05/05/16 2:30pm

SEEKING A SPARK TO BRING HOUSTON’S BIOTECH INDUSTRY TO LIFE TMC Commons Parking Garage, 6550 Bertner Ave, Houston, TX 77030Almost $3 billion in new construction projects are underway in the Texas Medical Center, says Roxanna Asgarian in last month’s Houstonia. The district is known as the world’s largest cluster of medical practice and research facilities — but “what the TMC is not known for,” writes Asgarian, “is turning that research into new drugs and devices . . . The situation is, in many respects, baffling. All the major building blocks for a thriving biotech industry exist here, including huge clinical and research institutions, world-renowned physicians and researchers, highly skilled engineers, and a bustling business community. So what’s missing?” [Houstonia] Photo of Texas Medical Center Commons parking garage at 6550 Bertner Ave.: Texas Medical Center

05/05/16 12:00pm

Personal Coach Cricket Buchler

Today’s sponsor of the day is personal coach Cricket Buchler. Thanks for your continuing support of Swamplot, Cricket!

Are you looking to make some changes in your life? Or just searching for a creative spark for a jump-start? You might consider a 90-minute personal coaching session with coach Cricket Buchler. An experienced corporate trainer who has helped top executives, Hollywood celebrities, and employees in a range of industries address personal and professional development issues, Cricket also works one-on-one, guiding clients to explore and unlock possibilities and design plans to realize change, and coaching them through their journey toward an intentional life.

A coaching session can also be an inspiring gift for anyone who is looking to take the next step forward in life, work, or relationships, but feels a bit stuck as to what next steps might look like. You’ll find a sampling of testimonials from Cricket’s clients on her website, along with more information about coaching sessions.

Here’s our own coaching tip: Becoming a Sponsor of the Day is a great way to let Swamplot readers know about the amazing things you do. 

Sponsor of the Day
05/05/16 11:45am

Smoke Plume at 1700 Laverne from Texas Medical Center

Update, 12:30 pm: Firefighters are reportedly being warned to watch out for live ammo; also, here’s some video of one of this morning’s explosions.

Shelter in Place Area, 5/5/2016The fire department posted a long-distance shot this morning of the A1 Custom Packaging warehouse, currently on fire near the intersection of Laverne St. and Spring Branch Dr. north of Longpoint Dr. The 4-alarm blaze (shown above from nearly 9 miles away looking out over 59 across Upper Kirby) is about a quarter mile from Spring Branch Elementary School, which KPRC reports is being evacuated. Roughly 500 students and teachers are being bussed to the Coleman Community Coliseum about 5 miles west-by-southwest, at 1050 Dairy Ashford Rd.

Noting the release of hazardous chemicals, the city’s emergency notification system recommends that anyone not evacuating the square formed by Blalock Rd., Bingle Rd., Westview Dr., and Hammerly Blvd. (shaded in red on the map above) should close their windows, turn off the AC and ventilation systems, and maybe have a go at sealing up cracks with duct tape and plastic sheeting.


Smoke Signals from Laverne St.
05/05/16 8:30am


Photo of Buffalo Bayou: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

05/04/16 4:00pm

Abel Motors, 2012 N. Shepherd, Houston Heights, 77008

A reader’s drive-by shooting at the corner of N. Shepherd Dr. and W. 20th St. captured a few photos of Abel Motors, whose new signage announces a move to parts even further north. The dealership’s new location at 9102 Airline Dr. will put it just south of Halls Bayou at the intersection of Airline and Gulf Bank Rd. across from the Cathedral of St. Matthew. (and amid a suite of other car sales and auto repair operations up and down the street).

The N. Shepherd spot to be vacated sits catty-corner to the former car dealership property currently being redeveloped as a Mellow Mushroom-containing retail strip, and a block north of the Take 5 Oil Change getting into gear at the corner with 19th St. Here’s another shot of the corner, looking north across 20th toward the ex-Fiesta a few blocks up the road:


Peeling Out
05/04/16 2:45pm

ENTIRE LOUISIANA ISLAND POPULATION TO BE TRANSPLANTED WITH FEDERAL ‘CLIMATE RESILIENCE’ FUNDS Meanwhile, in Isle de Jean Charles: Planning is currently in the works to resettle roughly 60 people following the gradual disappearance of more than 90 percent of their island due to a combination of industrial and climate change factors, including sea level rise, subsidence, erosion along manmade channels, and the blocking of wetland-rebuilding sediments by levees and other flood-control structures. The community, mostly members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Chocktaw tribe, is frequently blocked by flooding from jobs and schools on the mainland. In January, the first-ever  federal National Disaster Resilience Competition awarded $92 million dollars to the state of Louisiana, which has lost nearly 1,900 square miles of coastal land since the 1930s. Some of the money will go to the Isle de Jean Charles move, and the rest will seed a state fund to help finance other coastal “resilience” projects anticipated in the coming years. A total of $1 billion dollars for similar projects was awarded through the competition to 13 applicants (8 states and 5 communities); the city of New Orleans received a separate grant for $141 million. [New York Times, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development]

05/04/16 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: TRACING THE ROOTS OF THE HOUSTON GRID Map of previously proposed roads through KPC preserved land“The Republic of Texas in 1837 created various categories of immigrants in order to assign land grants. The coastal regions and plots fronting major rivers were for the most part already claimed by settlers that had arrived under Mexican governance, so what was allocated for new settlers was primarily west and north of the coast and between rivers. Most of these grants were made in 640-acre (1-square-mile) increments (or double or half that). These were made as geometrically regular as possible given natural features. In the nearly-featureless prairies west of Houston and notably in the Katy Prairie, you had these perfect grids dominating much of the plat maps. Roads and fences were built to follow that pattern for obvious reasons. The legacy of this system has shaped policy ever since.” [TheNiche, commenting on Ring Around the Katy Prairie, and Other Orbital Highway Fun] Map of previously planned thoroughfare routes across Katy Prairie Conservancy preserve: Harris County Planning and Infrastructure Department

05/04/16 12:45pm

3319 Virginia St., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

On the market as of 2 weeks ago: the home-slash-power-plant on the corner of Virginia and Colquitt streets, a block west of the now-rising Kirby Collection.  The listing claims the building is Houston’s first LEED-Platinum certified home (though others have since followed suit), and by Houston standards, Adams Architects took extreme measures to reduce the 1,900-sq.-ft. house’s dependence on city utilities networks.

Rooftop solar panels send excess energy to the power grid during the day, and a back-up battery system is in place in case the grid ever goes down. Tucked out of sight below the 3-bedroom structure are geothermal conduits which circulate water down to hotter strata 300 ft. deep, collecting energy to heat and cool the house. A 7,000-gallon cistern beneath the recycled-plastic deck also collects rainwater for use in the space.

Ready to peek inside?


Green Machine in Upper Kirby
05/04/16 10:30am

Plan for Ivy District, Pearland, TX, 77583

Ralph Bivins tells Swamplot that lots of dirt is being shoved around on the foreclosed former site of the WaterLights District project, west of 288 and just south of the Beltway where all those heads of former heads of state used to hang out. Pearland’s Ivy District is now being planted on the site instead: plans for the $300-million development include a multifamily complex, condos, a senior living community, townhomes, office buildings, and room for retail.

Part of the project’s funding will come from the EB-5 visa program, which allows wealthy foreigners and their immediate families to immigrate to the US in exchange for a necessary investment expected to create at least 10 jobs. Sueba USA and Beijing-owned American Modern Green are developing the site; American Modern’s parent company Modern Land of China has worked on projects in China (including Steve Holl’s twisty Linked Hybrid in Beijing) and Vancouver, but the Ivy District is its first US venture.

American Modern Green bought the land straddling the Harris-Brazoria county line back in late 2012 following the 2010 foreclosure. Here’s the breakdown of what will go where, per the current plans on the Ivy District’s website:


Planting in Pearland
05/04/16 8:30am


Photo of the West Loop: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool