05/23/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ASPIRATIONAL HOUSTON DEVELOPMENT NAMING JUST AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE ‘Heights creep’ is to the 2010s what ‘River Oaks creep’ was to the 1980s/90s. Back in the 90s when I was living in a (moderately crappy) apartment near the corner of Kirby and Westheimer, anything between Buffalo Bayou, the West Loop, US-59 and Montrose might have been referred to as River Oaks. Hell, even the River Oaks Shopping Center isn’t even actually in River Oaks.” [Angostura, commenting on Putting the Heights Back In Its . . . Uh, Places; previously on Swamplot] Photo: River Oaks Theater

05/22/17 4:45pm

PUTTING THE HEIGHTS BACK IN ITS . . . UH, PLACES “In their rush to capitalize on the popularity of the district, businesses and developers have awkwardly assumed the mantle of the name ‘Heights,’ even though they’re clearly outside the zone of its accepted borders,” writes Jeff Balke this morning for the Houston Press. Where exactly are those accepted borders? And which variation means what? Balke suggests something between a taxonomical scheme and an etiquette lesson on selecting the proper name for whatever flavor of Heights, Heights-adjacent and Heights-aspiring territory you may be seeking to invoke — from the historic city originally spurring the name, all the way to the fringe territories of Katyville and the Heights Walmart. [Houston Press; previously on SwamplotPhoto: Swamplot inbox

05/22/17 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: I AM A METRO RIDER, I CONTAIN MULTITUDES “There are valid reasons for the increase in boardings, which sound like a lot but are only +4.65 percent year-over-year. FYI — a boarding is counted every time that a person steps across the threshold of a transit vehicle . . . To put things in perspective, that means that if I’m a park-and-ride commuter and I have to make 2 transfers each way every day of a 5-day work week to get where I’m going, I count for 30 boardings per week and 1,500 boardings per fifty-workweek year. It’d only take 60,000 of me to account for all of METRO’s users. That isn’t to try to generalize about their user base, but it is to demonstrate that not all boardings are created equal, and that the circumstances of even some modest fraction of super-users can easily help to make these big numbers possible.” [TheNiche, commenting on First Signs of This Year’s Sargassum Seaweed Invasion; Houston’s Top Crime Spots]

05/16/17 5:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AT LEAST THERE’S A LITTLE SOMETHING TO BRAG ABOUT LEFT IN UPTOWN “Well, at least I am glad they recognized and saved the [Morse-Bragg] cemetery. It is a shame there is nothing left close by to reflect the history of the mill, or cotton gin. Nice to imagine incorporating [some] coffee shops [or] restaurants around a small museum as part of Uptown. For those who are not familiar with the area, it is on a street called Wynden Drive (43 S Wynden Dr.).” [MontroseResident, commenting on Texas Leads in Housing Starts; Houston Home Prices Shoot Up; previously on SwamplotIllustration: Lulu

05/15/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: LAY OFF THOSE FLOODED UNDERGROUND FREEWAYS, THEY’RE JUST DOING THEIR JOB “Trenched roads include sumps that are capable of keeping the roadways from flooding from ordinary rain events, but are designed to become flooded in an emergency, acting as additional stormwater detention. Every cubic foot of stormwater that goes in there is a cubic foot that isn’t at the same elevation as city streets, businesses, and houses. It is a feature, not a bug.” [TheNiche, commenting on Watch as Unfunded Parks Appear on Top of Houston Freeways Before Your Very Eyes!]

05/11/17 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: RICE VILLAGE PARKING METER PUSHBACK PUSHBACK “Don’t understand the hostility about parking meters. Visited the Briar Shoppe recently, easily found a spot to park, and it cost me a buck. One (1) dollar ($). Took a credit card, no change needed. There’s something else going on here.” [Gisgo, commenting on The Rice Village Plans To Remake Amherst St., Lure Shoppers Into an Alley] Photo of Rice Village parking meters: Matthew Landry

05/08/17 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE ARE ALL THE HOUSTON POST-DEMO FRIDGE STEALS? “The appliances in [2311] Bartlett are brand new. So — when people in River Oaks, West U., etc., tear down a house that has very recently been updated, where do the appliances go? Do builders recycle them? Do they put them up on Craigslist? Seems like there should be some good bargains on high end appliances from these teardowns and remodels.” [Old School, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: How Braes Was My Valley] Photo of Houston appliance mural: Peter Lucas

05/05/17 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AN ALTERNATE ROUTE FOR CLEANING UP DOWNTOWN’S IMAGE  “Well, if the problem is defined as ‘Pierce Elevated drivers see blight’ — then one solution is to get rid of the blight; another is to get rid of the Pierce Elevated. It’s probably obvious by now which is more likely to happen.” [_,  commenting on Downtown’s Preeminent Dilapidated Hotel Tower Now Outfitted To Greet I-45ers with New Nametags, Fewer Window Panes] Photo of former Days Inn: Bob Russell

05/04/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WILL THE BAYOU CITY PLEASE START ACTING LIKE IT? “Is the new business going to incorporate the bayou, or keep its back turned to it? Would be nice to see the trend continue of businesses along the bayous turning around and accepting the existence of a recreational green belt and trail network in its backyard, rather than using that as the side for the dumpsters.” [Superdave, commenting on Sixties Ex-Dry Cleaning Spot To Be Made Over as a Brays-Side Wine Bar] Photo of Brays Bayou at Stella Link Rd.: Frank Karbarz

05/02/17 5:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE 2 TYPES OF WILLING LONG-TERM HOUSTONIANS This data doesn’t surprise me at all — not because Houston has high quality of life (as a lifelong resident, we don’t), but rather because of the demographics who live here. I’d bet that a sizable majority of Houston residents fall into 1 of 2 categories: Older, settled people who have already made their choice and are unwilling to change, OR transplants from vastly more difficult situations in places like Central America, Vietnam, or the economically depressed parts of the Midwest. Houston looks pretty good when you compare it to third world type (or barely better than) living conditions — not so good when you compare it to more desirable U.S. cities. I’d be willing to bet that these numbers would change substantially if you narrowed the criteria to the “young, educated professionals” which every city wants to add to their workforce and tax base. These people demonstrably prefer to live in places like Austin, Denver, Portland, or Seattle, or (if they can afford it) Boston, NYC, San Francisco, or D.C.” [Christian, commenting on Houstonians Do Actually Want To Live Here; Freedmen’s Town Brick Fix Goes WrongIllustration: Lulu

05/01/17 4:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: TRACING OUT THE BOTTOM LINES ON HOUSTON’S HISTORIC DEMOS “‘The excuse is always that the structure would be too expensive to update and bring up to code.’ Your fight is with the city and their code requirements. If it wasn’t so costly and time consuming to ‘save’ this house, that would likely be the better choice for the owner. If they make something too much of a pain, the property gets knocked down. The result is a newer, ‘safer’ house, which is good — but at the cost of knocking down a lot of old cool buildings.” [Cody, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Second to NunIllustration: Lulu

04/27/17 2:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE MARCH OF PROGRESS, AS PERFORMED BY HOUSTON MIXED USE PROJECT PLANS Rendering of Tianqing Group/DC Partners Allen Pwky. Mixed Use Site, Allen Pkwy. at Gillette St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019Rendering 1: Shiny multifamily tower, midrise condo and office buildings, multilevel retail center with parking neatly concealed in above- and below-ground garages tucked under the buildings. Sleek architecture looking like something on Vancouver Island or in Dubai. Rendering 2: [Single] midrise office building and 6-story stucco apartment complex with hats. Big parking garage with a 2 story retail strip center wrapped around one side. Rendering 3: 4-story ‘Houston wrap’ apartment complex. One-story strip center with big parking lot. Final rendering: Large strip center with big box anchor and acres of parking. Architecture identical to retail center recently built in Pearland. [Old School, commenting on New Gleaming Mixed-Use Visions of a Former Fourth Ward Incinerator Brownfield] Outdated rendering of mixed-use development planned along Allen Pkwy.: Tianqing Group

04/26/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW HOUSTON GOT ITS SPRAWL, AND OTHER TALES OF PSEUDOZONING Illustration of Oversized Parking Lot“Blame our city’s efforts at ‘planning’ in lieu of zoning. In the early 70’s, due to insufficient wastewater infrastructure, the city enacted a ban on apartment buildings of more than 4 units inside the Loop (driving much of apartment development to Uptown and Meyerland) and enforced a 5000-sq.-ft. minimum lot size. This gave rise to the Montrose 4-plex (of which there are still some examples remaining), but put a cap on residential density inside the loop. Then in the 1980’s, we got 25-ft building setbacks, followed by mandatory minimum parking requirements. This added a cap on commercial density to go with the cap on residential density. The rest is history: for the next couple of decades, the car became the focal point of the built environment, and we became the low-density city we are today. With repeal of some of the more retrograde density caps we’re starting to get some residential density, but setbacks and parking minimums are still getting in the way of the necessary commercial density needed for real walkability.” [Angostura, commenting on Comment of the Day: No, Sprawl’s Not Just a Number After AllIllustration: Lulu

04/25/17 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE THAT DAYS INN TOWER FALLS ON THE HOUSTON ABANDONED HOTEL SPECTRUM Former Holiday Inn, Days Inn, and Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel, 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St., Downtown Houston“As much as I would prefer to see a building like this having some kind of economic use or value in its function, as long as it is not inviting of crime or danger, I don’t have issue with a building just sitting there — that is the owner’s prerogative. (Remember the Sheraton-Lincoln hotel? It sat vacant for years, graffiti-less and fully windowed; no one would have given it a second thought driving by.) In the past few months, the graffiti has exploded, and more and more windows are being broken out. I don’t know what happens when you smash a window 300 feet in the air, but I’m pretty sure those pieces come raining down near and around the building and onto the street. The owners need to do their part to keep the building secured to prevent the criminal activity, and prosecute the trespassers and vandals. Otherwise they are no better than the owners of the Southwest Inn.” [tmr, commenting on Downtown’s Preeminent Dilapidated Hotel Tower Now Outfitted To Greet I-45ers with New Nametags, Fewer Window Panes] Photo: Bob Russell

04/24/17 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: NO, SPRAWL’S NOT JUST A NUMBER AFTER ALL Illustration of Density, Houston“Only one of the neighborhoods cited on the ‘Houston’s not all sprawl‘ article even comes within shouting distance of what people think of when they say ‘East Coast density’ — and that’s Montrose. Two of the other neighborhoods (Gulfton and Westwood) have the residential density, but they lack the commercial density and the layout of a typical East Coast urban neighborhood. They’re basically a bunch of suburban-style apartment buildings shoved together. Pecan Park achieves its density level by cramming a lot of people into suburban-style single family houses and wasting very little space in between the suburban 5,500-sq.-ft. lots — but while it’s a cute little neighborhood, it too lacks commercial density. So basically, aside from Montrose and a couple other pockets of larger neighborhoods (i.e., northwest Midtown) there’s nothing here which even approaches a dense East Coast neighborhood, and we pretty much are all sprawl.” [Christian, commenting on Grand Central Park’s Official Debut; Houston’s Not All Sprawl] Illustration: Lulu