FUNDING FOR DOWNTOWN HOUSTON’S NEW ISLAND
Houston’s flood czar Steve Costello tells the Chronicle’s Mike Morris that the city plans to apply for FEMA resiliency grants in order to build the North Canal Bypass — the long-whispered diversion channel that would relink White Oak and Buffalo bayous between Main and Elysian streets. The waterway concept bubbled up last year in Plan Downtown where its course formed an island northwest of Allen’s Landing indicated in the imagined map above. By bypassing the bayou’s oxbow, the channel is expected not only to reduce flooding downtown — it could also “help lower the water level in White Oak Bayou all the way to the 610 Loop and in Buffalo Bayou as far west as Gessner,” according to a county study. The result: “A little more than half of the 854 structures in the 100-year floodplain along White Oak and an adjacent tributary, Turkey Gully, would be removed from the floodplain.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Map: Plan Downtown
DIGGING UP THE LATEST ADDICKS AND BARKER RESERVOIR DIRT
The Army Corps of Engineers is exploring the possibility of deepening the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in order to increase their floodwater capacities. The Chronicle’s Mihir Zaveri digs up a request the Corps posted online quietly in January for specifics on how to remove soil from the reservoirs. The notice says the Corps is “evaluating the level of interest” from contractors, government agencies, and others “to allow for the beneficial use of material by interested parties while increasing capacity of the Government project.” Respondents are asked how much how much soil they would remove from the reservoirs, what methods they’d use to collect and transport it, where they’d deposit it, and how long the work would take. The deadline for responding to the agency was last Thursday. [Houston Chronicle; posting] Photo of American Shooting Centers and Millie Bush Dog Park off Westheimer Pkwy. in Barker Reservoir, flooded after Memorial Day, 2015: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [license]
THE ARMY CORPS SAW ALL YOUR ADDICKS AND BARKER LAWSUITS COMING — 23 YEARS AGO
A 1995 Army Corps of Engineers memo obtained by the Chronicle shows that the agency considered the possibility that dozens of lawsuits could be filed against it by flooded homeowners both upstream and downstream from the Addicks and Barker dams. “Given the nature of the expensive homes that would be flooded and the quality of legal representation these owners could afford, there is always the possibility of an adverse ruling,” but the likelihood of such an outcome would be low, it concluded. Those downstream from the reservoirs would have a weak case, the memo argued, because their home values benefit from the dams in the first place. And those upstream — inside the Addicks and Barker flood pools — would have to prove that flooding wasn’t just sporadic, but “frequent and inevitably recurring to amount to a taking of interest in property.” Regardless, says the document, “it would be prudent for Harris County to make sure owners, future developers, and future buyers are put on notice that they are in a reservoir.” That didn’t happen. [Houston Chronicle; memo] Photo of Barker Reservoir Near Addicks Clodine Rd. after Harvey: Kyle Steck
There’s more damage to the areas along Buffalo Bayou than just the collapsed segment of trail pictured at top between the Travis and Milam street bridges. The photo above taken east of Travis shows where Spaghetti Warehouse’s former parking lot is eroding as well and transforming into a new set of cliffs on the water.
Heading west down the trail, more obstacles appear near Montrose Blvd. where the northern trail cuts past the closed Johnny Steele Dog Park:
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Rough Around the Edges
JUDGE EMMETT: KATY PRAIRIE DEVELOPMENT SHOULD STOP ONCE AND FOR ALL
Here’s Harris County Judge Ed Emmett’s declaration Wednesday at a Rice University flooding conference: “We need to completely protect the Katy Prairie. Just set it aside and not touch it.” Or . . . what’s left of it. Last October, he called for a third reservoir in west Houston to “be part of a larger project to create a state or national park for the Katy Prairie.” And he wants Gov. Abbott to tap the state’s “rainy day fund” in order to build the prairie pond. (As for where it would go, a 2015 Harris County Flood Control District study proposed several sites, all on not-yet-developed parcels west of the Grand Pkwy. between Hwy. 290 and FM 529.) [Travis Bubenik] Photo of Matt Cook Wildlife Viewing Area on Warren Lake, south of Hockley: Katy Prairie Conservancy
COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: A SOGGY MOD FOR GRABS IN BRAESWOOD
“For what it’s worth, my house flooded. I’m selling as is and would be thrilled for the free publicity.” [Joe, commenting on Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Halfway House] Photo of 3611 N. Braeswood Blvd.: HAR
UH’S PHONE SURVEY POLLEES WANT TO MAKE FLOOD RECORD A GIVEN IN HOME SALES
Here’s a tidbit from the UH Hobby School of Public Affairs’ new post-Harvey telephone questionnaire: 90 percent of Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Montgomery County residents who responded think sellers should be required to disclose prior flood damage to their homes and prior flooding in the surrounding neighborhood. Aren’t sellers already obligated to reveal their homes’ flood histories? Well, almost. State law requires most sellers to spill the details — but only if their home was previously occupied (and not if it was foreclosed on or if they’re selling it to execute someone’s will). For developers selling newly-built homes — sometimes in entirely new subdivisions — the rules are foggier: not all surrounding flood designations need to be disclosed to buyers. Among those details that can be withheld: whether the home is located in a flood pool, an area of land prone to inundation when water builds up behind a reservoir dam like that of the Addicks and Barker, as Lise Olsen wrote in the Chronicle last year. [University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs] Photo of home at 8th St. and Arlington during Harvey: Swamplot inbox
A FLOOD OF CHRISTMAS DINERS AT VIETOPIA An impromptu performance surrounding a centerpiece aquarium greeted Christmas dinner diners at Vietopia yesterday. Loud screams accompanied the appearance of twin streams springing from a leak in the glass on the dining side of freestanding structure at the Vietnamese restaurant in the Plaza in the Park (better known as the Kroger shopping center just south of the Southwest Fwy. on Buffalo Spdwy.) As a steady fountain of fishwater aimed itself at a nearby table or 2, the restaurant’s staff sprung into action: Large plastic garbage cans were deployed quickly to catch the water, and waiters used nets to collect the fish and transport them to new homes. [Wendy G Young Lightwalker, via abc13] Video: Wendy G Young LightWalker
WHAT IT TAKES TO JACK A HOUSE “Adam Bakir, a Houston builder and remodeler, does one or two home elevations a year. The job is akin to major surgery. Workers tunnel under the house, Bakir said, then raise the whole thing on jacks—the slab and the house that rests on it. Since Harvey, Bakir has received more than 20 inquiries about home elevation. If potential customers ask for a cost estimate, he’ll tell them: between about $75 and $100 per square foot. ‘If you have a 2,500-square-foot house, which is typical,’ he said, ‘the upper end of it would be about $250,000. The lower end, around $180,000.‘” [CityLab] Photo: Arkitektura Development
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE ONLY MACKIE AND KAMRATH HOMES LEFT ON THE TIEL WAY LOOP “. . . My husband and I drove around Tiel Way after the storm to check on all the MacKie and Kamraths. There were several homes on the street that flooded — and not just by a few inches but into their second levels. One of the things that make the Kamraths of this era (and really, many high-end midcentury homes) so gorgeous and unique is the abundant use of wood panels for all walls, doors, built-in storage cabinets and seating — everything. But it also makes them particularly expensive and hard to fix after extensive water damage.
As Swamplot reported earlier this year, the home at 2 Tiel Way was bought with the intention to restore but had so much termite and water damage it would have cost double to restore compared to a full rebuild price. So that’s what they are doing: rebuilding the same house. . . . It’s a controversial choice but in my opinion it’s the best architectural conservation alternative to demolition. But not everyone has the resources to undertake something like a full architectural rebuild. So while the demo of this house, one of Kamrath’s finest, is certainly a punch in the gut . . . I get it. They probably would have saved it if they could.
Tiel Way was the last concentration of MacKie and Kamrath’s great residential works, at one point having 7 homes on the loop. After this demolition we will be down to 2.5: the Gold Brick–awarded restoration at 67 Tiel Way (which thankfully, did not appear to have Harvey flooding issues), Kamrath’s own residence at 8 Tiel Way (definitely flooded, but appears to be safe at the moment), and the rebuild currently in progress at 2 Tiel Way.
48 Tiel Way won’t be the only midcentury treasure lost to Harvey, but it’s certainly one of the saddest to see go.” [Rabbit, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Tiel Repeal; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 48 Tiel Way: HAR
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ANOTHER WILLOW MEADOWS FAREWELL “Willowgrove is a beautiful street, and sadly, I think we’re going to see several homes come down akin to what we saw & are seeing again in Meyerland (I believe there was another one yesterday). It’s predominately 1960s single-story ranch homes, many custom designed and some of them oversized vs. the rest of neighborhood, below a canopy of oaks that drape the street. It’s terribly sad that what it was before is just gone now. Willowgrove backs up to one of the feeder ravines that breached when the bayou did, and homes on both sides of it — Cliffwood and Willowgrove — took a massive hit compared to the surrounding streets that only had street flooding. The cap on flood insurance, if homeowners had it, wouldn’t cover the value of those homes. I’ve had neighbors ask me, and I genuinely do not know — are those concrete ravines/mini-bayous supposed to drain/connect to Willow Water Hole at some point? Was that already supposed to have happened? If so, what was the delay?” [Heather, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Lynn Parked] Photo of 10202 Willowgrove Dr. interior (now for sale): HAR
COMMENT OF THE DAY: SELLING THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW “Fabulous lot adorned with critters of all varieties, this property now features wild herrings, cranes, frogs, alligators and migrating herds of antelope during the rainy season. The home was originally built as an ark on pristine gathering grounds for pairs of animals to accumulate during the final days of destruction per sellers disclosure. Tall mature trees on property present amazing opportunity to cultivate your very own white dove habitat for olive branch collection.” [Toby, commenting on Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: Outdoor Dining Area] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT FLOODING ON THE WEST SIDE TOOK AWAY “Homes underwater for extended periods can be rebuilt, as long as they were not subjected to currents sufficient to cause major structural damage or foundation scour. They just take longer to dry out (ours took over a month).
Like Local Planner said, in many of the flooded neighborhoods north of the bayou, original-condition homes had basically no value before the flood (i.e. they were being sold for lot value and torn down). The process is indeed accelerating, with new builds being elevated à la Bellaire and Meyerland.
The big question mark for me is how much of a market there’ll be for $1+ million new homes in a potentially flood-prone area (even if your elevated home doesn’t flood during the next big one, you’d likely lose the cars in your non-elevated garage and need to be evac’d by boat). The market was soft in the Energy Corridor even before the flood. A new supply of high-end homes doesn’t automatically beget demand. Hopefully the new MD Anderson complex in the area will help (and potentially spur further diversification of employment in the Energy Corridor beyond oil and gas).” [Grant, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Memorial Glint] Illustration: Lulu
Teevee station KHOU is giving up on its 3.2-acre bayou-side home on Allen Pkwy. after repeated flooding and will soon be listing it for sale, according to a staff member’s Facebook post. The organization did file a permit for $594,740 worth of restoration work after Harvey between August and October, and hired 2 services to help with the clean-up — including Lewisville-based MrRestore, pictured above outside the building on August 30. Before Harvey, the studio enjoyed a 16-year dry run bookended by waters from Tropical Storm Allison back in 2001.
The 52,000-sq.-ft. studio, home to Channel 11 for 57 years, took on 5 ft. of water during the recent storm, forcing its staff to relocate broadcasting activity 3 times within the same day: first to a second floor conference room, then 2 blocks east on Allen Pkwy. to the Federal Reserve Bank, and finally to Houston Public Media’s office on Elgin St. just off I-45, where the news operation has now been headquartered for just over 2 months. That co-location wouldn’t be permanent, KHOU meteorologist Brooks Garner reported last month, although he indicated at that time that the station had not as yet decided whether to return home or seek a new venue.
Photos tweeted out by KHOU reporters of their original home showed the building at 1945 Allen Pkwy. taking on water during the storm. Here’s what the lobby looked like:
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THE KATY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WITH A FLOOD POOL SECRET Some documents related to the Katy ISD’s 1998 purchase of the 15-acre site now occupied by Creech Elementary School at 4242 S. Mason Rd. have been frozen — in an attempt to preserve them, after they got flooded when Barker Reservoir got backed up after Hurricane Harvey. What those records might show, once thawed: some explanation for why school officials at the time signed a notice indicating they did not review a map filed with the county by Westbrook Cinco East LP (the developer from whom the property was purchased) that disclosed in a note that the land came with the risk of “extended controlled inundation.” Though several Katy schools sit on land near or in the Barker reservoir flood pool — the area expected to fill up with water when the dam is closed for a major flooding event — only Creech suffered major damage. All 800 Creech students are now attending classes at the University of Houston’s nearby Cinco Ranch campus while the school undergoes an estimated $5 million worth of repairs. The school district’s superintendent tells the Chronicle‘s Lise Olsen that he and other school officials were unaware that the school was built in the flood pool until they were contacted for her story. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of flooding at Creech Elementary School, 4242 S. Mason Rd., Katy: Breta Gatlin