12/08/10 4:28pm

There had to have been a pretty good view of the developing oil business from the back windows of this home. It was built in 1843 on the eastern bank of Goose Creek in what’s now Baytown, and probably enjoyed those first quiet 60 years before anyone suspected there’d be any oil back there. A little after 1916, though, it must have smelled pretty nasty, backing up to the state’s first offshore oil field.

It went on the market as an estate sale in August: first at $89,000, then lower after a $10K price cut in November. Someone put a contract on it late last week.


04/26/10 1:07pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE 15,000-ACRE BEAST AT CEDAR CROSSING “It’s an industrial park that is about 6.5 miles across (the distance between Allen’s Landing and the Astrodome, or UH and Hobby Airport). It has its own wharves, it’s own freeway (purpose-built for all intents and purposes), is rail-served, and is adjacent to the RWJ Airpark, which has a 5,111-foot runway suitable for general aviation activities. It’s not Hillwood’s Alliance Texas. It’ll never be an air cargo epicenter. But it doesn’t need to be. Wharves and railheads aren’t synergistic with air cargo. It’s truly amazing, in so many respects.” [TheNiche, commenting on Courting the Smiths: We Don’t Care Who You Are, But Please Please Like Us!]

04/23/10 12:11pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT 4 MILLION SQ. FT. OF WAL-MART DISTRIBUTION LOOKS LIKE “Also, that Wal-Mart facility (which is not in the picture because is just left of the two large buildings) is HUGE. To put it in perspective, it would be like 10 Reliant Centers or George R. Browns to come close and that was phase 1 back when we did the drainage and utility plan. Phase 2 will double the size. Wal-Mart sees Houston as the point of entry of much of it’s goods in the future than Los Angeles. The expansion of the Panama Canal will make the Port of Houston that much more strategic in trade with Asia.” [kjb434, commenting on Courting the Smiths: We Don’t Care Who You Are, But Please Please Like Us!]

04/23/10 10:20am

What secretive out-of-town company is scouting out a 60-acre tract on the far side of Baytown in the world’s 5th-largest industrial park? The Texas Enterprise Fund and the Greater Houston Partnership likely don’t know either, but both are working hard to get the company to develop its mysterious $200 million facility here, near huge existing Wal-Mart and Home Depot distribution centers.

The HBJ‘s Jennifer Dawson reports that executives from the unknown company have only conducted 6 stealth visits of the property:

Cedar Crossing [Business Park] executives know only that the potential buyer intends to manufacture something large, and that Project 21 is being spearheaded by McCallum Sweeney Consulting, a site-selection company based in Greenville, S.C.

Charles Iupe, general partner of the 15,000-acre industrial park, says he has met with Project 21 executives on several occasions, and they have only given their first names.

During a site visit in February, the incognito executives took a helicopter ride for an aerial view of the location. Before leaving the ground they were required to sign waivers. Each one used “Smith” as a last name.

But surely the brokers must know who these people are . . . ?


03/03/10 10:44am

TODAY’S ODOR IN BAYTOWN IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY EXXONMOBIL The most recent smell, of rotten eggs, has been claimed by the folks at ExxonMobil’s Baytown Refinery. Fortunately, local news outlet Reuters UK is on the story, filing one of the few reports on the incident, which we quote here in full: “Exxon Mobil said Wednesday there was an operational issue at its 562,500 barrel-per-day refinery in Baytown, Texas but gave no details as to the scope and units involved. ‘I can tell you there was no impact to production,’ said Kevin Allexon, a spokesman for the company.” [Reuters UK]

02/01/10 5:19pm

DESOLATE FEEDER ROAD CAR LOT LANDSCAPES What’s become of the 20-some Houston-area car lots dealers have shut down over the last year or two? Here’s a sampling: “‘My mother lived here 27 years, and we never had any trouble with Landmark Chevrolet,’ said Rhys Everett, who was cleaning out his mother’s former residence in the Hidden Valley neighborhood behind the defunct dealership. ‘But now it is filled with vagrants who have taken everything that wasn’t nailed down, and it’s a jumping-off point for crime in our neighborhood.’ The dealership, one of 13 outlets nationwide that Bill Heard Enterprises closed in September 2008, sprawls for blocks near the intersection of Gulf Bank and the North Freeway. It looks as if it had been hit by a cyclone. The main showroom’s exterior and interior windows are shattered. Ceiling tiles are torn away, exposing duct work that dangles like limp straws. Awnings hang in tatters. . . . The ravaged Chevrolet dealership’s antithesis can be found on Interstate 10 in Baytown, where the defunct Baytown Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealership is preserved in near-pristine condition.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]

11/11/09 6:50pm

So much new stuff going on it’s impossible to keep track of it all!

  • Opening Soon? A new “Houston Ave. Bar” at the site of the former Farmers Coffee Shop on the corner of Houston Ave. and White Oak. Here’s the evidence: A permit for a “2 story addition” to the property was approved by the city last month. The corner is already a popular gathering place for floodwaters — several commenters on HAIF have posted photos of the intersection after Hurricane Ike (see above) and Tropical Storm Allison.
  • Moved: The Central City Co-op Wednesday market, from that Ecclesia space next to the Taft St. Coffee House to new digs at the Grace Lutheran Church at 2515 Waugh, just north of Missouri St. Sunday markets are still at Discovery Green. Next up for the co-op crew: Selling enough veggies to pay off those loans used for the church buildout.
  • Opening Softly, Later This Month: A place called Canopy, from the folks who brought you that place called Shade. Claire Smith and Russell Murrell’s new restaurant will go in the spot where Tony Ruppe’s was, in the double-decked strip center at 3939 Montrose, reports Cleverley Stone. Three meals a day, 7 days a week, plus 3 seating areas:

    a bright and refreshing dining room, festive bar and side street patio. We will eventually offer curbside “to go” service.

  • Opening Early Next Month: The brand-new Dessert Shoppe, in the strip center portion of 19th Streete in the Heights. Fred Eats Houston writes that sisters Sara and RaeMarie Villar will be serving up “whole cakes and pies to individual desserts, along with assorted breakfast pastries, cookies, quiches, cupcakes, and some breads.”
  • Reopened, for the First Time Since Ike: The Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Galveston. The combined boards of the International Shriners and Shriners Hospitals for Children had originally decided to close the hospital for good, after 30 inches of water wandered through the building’s first floor during the Hurricane. Shriners voting at this summer’s convention in San Antonio reversed that decision. The new hospital will have a smaller staff and budget. The Chronicle‘s Todd Ackerman reports that the hospital should already be open for reconstructive surgery cases; burn victims will have to wait until December for treatment.

And yet even more new stuff:


08/26/09 2:42pm

ANOTHER RIVER RUNS THROUGH BAYTOWN Oil spill on the bayou: “The spill spread from an oil storage tank in the Mont Belvieu area, leaking into Smith Gully then on to Cedar Bayou. Mont Belvieu’s Emergency Management Chief Bruce Oliphant said best estimates put the spilled oil at 200 to 300 gallons but said a reason for the leak had not been determined by Tuesday afternoon. ‘We’re not sure why it leaked,’ Oliphant said. ‘We couldn’t see where it was coming from the tank and maybe it was coming from somewhere underground.’” [Baytown Sun]

08/20/09 11:48pm

Where is this house?

Two of you guessed River Oaks and 2 more guessed Old Town Spring. And here were the rest of your guesses: Shady Acres, Nottingham, “one of the Villages out in Memorial,” “an early Memorial development,” “close to or on Kimberley, Barryknoll, Kirkwood, or Wilcrest,” Ashford Forest, Woodcreek off Aldine-Westfield, “between Shepherd and Montrose, Westheimer and Gray,” Bellaire, “somewhere on the bay,” Bellville, Brookshire, Columbus, Brenham, “Tomball-ish,” Wilchester, Wilchester West, on Chimney Rock near Memorial, Cypress, “along 1960 areas that are older,” “older parts of Deer Park or somewhere over there,” Galveston, “off Westview across the freeway from Memorial,” Friendswood, “the oldest part of Kingwood off Northpark,” Porter, “up high on a bluff in Morgan’s Point,” “in the vicinity of Holcombe and Greenbriar,” Braes Heights, and “somewhere around Braeswood.”

This week’s Neighborhood Guessing Game was just for the glory. And the winner? Glory, glory, it’s elnina, who caps off a remarkable streak of dead-on entries with a third win this year. (There were a couple of second-places in there too.) Here’s the vague but closer-than-anybody-else winning entry:

This looks like a country, two-story house, with large floor plan on a lot with a pool.
The spacious rooms downstairs have brick floors and upstairs bedrooms – wood floors. Nice stencils accents throughout the house.
No clocks, radios or TV’s, except a small unit in the bedroom (lol).
I can spot few recent updates – like windows, kitchen appliances, nice marble counter in the bathroom, plantation shutters. But when I look at the brick floors, the condition of the wood on the floors and stairs, the fireplace and the painted paneling, I would say that this house is probably 40-50 years old.
I guess it is sitting in a flood zone, close to bayou or the coast. The picture with the ship makes me think that big water is not far away. Maybe somewhere on the bay?

Congratulations, elnina! You’ve won . . . first prize!

Our runners-up this week are Miz Brooke Smith, with a close-but-wrong-bank Morgan’s Point guess, and Jessica1, who wrote this:

I don’t know what y’all are thinking with the nottingham, wilchester, etc. guesses – I grew up out there and never saw anything quite like this. The wood floors are too old, at least for my part of the neighborhood. And those furnishings! Not energy corridor. I’m saying older parts of Deer Park or somewhere over there, only because I think I saw identical stuff in an antique store in LaPorte.

Ready for the real answer? Here it is:


08/19/09 1:23pm

CEDAR BAYOU AIR UPSETS The Sierra Club and a Texas environmental group have filed suit against Chevron Phillips claiming a bonus supply of air pollutants and toxic chemicals has been escaping from the company’s Cedar Bayou chemical plant just north of I-10 in Baytown: “‘Like many companies in Texas, Chevron Phillips has repeatedly violated its own permit limits by emitting a wide range of harmful pollutants into the air from the Cedar Bayou plant,’ said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. ‘Because the state of Texas has failed to stop such violations at Cedar Bayou and elsewhere, citizen groups have had to step up and enforce the law themselves.’ The Clean Air Act contains a ‘citizen suit’ provision that allows private citizens affected by violations of the law to bring an enforcement suit in federal court if state and federal regulators do not. . . . Chevron Phillips’s permits contain both hourly and yearly limits on the amounts of pollutants it can emit into the atmosphere. The lawsuit alleges that equipment breakdowns, malfunctions, and other non-routine incidents at the Cedar Bayou complex have resulted in the release of more than a million pounds of pollutants into the surrounding air, frequently in violation of legal limits. A single such ‘upset’ or ’emission event’ can result in the release of tens of thousands of pounds of air pollutants in a matter of hours or even minutes.” [Environment Texas, via Houston Chronicle]

11/17/08 11:09am

TRAILERS AND MOBILE HOMES SCATTER IN BAYTOWN “In addition to the 871 uninhabitable apartment units left behind by Ike, the city also listed 123 single-family homes as uninhabitable and 60, from the Lakewood, Southwest Addition and Roseland, as destroyed. To assist these citizens while they try to rebuild, Baytown City Council wasted no time in passing an ordinance allowing mobile homes on uninhabitable property until the homeowners can make repairs and move back in. Those utilizing this program can only do so for six months, with two opportunities for renewal – not to exceed 18 months. However, the city has said they won’t evict citizens making progress. ‘We have six people who are living in trailers on their private property for now,’ [planning and development director Kelly] Carpenter said. [FEMA’s Ericka] Lopez said 12 households on private sites in Baytown have requested manufactured housing from FEMA so far.” [The Baytown Sun]

09/04/08 9:17am

BAYTOWN MOSQUITO REPORT, IN LANDINGS PER MINUTE “. . . while Baytonians might feel like the mosquitoes are out in droves, Director of the Baytown Health Department, Mike Lester, said what we’re really seeing is a return to ‘normal.’For the last couple of years we’ve been really fortunate that the weather has been good to us,’ he said. ‘Even though people might think it’s bad right now, the pest rate is between five and 20 landings per minute, which is average for this time of year.’ Lester explained that there are generally three peak ‘hatch-outs’ during the 11-month Gulf Coast mosquito season: May, August and November. During those months, mosquitoes hatch and mature, infesting Baytonian air for a few weeks before they give way to the next generation of larvae.” Why isn’t this kind of report a regular feature? [Baytown Sun]