11/21/14 4:00pm

A LOFTIER VIEW OF THE HOUSTON SHIP CHANNEL Can’t stop celebrating the Houston Ship Channel’s recent centennial, but unable to make it to that exhibit downtown? Do industrially majestic helicopter shots of mighty tankers and container ships hewing their way through brown waters to and from the deep blue sea, between banks lined with tank farms and smoke-belching chemical stacks, and shorelines spanned at intervals by such engineering marvels as the Fred Hartman Bridge leave you weak in the knees? Then check out Houston Ship Channel: Deep Water Centennial, the 56-minute film produced by the Texas Foundation for the Arts. It ran recently on local public teevee, but it’s now available on YouTube (and embedded above). It features lots of stentorian narration of “commerce porn” factoids and stats (“The most foreign ship calls! . . . It’s longer than the Panama Canal! . . . Such huge gross tonnage!”) recited above beds of stirring, vaguely martial music. If you aren’t ready to commit to the full 57 minutes, you can get a sampling via the separately posted trailer. Video: Houston Public Media

11/21/14 2:15pm

THE SHIP CHANNEL’S FOLK HISTORY ON VIEW Vest-photo-boatman-300 Houston Arts Alliance’s Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel, an exhibit running through January in the Houston Public Library’s Julia Ideson building, focuses on the Houston Ship Channel’s second 50 years, a half-century that saw the port utterly transformed by the advent of the containerization of cargo.  The centerpiece of the exhibit is a John Biggers mural of African-American dockers hoisting cargo, and the room is dotted with the photographs and timelapse films of working Channel pilot and photographer Lou Vest. Newspaper clippings shine a light on the Channel’s occasional outbreaks of labor strife,while in an alcove across the hall, viewers can take in a collage of portraits of typical houses in harborside neighborhoods such as Fifth Ward, Magnolia Park, Clinton Park, and Denver Harbor that many dock workers have called home for generations.  Via overhead speech domes, you hear the pilots, stevedores, and boatmen tell their own stories in their own words. The exhibit is less a standard, top-down institutional retelling of the Ship Channel story than it is a Studs Terkelesque folk history. [Houston Arts Alliance] Photo: Lou Vest.

11/21/14 1:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ZONE D’ EROTICA IS A SYMBOL OF HOUSTON FREEDOM Zone d'Erotica, 2626 West Loop S. Fwy, Galleria, Houston“I’ve always thought the Zone D’Erotica placement was one of the most charming things about Houston. Welcome to Houston: you own it, you use it, however you want. Other cities would be finding a way to declare the parcel blighted at Simon’s behest, but in Houston that would be rightly considered outrageous.” [Spoonman, commenting on Construction Set To Begin on the Luxury Jewel Box, the Galleria’s Chi-Chi Pad Site] Photo: Candace Garcia

11/21/14 12:00pm

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In Memorial Bend, a neighborhood known for its operatic street names and steadily dwindling collection of midcentury modern inventory, one of the homes designed by architect William Norman Floyd has landed stylishly on the market, asking $798,900. A “California contemporary” in its day, the 1956 property features banks of clerestory windows and sloping, beamed ceilings throughout open, light-filled spaces.

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It’s Spatial
11/21/14 11:00am

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Demos appear to be ready to commence on a good-sized swath of Independence Heights surrounding Booker T. Washington High School at 119 East 39th St.

“Seems everything between Yale and Main is about to be bulldozed… an entire neighborhood vanishing,” writes a reader. “It’s really kinda spooky looking — like an abandoned ghost town”:

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Independence Heights
11/21/14 8:30am

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Photo of mural at 1920 Houston Ave., First Ward: Christopher Andrews

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11/20/14 4:15pm

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Lake Livingston laps near the lazy river meandering within a whopper-scaled waterfront pool (top) at a 2006 property that also boasts a “barndominium” (above) with its own 15-car garage, a pool house, a boat house, but no house house. Does it matter? The existing structures come with kitchens and bedrooms, and there are 6 acres of grounds to tend. Price? $2.995 million. That’s down from the $3.4 million asked in previous listings back in 2013 and 2012.

Ready for a flyover?

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And a House, Someday
11/20/14 3:15pm

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As of December 1, Galleria tenants and workers who park in the Blue Garage fronting Westheimer (labeled “Construction Zone” in the above site plan) will have to find another place to stash their rides. Explains an official “communiqué from the management office” of Unilev, operators of Galleria Tower II: “This relocation is to due to impending construction by Simon Properties of a free-standing retail structure that will be erected on the surface lot directly above the Blue Garage.” That structure will be going on the 14,000-sq.-ft. pad site in front of the portals to the Cheesecake Factory; it’ll be known colloquially as the “luxury jewel box.” Simon Properties intends the building to house up to 3 high-end retailers.

A user going by the name of JJ18 posted these renderings of the proposed structure to HAIF back in March:

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Bling!
11/20/14 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW MT. YUPPIE WAS FORMED On Top of Mt. Yuppie“When this place opened, there was a ‘oh no, here come the yuppies‘ reaction. Now, years later, it is closing and people are complaining about how the Heights is losing its character. Basically, a reprise of ‘oh no, here come the yuppies.’ It is really just the process of yuppie sedimentary rock formation. Yuppies get older, have kids and become boring. Their hangouts go out of style and go out of business. Then, the next layer of yuppies comes in and opens new businesses and the prior layer of former yuppies groan about the neighborhood losing its character.” [Old School, commenting on Sunset Heights Wine Bar The Boom Boom Room Will Close Forever This Friday] Illustration: Lulu

11/20/14 12:45pm

Damaged Oak Trees, 2803 Yale St., Houston Heights

Damaged Oak Trees, 2803 Yale St., Houston HeightsFresh off receiving a $300,000 settlement for the unauthorized removal of 6 oak trees in the city right-of-way from Ali Dhanani and Haza Foods, owner of the Wendy’s franchise at the corner of Kirby Dr. and North Blvd., the city of Houston’s legal staff has turned its attention to 2 other oak-tree-hacking incidents at neighboring Burger Kings — one a couple blocks to the south at 5115 Kirby Dr. at the corner of South Blvd., and the other at 2116 W. Holcombe Blvd. at Main St., next to the Medical Center. At each location, according to a report from the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris, landscapers pruned an oak tree on surrounding public property excessively, making it “likely to die.”

Both Burger Kings, it turns out, are owned by Dhanani’s brother, Shoukat Dhanani, whose company, Houston Foods, happens to be the second-largest Burger King franchisee in the country. (And with a just-announced purchase, his Dhanani Group is about to double the number of U.S. Burger Kings it owns, to more than 450.) But this latest scuffle with the city is not Shoukat Dhanani’s first experience with aggressive limb-cutting of city-owned oaks. Two and a half years ago, Swamplot readers reported on the mysterious beheadings of oak trees surrounding 2 other Burger Kings, both of which also happen to be owned by Houston Foods.

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Fast-Food Landscaping
11/20/14 11:30am

DEVELOPER BUYS OLD CITY CODES BUILDING 3300-main-main.300dpiPM Realty Group is under contract to purchase the city’s old code enforcement building at 3300 Main St. in Midtown. In 2011, facing a $21 million budget shortfall, the city sold the 50-year-old building to the Midtown Redevelopment Authority for $5 million. PM Realty’s purchase price has not been made public, but yesterday city council voted unanimously to waive a restriction written in to the earlier sale that any net profits would be turned over to the city’s general fund. Now the money is free to flow toward council-approved improvement projects in Midtown. Chronicle reporter Katherine Driessen speculates  that some of the money could go toward the nearby “superblock”: that empty savanna undisturbed by cross streets for 6 full blocks, on which there are plans to build a park and apartments. 3300 Main is sandwiched between the future site of the MATCH arts complex to the south and an HCC parking garage to the north. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on SwamplotPhoto: Allyn West

11/20/14 8:30am

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Photo of home near Mills St. and Mary St. in the Fifth Ward: David Elizondo via Swamplot Flickr Pool

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