06/10/15 11:00am

A BETTER FENCE FOR THE AXIS APARTMENTS SITE Fence Surrounding Site of Axis Apartments, 2400 West Dallas St., North Montrose, HoustonThe 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

06/09/15 4:00pm

WESTBURY CENTERETTE SITE WILL REMAIN DRY Hot off the presses from the latest Westbury Crier — amid reports on the aftermath of May’s bayou overflow events, which flooded 267 homes in the neighborhood: An update on the status of the site of the former Westbury Centerette at the corner of W. Bellfort and Chimney Rock, which was demolished in March. “Originally,” the newsletter reports, “the property owner planned to construct a facility for LA Fitness; however, we regret to announce that this plan will not proceed. The property owner continues to evaluate options for the site.” [Westbury Crier; previously on Swamplot] Video of Westbury Centerette demolition: Brays Oaks Management District

05/22/15 3:30pm

Parking Garage, Mix at Midtown, Milam St. at Elgin St., Midtown, Houston

Parking Garage, Mix at Midtown, Milam St. at Elgin St., Midtown, HoustonThe 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:


Stand Back
02/11/15 1:30pm

DISTRIBUTING DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS THROUGH TIRZ Map of Houston TIRZsA 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

09/19/14 1:45pm

Demolition of Axis Apartments Garage, 2400 West Dallas St., North Montrose, 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.


On Second Thought, Scrap That
04/09/14 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THAT SINKING FEELING Flooded Houses“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

07/10/12 11:34pm

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]

05/09/12 4:09pm

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 centersair-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:


03/19/12 2:29pm

GALVESTON ELEMENTARY STILL IN AFTER-SCHOOL DETENTION Well into Burnet Elementary School’s third year of post-Ike limbo, a school district spokesman says one idea is to fix the hurricane-ravaged property’s exterior, roof, and air conditioning so it can be used as warehouse space. There’s “a good chance” FEMA would pay for repairs, but no funds have been negotiated yet. Then there’s the other option: selling the campus. But the district doesn’t think it would get a very good price in the current market, and what if they need to open up a new school a few years later? [Galveston County Daily News] Photo: Galveston ISD

11/14/11 9:40pm

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.


11/01/11 12:50pm

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.)


10/25/11 2:05pm

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.


09/12/11 12:04pm

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.


09/01/11 1:29pm

HOUSTON TREE MASSACRE BODY COUNT For full effect, Trees for Houston executive director Barry Ward counts the number of local trees expected to die and be removed over the next 2 years because of the recent drought: 66 million. (Okay, but how many of them will we get to carve up for mermaid and doggie sculptures?) That’s 10 percent of the greater Houston area’s branch-bearing population right there. At Memorial Park, 400 of approximately 1,000 close-to-dead trees have already been removed. More fun urban deforesting facts: Already, more trees have been destroyed by the drought than by Hurricane Ike. [Culturemap; watering hints] Photo: Houston Tomorrow

06/28/11 3:04pm

JACK JOHNSON, STILL DRAWING THE CROWDS IN GALVESTON On the agenda for the next meeting of GRACE, the homeownership organization in charge of The Oaks housing development at 4300 Broadway in Galveston: A discussion of Earl Jones’s sculpture of former world heavyweight boxing champion and Galveston native Jack Johnson, carved out of the trunk of a subdivision oak tree killed by Hurricane Ike. Homeowners association President Frank Rivera has been campaigning to have the stature moved. His complaint: That the Johnson statue was bringing a stream of tourists and other visitors to the neighborhood, creating traffic and disrupting the peace. But a canvas of residents over the weekend by 2 housing authority board members turned up only 2 who said they didn’t want the sculpture. [Galveston County Daily News; background; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Click2Houston