02/12/16 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO THE FUTURE OF DOWNTOWN APPROACHES Cars in TrafficAn alternative that I would heartily recommend would be to work on nearby crosstown routes that may serve to relieve pressure on downtown-area freeways. Those would also be expensive and controversial, but also they are the low-hanging fruit; for example running a toll facility along the north-south Union Pacific ROW. Or completing SH 35 and then creating individually-tolled grade separations from there up Scott St. or Lockwood. OST is a very good candidate for this, as is the N. Shepard/Durham corridor. Do anything possible to speed up thru-traffic along Bayous by removing signalized intersections, especially along the Braeswoods, the T.C. Jesters, and of course Memorial Dr. and Allen Pkwy. These are all things that we would want to have around later on during the course of construction, anyway — but also, decentralized improvements have the advantage of being less subject to economic obsolescence resulting from…say driverless cars and rideshares…which place a big question mark on the near-term utility of mega-projects that required perhaps a decade to finish.” [TheNiche, commenting on TxDOT’s Plans for Freeway Expansion Around and Below the Newly Protected Cheek-Neal Coffee Building] Illustration: Lulu

02/12/16 1:15pm

Heights Finance Station Post Office, 1050 Yale St., Houston Heights

Heights Finance Station Post Office, 1050 Yale St., Houston HeightsA brand new multi-building mixed-use development is planned for the site of the former Heights Finance Station post office, which shut down at the end of last year after being declared “no longer necessary” by USPS.  The land on 11th St. between Heights Blvd. and Yale St. will move on, change its name to a less-stodgy Heights Central Station, and start a new life as the site of multiple 2-story lowrises housing ground-floor retail and restaurants with office spaces on top.

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Heights Central Station
02/12/16 12:00pm

South elevation of proposed Vantage highrise, Post Oak Blvd. at San Felipe Rd., Uptown, Houston, 77056

This could someday be part of the north-bound view on Post Oak Blvd., if plans that have been filed for a new 40-story highrise tower from Dinerstein at the corner of Post Oak and San Felipe Rd. come to be. The Vantage tower, shown above in a south-side elevation by Gensler, would include 32 stories of apartments atop 2 floors of retail; 2 of the 7 parking levels would be tucked underground, below an amenities deck.

The tower is slated for the same spot as a previously proposed 50-story tower from AmREIT, which back in 2014 spurred the formation of a political action committee by residents of the next-door Cosmopolitan condo highrise directly behind the property. The committee claimed that opposition to the proposed tower had nothing to do with any potential blocking of the condo’s views — though the renderings of the AmREIT proposal did show a ghostly sketch of the Cosmopolitan lurking very close behind in the background:

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Uptown Vantage Points
02/12/16 10:00am

ROTHKO CHAPEL LIGHTING COULD GET REDONE WITH FUNDS FROM ONLINE CLOTHING AUCTION Rothko Chapel, 3900 Yupon St., Montrose, Houston, 77006Reworking the Rothko Chapel’s lighting scheme is high on the wishlist of things to fund with proceeds from an online auction opening this Monday, David Leslie tells Cara Smith of the HBJ. While no specific plans to modify the space are set yet, the chapel’s executive director hopes changes over the next few years will help with “presenting the chapel in a holistic way that’s inviting, regardless of the day, time or lighting” — though Leslie also reflects that “the mystery of the chapel is that it does change with the light throughout the day, and it’s not static.” The auction is the brainchild of international socialite and chapel board member Lynn Wyatt, who will be putting some of her own high-end couture and art prints on the docket, alongside contributions from a few friends (including Wes Anderson, Elton John, and Tilda Swinton). Other items on the 1971 chapel’s maybe-to-do list: visitors services infrastructure for its 90,000-plus annual pilgrims, conference space, and some pool maintenance. [HBJ] Photo of the Rothko Chapel: Brandi Lynn via Swamplot Flickr pool

02/12/16 8:30am

somerset-green

Photo of Somerset Green: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Headlines
02/11/16 4:45pm

SOME HELPFUL TIPS FOR PLACING A PARK ON TOP OF AN UNDERGROUND FREEWAY Meanwhile, in Dallas: What goes into the equation to span a park across a multi-lane underground freeway tunnel, as TXDoT’s latest updates on the planned I-45 redo suggest might be possible? Planning for Klyde Warren Park, which covers an underground section of the Woodall Rogers Freeway between I-35 and I-45 at the edge of downtown Dallas, had to take into account everything from the weight of hundreds of thousands of feet of fill, potential damage to structural elements from root systems, anticipated visitor weight, and all the other little projects that private donors wanted to add. Project coordinators also faced mid-project fire code changes, limited freeway closure allowances for construction, and a $16.7-million funding shortfall that was eventually closed by 2009’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The park officially opened in 2012 with a concert headlined by Trombone Shorty and the Polyphonic Spree. [D Magazine, Klyde Warren Park]

02/11/16 3:15pm

Harvest Moon Solar Farm, FM 3013 at Gebhardt Rd., Sealy, TX 77474

Harvest Moon Solar Farm, FM 3013 at Gebhardt Rd., Sealy, TX 77474These crop duster-height shots of 12 acres of solar paneling were snagged above FM 3013 half a mile south of Gebhardt Rd., where Harvest Moon Renewable Energy Company is getting ready to bring its juice to market in Sealy and Houston areas served by CenterPoint Energy. According to a fresh-from-the-farm press release, the plant’s 15,000-and-then-some solar panels, blossoming on the end of more than 1,000 steel posts, should produce around 2.5 million kilowatt-hours of power each year (bundled into the 952 million kWh the EPA says Houston uses annually). MP2 Energy will take care of the actual selling, and plans to fill in the gaps from the solar supply with power bought from other renewable sources.

Harvest Moon’s president Joey Romano, who previously developed the solar-focused Mirabeau B. apartments on Waugh at Hyde Park, is now running the operation with founder and CEO Joe Romano, formerly CEO of Contango Oil & Gas and CFO of Zilhka Energy. The company plans to allow customers to tour the family farm, but you can also watch the panel crop grow online — the company took a time-lapse video of the 120-day installation, which wrapped up late last year:

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Fresh from the Photovoltaic Module
02/11/16 1:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: MAKING A U-TURN ON REROUTING I-45 I-45 and 59 Proposed Tunnel“I was for this reroute plan early on initially, but as time has gone by I’ve grown against it. This massive freeway is going to ruin an up-and-coming scene happening currently in EaDo, all for the sake of meshing Midtown/Downtown. The best alternative is to tunnel the Pierce underneath its current route. It’s the least destructive and will make all parties happiest I.M.O. And don’t give me this crap excuse that nothing can be underground here because of floods. If everything is supposedly so ‘big’ here in Texas, then please think bigger when it comes to this project.” [Eddie, commenting on TxDOT’s Plans for Freeway Expansion Around and Below the Newly Protected Cheek-Neal Coffee Building] Illustration: Lulu

02/11/16 12:30pm

STARTING OVER ON BIDDING FOR A BILLION-DOLLAR IAH TERMINAL EXPANSION Rendering of Proposed Terminal Replacement, IAH, Houston, 77032Mayor Turner announced this week that bidding will start over for the first few contracts for a $1.5-billion expansion to United’s international Terminal D at IAH. Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle reports that both the former and current city controllers have refused to certify the contracts, citing possible irregularities in the procurement process. Current controller Chris Brown noted that some proposed vendor prices did not match the funding numbers submitted for approval by the council; a particular contract for which the winning bidder was initially ranked lowest in the first round of scoring caught his eye as well. Former controller Ron Green previously expressed concern over the same contract, “on which Marsh USA, which employs Councilman Dave Martin, was the winning bidder, and state Rep. Borris Miles’ insurance agency was included as a minority subcontractor. Martin has said he had no contact with the Marsh employees involved in the bidding.” [Houston Chronicle] Rendering of planned Terminal D replacement: Houston Airport System

02/11/16 12:00pm

Nos Caves Vin, Rice Village, Houston

Wine Storage by NCV Custom Wine RoomsOur Sponsor of the Day today is the wine-storage experts at Nos Caves Vin. Thanks for your support of Swamplot, NCV!

Nos Caves Vin caters to discerning wine collectors. Secure, climate-controlled wine storage is available at 2 locations: one in the Rice Village and the other in the Memorial City area. Each facility also accepts deliveries, has a private lounge, and is available for private tastings.

For storage at your property, NCV Custom Wine Rooms can bring your dream wine room to life. The company features a unique racking showroom, where you can discover the type of storage that best suits your needs. The team has years of experience designing and building award-winning custom wine rooms in both residential and commercial spaces. NCV’s work can be found in ranches in the hills of Boerne, in homes on Lake Travis, in highrises in Houston and The Woodlands, and in gorgeous homes throughout Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. NCV can also repair defective wine rooms.

If you need help managing your current or future wine collection, or if you’re interested in any of the services Nos Caves Vin has to offer, take a look at the company’s website for more details.

Swamplot readers want to know about your company! Tell them all about it by becoming a  Sponsor of the Day.

Sponsor of the Day
02/11/16 10:30am

Mecom Fountain with Limestone Paneling, Main at Montrose, Museum District, Houston, 77006

Here’s a late-afternoon look at the limestone slabs that have been working their way around the concrete oval basin of the Mecom Fountain in the last week, which the Texas Historical Commission is hoping that TXDoT and the city will stop applying for the moment, according to the Chronicle’s Lisa Gray. Commissioner Linda Henderson told Gray that the organization approved work to redo the north entrance to Hermann Park without realizing that the updates included work on the fountain itself (which is currently being looked at for potential inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and for city protected landmark status).

Meanwhile, the city planning department has been receiving complaints about the work that include phrases like “suburban mall,” Margaret Wallace tells the Chronicle. As of yesterday evening, the panels had already marched around both ends of the ellipse, with a gap remaining on the southwest side:

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Getting Stoned at Main and Montrose