buying and selling in East Downtown across from the GRB. No one’s signed up to build anything new on those parcels yet — but with roadwork not slated to start until 2020, that’s plenty of time to get something ready ahead of the demolitions the highwaymen have planned to make way for the reroute. [Previously on Swamplot] Diagram of I-45 reroute: TxDOT
THE EAST DOWNTOWN BLOCK WEST OF TRUCK YARD HAS A NEW OWNER
A group connected to Houston developer Ancorian has snatched up nearly the entire block directly west of recently-opened bars Rodeo Goat and Truck Yard in East Downtown, according to documents filed with the county. The quadrant — bounded by Dallas, Lamar, Chartres, and St. Emanuel streets — is where contractor Britain Electric had its facilities, pictured above, for more than 6 decades before moving out to Brittmore Rd. about a mile and a half north of I-10 just over a year ago. All of its buildings are Ancorian’s now (including a few auxiliary ones across the street), along with everything else on the block except 3 parcels fronting Chartres St. on the northeast corner — one of which played host to the former Silver House Theatre performing arts venue. Photo: Yellowpages
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 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
The owners of the hamburger, Mexican food, barbecue, and fish restaurant on the northwest corner of Taft and Peden — dubbed “Greased Lightning Pit Stop” by the sign hanging on it for over a decade — have listed it for sale at $750,000. Also included in the offer: the storefront adjacent to it and a run-down bungalow diagonally behind the restaurant.
The bungalow sits on a separate, 5,000-sq.-ft. lot beyond the fence shown below:
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Taft and Peden
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE DOWNTOWN APARTMENTS THAT RAN IN MY FAMILY
“My uncle, J. Holly Brewer, bought the Plaza Court and Peacock apartments sometime about 1942. It was managed by his mother, Kate Lillian Brewer, and my mother, Edith Fox Bannerman, until J. Holly Brewer and my father, James Knox Bannerman, returned from service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. J. Holly Brewer then operated the apartments alone until his death in 1984. Edith Fox Bannerman and her sister, Frances Marion Marchiando, then inherited the property and jointly managed it. After Mrs. Marchiando passed away her son, Michael Marchiando, jointly managed the buildings with mom until 1995. At that point I, James Knox Bannerman II, and my mother, Edith Bannerman, shared the management of the buildings until we sold them in 2014. I felt it was time to sell them as [my] mother was 97-years young. Mother did not speak to me for a week after the sale. When she did speak her first sentence was, ‘You took my job away.’ Go figure. She is amazing. She drove the Houston freeways until she was 93 with never a citation or accident. Mom is 100 now and occasionally we drive her to visit some of the long-term tenants. These buildings have many stories to tell. I am delighted to see they are to be updated and preserved.” [James Knox Bannerman II, commenting on The Changes Coming to the Pre-War Peacock & Plaza Apartment Complex Downtown] Photo of apartment courtyard: LoopNet
THE CHANGES COMING TO THE PRE-WAR PEACOCK & PLAZA APARTMENT COMPLEX DOWNTOWN
The new owner of the Peacock & Plaza Apartments at 1414 Austin St. — a 2-building, 32-unit complex that sports a colorfully feathered mosaic a block west of the Toyota Center — tells Swamplot what’s in store for a portion of the property: “We plan to heavily upgrade each unit in one of the two buildings. New plumbing, electrical, upgrade of HVAC systems, all new kitchens, appliance, bathroom.” In the other building: “We’ll clean the units up but we’re going to try to leave it somewhat original,” says the representative of the buyer, Fat Property. Before Colorado-based FVMHP took over the complex in 2014, it had been owned by the same woman for 80 years, according to the current buyer. Designed by Houston architect Lenard Gabert, its first building went up in 1926; the second followed 14 years later. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Fat Property
OXY IN TALKS TO BUY CONOCOPHILLIPS’ CAMPUS
Occidental Petroleum has its eyes on the 62-acre campus on N. Dairy Ashford off I-10 that ConocoPhillips has been planning to vacate since last year. In an email to Oxy employees, CEO Vicki Hollub said the company had found “a unique opportunity to acquire an office campus with the space and amenities to create a more modern work environment.” Oxy arrived in Greenway Plaza a few years after ConocoPhillips set up shop in its then-newly-built Dairy Ashford complex during the early 80s. Renovations made over the Conoco campus — pictured above — in 2008, but last year, the oil giant announced it’d be taking off for the 22-story Energy Center 4 building it had leased on the other side of I-10. The highrise neighbors the 2-stories-shorter Energy Center 3 tower, where employees of Conoco’s Lower 48 business unit are already stationed. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of ConocoPhillips headquarters, 600 N. Dairy Ashford Rd.: W.S. Bellows Construction
The sheet metal façade backed by an assortment of shipping-container parts is now gone, and mountains of stuff have been removed from the longtime junk emporium at 317 W. 19th St. in the Heights, perhaps better known as the open-air building with a front but no roof that lent the shopping district its perhaps now diminished air of funk. The photo at top, sent Swamplot’s way by a flabbergasted reader, shows the now-vacant lot with everything removed. Below it, a rare aerial view from a few years ago reveals secret stashes maintained behind the lot’s corrugated streetfront.
But perhaps what you remember of this lot is different: a mysterious supply house behind whose shiny gate backdrops for hundreds of street scenes emerged over the years? Or a backdrop for fashion shoots?
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Is the site of shuttered gay bar Montrose Mining Company destined to become a parking lot for nearby restaurant Baba Yega Cafe? The new owner of Baba Yega, developer Fred Sharifi, bought the 39-year-old bar on the corner of Pacific and Grant streets from longtime proprietor Charles Armstrong last month. When the bar closed in 2016, Armstrong said he was working on plans to bring a new restaurant to the building within 18 months. A sign posted on the door of 805 Pacific St. now directs would-be patrons to one of Armstrong’s other hangouts across Pacific — JR’s Bar & Grill. Above that flyer, a notice from the city dated December 14 — 2 days after the 2,809-sq.-ft. building was sold — tells its owners to stop all unpermitted plumbing and structural work on the site.
Sharifi has now purchased at least 5 Montrose properties within the last 2 years, including Baba Yega, Montrose Mining Company, and 3 sites slated to be part of a project he’s developing on Fairview Ave. — one of which was home to Armstrong’s nightclub Meteor. In addition to his projects in Montrose, Sharifi also owns Hungry’s Cafe in Rice Village.
Armstrong still appears to own a vacant, 6,648-sq.-ft. property that wraps around the east side of Montrose Mining Company:
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Old Gay Bars of Avondale
MOSAIC SOUTH TOWER ONLY NOW GOING BY HANOVER HERMANN PARK The 29-story, 394-unit glass apartment building at 5927 Almeda Rd. known as the Mosaic South Tower, and before that the Montage, and before that the south tower of the Mosaic, shall henceforth (or until it sells again, probably) be known as the Hanover Hermann Park. (It’s pictured at right in the above photo.) Last week PGIM, the real estate division of Prudential Financial, bought the building, which fronts Hermann Park and backs up to 288 — along with the retail portion of the building’s gone-condo identical twin immediately to the north, still known not-at-all-confusingly as the Mosaic on Hermann Park. The seller was Winthrop Realty Liquidating Trust, which (in case it’s not obvious from that company’s name) is in the process of selling off every property it owns. In case the name change wouldn’t be enough of a clue, a note sent last week to residents by the seller indicates that the building will now be managed by the Hanover Company. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: elnina, via Swamplot Flickr pool