11/17/16 11:30am

Smoke from Holmes Recycling Plant Fire

The fire that started late yesterday afternoon at the Holmes Road Recycling Center (just west of 288 south of 610) is still on the Houston Fire Department’s list of active incidents at the moment, after about 19 hours.  KHOU reports that the firefighting has been complicated by the need to cool off the heat-retaining piles of burning scrap metal on the scene, as well as a lack of water supply in the industrial patchwork around Pierce Junction. Hazmat crews reportedly say there’s no out-of-the-ordinary chemical concerns related to the smoke this time, though HFD captain Ruy Lozana did note to KHOU last night that the smoke’s strong smell and darker color is probably from leftover fluids in crushed cars catching fire.

Wind coming primarily from the south and southeast pushed smoke and haze from the fire across 610 all the way to the Texas Medical Center, some 3 miles north. Nearby Rice University sent out an alert around 4:45 warning folks with respiratory issues to stay indoors for a bit — below is a view (from several hours after that warning) of the haze from the Rice campus parking lot on Greenbriar, east of the stadium:

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Blowing In the Wind
12/07/15 9:15am

Map of Oil Wells in and Around Pierce Junction Salt Dome, Houston

Right next door to the fairways of the Wildcat Golf Club, Fairway Energy Partners is moving forward with plans announced this summer to put nearly half a billion gallons of crude oil back into the ground, right in the center of the once-wild Pierce Junction oil field just south of the Inner Loop between S. Main St. and Highway 288. (The field, which a 1956 Time Magazine article called the site of “the biggest of all Gulf Coast oil booms,” still pumps out oil.) Fairway announced in November that they’ve picked engineers to help them retrofit 3 of the 8 man-made caverns dissolved into the Pierce Junction salt dome for crude storage.  A dense ring of current and closed oil wells (mapped as green dots above) traces the uppermost reach of the migrant salt, buried approximately 950 feet below the surface and extending several miles deep to its source layer.

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Partners in Brine
12/04/15 9:15am

Wildcat Golf Club, 12000 Almeda Rd., Pierce Junction, Houston

Looking for an overview of the new site of UT’s recently-announced Houston campus? Your best bet may be to stop in at the Wildcat Golf Club, located directly across Holmes Rd. from the site of UT’s planned purchase. Native Houstonians may experience a touch of vertigo trekking up the club’s grassy peaks to catch the view of NRG Park and downtown (see above) — hills on the site reach more than 115 feet above sea level in places. (Downtown, for comparison, stands at roughly 50 feet, and the big hill at Miller Outdoor Theater tops out around 65.)

The golf club’s topography is a byproduct of its original gig as a major municipal landfill, operating for nearly two decades until 1989; clay and topsoil were imported to sculpt the waste heaps into today’s smoothly rolling hills and water features:

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Houston Hill Country
12/01/15 10:00am

UT Houston Campus Site, Buffalo Lakes, Houston

Some zoomy conceptual renderings of the University of Texas’s coming Houston campus, centered on the largely undeveloped intersection of Buffalo Spdwy. and Willowbend Blvd., made their debut at last month’s Board of Regents meeting, where the intended purchase of land for the project was announced. Buffalo Spdwy. gently winds through the drawings of the new campus to a track and several baseball diamonds along Holmes Rd. (which runs horizontally across the top of the image above).

Although the images are only “concepts”, the pictures do provide a sense of how the campus might unfold: For example, that linear water feature shown at the center of the campus aligns with an existing drainage ditch on the property, and the 3 long, low structures in the foreground are good candidates for parking garages, which will be needed regardless of the new institution’s yet-to-be-decided purpose.

Existing residential communities and industrial parks are here rendered as sparsely-treed fields — the boundary of the land slated for purchase by UT currently houses several apartment complexes on the north side and the Orkin Industrial Surplus facility to the south.

But another conceptual rendering (this one looking northwest across Holmes Rd. towards the distant Williams Tower) shows the campus in place amongst some of its eclectic neighbors:

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Welcome to the neighborhood
05/11/10 1:39pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEN HOUSTON WAS RIGGED “The Astrodome is ~1 mile north of the old Pierce Junction Oil Field. Most of the area is industrial, but there are homes along the perimeter of the field where Glenn McCarthy, who later built the Shamrock Hotel, made his first millions. Here’s a link to a 1956 TIME magazine article about the field and issues regarding growth of Houston versus industrial development. If anyone reads the article, I believe the dump it refers to is now a golf course. There are methane candy canes all around it. This is to say nothing of the Humble area. If anyone can find any old aerial photos of Humble online, let me know. I’ve seen them in the past and would like to do an overlay of current use versus prior use.” [J Wilson, commenting on House Shopping in the Chemical Discount Zones: Finding Houston’s Less-Toxic Neighborhoods]

07/31/09 9:22am

Frankie Mandola and Bubba Butera, the former owners of the shuttered State Grille, tell Houston Business Journal reporter Jennifer Dawson they’re planning to open an large, outdoorish event space just southeast of the former AstroWorld site:

Bayou City Event Center Pavilion will occupy 11 acres at 9500 Almeda in a primarily industrial area. Mandola says the site is near his customer base — the Texas Medical Center, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Rice University and University of Houston.

Darryl Schroeder and Robert Steele, who owned the vacant land, are joint venture partners on the development.

The project includes a 15,000-square-foot covered pavilion that will be able to accommodate up to 1,000 people for crawfish boils, fish frys, barbecue dinners and the like. The open-air facility is slated to be finished in November. Phase II will be a 40,000-square-foot banquet facility with multiple rooms that can hold 100 to 1,600 people. Construction will start in October and is scheduled for completion in May 2010.

Here’s a plan of the compound, from the website of Houston’s Andria Design:

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