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
02/11/16 8:30am

metronational-memorial-city

Photo of MetroNational office building going up in Memorial City: elnina via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Headlines
02/10/16 5:00pm

I-45 Reroute and Greenspace Conceptual Plans from September 2015, Downtown, Houston, 77002

A dotted line runs right along the inside edge of the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company’s former roasting plant at 2017 Preston St. at the corner with St. Emanuel St., which was declared a protected city landmark today after starts to the building’s redevelopment by new owners last year.  The line marks the proposed right-of-way for TxDOT’s plans to reroute I-45 alongside 59 and send the Pierce Elevated out to pasture, as shown in update documents released in September. The 1917 building shows up as a beige box at the corner of Preston and St. Emanuel in the above capture from the project’s interactive online map system, and the seafoam green highlighting to the left indicates the newly planned frontage roads that would run to the west of it.

But the Cheek-Neal building itself actually doesn’t appear to be on the chopping block. The blue highlighting indicating the future path of freeway lanes skirt the western edge of the structure (though they appear to engulf the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen across Congress St. to the north). Moreover, a cross-section through the I-45-59 bundle specifically shows the building in place, with the frontage road to the east and the freeways tucked out of sight below ground level:

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Preservation on Preston
02/10/16 2:00pm

Yesterday’s unexpected acceleration of the parking garage demolition at Corporate Plaza hasn’t stopped plans to continue the ongoing deconstruction at Kirby Dr. and 59. An office worker across Kirby caught video of the narrow remaining slice of the 7-story structure tipping over and collapsing onto the excavator that had been tugging at a spot on the 5th floor.

The video (which also contains running commentary and a few surprised expletives) shows the other excavator and the rest of the demo team gathering as the dust clears to check on the operator, who emerges from the machine unscathed moments later. A Cherry Companies spokesman told CBS that the demolition work would continue as scheduled despite the office park’s attempt to turn the tables.

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Turnabout at 59 and Kirby
02/10/16 12:00pm

Single-Family Market Data from West U Real Estate Website, February 9, 2016Today we’re sponsored again by Judy Thompson, Exclusively a Buyer’s Agent. Thanks for your continuing support of Swamplot, Judy!

Are you ready for the latest stats on Houston residential real estate? They’re here! Judy Thompson compiles and updates them regularly on the West U Real Estate website, which she’s operated since 2003.

The site provides regular updates of Houston residential market conditions for homes in 10 separate price ranges in 19 popular Houston Zip Codes. Thompson’s color-coded assessments take into account the amount of inventory currently available and the pace of sales in the previous 12 months. The charts show whether by each calculation the current market favors buyers, sellers, or neither (a “normal” market). Here’s the the latest overall chart.

You’ll find more gray cells showing up now than last time, which accounts for the appearance of more homes on the market. But the single-family market in the areas she covers still favors sellers, Thompson notes.

A separate chart on the site plots the average of the weighted averages from the market conditions chart, attempting to illustrate the change in housing inventory in 6 MLS areas over time. That chart shows a bit of an uptick from the last month, but the average inventory is still currently just under a 6-month supply, according to her latest data.

More detailed figures for each Zip Code are provided on separate charts. If you’re tracking real estate values in any of the areas she covers, you’ll find her site to be a helpful resource. Thompson has worked as a buyers’ agent exclusively since 1997.

Got some figures you’d like to run by Swamplot readers? Talk to us about becoming a Sponsor of the Day.

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

Demolition of St. Nicholas School, 10420 Mullins Dr., Willowbend, Houston, 77096

An early morning post-deconstruction photo of the Mullins Dr. campus of the Medical Center Charter School (originally the St. Nicholas School, when the campus was private), just north of the Centerpoint transmission easement paralleling Willowbend Blvd. half a block to the south, was snapped by a reader yesterday. A representative of the school tells Swamplot that the 4-ish-acre property has been sold, and that townhomes are apparently in the works for the land.

Demolition permits were issued in two parts this week — here’s a shot of more cleanup going on this morning:

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Clearing the Board in Willowbend