A BETTER FENCE FOR THE AXIS APARTMENTS SITE The construction fence surrounding the burned site of JLB Partners’ planned Axis Apartments at 2400 West Dallas St. in North Montrose is receiving an upgrade — from veiled chain link to wood plank. A reader who wonders if the property still qualifies as a construction site notes that the fence still blocks the sidewalk along W. Dallas. This photo shows the current intersection of the 2 fence types along Montrose Blvd. The apartments burned during construction last year. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
The parking garage behind the Mix at Midtown retail center between Louisiana and Milam south of Elgin St. is still in operation after last week’s fire, but photos sent to Swamplot yesterday from the scene show that the steel 3-level structure behind 24 Hour Fitness, Holley’s Seafood Restaurant, Piola, and other businesses facing Milam St. isn’t operating at capacity. At least a dozen parking spaces on the middle and top level are blocked off, noted as unsafe because of fire damage to the structure:
DISTRIBUTING DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS THROUGH TIRZ A reader has a question about a particular Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone in Houston: “In this example scenario, the city of Houston is giving [Hurricane Ike] money to a developer for infrastructure improvements on their lot (located in a TIRZ) but the requirement is that the developer must build some affordable homes on that lot.
The twist to this is that the city would give the developer money, but only if it is given through the TIRZ. Speaking with the TIRZ board, they said that they plan to distribute that money around the entire TIRZ and not just to that single development. This of course has the neighboring residents and the developer worried about how the funds will be given.
Is this the normal process for distributing Ike funding? And can a TIRZ take money away from the developing area?” Map of area Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones: City of Houston
Remember the fire back in March at those apartments under construction on West Dallas next to the cemetery that destroyed the whole complex except for the parking garage? No big deal if you don’t, because you’d need to adjust your memory anyway. A reader notes to Swamplot that the surviving parking garage is now being demolished as well, months after the singed stick-frame structures around it at JLB Parters’ would-have-been Axis Apartments were carted away. So now you can remember the fire so bad they had to tear the whole thing down — though it took them a while to give up on the garage.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THAT SINKING FEELING “At 13 seconds in, those houses across the water at the top of the frame are at the end of my street, South Burnett Drive, in the Lakewood subdivision. The street rises gradually as you travel away from the water, but the low end of the street lost over 20 houses during Hurricane Ike. Some owners have rebuilt on pilings, some have rebuilt at grade, and others have abandoned the property. (My own house is further up the street, at about 31 feet elevation.) The end of the flood debris field from Ike was about three lots south of my house. So, while the name ‘Swamplot’ is amusing, to some of us it is no joke.” [Reeseman, commenting on Flying High Over the Baytown Subdivision That Sunk] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HURRICANE RITAS “I know there are people who ‘go out for Margaritas’ . . . that is, they are looking for a good ’Rita and don’t care that much about the food. However, I don’t think that means a place can succeed if that’s all they’ve got. No shortage in this town of good ’Ritas or good Mexican food or places that can do both, like Hugo’s or Sylvia’s.
On the other hand, I have a fond memory of the Ninfa’s on Kirby because they were open right after Ike when most of the city was still without power. Under those circumstances, I thought the food was awesome.” [toadfroggy, commenting on Out with Mama Ninfa’s, in with Maggie Rita’s]
The city recently bought 2 custom roll-off trailers so it could set up its brand-new fleet of 17 solar-powered shipping containers without having to hire contractors or cranes. And the method of opening the solar panels (or closing them before a hurricane hits the area) is now OSHA-compliant, says Andrew Vrana of Metalab, the local architecture and fabrication firm that designed them. (2 people on a ladder can do it pretty quickly.) The photos above show the unit installed recently at Fire Station 72 at 17401 Saturn Ln. just north of NASA Rd. 1, near the Johnson Space Center. “Yes they do produce a little power on a cloudy day,” Vrana reports.
All the units have now been delivered to their sites. In the event of a major power outage, the 140-sq.-ft. containers will become staffed disaster response centers — air-conditioned information and water-distribution centers: a place to charge your cell phone or laptop, power a medical device, or keep medicines refrigerated. In short, the kind of space it might have been nice to have nearby after Hurricane Ike hit. (As long as the solar panels are folded in and latched, the units will withstand hurricane-force winds.) In the meantime, they’ll provide additional office space and power for the facilities that host them. The container at Lake Houston Park, for example, will become an office for the new woodland archery range.
Here’s a map showing the fire stations, schools, and other locations around the city where you can now find the completely off-grid structures:
What could possibly have been worse than Hurricane Ike? Super Ike, a stronger hurricane aimed 30 miles further west, causing a larger storm surge, more deaths, and significantly greater damage to Houston’s industrial infrastructure. To protect against that hypothetical $100 billion threat, a Rice University team is recommending some bolstered defenses for the region. Included among the suggestions: a “moveable gate structure” just upstream from Baytown’s Fred Hartman Bridge, to block the Ship Channel and San Jacinto River from rising waters in Galveston Bay (pictured above); elevating Hwy. 146 along the west edge of Galveston Bay so that it forms a levee protecting much of La Marque, Dickinson, League City, Clear Lake, and La Porte; a “baywall” to protect Galveston Island’s backside from sneaky storm surge waters; and preserving a 130-mile-long stretch of existing coastal wetlands between High Island and Matagorda as a recreation area and when-needed storm barrier.
How was Seabrook homeowner Brad Gana able to wriggle out of foreclosure proceedings on his home at the last minute? By hiring a lawyer to argue that his house does not exist. And indeed, the visual evidence is compelling: All that’s left of Gana’s waterfront structure at 1910 Todville Rd., which apparently washed away 3 years ago during Hurricane Ike while Gana was working overseas, is an empty slab, protected by a front gate and littered until recently with a few of Gana’s tools and collectibles. (After the proceedings were canceled, KPRC’s Amy Davis reports, Bank of America had those items removed from the property.)
The Sylvan Beach Pavilion, a dancehall and conference hall on Harris County’s only public beach — with a 10,000-sq.-ft. glass-walled ballroom overlooking Galveston Bay — has been boarded up since its pummeling by Hurricane Ike in 2008. But thanks to a $3.6 million grant awarded last fall by the state Dept. of Rural Affairs, the modern building at Sylvan Beach Park is now headed for restoration to its original 1956 glory (above) — with a few tweaks directed by the architects at Kirksey to gussy it up for weddings, quinceañeras, local meetings, retirement parties, and other La Porte events. Construction is scheduled to start early next year and take 9 months.
Something was missing, it turns out, in this brand-new home Mayor Parker turned over to Mary Porras in a “housewarming” ceremony on August 4th. Built by a contractor hired by the city, the single-story replacement house at 4005 Lila St. in the Fifth Ward had no insulation, an inspector from the state’s General Land Office discovered about a week later — after Porras had already moved in.