10/19/18 10:00am

“Houston must have looked huge to Lyndon Johnson as he drove toward it across the flat Gulf plains in his battered little car,” writes Robert Caro in his biography of the former president. Johnson’s destination: Sam Houston High School (shown at top), which opened in 1921 in place of the even-older Central High School on the block bounded by Austin, Rusk, Caroline, and Capitol — the same spot where the new Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts is now “90 percent complete,according to Paper City’s Annie Gallay.

Hired to teach public speaking and coach the debate team, Johnson — writes Caro — promised his new principle he’d win the state championship. He didn’t, coming in second at the tournament in Austin. Still, Johnson had succeeded in making a name for himself among staff — who gave him a $100 raise and a contract for the next school year — and among the school’s 1,800 students — who jockeyed for enrollment in “Mr. Johnson’s speech class” during the following school year. By the end of LBJ’s first full year at Sam Houston, reports Caro, enrollment had increased from 60 to 110 new students.

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Sam Houston High to HSPVA
10/03/18 1:00pm

A Swamplot reader perched up in the SkyHouse River Oaks apartment building on Westcreek Ln. has been sending in updates on the new strippy building rising directly south of Robbins Brothers Jewlers’ W.-Loop-Feeder location. The photo at top shows the current state of progress on the new structure, and the other one above shows where it was at 2 and a half weeks ago.

Although nobody’s piped up just yet to say what it’ll look like when its done, a temporary address board hanging outside the construction site gives its location as 2111 W. Loop S. — reports the reader — which is the same spot where the city has signed off on permits for a 3-story retail and parking building over the last few months. It’s also the former site of Joe’s Golf House (though its address, 2121 W. Loop S., was slightly different the one now in use) and its feeder-fronting golf ball sign which remains teed-up today.

Here’s a closer view of the site from September:

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Behind Joes’s Golf Tee
09/27/18 11:30am

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

09/26/18 2:45pm

Wooden siding now covers up all but a small portion of Shake Shack‘s coming store at 1002 Westheimer, in the spot where Burger King collapsed 2 months ago. The new coverings have the restaurant looking a little more like what’s shown in the rendering put out by the burger brand at the end of last month, right around the time that work started on its new building.

Here’s what progress looks like from the west, outside Blacksmith:

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Beefing Up Westheimer
09/21/18 12:30pm

A nationwide franchise of about a dozen kids obstacle gyms is bringing its latest location to the new business park in Katy, on Franz Rd. about a mile inside the Grand Pkwy. Its name — USA Ninja Challenge — plays off that of the 10-seasons-old sports entertainment show American Ninja Warrior, on which contestants ages 19 and up race through a series of physical challenges before a live audience.

USA Ninja Challenge serves a younger demographic: Kids 4 to 17 are split into groups with their peers and tasked with scaling things like sloped walls, rock climbing walls, ladders, cargo nets, and peg boards — as well as balancing on slack lines and other easy-to-fall off objects. Six levels of training make up the official curriculum, each containing 27 individual skills for students to check off.

At the 22564 Franz Rd. location — the chain’s first in Texas — it’ll all go down inside the 7,000-sq.-ft. box pictured at top. It’s nestled within the triangular Franz at Elrod complex shown in the map above with north on the right. Classes start just over a month from now, on October 22.

Photo: USA Ninja Challenge. Map: LoopNet

USA Ninja Challenge
09/19/18 3:45pm

The chain’s new 3004 Yale St. location opens next Friday, September 28 in the strip behind the 4-week-old grocery store and its parking lot off 610. Just off-camera to the left of the gym’s spot is the Verizon store that’s already doing business in the retail building.

It’s holding down the fort all by itself right now, but once Orangetheory moves in next door a bunch more tenants are expected to follow:

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Independence Heights
09/17/18 9:45am

Red hyphenated signage hasn’t yet put a name to the building, but you can see all the other makings of H-E-B’s second second-story Houston grocery store from above in the video at top. The footage starts off over N. Shepherd, then pans around the corner of 23rd St., offering a view of the former Fiesta site from the south.

Back in March a spokesperson for the grocer told The Leader’s Landan Kuhlmann to expect a “late fall opening,” meaning the store’s debut could coincide roughly with the 2 year anniversary of the dry zone modification its management pushed for prior to construction.

Video: Brandon DuBois

Doubly Decked Out
09/05/18 10:15am

EYE DOC GRABBING SPACE NEXT TO DENTIST IN MID MAIN LOFTS’ METRO SIDE The office of Dr. Benjamin Golik, DDS is getting a new optometrist neighbor along Main St. as heralded by a recently filed building permit for the Mid Main Lofts‘ ground level. The eye doctor’s move-in will leave the apartments’ east side more full than not — though a few of its rail-adjacent retail spaces remain empty according to the map above of the building’s first floor. [Previously on Swamplot] Map: LoopNet

08/23/18 3:45pm

Checkout lines at the new 365 by Whole Foods Market stretched about halfway to the back of the store during its opening yesterday as Independence Heights grocery pioneers crowded in to get a first look at the place — the chain’s tenth 365 store since the branding originated in 2015. None of the neighboring tenants are open yet in the adjacent strip center that stretches north along Yale St. But the 30,000-sq.-ft. grocery store’s 2 in-house restaurants are.

Juice Society (signage pictured at top) specializes in liquids while Peli Peli Kitchen deals South African food from this counter-serve spot:

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Prime Members Welcome
08/23/18 12:15pm

The aftermath of Bacco’s Wine Garden’s latest design choice at 3611 Montrose Blvd. has the place looking a little less like a homeless shelter and more like a bar.  Empty bottles were as close as the venue could get to the real thing before its TABC license got approved on Tuesday. Now that that’s all squared away, real booze will be stored inside.

It’s a marketing strategy similar to the one Postino employed with the bright yellow wine promos hung up on its Heights Mercantile patio before it opened. Except by the looks of their attachment, these reds, whites — and even a few proseccos — are here to stay.

They line the bar’s fencing all the way out to the sidewalk:

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The Pre-Game
08/22/18 9:45am

The Harris County Democratic Party office has been in the building at 4619 Lyons Ave. since earlier this summer, but officials still haven’t gotten entirely situated there yet. A building permit filed yesterday now paves the way for a few more office additions to get them fully moved in after abandoning their previous headquarters on the North Loop near I-45.

Keeping them company in the building is Para Design Group, the Houston architecture firm that put the finishing touches on the place earlier this year and now has its own office on the second floor.

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Fifth Ward Foothold
08/21/18 2:15pm

Mounds of soil are now piled up behind La Familia Meat Market, where InTown Homes is in the early stages of construction on its latest townhome cluster, Williams on Commerce. A commercial fill and grade permit issued for the site back in mid-April gave the developer permission to jack up 31 of the lots it plans to build on using the dirt pictured above. Now that much of it’s been dumped in place, a few PVC pipes are starting to sprout from it.

Other infrastructure waits patiently on the sidelines:

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08/16/18 12:15pm

A Swamplot reader sends a few drive-by snapshots of construction on the Goddard School’s campus expansion, now going up along both sides of W. 23rd St west of Durham. The photo at top shows the 2-story steel framing now rising on the north side of the street, while the one above shows the portion of the preschool that’s going up opposite it, just east of Wright-Bembry Park.

Blue fencing now separates the green space from the south construction site:

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Steel Preschool Skeletons
08/15/18 3:30pm

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

08/15/18 12:15pm

Everything is operational now at the Transart Foundation for Art and Anthropology‘s hulking white headquarters north of the Menil — which took the place of a house earlier this year. The organization’s mission is to study the role of art in everyday life by supporting “experimental work at the intersection of art and anthropology.” It’s one door down from the intersection of W. Alabama and Yupon St., next to the Neon Gallery bungalow partly visible in the photo above.

Inside, a first floor gallery is divided by a central stairway that climbs up to a roof deck and garden:

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Transart Foundation