06/24/13 2:45pm

Sporting some of the more evocative ghost signage in Midtown, the vacant former Saigon Cafe #2 seems to be in the process of becoming the future Cafe Helene. This TABC sign is dated May 24, and a rep from the building’s leasing company says that the new sandwich shop should be open here at 3101 Main St. in the next few months. Located between the Ensemble/HCC and McGowen stops, the 8,000-sq.-ft. building dates to 1948, county records show, and it’s catty-corner from the not-quite-3-acre swath of the Midtown Superblock and that back-of-a-strip-center mural that was painted in April. For now, a thorough gutting of the building seems to be underway, at least judging from the size of the pile of scrap in the back:


06/10/13 12:00pm

A source at Hilcorp says that the company has revealed what it’s planning to build in place of the soon-to-be-demolished Downtown Macy’s, vacant since closing in early March: And will the new HQ look anything like that mostly glass box from Munoz + Albin that appeared online a few months ago?

“Nope, nothing like it,” says the source. It’ll be “a regular looking office building tower over 20 stories high.” Though it doesn’t appear to take up the whole block: “I’m assuming there are going to be purdy trees and green stuff around it.” Employees were shown a rendering of the tower at a recent meeting, says the source, but it was quickly removed from the company’s online newsletter: “I guess because they didn’t want it out there.”


06/07/13 12:00pm

SQUATTING AT THE SAVOY The news that Downtown’s old Savoy Hotel has been sold and will be converted into a Holiday Inn seems to have inspired some nostalgia in the Houston Chronicle’s Craig Hlavaty. Going back over the hotel’s past as housing for law students and even boarding for Lee Harvey Oswald, in town one day to apply for a job at nearby Conoco, Hlavaty also finds evidence that the supposedly vacant building was anything but: “In 2004, someone named “squatterkid” was posting on a Houston architecture forum about living inside . . . even getting phone calls there from people expecting to make reservations at the long dormant hotel. The number was still listed. At the time, he said that there was still electricity running in the place, too. The squatter, who went by Sean when he spoke with the Houston Press in 2007, said he and some homeless folks made the hotel their home using the leftover furnishings.” You can read more from “squatterkid” here. [Houston Chronicle; HAIF; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Allyn West

06/05/13 10:00am

The long-vacant Savoy Hotel at 1616 Main has been sold to a group of investors and will be converted sometime this year into a flagship Holiday Inn, reports the Houston Chronicle’s Erin Mulvaney, adding to Downtown’s stock of both new and renovated hotels. Crews were spotted at the 17-story Savoy last month opening windows and building a wooden chute that was sending dusty innards down into a Dumpster, where the 7-story, pigeon-poop-encrusted original 1906 Savoy Apartments stood until that building was demolished in 2009. Once called the Savoy-Field Hotel, the 1960s-era building stands on the lot bound by Leeland, Main, Travis, and Pease, across from the construction site of the new 24-story SkyHouse apartments.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

05/16/13 2:00pm

It must be musty in there: “After staring at this building for years,” a reader writes, “workers were spotted today removing drapes and opening windows!” This photo of what was called the Savoy-Field Hotel was taken from the parking lot on Leeland St. between Main and Travis; the original 1906 Savoy Apartments building stood here, too, before it was declared dangerous and torn down in 2009. You can see a few of those open windows and a pair of Dumpsters, already full with some of the hotel’s innards. Adds the reader: “Move out pigeons!”


04/25/13 10:00am

Central Square Plaza has been sold, and new owner Keeley Megarity, whose LLC closed on the 1-acre Midtown property at 2100 Travis St. about a week ago, says that a decision about how to renovate these buildings — and what to renovate them into — will be made in the next 30-45 days.


04/23/13 11:30am

Chalk this one up to wishful thinking: Over the weekend, the Fifth Ward CRC, led by a pair of interns from Rice University, hung a basket of chalk and this chalkboard on the exterior wall of a vacant corner grocery (with an awning seemingly inspired by Charlie Brown’s T-shirt) at 4101 Lyons. One of the interns, Heidi Kahle — who’s minoring at Rice in “Poverty, Justice, and Human Capabilities,” a brief bio states — says that the idea’s for Fifth Ward residents to compile a wish list for their community by completing the sentence and filling in the blank: “I wish the Fifth Ward . . . .” As of yesterday, the project’s blog adds, all the blanks had been filled in, with such wishes as “Prosperity” and “Nonviolence” and “Overflow Blessings.”


04/04/13 2:00pm

The only thing that’s really changed about 3400 Montrose, a tipster tells Swamplot, is the name of its owner: Global Paragon, which bought the former podium for Scott Gertner’s Skybar in 2011, went “belly up” this past November, the tipster says, and the vacant 10-story building’s now owned and managed by a 40-person LLC that’s looking for a buyer or a joint venture.

And that’s where these interior photos, from a short-on-info listing posted recently on Cushman & Wakefield’s website, come in:


01/24/13 1:30pm

Squatters and street artists might have to find another bygone building to pick on — but that’s only assuming there’s something really behind the renderings of renovations to Midtown’s Central Square Plaza that Claremont Property has been floating around. Could that demure stone mosaic on the wall facing Webster finally get its comeuppance after years of playing hard to get?


01/07/13 4:30pm

What’s this? Near the intersection of W. Gray and Milam, a for-sale sign has popped up on the Central Square Plaza buildings on a 1-acre lot in Midtown. We’re hoping to get more details soon. The fate of the 12- and 14-story offices and parking garage at 2100 Travis has been tied up in court for years; Swamplot reported last summer that owner Alfred J. Antonini won a skirmish in a ongoing battle against the city, which had in 2011 ordered him to make “a bunch of repairs” to the buildings, vacant now for a real long time.

Photo: Swamplot inbox (sign); LoopNet

11/30/12 10:57am

Those of you waiting with bated breath for the renovation, redevelopment, or removal of the 1950s-era office building at 3400 Montrose Blvd. (across Hawthorne St. from the Montrose Kroger): keep on bating. The company that bought the vacant 10-story building last September has told its 500 Israeli investors that its operations in Israel and Houston are both “in dire financial straits,” according to a report in Israeli newspaper Haaretz.


11/20/12 12:10pm

HEAVEN ON EARTH FIRE DRILL A reader figures all the Houston Fire Department units and ambulances gathered downtown around the long-vacant former Holiday Inn at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St. on Sunday morning were there for some training exercises: “There was no incident active on the HFD Active Incidents web site, which is just a dump from their dispatch system. I monitored their radio traffic related to it as well. . . . I assume they had permission from the owner. Interesting to see this building getting some attention. I don’t think they were setting it on fire, though.” The 31-story 1971 building was also, for a time, a Days Inn; it was last known as the Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel, operated through most of the nineties by an organization affiliated with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, though many residents and neighbors referred to it more affectionately as the Beirut Hilton. [Swamplot inbox; previously on Swamplot] Photo: arch-ive.org

07/19/12 2:15pm

Y’know this long-vacant 12- and 14-story office-building-and-parking-garage complex at 2100 Travis St. between Webster and Gray in Midtown — the one also known as “those Central Square Plaza buildings that somebody besides taggers ought to do something with”? Back in late 2009, the city ordered the owners to make a bunch of repairs within 60 days. What happened next? Owner Alfred J. Antonini filed suit to block the order; it’s been tied up in court ever since. Now 3 years later, Antonini has won the latest round in the ongoing tussle. An appeals court ruled this morning against the city’s claim that Antonini’s suit was invalid because he didn’t file it quickly enough. The case will go back to a lower court for more Midtown cleanup fun.

Photo: LoopNet

08/04/11 1:54pm

DIGGING OUT FROM HEAVEN ON EARTH Updated task list for the investor group that bought the dilapidated and long-vacant Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St. Downtown 3 years ago: 1) Pay off $4.2 million mortgage on property; 2) work way out of bankruptcy (declared just last week, to avoid foreclosure); 3) close on $22 million construction loan to redevelop the 31-story former Holiday Inn (and later Days Inn) into an “as economy class as possible” hotel. Meanwhile, New Era Hospitality — the group that bought the property in 2008 from a fund connected to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — recently spent around $30,000 to secure the building, after receiving a stream of municipal citations for “dangerous building parts, visual blight, unsecured entrances, and signs of urine and bodily fluids.” The project’s general contractor tells Purva Patel that plans to turn the gutted property into an “upscale” hotel have been scaled back. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: arch-ive.org

06/09/11 4:00pm

DEATH, ABANDONED FEEDER ROAD STRIP MALLS, AND TAXES IN SHERWOOD OAKS Craig Malisow tries to unravel the ownership mystery behind the abandoned strip center that serves as a rather dilapidated Katy Freeway-facing welcome sign for 2010 Swamplot Award runner-up Sherwood Oaks: “The owner listed on the Harris County Appraisal District is J.E. Eisemann III, who died in 1981. Interestingly, he seems to have purchased the property in 1988. Apparently, HCAD inherited this information from the Harris County Tax Assessor’s Office, which never had any problem with a dead owner, because the dude, while dead, was paying his taxes. But in 2010, death caught up with Eisemann, and he missed some payments to a few taxing districts, including Spring Branch ISD. When that district sued, it listed Eisemann’s kin as defendants. . . . The estate promptly paid more than $20,000 in back taxes, and now appears to be current.” [Hair Balls; original MyFox Houston story; previously on Swamplot] Photo: MyFox Houston