07/05/16 10:00am

Former KBR Campus, 4100 Clinton Dr., Fifth Ward, Houston

Whatever’s in store for the 136-acre former KBR site along the the Ship Channel at 4100 Clinton Dr., CityCentre developer Midway now looks to be involved. Documents filed with the county clerk’s office near the end of May reveal that Cathexis Holdings recently sold the site to KBRN, an entity connected to Midway through a recently minted corporate partnership (and officially located down the hall from Midway’s CityCentre office.)

And might Midway — which also heads the team that turned failed Downtown Mall Houston Pavilions into GreenStreet, and is developing the Kirby Grove park-and-office-building complex along the banks of the Southwest Fwy. in Upper Kirby — have some big office-shopping-residential-and-park-y plans in mind for this vast property, which lies about a mile and a half downstream from Downtown? A couple of clues are out there:

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Sold on the Ship Channel
03/07/16 2:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE ART OF SLIPPING AWAY Downward Green Arrow“The luxury real estate article says that a lot of owner/CEO’s of small oil companies are selling their mansions to help save their companies. That’s an assbackwards way — there’s a reason you stash a few million in your homestead: It’s exempt from creditors and bankruptcy. Let the dying company fold, file bankruptcy, sell the house later, and boom, you’re liquid again and start with fresh paper and zero liabilities.” [commonsense, commenting on The Typical Home Buyer’s Salary; Getting Creative in the Luxury Housing MarketIllustration: Lulu

02/29/16 10:15am

Fisher Homes, 832 Yale St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77007

Fisher Homes, 832 Yale St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77007

The custom home and office building of Heights homebuilder Fisher Homes at 832 Yale St. is currently up for sale or lease. Construction on the just-under-15,000-sq.-ft. building south of 9th St. wrapped up near the end of 2014; the property listing indicates that availability started in January of this year.

Amenities at the Morrison Heights and Studemont Mid-Rise developer’s mixed-use space include an indoor basketball court, downtown views from the above-3rd-story rooftop terrace, and various conference rooms. Floorplans of the building show the middle-of-the-house driveway (which provides access to the backyard parking lot) separating a 437-sq.-ft. apartment (circled in dotted red below) from the main structure:

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For Sale on Yale
02/19/16 11:30am

230 Blalock Rd., Piney Point, TX 77024

The house at 230 Blalock is back on the market this week for just under $2.2 million — more than half a million more than what the city of Piney Point accepted for the house in 2008 (eating a $60,000 loss). The city purchased the 5-bedroom house to use as City Hall back in aught-7, after being kicked out of the Houston strip mall it was using at 7721 San Felipe St.

The city council was subsequently told that no, they couldn’t keep it, and the house went back up for sale, with some debate about whether or not to update the interiors before flipping the property. The most recent owner, however, decided to go for the upgrades. Here’s a few before-and-after shots:

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Piney Point
02/03/16 1:45pm

Demolition of Westbury Square, West Bellfort Ave. Near Chimney Rock Rd., Westbury, Houston, 77035

Demolition began yesterday on one of the 11 remaining structures of Westbury Square at Chimney Rock Rd. and W. Belfort Ave., according to a post on the Westbury Civic Club’s Facebook page. The post indicates that the first building on the chopping block was one damaged by fire in 2010, but that the rest were not scheduled by the owners to meet their unmakers on Tuesday.

An agent for Camelot Realty Group told HBJ last July that the run-down 1960s shopping plaza was under contract by the Villas at Westbury Square, and that the buildings were slated for demolition at the start of last August to make way for more than 100 townhomes (or maybe a commercial development, depending on how things went). A Swamplot commenter noted, however, that the buildings were still standing in early January.

Photo: Westbury Houston

Chimney Rock at W. Belfort
01/20/16 4:45pm

U.S. GOVERNMENT WILL TRY TO TRACK ANONYMOUS CASH REAL ESTATE BUYERS Meanwhile, in Manhattan and Miami: The U.S. Treasury Department announced an upcoming trial run for keeping tabs on the identities of “luxury real estate” buyers in 2 high-volume markets, citing concerns that cash purchases by anonymous shell corporations are being used to safeguard ill-gotten assets. From March through August, title insurance companies in Manhattan will be required to identify and report the buyers of any property priced above $3 million; in Miami-Dade County, the threshold will be $1 million. The Department says that permanent nationwide reporting requirements could be developed if many sales involving suspicious money are uncovered during the trial period. [New York Times]

01/19/16 12:30pm

UT Houston Campus Site, Buffalo Lakes, Houston

The deal is sealed on the University of Texas’s purchase of a 100-acre hunk of land south of South Main St. as of last Friday. The sale marks the first concrete move toward UT’s planned Houston campus, though closings on the parcel patchwork comprising the rest of the 300-ish ac. likely won’t wrap up until early 2017, according to a press release from the school’s Office of Public Affairs.

The sold land is a forested tract northwest of the wiggly intersection of Willowbend Dr. and Buffalo Spdwy.; the property is split along a northwest-southeast diagonal by a linear drainage feature which makes an appearance in those preliminary campus designs (shown from the north in the image above).

That land was owned previously by Buffalo Lakes Ltd., an entity associated with UT grad John Kirksey of Kirksey Architecture. A plan for a Buffalo Lakes master-planned community (see below) was drawn up more than 4 years ago by Kirksey for the same space:

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South Main Master Plans
12/01/15 10:00am

UT Houston Campus Site, Buffalo Lakes, Houston

Some zoomy conceptual renderings of the University of Texas’s coming Houston campus, centered on the largely undeveloped intersection of Buffalo Spdwy. and Willowbend Blvd., made their debut at last month’s Board of Regents meeting, where the intended purchase of land for the project was announced. Buffalo Spdwy. gently winds through the drawings of the new campus to a track and several baseball diamonds along Holmes Rd. (which runs horizontally across the top of the image above).

Although the images are only “concepts”, the pictures do provide a sense of how the campus might unfold: For example, that linear water feature shown at the center of the campus aligns with an existing drainage ditch on the property, and the 3 long, low structures in the foreground are good candidates for parking garages, which will be needed regardless of the new institution’s yet-to-be-decided purpose.

Existing residential communities and industrial parks are here rendered as sparsely-treed fields — the boundary of the land slated for purchase by UT currently houses several apartment complexes on the north side and the Orkin Industrial Surplus facility to the south.

But another conceptual rendering (this one looking northwest across Holmes Rd. towards the distant Williams Tower) shows the campus in place amongst some of its eclectic neighbors:

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Welcome to the neighborhood
07/02/15 1:00pm

Westbury Square, West Bellfort Ave. Near Chimney Rock Rd., Westbury, Houston

Westbury Square, West Bellfort Ave. Near Chimney Rock Rd., Westbury, HoustonConfirming a rumor Swamplot noted last week, the HBJ’s Roxana Asgarian reports that “one of the largest residential developers in Houston” has plans to transform two-thirds of the site of former pedestrian shopping district Westbury Square into 100 to 125 townhomes. Camelot Realty Group’s Tom Cervone tells Asgarian a group of developers going by the name of Villas at Westbury Square has the property on West Bellfort near Chimney Rock and West Bellfort under contract from its longtime owner, Alfred Antonini.

All 11 remaining Westbury Square buildings — including the longtime home of the Company OnStage theater group — will be torn down in 30 days, the real estate agent says. Two of the more dilapidated structures from the complex were demolished last year; the Home Depot next door (visible in the distance in the photo below) was built on land that previously belonged to the complex.

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06/29/15 12:15pm

BUYER OF CHRONICLE COMPLEX DOWNTOWN NOT EXPECTED TO CRUSH IT JUST YET Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown HoustonThe deal could still fall through, cautions Ralph Bivins, but real estate development firm Hines is in the middle of negotiating a purchase of the Houston Chronicle’s complex and parking garage at 801 Texas Ave. downtown. Expected sale price: “more than $50 million, perhaps as much as $55 million.” But Bivins doesn’t think Hines is ready to knock down the structures and build another of its downtown office developments on the 99,184 sq. ft. of land on 2 blocks right away. Instead, he writes, the company “appears to be seeking to lock up a prime skyscraper development site for future years.” [Realty News Report; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Walter P Moore

06/26/15 12:00pm

WESTBURY SQUARE HEADED FOR SALE, EXILE OF REMAINING TENANTS The Company OnStage Theater, 536 Westbury Square, Westbury Square, Westbury, HoustonA sales contract is pending on the remaining portions of faded pedestrian shopping district Westbury Square, a note posted to the home page of The Company OnStage and sent to the group’s subscribers announces. The note does not address rumored plans to divide the purchased site near the intersection of West Bellfort and Chimney Rock into more than 100 townhome lots, but does indicate that completion of the sale will likely bring an end to the company’s 33-year residency at 536 Westbury Square (pictured here). The theater group is postponing the announcement of its upcoming season, and says it is looking to relocate. Two buildings in the complex were torn down early last year. [The Company OnStage; previously on Swamplot] Photo: The Company OnStage  

06/11/15 1:00pm

broadstone-tinsley-park-aerial

Former Brownfield Site at 801 and 1701 Gillette St., Fourth Ward, HoustonThe complicated transaction that allowed the city to sell the 10.52-acre brownfield site along Allen Parkway between the Federal Reserve building and Allen Parkway Village to an apartment developer was concluded in late April, the Houston Business Journal‘s Paul Takahashi reports. Alliance Residential paid $39.9 million for the property along Gillette St., where the city began operating a solid waste incinerator in the 1920s and later converted the site for use as its fleet maintenance facility. The company immediately sold the northern 6 acres to an unnamed private investor; Alliance now plans to build a 365-unit apartment complex on the southern half of the property, fronting Gillette and West Dallas St.

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Fourth Ward
06/10/15 10:00am

$150 HOUSE SELLER EXPECTS TO REFUND 500 IDENTICAL OFFERS 213 E. 23rd St., Houston HeightsThe real estate agent who’s been trying to sell his Heights bungalow for $150 tells reporter Paul Takahashi that — barring an “incredible surge” of new applications and fees before the June 13 deadline — he’ll be refunding the approximately 500 $150 offer fees he’s received so far for the property. For now, he says, he’s organizing his emails to filter out the more than 1,500 essays he received from would-be homebuyers who somehow got the idea that Wachs would sell them the 2-bedroom, 1-bath property even if they didn’t submit the required fee from the 500 or so who followed his instructions. All that sorting is “a time-consuming and boring” task, he tells Takahashi. Wachs had hoped the application fees would add up to the unspecified amount between $265K and $550 he figures his family’s home at 213 E. 23rd St. is worth. [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Photo: $150 House

06/05/15 10:30am

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO SELLING THIS HEIGHTS BUNGALOW FOR $150 213 E. 23rd St., Houston HeightsThree weeks since the announcement, and with a little more than a week remaining before the June 13 deadline, more than 2,000 essays have come in from would-be buyers requesting that Heights real estate agent Mark Wachs sell his Heights bungalow at 213 E. 23rd St. to them for one heartening reason or another. But writing in The Leader, Kim Hogstrom reveals a more curious development: The vast majority of the applicants either can’t or don’t want to follow Wachs’s instructions — or never bothered to look at them too closely. Only about 500 of the submitted 200-word essays came with the required $150 application fee. With enough fees coming in from also-rans, some fortunate buyer would be able to purchase the 2-bedroom, 1,056-sq.-ft., 2-bedroom, 1-bath bungalow for just $150 (plus title and closing costs) — and still allow Wachs to receive what he thinks the house is worth, which he hints is somewhere between $265K and $550K. On the website he set up for the offer, Wachs states that application fees will be refunded if he doesn’t end up with a buyer using this method; he also indicates he might extend the deadline. [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Mark Wachs

05/14/15 12:30pm

HOW TO BUY A HOUSE IN THE HEIGHTS FOR $150 213 E. 23rd St., Houston HeightsOr just pay $150 and don’t get a house at all! No, there are no missing zeros or Ks in that sale price, but there is a catch: Real estate agent and Houston Heights resident Michael Wachs says he’s accepting offers until June 13th, each accompanied by a nonrefundable offer fee of $150, for his family’s 2-bedroom, 1-bath bungalow at 213 E. 23rd St. The decision of which one to accept, he indicates, will be made by judging the best 200-word essay that accompanies it, not the offer amount. The required essay, he writes, should explain “why we should sell the house to you,” but include no names or identifying information: “The fee is nonrefundable if we find a buyer via this process. If we do not, we will refund the offer fee.” (He’s also discouraging his family and friends from applying: “It just would be fishy if our parents happened to have the best essay,” he notes.) Included on the website he set up to explain the sale — along with a handy form for collecting email addresses for his real-estate business and a bit of encouragement to support some hearing-aid legislation now under consideration in the Texas House — are a few photos of the property, a sellers disclosure, inspection report, and mold remediation certificate. Why’s his family selling? “We had longterm plans to fix-up our little place or build on the lot, but our baby is now going to school across the city and we don’t want to deal with traffic. (It’s a very Houston reason to move.)” HCAD values the 1,056-sq.-ft., 1920 home with 2-car garage on a 5,300-sq.-ft. lot at $394,129. [$150 House] Photo: Terrence Foster