Openings & Closings: Coltivare Trying to Cultivate Community Support

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Two new establishments looking to make a positive impact in the Heights have been stymied by the same foe in the last few months: variance request issues. Both the upcoming Coltivare from Revival Market team Morgan Weber and Ryan Pera as well as the under-construction brewery Town in City Brewing want to have plenty of green space when their facilities are finished.

Not so fast, says the City of Houston.

While Town in City Brewing was finally able to agree with the City on a 15-foot setback for its combination brewery and tasting room -- which still provides the acreage ample room for parking and a garden area -- Coltivare is still struggling with its own variance request.

"Many of you have probably noticed a lot of 'not much' going on with the construction process," the Coltivare team wrote in an e-mailed plea. "This is because we've been going through the variance process with the City of Houston Planning Department."

Because the team wants to install a 3,000-square-foot vegetable garden (their plan from day one), there's less room on the property at White Oak and Arlington for parking. However, there's plenty of parking for lease -- if the City will just let Coltivare use it.

As they explain it:

Across Arlington Street on the North side of White Oak, sits a warehouse space that has been in existence since 1938, best we can tell. Dating back to the 50's, via Google satellite images, those same spaces have been used for parking. They are used for parking today as they will continue to be used for parking tomorrow. Over the last 80 years, as White Oak's right-of-way has widened, it has slowly encroached on the depth of these spaces. They sit between 15'-16' deep now. The City likes 19'. However, there is another 13' from the back of the spaces to the actual street, leaving plenty of room to maneuver safely. These spaces are already legally being used by the warehouse during they day; we simply want to use them at night.

Coltivare is asking for community support in getting the City of Houston to allow these spaces to be used by the restaurant. If you're in favor, make your voice heard by attending the upcoming Planning Commission hearing on March 28th at 2:30 p.m., or by simply emailing the Planning department.

Been wondering what will go into the recently vacated Palazzo's space on Westheimer? Swamplot has the scoop: According to a sign posted on the front door, look for a restaurant called "60 Degree Mastercrafted" with Master Chef Fritz Gitschner to open soon. Gitschner was the longtime executive chef at the Houston Country Club, and the only Master Chef (as certified by the American Culinary Federation) in Texas. In 2005, Gitschner led Team USA to a pretty nifty ninth-place win in La Bocuse d'Or competition in Lyon, France.

Local Pour -- the anticipated craft beer bar in the West Gray shopping center anchored by the River Oaks Theatre -- is also opening in early April. According to a press release, look for wine, cocktails, "rare and hard-to-find brews, including a frequently rotating selection served from a firkin" as well as a "shareable, chef-crafted menu that incorporates local spirits."

Also opening in early April, according to Eater Houston, is Batanga on Market Square. Of the food, editor Eric Sandler writes that "chef Ben McPherson, who also moved here with [owner Brian] Fasthoff from Atlanta, focuses the menus on tapas; diners can order them individually or in platters that include six or eight dishes. Batanga's menu will be both vegetarian and pescetarian friendly, with a whole section devoted to vegetable dishes."

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