Photo by TK Images

The charming house at 1726 Avenue L in Galveston is many things. For one, it's a 2006 build that looks like it could've been built a century before. It's also a beautiful Victorian nestled just steps away from the beach in the Lost Bayou Historic District.

Most intriguing of all, it's the home of beloved, fan-favorite KPRC weatherman Frank Billingsley, who's put the beach retreat on the market. (Billingsley has chatted with our columnist Ken Hoffman on weather and more as well as his poignant origin story.)

Available for $750,000, his home at 1726 Avenue L is represented by Eric Gage of Douglas Elliman.

From top to bottom, this dwelling is a remarkable blend of historic homage, tasteful details, and contemporary amenities. Built by New Orleans-based UH alum Leland van Deventer, who is noted for his renovations to historic properties, 1726 Avenue L received "fill in" recognition for fitting in among the historic homes that are its neighbors, while also providing all the modern touches contemporary homeowners crave.

Here, potential owners will find reclaimed hardwood pine floors; an open-concept, combo kitchen and dining room; alcoves that are perfect spots for decorative accent pieces; three bedrooms; big bay windows; and a lovely, lattice-wood porch that is perfect for outdoor entertaining.

A "resort feel" to the interior was crafted by Jerri Mullican, who creates interiors for the nearby eastern shore neighborhood of Beachtown. Those who enjoy the feel of old Galveston with the modern amenities of today's world will enjoy this rare jewel on the East End.

Consider this a house that can be an island home base or a weekend getaway. The primary bedroom has a huge bay window with views over the street. The living room has a dry bar, so wine and whiskey can always be at the ready. White cabinets and walls throughout provide amplification of the home's dazzling light and offer a canvas for the owner's imagination.

All said, 1726 Avenue L is a see-it-to-believe-it space, with both curb appeal and great charm in a red-hot beachside market.

This charming mix of modern and traditional is perfect for those who appreciate the architecture of yesterday without sacrificing the comforts and conveniences of today. It's a home ready for its next chapter, and will no doubt be a daily or weekend showpiece for its new owners.

The dining room.

Photo courtesy of Hines

Houston's global real estate powerhouse snatches up highly coveted River Oaks address

hines in highland village

One of Houston’s most-sought after commercial addresses has just been snatched up by an iconic real estate company based here. Global real estate firm Hines has acquired the sleek 200 Park Place office building, the company announced.

Hines purchased the coveted space located at 400 Westheimer Rd. for $145 million, according to a press release.

Nestled between River Oaks and Highland Village — just a short jaunt to Central Market, Highland Village shops, and River Oaks District — 200 Park Place has long been considered one of the most prestigious office developments in the city.

The project, spanning more than 206,000 square feet, offers clients luxe shopping, high-end dining, and community green space — all within walking distance.

“Houston’s River Oaks District is a centrally located submarket that is continuing to see interest from those looking to work and play in an engaging, upscale neighborhood,” said John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines, in a statement. “200 Park Place’s modern design and walkable amenities differentiate it from other office and retail opportunities along Westheimer Road, making it a strategic location for investment in this key submarket.”

Already completely leased to myriad clients, notable tenants include Buckeye Partners and JLL, which has made the building its corporate headquarters.
“As high-profile companies continue to look to Houston for best-in-class, well-amenitized buildings, and Houston continues to lead the U.S. on return-to-office rates, our acquisition of 200 Park Place allows us to strategically capitalize on these trends and the ongoing evolution of commercial real estate,” said Janice Walker, chief operating officer of Hines Global Income Trust, in press materials.

Locals will no doubt recognize Hines as the firm responsible for much of downtown’s skyline. Founded by real estate titan Gerald D. Hines, the company is now led by his son, Jeff Hines and granddaughter Laura Hines-Pierce, as CultureMap previously reported.

Photo by Angelica Marie Photography

Pioneering Houston plant shop sprouts up with free weekend 'PlantChella' family festival

move over, coachella

Houston’s first Black woman-owned plant shop — and also the first in Texas — is celebrating its first birthday and inviting the city to party in a green weekend bash.

The Plant Project Houston (2031 Buffalo Terrace in Montrose) is hosting PlantChella, a free, three-day event running July 29-31, to celebrate its first anniversary. Free activities throughout the weekend include workshops on growing succulents, rum tastings, cigar rolling, yoga, sound baths, kids activities and more.

Tickets for each day are free and not required (but are recommended) and can be found online. Here’s a breakdown of events.

On Friday, July 29
“Plants & Pixel” teaches guests how to create their own succulent garden, roll cigars, enjoy a hand-rolled cigar from Cigars with 1502 and Sterne Fine Cigar, sip rum, and catch the film Hitch. 6:30 pm-9:30 pm.

Saturday July 30
“Nature & Nurture” calms the body and mind with free yoga (guests must bring their own mat), sound baths, planting, and more. Sponsored by Athleta, the event also includes cocktails from Traveling Spirit Bar, Acaí bowls and smoothies by Everbowl, and a DIY self-care shower Bundle Bar and Simply Perla Bar. 11 am-1 pm.

Sunday July 31
“The Plant Project Day” features free family fun with a kid planting station, Stevie the Photo Bus photo booth, artsy fun with Vivid Paintings by Al, and a complimentary leaf shine in a leaf lounge by We The Wild. Treats include a Topo Chico Bar, premium artisan pops by Wonder Pops, free cocktails from Traveling Spirit Bar, bites by Gift of Graze, the Little Pot CBD Mobile Dispensary, and more. DJ Good Fat will spin tunes all day. 11 am-2pm.

Also look for the launch of the new Adopt a Plant Texas initiative, which aims to put a plant in every home and focuses on creating a healthier, greener, life — especially in underserved communities — through plant therapy. To celebrate, The Plant Project will give away 150 plants to kick off the initiative.

“I’m Houston-born and raised,” said Plant Project Houston founder Bree Clarke in a statement, “and when I came back home a year ago, I wanted to create a place where everyone, regardless of their skin color, could experience plant joy and what it is to cultivate with your hands and your heart. We’re so grateful to everyone in Houston for the love and support in our first year and can’t wait to share this jam-packed weekend of fun with everyone, as we celebrate the joy of being a place where both plants and community grow.”

Founded on July 31, 2021 in Montrose, The Plant Project has grown to three shops in Houston and Dallas. Clarke also founded an inclusive lifestyle brand called The Iman Project, which focuses nourishing relationships and building a diverse community through style and design workshops.

PlantChella takes place at The Plant Project Houston in Montrose.

The Plant Project Houston
Photo by Angelica Marie Photography
PlantChella takes place at The Plant Project Houston in Montrose.
Photo courtesy of Sugar Land Town Square

Sugar Land's hottest destination scores coveted statewide recognition

fair and square

A bustling gathering place in one of Houston’s biggest ‘burbs has just scored a major award. Sugar Land Town Square has just been named a Great Public Space as part of the 2022 Great Places in Texas program, an accolade given out by the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association.

That means Sugar Land Town Square is only the third Houston-area locale to receive the recognition, joining the iconic Buffalo Bayou and Discovery Green.

Destinations up for consideration were evaluated on factors such as design, functionality, sustainability, character, quality, and community participation, according to a press release.

Sugar Land’s Town Square plaza was ultimately recognized as an example of planning excellence, while also netting high marks for the city’s leadership and community partnerships.

A hot, mixed-use hub frequented by locals and visitors alike, the square has seen updates such as more shade and canopy coverage, outdoor seating space, and more green areas. Recent touch-ups include revamped landscaping, fresh signage, re-faced tenant storefronts, event programming, new food and beverage, retail, and even entertainment concepts—such as the interactive Department of Wonder.

“We’re honored to receive this designation from the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association and proud to see Sugar Land acknowledged as a leader within our state," said City Planner – Long Range Ruth Lohmer. “Sugar Land Town Square plaza is at the center of one of our community’s great assets, Town Square, one of the many amenities that makes our city a great place to live, work and play. Having this robust, enjoyable space in Sugar Land furthers its diverse economy, enhancing the quality of life for residents.”

This news comes as Fort Bend, home to Sugar Land, was just named the second-richest county in Texas.

Controversial Heights street plans will move forward, Mayor Sylvester Turner announces

big things on 11th

Hotly debated plans to redesign a pivotal Heights artery are a go, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced on Tuesday, June 14.

Proposed plans will proceed to narrow 11th Street in effort to make it safer for drivers and bicyclists. The redesign would reduce 11th Street — from Shepherd to Michaux — from two lanes to one lane each way. A new, concrete median would force turn to certain anchoring streets.

All this is an effort to slow traffic — drivers on 11th often speed far past the posted 40-mph speed limit — and reduce danger to drivers and pedestrians. Bike lanes are also planned along 11th.

“Eleventh Street is not safe for the neighborhood and it definitely does not match the Heights character,” Turner said in a recorded video message. “This change isn’t easy and won’t satisfy everyone,. “We are trading off speed for safety.”

Those who won’t be satisfied are the numerous critics who argue that narrowing the street will create “horrific” traffic conditions along 11th, per the Houston Chronicle. Area business owners fear that the construction and ensuing traffic will drive away customers; advocates of the plan say bike safety is a must in the cycle-friendly neighborhood.

Turner noted in his video statement that support for the change also comes from the Greater Heights Super Neighborhood Council, the prestigious Woodlands Heights Civic Association, and positive community feedback. He added that he personally visited the street during midday and evening trips to evaluate the situation.

“It will remind everyone that The Heights is a neighborhood for families,” he said of the project. “It will help 11 Street be more than a street — it will be a place people remember.”

Photo by Times Construction

Unique new hiking trail and park officially opens in downtown's East End

accessible eado

Walkers and cyclists around downtown can now enjoy easier access and quality of life, thanks to a new addition. Construction on the new East Downtown Trail and a new park is now complete, creating a link along Buffalo Bayou from Fannin Street to Austin Street. As CultureMap previously reported, the project broke ground in 2020.

This new hike and bike trail is just under half a mile and weaves under and through buildings adjacent to the waterfront just east from Allen’s Landing Park under the Fannin Street Bridge and up the slope along Commerce Street, before passing under the San Jacinto Bridge to the Wilson Building on Commerce Street.

Travelers will note that the trail continues through the second basement level of the Wilson Building and under the Harris County Sheriff's Inmate Processing Center. It then opens to the new park on former parking lots along the bayou on either side of Austin Street, where the Austin Street cul-de-sac has been converted into a public plaza, which is now the Joe Campos Torres Memorial Plaza, as part of the park.

Now, trail users can travel from Buffalo Bayou Park to Austin Street and continue at street level via the Austin Street Corridor bike path. Plans call for the waterfront trail to continue east along Buffalo Bayou.

The project furthers Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s goal to create connectivity from Buffalo Bayou Park to the Port of Houston Turning Basin, per press materials. Additionally, the park and trails is a nod to Houston Parks Board’s plan for an interconnected system of parks and trails across Houston through Bayou Greenways.

Jointly executed between Houston Parks Board and Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Downtown Redevelopment Authority, and the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department, the new park and trail cost nearly $8.7 million, per a press release. Notable donors include Barbara and the late Gerald Hines, Wendy and Jeff Hines, and Sis and Hasty Johnson.

Additional funding comes via the Downtown Redevelopment Authority, plus catalyst funding from the Kinder Foundation.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo makes history with election of first female chairman of the board

pat saddles up

In 2022, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo made history by making local rap icon Bun B the first Black headliner from Houston. Now, the venerable institution has made history again with the appointment of its first female chairman of the board.

Pat Mann Phillips, a rodeo life member since 2001, will begin her three-year tenure as chairman of the board starting with the 2024 Rodeo, according to an announcement. She takes over for departing chairman Brady Carruth.

“As the newly elected Chairman of the Board, I am humbled and honored to lead the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and our amazing team of dedicated volunteers,” Phillips tells CultureMap. "Together, we embark on a transformative endeavor to propel our organization to its fullest potential. By breaking new ground and pushing boundaries, we will elevate the rodeo experience to unprecedented heights, capturing the essence of our vibrant community and its unwavering spirit.”

Her first objective, according to the rodeo, will be to collaborate with the executive committee to lead the Rodeo, focusing on its core mission of promoting agriculture and supporting Texas youth and education.

Heralded by peers and staff for her high-energy, positive, genuine, compassionate, and humble nature, Phillips has served on myriad rodeo committees, various committees, including the Corral Club – Suites, Directions & Assistance, Jr. Rodeo, and Special Children's committees.

She was elected to the board of directors in 2012 and rodeo vice president from 2016 to 2018. During her tenure, she oversaw the Transportation, Magazine, Special Children's, Agricultural Education (formerly Ladies' Go Texan), Souvenir Program, and Communications & Special Services committees. She joined the rodeos executive committee in 2018.

Consummately Houston and rodeo, Phillips holds a BBA in Petroleum Land Management and a BBA in Finance from Texas Tech University and boasts more than 30 years of experience in the energy industry. She is currently the executive director of Energy Services for Revenade, a global management consulting firm.

Rodeo is a family affair: She and her husband, Tim Phillips have contributed financially through auction buying groups, season tickets, and donations to the Rodeo's Educational Fund. Tim Phillips, a former chair of the Jr. Rodeo Committee, continues to serve on the Special Children's Committee, per the rodeo.

Pat and Tim Phillips also walk the walk: they own Trinity Spirit Ranch in Field Store, Texas and manage their family ranch in Johnson County, Texas. Pat is also a charter member of Texas Women Venture Fund and a member and former director of Ladies of Texas Tradition, per her bio. She is a mentor and board member in organizations including Amigas Para Niños and the American Association of Professional Landmen.

“Our rich traditions serve as the cornerstone of our mission, and it is my hope that through our collective efforts, we not only preserve these traditions but also ignite a flame of inspiration within others,” Par Phillips says. “I am thrilled to saddle up for this exhilarating journey ahead. Together, we will leave a lasting legacy, inspiring generations to come and making a profound difference in the lives of those we touch.”

Gigantic 50-foot shark dives into Houston museum for jaw-dropping new showcase of Earth's greatest predator

jaw-dropping jaws

By the numbers, the great white shark is one of the most fearsome predators to ever exist on planet Earth. Consider:

Sharks! The Meg, The Monsters & The Myths HMNS

Photo courtesy of Houston Museum of Natural Science

Yes, this is actually scale.

  • The largest great white ever recorded spanned 20 feet – half the size of a school bus — and weighed at least 5,000 pounds.
  • At any given moment, great whites possess 300 teeth — measuring up to 6.6 inches — and can regenerate and replace up to 20,000 in a lifetime.
  • Swimming up to 35 miles per hour, a great white can launch itself out of the water like a missile.

But those stats are child's play to the great white's prehistoric predecessor, the megalodon (which literally means "big tooth"), which grew to 65 feet long. Known by scientists and fans as the "Meg," the massive monster will star in Houston Museum of Natural Science's new exhibit Sharks! The Meg, The Monsters & The Myths.

The immersive shark fest opens Friday, May 26 to members and Saturday, May 27 to the general public. Tickets are available online.

Dive into the shark tank

Meant to educate and inspire awe and curiosity rather than hysteria, the new exhibition features six galleries that include live shark tank, 14 life-sized models, interactive and touchable items, dazzling digital displays, fun photo ops, and meg-sized chunks of information about the ocean's apex predators.

Visitors can meet these fin-tastic friends via a 360-square-foot virtual “shark tank,” where sharks of all shapes and sizes (there are eight different orders and more than 500 species) swim by, showing off their sleek shapes, bioluminescence, and grace.

Meet the monster Meg

A giant, life-sized, 50-foot model of a female megalodon — in full swim pose and jaws that easily down an entire refrigerator or a few humans — wide open in a toothy grin. The megalodon's sheer mass compared to humans, its color (gray to reflect the sea wall with a "great white" belly) will be on display for photos and wow moments.

Another gallery takes viewers back more than 400 million years to the earliest sharks and fossilized shark teeth. Each visitor can select a fossilized tooth dating back to the Miocene era to keep as part of the journey.

Some gentle bamboo and epaulette sharks will join stingrays (cousins of sharks), sea urchins, and a host of other sea dwellers in an easily viewable tank, which will offer an up-close-and-personal perspective as to why these creatures are so essential to the ecosystem.

No excursion would be complete without swag, and this one offers up toys, puzzles, t-shirts, magnets, and more at the Island Store, which also houses megalodon teeth, fossilized coral, and a 100,000-year-old giant fossil clamshell.

Fans of these finned friends

While they have survived every mass extinction event in the past 450 million years and have ruled their water kingdom for some 300,000 years, sharks are now in peril by the worst predator of all: humans. Spurred by bloodlust after the release of the 1975 epic film and novel Jaws and other sensational pop culture vehicles, an average of 100 million sharks are killed by humans each year.

Whether for sport, shark fin soup (where fins are cut off while the shark is cast back still alive and left to drown), scientists worry that this decimation could mean the end for many of these astounding creatures. '

“Sharks are remarkably diverse and efficient predators but are more threatened than threatening. In fact, over one-third of shark species are now facing the threat of extinction,” said Nicole Temple, the exhibit curator. “With this exhibition, we hope that our guests are able to explore the misconceptions, mysteries, and mystique of sharks to help pave the way for conservation efforts, as well as explore their unique adaptations and behaviors that continue to inspire scientific innovation around the world.”

“Sharks are critical to maintaining the health of our oceans, which are a huge carbon sink for the planet,” Temple adds. “Really, sharks help keep us alive.”

Consider this a chance to visit to a monstrous meg, snap a selfie, and say thanks.


Sharks! The Meg, The Monsters & The Myths opens Friday, May 26 (members) and Saturday, May 27 (general public) at Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Dr. For tickets and more information, visit HMNS online.

Disney's Little Mermaid remake goes swimmingly despite new so-so songs

Movie review

The biggest problem with the majority of the live-action updates to classic Disney animated films is that they haven’t been updates at all, choosing to merely regurgitate the moments audiences know and love from the original in a slightly repackaged form. That’s great for nostalgia, but if that’s all viewers wanted, they’d just go back and watch the original.

The Little Mermaid falls into much the same trap, although the filmmakers get at least a little credit for trying to offer something new. The story, of course, remains the same, as Ariel (Halle Bailey) has a fascination with everything above the surface of the ocean. Her rebellious nature, at odds with strict King Triton (Javier Bardem), leads her to spy on a ship with Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) and his crew, putting her in position to save Eric when the ship crashes into rocks.

Now totally enamored of Eric, Ariel is convinced by the sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to give up her voice for a chance to live on land and make Eric fall in love with her. Trouble is, despite the help of Sebastian the crab (Daveed Diggs), Flounder the fish (Jacob Tremblay), and Scuttle the seabird (Awkwafina), Ursula has no plans to let Ariel succeed fair and square.

Directed by Rob Marshall and written by David Magee, the film clocks in at nearly one hour longer than the original, going from 83 minutes to 135. They accomplish this feat with the addition of several songs, including ones “sung” by Ariel while she is without voice, a relatively clever way to get into her thoughts during that long stretch. There are also additional scenes that give Prince Eric more of a backstory, making him more than just a pretty face on which to hang all of Ariel’s hopes and dreams.

The new songs are hit-and-miss; Ariel’s “For the First Time” is a fanciful number that fits in nicely, but “Wild Uncharted Waters,” a solo song for Prince Eric, feels unnecessary, and the less said about “The Scuttlebutt,” a rap performed by Scuttle and written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the better. What most people want to see are how the original songs are done, and they come off well for the most part. The actors’ voices are uniformly good and the staging is engaging.

Other changes seem half-hearted, at best. A vague environmental theme broached at the beginning is quickly dropped. The cast is very multicultural, but haphazardly so. The film is obviously set on and around a Caribbean island, making it natural for The Queen (Noma Dumezweni), Eric’s adopted mother, and other islanders to be Black. But giving Ariel “sisters from the seven seas,” allowing for mermaids of several different races and ethnicities, feels odd and forced, and a little creepy given that King Triton is supposed to be the father of all of them.

The fact that Bailey herself is Black, while great for representation, is neither here nor there in the context of the film. Bailey has a voice that is equal to everything she is asked to sing, and her silent acting is excellent in the middle portion of the film. McCarthy makes for a great Ursula, bringing both humor and pathos to the role. Hauer-King, who bears a similarity to Ryan Gosling, plays Eric in a more well-rounded manner.

The live-action version of The Little Mermaid, like almost all of the Disney remakes, never truly establishes itself as its own unique thing. Still, it’s a thoroughly pleasant watch with some nice performances, which clears the bar for success for this era of Disney history.


The Little Mermaid opens in theaters on May 26.

Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid

Photo courtesy of Disney

Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid.