11/15/18 3:00pm

Since 1995, a new kind of land designation has been cropping up all along Houston’s outskirts: the LPA, or limited-purpose annexation. It’s a way for the city to collect sales tax in small, usually commercial, portions of unincorporated areas without formally annexing them or providing them with city services. Often LPAs are established inside an existing MUD (as shown above in yellow), although they doesn’t have to be (as shown by the blue). “The pursuit of these agreements is often framed by the city as a commuter tax,” according to a recent report from Rice’s Kinder Institute, “aimed at collecting revenue from residents who live outside of Houston but who use the services provided by the city.”

But there’s another reason why more than 200 LPAs now encircle the city, mainly between Hwy. 6 and the Grand Pkwy. Last year, the Texas legislature passed a bill that limits cities’ annexation power by allowing the communities they want to annex to hold their own referenda before their extra-territorial turf can be snatched up. One exception: A referendum isn’t necessary if the city and the area to be annexed have a preexisting agreement that says so. Many of Houston’s LPAs include this carve-out, meaning that when they expire — the typical term is 30 years — the areas they regulate will be up for grabs by the city . . . no local vote needed.

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Limited Purpose Annexations
11/15/18 10:45am

A Swamplot reader sends these photos showing signage up a block north of the Waterway Ave. bridge in The Woodlands, where a new venue called Mahoney’s Texish Bar & Restaurant is picking up in place of Tsukiji Japanese Cuisine. The restaurant’s decision to mince words in its title, coupled with the presence of a shamrock on its logo suggests some sort of Texan-Irish fusion will be its focus. And according to trademark applications the restaurant’s filed this month, the phrase “We Are Texish,” and similar taglines will feature prominently on its employees uniforms.

Here’s what the space used to look like:

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By the Waterway
11/14/18 1:00pm

COASTAL DEFENSE EXPERTS SAY IKE DIKE WON’T BE ENOUGH WITHOUT A BACKUP WALL With the public comment period underway on the Ike Dike proposal the Army Corps issued last month, Rice University scientist Jim Blackburn weighs in on the project: “We think that there is too much remaining surge exposure,” he tells the Chronicle‘s Nick Powell on behalf of the research team he heads. Why’s that? “The storms that are being analyzed by the Corps are, in my opinion, too small,” Blackburn says. “They’re just not making landfall at the worst locations, with the type of wind fields and characteristics we’re seeing.” Had the Corps’ methodology accounted for a worst-case storm, says Blackburn, its analysts would’ve seen that the projects they proposed — 70 miles worth of walls and gates between High Island and San Luis Pass — are inadequate without a key addition: an upstream gate that’d run across the middle of Galveston Bay, further shielding the Ship Channel and its adjacencies from floodwaters. “We are going to argue that to any governmental entity that is interested,” says Blackburn, adding, “I think we need options. If all of our eggs are in a $30 billion federal appropriation, that just sounds too risky to me.” One key selling point for the gate: It could be built in about half the time the other proposals would take and at a fraction of their cost, says Blackburn, between $3 billion to $5 billion. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Map of Ike Dike proposal: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

11/13/18 3:00pm

The 2016 lawsuit that just last week resulted in a multi-million dollar judgment against Houston developer Urban Living isn’t the only litigation the firm’s caught up in right now. Since the beginning of the year, the same plaintiff, Preston Wood & Associates, has filed 4 more suits against the developer and its partners, alleging that at least 6 more Urban Living projects were based of derivatives of the design firm’s copyrighted townhome plans.

One of the projects, dubbed The Modern on Sabine, is shown at top on the corner of Sabine and Bingham streets. Another, The Modern on Austin, went up in place of a few row houses torn down at Austin and Tuam near the end of 2013:

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The Kicker
11/13/18 1:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT DRIVE-BY SIGHTSEERS STAND TO LOSE WITHOUT MEMORIAL DR. Open space in an urban context can be experienced in a positive way while in a car, and for many people who do not have time to dally, this is the only positive urban experience that they are likely to have on a regular basis. The idea of a ‘parkway’ is not inherently evil. And yes, it requires land, and yes, urban land is a precious thing . . . but when it generates both appreciation and a sheer volume of use, that is justified on more than simply a utilitarian basis.” [TheNiche, commenting on Comment of the Day: Swapping Out Memorial Dr.’s Speedway Setup for Something Worth Walking] Illustration: Lulu

11/13/18 12:30pm

WHAT’S NEXT FOR HALLIBURTON’S EMPTY OAK PARK CAMPUS ON BELLAIRE? A newly-formed group of real estate experts is now brainstorming ideas for Halliburton’s 48-acre former Oak Park campus at 10200 Bellaire Blvd., just west of Beltway 8. Included in the brain-trust: architecture firm HOK and landscape and planning firm SWA Group — as well as Hines and Transwestern, which will handle property management and leasing, respectively. They’ve all been called in by a private investment group that bought the complex over the summer and that’s headed up — reporter Ralph Bivins has said — by longtime Sharpstown land huckster Lawrence Wong. Halliburton employees began trickling out of their offices in the bow-tie-shaped 1979 building 3 years ago, leaving behind the amenities (a basketball court, daycare center, and auditorium) and adjacencies (a conference center and 5-story garage) that the new owner is now touting. Photo: LoopNet

11/13/18 10:15am

Aside from the presence of workers, the only hint you’ll find that construction has begun on the MDI Superfund site is the sign now standing at the location itself (and the HAIF thread where a user first called attention the whole scene). It’s facing toward the end of Gillespie St., a tiny Fifth Ward road that crosses over Hirsch Rd. and some railroad tracks 3 blocks north of Clinton Dr. before petering out into the eastern edge of the vacant, 35-acre industrial site. There, 3 acres are now giving rise to 42 new townhomes put there Urban Living, the Houston developer that received a multi-million dollar bill in court last week for copying copyrighted townhome plans at a handful of other sites. It’s calling this latest batch East River Yards (an apparent nod to the other industrial tract just south, the gradually crumbling KBR campus that’s been redubbed East River.)

The East River Yards houses will cluster around 3 shared driveways, all of which let out onto Press St.:

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East River Yards
11/09/18 5:00pm

How exactly did lawyers for Preston Wood & Associates — the firm awarded $29 million from Urban Living and its partners yesterday for copyright infringement — come up with such a pricetag for the developer’s misdeeds? It all boils down to the number of times Urban Living shared versions of Preston Wood’s townhouse plans without including a credit to the firm.

Urban Living’s principal Vinod Ramani said in deposition that “somewhere between 8,000 and 15,000 emails” containing copycat images of Nagle Park Place — shown above — had been sent out. And a Google analytics report tallied up the number of times visitors had accessed the Urban Living website where Nagle marketing materials were presented to them. Each email and each transmission of a website image to viewer counts as a distinct violation under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. By the jury’s accounting, Urban Living distributed uncredited versions of Preston Wood’s work 11,516 times. Multiply that by the statutory penalty of $2,500 per violation, and you’ve got your grand total: $28,790,000.

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Show Your Work
11/09/18 2:30pm

A Swamplot reader sends the photo at top showing a relative newcomer to the semi-circular metal retail structure in the foreground: Mattress Outlet. It opened for business 6 months ago at the corner of Hempstead Rd. and Post Oak southwest of what’s now the Northwest Mall (and what public and private officials say could become the Houston end of that Dallas-bound high-speed rail line.) The 2 huts have been there for decades were at one time neighbored to the south by 2 more of their kind — until that pair vanished around the turn of the century.

Signage isn’t up yet, but a custom hardwood furniture business is now on its way into larger, blue hut next-door:

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Cozy New Digs
11/09/18 1:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: SWAPPING OUT MEMORIAL DR.’S SPEEDWAY SETUP FOR SOMETHING WORTH WALKING Remove the freeway configuration of Memorial Dr. from Shepherd to Downtown. An urban street is all that is needed here since this mid-century design was prior to I-10 and was the original route for Katy-bound suburbanites. The bayou is now the destination — not a place to flee at break-neck speeds. Besides, the freeway configuration is useless as it ends prior to Memorial Park. The configuration has exceeded its useful life and is actually in very poor condition. Reasonable thought to an improved alternative is preferred and hopefully includes more park space.” [El Chico, commenting on Plucking the Cloverleafs off Waugh Dr. at Memorial So Extra Park Space Can Take Their Place] Illustration: Lulu

11/09/18 12:00pm

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