Articles by

Christine Gerbode

04/20/17 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A HOUSTON LITMUS TEST FOR PARKING LOT PROGRESS Parking Lot for Hobbit Cafe, Blue Fish House, and Yelapa Playa Mexicana, 2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston“That parking lot was epic for decades. Let’s hope it was actually reconstructed, and not just the lunar craters poured over with asphalt. The next good flood will tell.” [Miz Brooke Smith, commenting on Richmond Ave’s Contender for Worst Parking Lot in Houston Gets Smoothed Over] Photo: Swamplot inbox

04/20/17 3:30pm

BART TRUXILLO, 1942-2017 Brewery Tap, 717 Franklin St., Downtown, Houston, 77002In 2006, the former brewery structure now hosting the Magnolia Ballroom was the first building in Houston to get protected landmark status — and was not the last, probably thanks in part to the life work of its restorer. Bart Truxillo bought the then-vacant building on the edge of Market Square in the late sixties, not too long before buying and restoring the crumbling Queen Anne Mansfield house in the Heights; both structures are now on the National Register of Historic Places. Truxillo later helped found what’s today known as Preservation Houston, and start the organization’s Good Brick Awards during the demolition-rich years of Houston’s first oil boom, as Lisa Gray notes today in the Chronicle; after years of work restoring historic buildings around town and serving a bunch of other history-minded groups, he died yesterday at age 74. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Magnolia Ballroom building on Franklin St.: Brewery Tap HTX

04/20/17 12:30pm

Former Highpoint North Campus, 11902 Spears Rd., Spring, TX, 77067

The 20,000-sq.-ft. building at 11902 Spears Gears Rd. is getting cleaned up for a new gig as a school for Harris County students in recovery from addiction and substance abuse. The spot formerly housed the county’s Highpoint School North, one of several campuses around town that took in expelled students, but has been shut down since 2015. The county Department of Education signed off on the new use for the building this week, and says the school should open in September with capacity for up to 30 post-rehab students for now. The building sits just north of Davis High School, tucked next to the 2-acre lot that’s been built up since 2014 into the grounds of Cực Lạc Buddhist Temple.

Photos: Harris County Department of Education

New Paths Near Greens Bayou
04/20/17 10:30am

W.A. PARISH COAL PLANT NOW RUNNING ‘CLEAN’ IN RICHMOND, HELPING BOOST OIL EMISSIONS FURTHER SOUTH W.A. Parish Electric Generation Station, Richmond, Texas, 77469The years-long retrofitting of the W.A. Parish coal plant next to Smithers Lake in Richmond was capped off last week by a valve opening ceremony, at which the plant’s new Petra Nova carbon dioxide collection machinery was ceremonially turned on (though NRG says its been running since September). The new machinery is currently the largest such capture operation in the country, and might help knock the plant down a few notches from its recent high score on the carbon pollution rankings. Monica Simmons of the San Antonio Current, however, points out this week that whether the project actually results in a net reduction of CO2 emissions is something of a question mark: The project, which has been in the works since the over-$70-a-barrel days of 2010, is helping to pay for itself by piping that excess CO2 down to Jackson County and into the ground at the West Ranch oil field — which NRG says will help the folks there squeeze out 15,000 barrels of oil a day instead of 300. [San Antonio Current; previously on Swamplot] Photo of W.A. Parish Generating Station and labeled Petra Nova add-ons: NRG

04/19/17 4:30pm

2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

Pothole in Parking Lot for Hobbit Cafe, Blue Fish House, and Yelapa Playa Mexicana, 2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, HoustonThe folks at Rim Tanon (the Thai place that recently replaced the former Blue Fish House sushi spot on Richmond) send word that the hole-spangled brick, asphalt, and rubble parking lot at the center of the Portsmouth Square restaurant clump has been freshly paved over. The spot, which won top honors on a 2011 list of Houston’s worst restaurant parking lots, was resurfaced from Richmond to Portsmouth St. just in time for Tax Day. Above and below are a couple of damp shots of the lot circa some 2010 gawking:

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Flattening the Competition
04/19/17 12:30pm

801 W. 11th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008
Here’s a ghost-dotted sketch of what may soon inhabit that empty lot at the northwest corner of W. 11th and Nicholson streets; Adolfo Pesquera notes over on VBX that the project’s developers may break ground soon. (That’s both figuratively and literally — there’s a fair bit of concrete and asphalt removal involved in the job.) The medical-themed project is catty-corner from the 2-story building already housing the Heights Clinic (along with a Stewart Title office). There should be some kind of grassy buffer between the 31,010-sq.-ft. building and and the rail-turned-trail Heights hike & bike path running along Nicholson to the east, as well as a bit of open to the west toward recently opened Presidio:

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Doctoring Heights
04/19/17 11:00am

SCENIC UPPER TEXAS COASTAL SWAMPS, BEACHES, PLANTATIONS A LITTLE CLOSER TO GOING NATIONAL Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area Proposed MapJefferson County’s commissioners are the latest to give a formal thumbs up to a proposal for the Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area, which would bundle together a patchwork of parks, historical sites, and variously refinery adjacent nature preserves from the Bolivar peninsula down to Matagorda Bay. The concept for a regional rec zone was developed shortly after Hurricane Ike’s big splash on the Texas coast in 2008: researchers noticed that some of those larger patches of undeveloped wetlands helped buffer storm surge damage, and started looking at whether keeping them around could be profitable in other ways. No new land would be scooped up for inclusion in the 4-county zone, unless it were offered voluntarily — but the whole region would be marketed under the National Parks Service’s banner as a package to birdwatchers, beachgoers, Strand-walkers, and the like. The proposed area would still need some level of National Parks Service staff, and approval from Congress — which is currently considering major cuts to the Department of the Interior’s budget. [Beaumont Enterprise; Houston Chronicle] Map of proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area: LSCNRA 

04/18/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FOR WHOM THE TRAIN ROLLS Trains to Office Buildings“. . . The few large cities that you’re referring to, where central living expenses are far higher than Houston, all provide far more extensive mass transit options. I know I have multiple transit options after midnight in other large cities — not so for Houston. For those without reliable transportation and non-office hours, the availability of Park and Rides does not solve or address accessibility issues.” [joel, commenting on Grand Central Park’s Official Debut; Houston’s Not All Sprawl] Illustration: Lulu

04/18/17 2:30pm

WOULD IT BE EASIER TO BRING THE ‘HIGH OPPORTUNITY’ AREAS TO THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING, INSTEAD? Proposed Housing Development at 2640 Fountainview Dr., Briargrove, Houston, 77057Yesterday Mayor Turner announced a few more details of a plan to redirect federal and local money toward some of the city’s low-investment areas, starting with Acres Homes, Gulfton, Second Ward, Northside Village and Third Ward, writes Rebecca Elliott for the Chronicle. The “Complete Communities” plan, Elliott notes, was mentioned in the city’s response to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which sent the city a letter in January finding that the nixing of that Briargrove mixed-income housing project was racially motivated. That letter instructed the city to move forward after all with the cancelled project (or one like it, in a different ‘high opportunity census tract’). A city lawyer wrote back, telling HUD that part of Houston’s plan to address the Department’s concerns is to “transform previously neglected neighborhoods into neighborhoods HUD would define as ‘high opportunity.’” Yesterday’s details didn’t include a price tag or timeline; Turner did mention possible partnerships with private groups and developers.  [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotImage of previously proposed apartments at 2640 Fountainview Dr.: Houston Housing Authority

04/18/17 11:30am

Demo of Elysian St. Viaduct, Near Northside/Downtown, Houston, 77002

The rapidly disappearing elevated segment of Elysian St. pointing north out of Downtown is the latest aging roadway structure to be crumbled apart, though it won’t be the last. But death is a natural part of the Houston roadway cycle! And a healthier, brawnier replacement viaduct is planned to take its place along roughly the same right-of-way — this one with broad shoulders and a sidewalk. TxDOT spokesman Danny Perez told Houston Public Media‘s Gail DeLaughter last month that work on the new structure, which connects Downtown to Near Northside by funneling drivers over Buffalo Bayou and I-10, should start before the demo of the mile-and-a-half-long original wraps up.

hunched excavator was spotted helping to bring the aging bridge down from above:

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Traffic Cycles in Near Northside
04/14/17 6:00pm

THE EASTER BUNNY AND THE TAXMAN COMETH Amanda Parer's Intrude installation, 1600 Smith St., Downtown, Houston, 77002It doesn’t look like there’s too much rain on the schedule for Tax Day this time around, but Swamplot’ll be off Monday anyway, shoring up any potential leaks. Enjoy your weekend, whether it’s filled with hunts for Easter eggs or for that basketful of missing W-2s, and we’ll see you back here on Tuesday for the regular real estate tomfoolery. Photo of Amanda Parer’s Intrude installation: Swamplot inbox