09/04/17 9:30am

If you or someone you’re helping has been accepted into FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance program — meant to clear out shelters by providing people who can’t return to their homes a hotel or motel room for a limited period of time — you may want to use the map shown here. It marks the locations of every eligible hotel or motel in the Houston area approved by the program. Using the map should make it easier to find an acceptable one nearby. To view the map in its own browser window, click here.

This map is yet another whipped-up-by-volunteers-in-a-jiffy product of Sketch City — this one created by the civic hacking group’s founder, Jeff Reichman. Sketch City volunteer and college sophomore Nile Dixon (who earlier created a similar tool to help people find nearby shelters) has created a simplified text-it-to-me version of it as well: Just text your ZIP Code to 832-981-4926 and a bot will send back contact info for the nearest verified accommodations in the program.

You can find out more about U.S. government Harvey assistance, including the TSA program, from the FEMA Harvey website.

Map: Sketch City

Harvey Maps
08/11/17 11:15am

The new Holiday Inn Express about to begin construction at 3401 N. Main St. in the Near Northside will have some consistently quiet neighbors and some occasionally very loud ones — with the steady drone of the adjacent North Fwy. available to somehow bridge the gap. The 1.44-acre site, where the Casa Grande Mexican Restaurant stood until it was torn down 2 years ago (and Stuarts Drive-In before it), sits across N. Main St. from the Hollywood Cemetery (yes, the same cemetery featured in Wes Anderson movie Rushmore). And it’s just a bit more than a quarter-mile up N. Main from the White Oak Music Hall complex, whose outdoor concert habit spurred nearby residents kept up late at night by the noise to file suit against the venue — and later, the city of Houston — for failing to follow (and enforce) local sound ordinances.

Late last month, crews removed the concrete paving left behind after the Casa Grande demolition (see photos above). Just this week, a city permit was granted for a 58,929-sq.-ft., 95-room Holiday Inn Express on the site — up 10 rooms from the 85 promised a couple of years ago, when the developers submitted these drawings as part of an application for a variance that would allow them not to have to extend or widen Norma St., on the north end of the lot:

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Near Near Northside
07/28/17 2:45pm

Workers who began removing windows earlier this month from rooms in the long-vacant 30-story abandoned hotel tower at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. haunting the southern reaches of Downtown have reached a critical height. Photos sent to Swamplot show that the systematic effort to yank off the fenestration of every room of the former Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel (it also spent time as a Days Inn, a Holiday Inn, and a Vedic school) have now reached the 13th floor above the structure’s parking garage. This now affords viewers above a certain height — from a neighboring office building, say, or driving along the Pierce Elevated — actual views through the building.

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Acts as an Air Filter, Too
07/10/17 3:30pm

There appears to be some uh . . . work being done to a few of the (long-time-since-they’ve-been-rented) rooms at the former Downtown Days Inn building at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy., also known as Houston’s last remaining (for now) abandoned skyscraper. Look at the lowest level of windows above the parking garage in the top photo. See how the windows appear to be busted out —in a way that’s maybe somewhat different from how many of the other windows are busted out? A somewhat systematic regime of glass removal appears to be working its way up the building’s southern façade, according to a quick comparison of the shot at top, taken today, and this one, from a slightly different angle, taken almost exactly a month earlier:

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Windows Ate
07/07/17 4:00pm

The highrise hotel with apartments River Oaks District developer OliverMcMillan has been promising for a couple years as a tower feature of a promised second phase of the mixed-use development will be an Equinox, according to documents submitted to the city planning department. There’s already an Equinox fitness club in the River Oaks District, fronting Westheimer; the new Equinox hotel will be on the west side of Westcreek Ln., on the rear parking lot portion of the 3.4-acre Sullivan’s Steakhouse–Le Peep shopping center along Westheimer closer to the West Loop that OliverMcMillan leased almost 2 years ago.

The hotel portion of the site is 1.91 acres and set back from Westheimer. Equinox is seeking a variance from the city to allow the hotel to take access from Westcreek Ln., which further to the north also serves as an entry road for the SkyHouse River Oaks and the Wilshire condo towers.

The variance application doesn’t mention how tall the building will be, but renderings of the imagined hotel dating from 2015 (below) show a structure of approximately 25 stories, with a lower parking garage immediately to the west. A shorter building is shown on the 1.5-acre southern portion of the site facing Westheimer:

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Phase Two
06/26/17 12:00pm

What wonders wait in the secret rooftop garden that appears to be peeking over the edge of the highrise at 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy.? Reader and city sleuth Rachel Dvoretzky spotted a handful of leafy protrusions from the former hotel, Vedic school, and ambiguous combination thereof, most recently converted to a Days Inn prior to its slide into further dilapidation. The ever-changing graffiti veneer presented to passing Pierce Elevated drivers has seen some changes since April, too:

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Between Heaven and Heaven on Earth
06/23/17 12:15pm

Reader Bayan Raji sends these pics of the new Hotel ZaZa as it nears completion deep in the superblock just east of Bunker Hill Rd. and south of I-10 in Memorial City. The design by Kirksey Architecture is somewhat reminiscent of the shape of the Hotel ZaZa in the Museum District, except instead of looking out onto the grand traffic circle around the Mecom Fountain and Hermann Park beyond, the double wings of this one will look out past a surface parking lot (shown in the foreground above) to the 20-lane-wide (including the feeders) Katy Fwy. To the west and south, the hotel is flanked by shorter parking garages; directly to its east (behind the construction fence pictured here) will be a green space reserved for live music and festivals.

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Rooms in Memorial City
06/20/17 2:00pm

Here’s a shot from a recent hard-hat tour of the Hotel Alessandra, under construction on a corner of the GreenStreet don’t-call-it-a-mall Downtown. The view hints at what a poolside scene might look like when the hotel opens in October, though not exactly: Marlowe, the 20-story Randall Davis Company condo seen rising in the left background (in front of the Hilton Americas), should look a bit less stubbly stubby by then.

Next, a few pics from the Alessandra lobby, highlighting the swervy ceiling:

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And Other Sneak Peeks
05/05/17 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AN ALTERNATE ROUTE FOR CLEANING UP DOWNTOWN’S IMAGE  “Well, if the problem is defined as ‘Pierce Elevated drivers see blight’ — then one solution is to get rid of the blight; another is to get rid of the Pierce Elevated. It’s probably obvious by now which is more likely to happen.” [_,  commenting on Downtown’s Preeminent Dilapidated Hotel Tower Now Outfitted To Greet I-45ers with New Nametags, Fewer Window Panes] Photo of former Days Inn: Bob Russell

04/25/17 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE THAT DAYS INN TOWER FALLS ON THE HOUSTON ABANDONED HOTEL SPECTRUM Former Holiday Inn, Days Inn, and Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel, 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St., Downtown Houston“As much as I would prefer to see a building like this having some kind of economic use or value in its function, as long as it is not inviting of crime or danger, I don’t have issue with a building just sitting there — that is the owner’s prerogative. (Remember the Sheraton-Lincoln hotel? It sat vacant for years, graffiti-less and fully windowed; no one would have given it a second thought driving by.) In the past few months, the graffiti has exploded, and more and more windows are being broken out. I don’t know what happens when you smash a window 300 feet in the air, but I’m pretty sure those pieces come raining down near and around the building and onto the street. The owners need to do their part to keep the building secured to prevent the criminal activity, and prosecute the trespassers and vandals. Otherwise they are no better than the owners of the Southwest Inn.” [tmr, commenting on Downtown’s Preeminent Dilapidated Hotel Tower Now Outfitted To Greet I-45ers with New Nametags, Fewer Window Panes] Photo: Bob Russell

04/24/17 4:00pm

Proposed Blossom Hotel on Lehall St. at Bertner Ave., Cecil Street Courts, Houston, 77030

1128 Lehall St., Cecil Street Courts, Houston,  77030The little house on the corner with Lehall St. is no longer standing in the would-be shadow of that hotel planned on the 7100 block of Bertner Ave. (seeing as it’s no longer standing at all). Developers with Zhejiang Blossom Tourism Group Houston had originally sketched up a 9-story hotel with a footprint dipping around the holdout corner lot. Adolfo Pesquera notes over at VBX that the latest plans now show a 16-story structure, and an expanded footprint of the site was okayed for commercial use by the planning commission after the property sold.

Here’s a glance back at what the hotel looked like in its earlier iteration, minus a few floors and motarboards:

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Sprouting South of Brays Bayou
04/21/17 2:00pm

Former Holiday Inn, Days Inn, and Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel, 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St., Downtown Houston

Artist and regular neck craner Bob Russell took a moment this week to capture the various works currently on display to Pierce Elevated drivers on the south side of the 30-story highrise at 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy. (former host of a variety of hotels and Vedic teaching initiatives before the building entered its more recent era of abandonment and creeping decrepitude). The uptick in broken windows in the last few months doesn’t appear to have much of a connection to the most recent plans for the stripping and remodeling of the building back into some flavor of hotel, as proposed this time around by SFK Development. As far as other signs of change, the name scrawled across the facade’s central panels has been edited since another tipster’s drive-by back in February:

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01/30/17 5:30pm

1634 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006 1634 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006

Update, 1/31: A few readers noticed some TABC notices across the street — more here.

A reader noted the recent earth-scraping on the now-largely-grassless corner lot at 1634 Westheimer Rd. (shown above in last week’s aquatic trappings). The long-empty land, across Kuester St. from Buffalo Exchange, is listed as the former site of Kewpie’s Cleaners and Dyers, and was previously tapped as the intended site of a 5-story Bunkhouse hotel. The midrise plan fell through, though, freeing the land to become the future site of the Edmont. That plan also fell through: Only a temporary version of the woulda-been restaurant was ever built, for a 1-night fundraiser supporting a foundation started in memory of chef and Edmont co-founder Grant Gordon.

Recently issued city permits suggest the space is turning to the parking industry for now. Here’s another shot, facing southwest through the fence toward interior design shop Merchant & Market, exterior design shop Houston Ink Society, and smoke shop High End:

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Down to 0 Stories for Now
11/30/16 1:15pm

Construction of Hotel Alessandra, Fannin St. at Dallas St., GreenStreet, Houston, 77002

Second Proposed Design for Hotel Alessandra, GreenStreet, Downtown HoustonToday’s look at up-and-coming personified downtown highrises includes a reader’s fresh snap of Hotel Alessandra, which reached full height in August and has been filling out a bit since then. The latest rendering (released after the original question mark design was scrapped) depicts mostly the buildin’s glassier Dallas-St.-facing side; the shot up top is facing the structure’s beige-er south corner. Midway announced a few weeks after the Tax Day flood that the hotel wouldn’t be open in time for the Super Bowl after all, citing weather-related logistical issues. The developers are now planning to open up later on in 2017.

Meanwhile, at the opposite corner of the GreenStreet complex — where Polk and Caroline streets meet — Randall Davis’s Marlowe condo tower is getting off the ground behind The Dirt Bar and Reserve, at the edge of a sea of parked cars:

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Up and Out Around GreenStreet
10/11/16 12:45pm

October 2016 look around Discovery Green and George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas, Downtown, Houston, 77010

Supercolumn Going Up on George R. Brown Convention Center, Downtown HoustonBob Russell sends a fresh slew of downtown updates, this time checking up on the state of the George R. Brown Convention Center area’s ongoing redo. The structure’s main entrance on Avenida De Las Americas has been getting a major facelift — the supercolumns installed last summer have since turned white, and the glassy  facade has stepped outward and dropped a few stripes, in line with the plans released previously by semi-public city branding organization Houston First:

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Super Bowl Conditioning