Articles by

Christine Gerbode

01/16/17 11:45am

If you’ve got today off, you could go check out the recently reinstalled Broken Obelisk in front of the Rothko Chapel, dedicated to the doctor back in 1971 (and balanced back in place last month as shown above, following the statue’s extended reparative staycation in Connecticut). Swamplot is pausing for the afternoon to pay a quick visit; we’ll be back tomorrow with our regular coverage of Houston real estate back-and-forth.

Footage of reinstallation of Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk at the Rothko Chapel: Rothko Chapel

Happy Birthday MLK
01/16/17 10:30am

HUD ORDERS GO-AHEAD ON BRIARGROVE AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROJECT OR SOMETHING KINDA LIKE IT Proposed Housing Development at 2640 Fountainview Dr., Briargrove, Houston, 77057Houston Public Media reports that the city is mulling over its options with regards to the letter sent last week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which relayed the agency’s findings that the nixing of the mixed-income apartment complex at 2640 Fountainview Dr. was based in part on “racially motivated local opposition.” Among other things, the letter orders the city to okay the project (or a similar project within another “low minority and high opportunity” census tract), to develop a plan to promote other similar projects in other low-poverty areas, and to work out incentives for property owners in those same areas to accept housing vouchers.  [Houston Public Media; previously on Swamplot] Images of proposed apartments at 2640 Fountainview Dr.: Houston Housing Authority

01/13/17 5:15pm

Fannin at Dennis streets, Midtown, Houston, 77003

Demolition setup at 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003Before being shooed away by fire department folks near the corner of Dennis and Fannin streets around noon yesterday, reader and art blogger Robert Boyd managed to snap a shot of the hole dug recently along the sidewalk. “You might be able to see that the fire fighters were wearing gas masks,” Boyd notes, surmising that the digging was related to the gas lines for the under-deconstruction former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Association building building a block further south (shown above); the digging apparently also caused the gas leak that triggered the shutdown of several nearby streets for part of the day. Boyd reports that the folks in the Art Supply on Main building, located between the digging and the demo site, “were totally cut off for most of [the day]. HFD showed up and asked up all to stay inside — we could get out of our parking lot, but not back in.

The emergency crews departed mid-afternoon, shortly after Boyd snapped a more elevated shot of the fire engine (evocatively juxtaposed with a signal-red stop sign and a rare view of fall-esque Houston foliage):

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Sights and Scents of Dennis St.
01/13/17 12:30pm

CITY-WIDE DRAINAGE SWAT TEAM POSSIBLY BANKROLLED BY HEIGHTS WATERWORKS SALE Draft SWAT project mapMayor Turner announced plans for a dramatically monikered Storm Water Action Team at this week’s council meeting, along with 22 projects at the top the program’s initial list, based on metrics of urgency like frequency of 311 calls. The goal of the program is to deal with non-bayou-centric flooding issues like collapsed culverts and junk-clogged drainage ditches; flood czar Steve Costello said after the council meeting that the city wants to resolve the fixable issues at each site within 90 days of a site visit and initial drainage triage. Meagan Flynn writes this week that the $10 million currently budgeted for the program comes mostly from a one-time sale of city land; that land might well be the Heights Waterworks properties at W. 20th and Nicholson streets, which were sold to apartmenteer Alliance in mid-December for a reported $15.2 million. [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Draft map of 22 SWAT project locations: City of Houston SWAT program materials

01/13/17 10:45am

Lighting testing of 59 bridge

Upate, 4pm: The text has been updated to clarify the bridge’s color capabilities and include more info on current setup from the design firm.

Hazard St. Bridge Lighting TestsThe curvy crossings over Hwy. 59 east of Spur 527 have been caught on camera glowing at passing drivers this week as workers test out the new colored lighting systems. Sarah Gandy of Gandy² Lighting Design tells Swamplot that the plan is to have all 6 bridges lit nightly by the first week of February as the pre-Super Bowl hullaballoo ramps up, but that final tweaks and adjustments are still being made (as seen here).

Gandy tells Swamplot that the bridge’s color patterns are still being programmed, and that they’ll soon be capable of a full range of groovy multi-tone modes like those shown in renderings previously released by the Montrose Management District (shown below):

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Pre-Super Bowl Exhibition
01/12/17 5:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE TRANSMISSION LINES ARE ALWAYS DEEPER ON THE OTHER SIDE Transmission Line Tower Installation, Westpark Dr.,  77081“While working with Entergy in New Orleans (12 plus years ago), at every public meeting I went to, citizens always complained about the city’s third world look when we would tell them burying power lines was not a part of the long-term plan (maintenance and upgrades). They would frequently state that no other major city had above ground lines — and that on their most recent business trip to Houston, they did not see any above ground,  and that we should follow Houston’s lead.” [Nend, commenting on Electrical Transmission Lines About To Get Really High by the Dog Park at 59 and 610] Photo of current and replacement electrical transmission towers at Westpark Dr. and 610: Swamplot inbox

01/12/17 3:45pm

Murals at former MHMRA building, 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003Demolition setup at 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

The colorful faces behind the chain-link fencing surrounding the former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority building at 2850 Fannin St. have been joined this week by a few pieces of bright yellow knock-down equipment. Permits came through last week clearing the site for clearance in advance of a planned 27-story apartment highrise going by the name Main Midtown. The tower was okayed for a parking variance in late October, as part of which Australian developer Caydon Properties agreed to install over 200 bike spaces. 

The long-empty MHMRA structure got its last hurrah this fall when much of the street-level wallspace was painted over in tan, making way for new muralage. A nearby resident buzzed around the site recently taking some final snaps of the paintings (like the one featured at the top of the page) before the demo gets going in earnest — here’s a sampling below:

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Midtown Breakdown
01/12/17 1:30pm

UN-RE-ZONING OF MISSOURI CITY TRACT PAVES WAY FOR SHIPMAN’S COVE MASTER PLANS Proposed Site of Shipman's Cove Subdivision, Missouri City, 77545 The Missouri City council voted last week to approve a “planned development” zoning classification for a woody 95.3-acre tract at the edge of the Creekmont and Newpoint Estates subdivisions off Hwy. 6 at Watts Plantation Rd., which master plan planner Ashton Woods wants to turn into a 287-unit housing development called Shipman’s Cove. The January vote came after a determination by the city’s attorney that the failed September vote on the same issue had technically passed: Councilmembers now says that the vote to change the undeveloped land’s zoning classification (an act that would have required a 75 percent majority among the 7 council members, and fell 1 vote short of that hurdle) actually only counted as a vote to zone it for the first time — which only needs a simple majority for approval. Amelia Brust reports that neither the city council nor city attorney “explained what prompted the further review, nor did they identify the outside legal counsel hired by the city” that helped review the situation; Missouri City mayor Allen Owen also said at the time of the vote that multiple lawsuits looked to be in the works. [Community Impact] Image of planned site of Shipman’s Cove: Missouri City

Feels Like the First Time
01/12/17 11:30am

Midtown Entry Portal work site, Brazos St. at I-45 and Pierce St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

More signs of the Midtown Redevelopment Authority’s current 3-part landscaping project: the large hill being crafted where the long I-45 exit ramp into Pierce St. hits Brazos St. Bid documents for the project also mention landscaping walls, accent lighting, and decorative stone as part of the rest of the plan for the spot. The newly elevated site sits east across the I-45 offloader from the former home of high-gloss steak and seafood house Mr. Peeples, which shut down back in March. The Bagby-facing building, which served as a Boy Scouts of America office prior to the restaurant makeover, is still up for lease; a marketing flier advertises all 3 stories as up for grabs, along with the 8,702-sq.-ft. basement. Here’s the full frontal:

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Moving Up in Midtown
01/11/17 5:15pm

Leasing Materials for former Foreign Correspondents site, Norhill, Houston

The split space occupied until late December by Northern Thai restaurant Foreign Correspondents and its also-freshly-shut-down cocktail bar companion Canard may be up for lease now, a reader notes. Treadsack suffix provider and co-owner Chris Cusack told CultureMap after the restaurant’s closure (spurred in the moment by the resignation of the head chefs, and trailing a few months after the previous departure of the company’s head beverage person) that the company would likely be trying out another concept in the space; that claim, however, was made before the details of years of behind-the-scenes financial turmoil hit the Internet.

listing flier from Braun Enterprise, showing the center’s updates since the original marketing materials for 4721 N. Main were released, now advertises the restaurant’s space as up for grabs; the recent photo above is included, alongside the accompanying site plans of the 4,742-sq.-ft. space. A plan view of the rest of the shopping center is included as well, showing the currently solidifying new location of Austin-based gelato chain Dolce Neve:

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Iced in Norhill
01/11/17 1:30pm

Transmission Line Tower Installation, Westpark Dr., 77081

Transmission Line Tower Installation, Westpark Dr., 77081The view this week around Westpark Dr. at the West Loop includes both the old lattice towers currently holding CenterPoint’s electrical transmission lines and the taller, skinnier single pole models that will be taking over the gig. A reader captured some side-by-side portraits of the old towers and their replacements, which CenterPoint is deploying to raise the lines out of the way of TxDOT’s proposed future edits to the 610-59 interchange tangle. The cherry picker above is shown tethered to one of the new towers in the easement just west of 610; the top shot shows a pole up on the east side of the freeway between the Loop Central office midrises and the Danny Jackson Family Bark Park (which closed down last summer so CenterPoint could work on the land the county had been using as the park’s parking lot).

Here’s a ground-level shot at the base of an old-and-new tower pair just outside the dog park, with some Houston Garden Center inventory in the background for scale:

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Bark Park Sparks
01/11/17 10:45am

7374 Brace St., Garden Villas, Houston, 77061

Resident Joseph Virant sends in some ornithological notes on the roving bands of peacocks that wander the Garden Villas neighborhood, catty-corner northwest across Telephone Rd. and Airport Blvd. from Hobby Airport. A few of the birds make a cameo appearance in the active sales listing of 7374 Brace St. (shown above); Virant writes in with more detail on the origins and habits of the animals, which he says have regular routes and a seed-furnishing fanbase:

The story goes that they started as someone’s pets many years ago, were turned loose, and multiplied.  There are 2 groups: one in the eastern half of the neighborhood [near] Ashburn St., Brace St., and Garden Villas Park; and one in the western half (Brace St., Alpine Dr.).  Apparently a group of peacocks is called either an ‘ostentation‘ or a ‘muster‘.  A lot of neighbors have Peacock Crossing signs in their yards; people often stop their cars to snap photos as [the birds] amble across the street . . . My wife buys bird seed to attract them.

These aren’t the only pea fowl wandering free (or at least unattended) around town; they may, however, be the only ones whose home neighborhood is working actively to enshrine the birds’ status as local mascots, as Virant notes Garden Villas is hoping to do:

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Garden Villas Visitors