03/23/15 10:00am

JUST A BUNCH OF GUYS HANGING OUT ON THE ASTRODOME ROOF Visitors to Astrodome Roof, HoustonAstrodome security wasn’t the tightest during the Rodeo of 2012, it appears. That’s when builder Russell Hancock snuck inside the unused stadium and sent photos of some of the sorry scenes he found there to Swamplot — sparking a spate of media interest in the long-ignored venue. But Hancock wasn’t the Astrodome’s only unauthorized visitor that year. Brewskies in hand, 4 dudes with cameraphones also snuck into the structure, though it appears they spent much of their time exploring the structure’s peripheral spaces. Over this past weekend, one of the 4 posted an album of pix from their years-ago nighttime venture, the stars of which are the explorers themselves; with blanked-out faces, they’re seen hanging out in locker rooms, hiding in ice machines, operating the scoreboard controls, and pretending to tend bar in an upper-level suite. The highlight, though, is clearly the roofwalk: “After walking around on the top floor,” the anonymous poster writes, “I decided we should try to find our way onto the roof. Not kidding at all — the first door I opened, what looked like a closet door, had a ladder in it. So of course we climbed that shit. It went up about 15 ft. to a hatch that wasn’t locked. So we popped our head out and there was the roof. To the Astrodome. It was surreal. We started to climb up the sky lights to try to get to the top, but about 20—30 ft. up we realized that was probably not the best idea.” [imgur] Photos: Astrodome713

03/12/15 2:00pm

Oaks of Brittany Apartments, 1201 Wilcrest Dr., Memorial, Houston

A reader wants to know what, if anything, is happening to the run-down apartment complex at 1201 Wilcrest Dr. just north of Briar Forest Dr. and across the street from the Westside Tennis & Fitness Club: “Some renovation work began many months ago, including new windows and the start of a roof. Unfortunately, the roof was never completed, windows have been boarded up, and now the whole place looks abandoned.” The complex is called the Oaks of Brittany.


Boarded Up
07/07/14 1:00pm

Central Square Plaza Building, 2100 Travis St., Midtown, Houston

Central Square Plaza Building, 2100 Travis St., Midtown, HoustonThere’s been a bit of action in the ongoing demo-and-rehab of the long-vacant Central Square Plaza complex at 2100 Travis St. in Midtown. Roving photographer Marc Longoria catches the shot from the building’s backside above, showing where you can now see through portions of the 14-story complex, which was originally developed by Houston oil tycoon Glenn McCarthy (of Shamrock Hotel fame) and designed by architects Lars Bang and Lucian Hood. And from the Twitter account of the building’s owner, Claremont Property Company, this morning comes the scene portrayed at left, showing crane work on the north-facing Gray St. side of the building.


Office Redo Doings
03/13/14 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: PRYING DILAPIDATED PROPERTIES FROM SHY OWNERS Notices“I’ve spent some time in my career tracking down the sort of person that doesn’t like paying bills, receiving official notices or summonses, or anything at all like that. And yeah, it’s usually some individual or a tight family, often living out-of-state. A big corporation could never pull it off so easily. Even if the City levies fines against the owner and eventually forecloses the property and sells it at a constables’ auction, the title is still marred because the previous owner might come back to challenge the sale over issues of notice. That doesn’t happen terribly often, but it does happen and it’s in the back of any would-be bidder’s mind at the auction. Of course, that means that the risk and the back taxes are already priced into a bid, that bids are often abysmally low, and that there’s not terribly much incentive for the City to throw good money after bad. It doesn’t mean that they won’t or shouldn’t. But I’ll bet that if they could recover more of what they put into it, that you’d see the City getting a lot more aggressive, right quick.” [TheNiche, commenting on A Tax Break for Replacing ‘Blight’; The Secret Bar Above Clutch City Squire] Illustration: Lulu

01/07/14 10:30am

Central Square Plaza, 2100 Travis St., Midtown, Houston

Central Square Plaza, 2100 Travis St., Midtown, HoustonA new green-screened construction fence has gone up around the perimeter of the Central Square Plaza building at 2100 Travis St., a reader reports. But the barricades aren’t an indication of impending renovation or demolition work on the long-vacant property. They’re part of an effort to secure the buildings and keep taggers and other would-be occupiers out.


Midtown Wrap-Up
10/09/13 10:15am

NO, THESE ARE ASTRODOME “IMPROVEMENTS,” SAYS JUDGE EMMETT Harris County Judge Ed Emmett plays a game of semantics with KUHF’s Gail Delaughter to try to clear up any lingering misconceptions and assert that the removal beginning this week of the Astrodome’s exterior features — ticket booths, grass berms, concrete ramps, substations, transmission lines, and stair pavilions — isn’t what it might seem to be: “I would actually like to call them improvements to the Dome rather than demolition to the Dome. This does in no way presage any demolition of the Dome. This is an improvement that had to be made, probably should have been made a long time ago, but we’re doing it now.” [KUHF; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia

10/04/13 10:00am

WHERE THE MONEY FOR THIS EARLY DOME DEMO WILL COME FROM The demolition of the exterior features of the Astrodome, expected to begin Monday, could take until June, reports the Houston Chronicle’s Kiah Collier — though it appears that the $8 million that will be spent knocking down the ticket booths, concrete ramps, substations, transmission lines, and grass berms is included in the bond measure that voters won’t decide to pay for — or not — until next month. At any rate, Collier adds that asbestos abatement and demolition of the stair towers aren’t scheduled until December, when it will be clear whether the Dome will come all the way down or be converted into a convention center. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia

10/03/13 10:00am

Not the whole stadium — not yet, anyway — but Mark Miller, the general manager of Reliant Park, says that all the Astrodome’s exterior features will be knocked down as early as next week. And that appears to include everything that leads right up to the Dome’s walls: Not just the ticket booths that appeared Wednesday in the Daily Demolition Report, but also the concrete stairs, ramps, grass berms, substations, and transmission lines that you can see in the photo above.


09/19/13 2:30pm

Note: Story updated below. And read more here.

Here’s a map from the city showing which streets will be closed Downtown this Sunday morning for the controlled demolition of the 10-story, 791,000-sq.-ft. former Foley’s and Macy’s. Unfortunately, the closures appear to hinder access to the best views of the falling 1947 Kenneth Franzheim-designed shopping box. In fact, the Houston Chronicle cites a fire department press release that might frustrate any interested parties: “[T]here will be no ‘safe viewing site lines’ to observe the implosion.”


09/04/13 10:00am

Royce White might never have suited up for the Houston Rockets, spending most of his rookie season toiling in the D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and — umm, tweeting, but it appears he has found a way to contribute to the city. Last week, White — who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder — announced that his foundation, Anxious Mind’s, which he started when he was playing college ball at Iowa State, will partner with Bee Busy Wellness Clinic to open a free mental health facility on W. Bellfort. The clinic will also provide dental services and primary care and will open this January inside the Rubik’s Cube-like former Frank Neighborhood Library at 6440 W. Bellfort, shown here, just west of Westbury and Meyerland. White played in only 16 games last season; he was caught up in disputes with Rockets management about travel arrangements — he hates to fly — and team doctors. In July, he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Photo: Allyn West

08/19/13 2:15pm

USING PICTURES TO PICTURE USES FOR BUFFALO BAYOU’S BASEMENT There’s still no real plan for that 1927 underground reservoir along Buffalo Bayou near Sabine St. But, reports the Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Gray — one devoted parishioner of this “accidental cathedral” — there’s now a new technology in place that might help would-be entrepreneurs visualize the possibilities: “SmartGeometrics, a company whose main business is creating super-precise 3-D digital models of real places . . . will show video-game-like digital models to the public . . . and will explain how, soon, the data will be available to anyone who wants to plug it into his design software. . . . ‘This is a starting point for us,’ [Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s Guy Hagstette] says. ‘We’re trying to decide on the big picture. What should the concept be? Is it environmental art? A giant nightclub? A parking garage?” [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: SWA Group

08/12/13 12:05pm

THE GAS STATION COFFEE PATIO COMING SOON TO MIDTOWN The Houston Chronicle reports a few more matter-of-fact details about Retrospect Coffee, the cafe that Tacos-A-Go-Go owners are planning to open in — but primarily around, it appears — that oft-painted former gas station at the corner of W. Alabama and La Branch near HCC and the Station Museum in Midtown:It will serve beer and wine in addition to coffee. . . . The building will hold espresso machines and perhaps a counter for patrons. . . . Most of the seating will be outdoors. Furniture will be bright orange to represent the old Gulf logo that once hung on the gas station.” [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo: Allyn West

07/26/13 12:15pm

An intrepid Redditor recently explored the vacant Oakbrook Apartments and snuck away with these photos. The 222-unit complex, currently for sale, sits on 7.3 acres at 5353 De Soto St., east of Antoine and north of W. Tidwell, right up against White Oak Bayou. Writes the creative trespasser: “The majority of [the apartments] are unsecured at this point. There really didn’t seem to be much of anything left in any of the apartments, and I went in a lot of them. Most of the drywall is crumbling and you can smell the mildew from 20 yards away. Wiring and other appliances have been torn out in most of them.”


07/25/13 4:05pm

SOME REAL-LIFE OCCUPANTS FOR GALVESTON’S LONG-ABANDONED BREWERY? The endangered historic Falstaff Brewery that once harbored a bunch of scared architecture students in a horror flick might become a real refuge for Galvestonians looking for cheap housing — or so Culturemap’s Tyler Rudick seems to think, divining a hint about Dallas developer Matthews Southwest’s plans for the property from the very title of the rep he interviews: “Company officials are unable to reveal the full details until a purchase is finalized,” cautions Rudick. “But [we] spoke with current project leader Scott Galbraith, whose position as Matthews Southwest’s vice president of affordable income development suggests the company’s larger plans for the complex.” Perhaps, but Galbraith is also quick to point out that Matthews Southwest is keeping its options open while studying the site; previous environmental investigations have found plenty of asbestos in the 313,000-sq.-ft. building and soil contamination around it. [Culturemap; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia

07/11/13 3:30pm

Though we still don’t know exactly what’s replacing it, the Macy’s on Main is now well on its way to becoming nothing. The Downtown block where the Kenneth Franzheim brick box stands is bound by Main, Dallas, Travis, and Lamar. That’s now owned by 1110 Main Partners, an entity connected to Hilcorp; a source there told Swamplot about a month ago that Hilcorp employees had been shown a rendering of a “a regular looking office building tower over 20 stories high” to be built here, but that rendering hasn’t surfaced — so far. This photo shows part of the former Foley’s overhang as though bitten into by a wide-mouth excavator. And a few more shots of the demolition: