08/19/16 1:15pm

LyondellBasell flare plume on August 18, 12000 Lawndale St., Pasadena, Houston, 77017

Yesterday’s entry in Houston’s recurring game of what’s-that-mysterious-black-cloud was brought to you by LyondellBasell’s Pasadena refinery at 12000 Lawndale St. (the same one that caught fire back in early April). The shot above was taken from an overpass near the junction of Loop 610 with Hwy. 225, though for parts of the afternoon the trail was visible from at least 7 miles away at the Hilton Americas building downtown. A LyondellBasell spokesperson tells Swamplot that flaring was triggered just before noon after a Calpine facility sending steam to the refinery lost power, reportedly due to a lightning strike. The company sent a message to the East Harris County Manufacturer’s Association’s emergency response info hotline stating that observers “may notice a bright orange flame, black smoke or a rumbling noise,” but that it was no big deal, and no one in nextdoor Manchester or Deer Park needed to do anything like leave or tape their windows shut this time.

Photo: Michael Muguerza via t.e.j.a.s.

Pasadena Smoke Signals
07/05/16 10:00am

Former KBR Campus, 4100 Clinton Dr., Fifth Ward, Houston

Whatever’s in store for the 136-acre former KBR site along the the Ship Channel at 4100 Clinton Dr., CityCentre developer Midway now looks to be involved. Documents filed with the county clerk’s office near the end of May reveal that Cathexis Holdings recently sold the site to KBRN, an entity connected to Midway through a recently minted corporate partnership (and officially located down the hall from Midway’s CityCentre office.)

And might Midway — which also heads the team that turned failed Downtown Mall Houston Pavilions into GreenStreet, and is developing the Kirby Grove park-and-office-building complex along the banks of the Southwest Fwy. in Upper Kirby — have some big office-shopping-residential-and-park-y plans in mind for this vast property, which lies about a mile and a half downstream from Downtown? A couple of clues are out there:


Sold on the Ship Channel
04/25/16 11:00am

C&D Scrap Metal, 815 W. 25th St., Height, Houston, 77008

The fence around the original home of of C&D Scrap Metal Recyclers at 815 W. 25th St. now hosts signs in English and Spanish announcing the scrapyard’s planned May 12th closure. The metal collectors have spent the last 28 years at the location across Durham St. from Shady Acres Church of Christ, just a few blocks away from the flurry of  redevelopment currently underway on N. Shepherd; since the mid 2000s, the business has also been using an additional lot on the opposite side of W. 25th, next door to Brothers Tire. 

Here’s a look at the company’s new out-of-the-Loop locale, already up and running at 6775 Bingle Rd. just south of Little York Rd.:


Leaving the Loop
01/27/16 2:30pm

DeLorean Motor Company, 15023 Eddie Dr., Humble, TX, 77396

The DeLorean Motor Company will begin production of a limited number of new DMC-12s at its plant at 15023 Eddie Dr. in Humble — the first new ones to be produced since 1982. Following recent changes to federal vehicle regulations impacting small-volume car manufacturers, DMC will assemble the iconic gull-winged sports cars mostly from long-stockpiled parts at its facility just southwest of the intersection of 59 with Beltway 8, though the engines will need to meet modern EPA emissions standards.

DMC CEO Steve Wynne tells KPRC that the company expects to roll out the first of the unpainted stainless steel machines in 2017, and hopes to eventually produce a DeLorean per week. The company currently services and supplies parts for the original early-1980s DeLoreans, as well as renting out replicas of the DeLorean-based time machine employed in the Back to the Future movie franchise.


Back to the Production Line
01/26/16 12:30pm

Oakmoor Pkwy. at Acaciawood Way, South Main, Houston, 77051

A ‘dozer was sighted this past week roaming across the newly-cleared plains at the dead end of Acaciawood Dr. into Oakmoor Pkwy., just south of Airport Blvd. between Almeda Rd. and a disconnected stretch of Kirby Dr. (nearly 2 miles southeast of where the main section of Kirby halts, on Holmes Rd. next to the intended UT Houston campus). Workers clearing the land last week told a reader that new apartments were planned for the spot (shown above); the tract, however, is sliced up into single-family-home-sized bites in County Appraisal District records. The land sits south of the Oakmoor Apartments, which sprouted up around the end of 2006. The short neighborhood streets on the other side of Oakmoor were in place by 2008, though the homes now lining them didn’t begin too appear until 2012.

In the distance, the photo above also catches a view of the nearby Harbor Hospice Houston Inpatient Facility (to the left of center, behind a brushpile), and the Citadel on Kirby (to the right), which hosts weddings, galas, and corporate events. Across Kirby lies the Houston Sports Park — work on the first 7 fields at the Houston Dynamo’s professional training facility started at the end of 2009 and wrapped up by 2012. The Houston Parks Board is now fundraising to add an additional 11 fields at the complex, which is also open for public recreational use.


Oakmoor Oaks No More
01/19/16 12:30pm

UT Houston Campus Site, Buffalo Lakes, Houston

The deal is sealed on the University of Texas’s purchase of a 100-acre hunk of land south of South Main St. as of last Friday. The sale marks the first concrete move toward UT’s planned Houston campus, though closings on the parcel patchwork comprising the rest of the 300-ish ac. likely won’t wrap up until early 2017, according to a press release from the school’s Office of Public Affairs.

The sold land is a forested tract northwest of the wiggly intersection of Willowbend Dr. and Buffalo Spdwy.; the property is split along a northwest-southeast diagonal by a linear drainage feature which makes an appearance in those preliminary campus designs (shown from the north in the image above).

That land was owned previously by Buffalo Lakes Ltd., an entity associated with UT grad John Kirksey of Kirksey Architecture. A plan for a Buffalo Lakes master-planned community (see below) was drawn up more than 4 years ago by Kirksey for the same space:


South Main Master Plans
12/01/15 10:00am

UT Houston Campus Site, Buffalo Lakes, Houston

Some zoomy conceptual renderings of the University of Texas’s coming Houston campus, centered on the largely undeveloped intersection of Buffalo Spdwy. and Willowbend Blvd., made their debut at last month’s Board of Regents meeting, where the intended purchase of land for the project was announced. Buffalo Spdwy. gently winds through the drawings of the new campus to a track and several baseball diamonds along Holmes Rd. (which runs horizontally across the top of the image above).

Although the images are only “concepts”, the pictures do provide a sense of how the campus might unfold: For example, that linear water feature shown at the center of the campus aligns with an existing drainage ditch on the property, and the 3 long, low structures in the foreground are good candidates for parking garages, which will be needed regardless of the new institution’s yet-to-be-decided purpose.

Existing residential communities and industrial parks are here rendered as sparsely-treed fields — the boundary of the land slated for purchase by UT currently houses several apartment complexes on the north side and the Orkin Industrial Surplus facility to the south.

But another conceptual rendering (this one looking northwest across Holmes Rd. towards the distant Williams Tower) shows the campus in place amongst some of its eclectic neighbors:


Welcome to the neighborhood
06/11/15 1:00pm


Former Brownfield Site at 801 and 1701 Gillette St., Fourth Ward, HoustonThe complicated transaction that allowed the city to sell the 10.52-acre brownfield site along Allen Parkway between the Federal Reserve building and Allen Parkway Village to an apartment developer was concluded in late April, the Houston Business Journal‘s Paul Takahashi reports. Alliance Residential paid $39.9 million for the property along Gillette St., where the city began operating a solid waste incinerator in the 1920s and later converted the site for use as its fleet maintenance facility. The company immediately sold the northern 6 acres to an unnamed private investor; Alliance now plans to build a 365-unit apartment complex on the southern half of the property, fronting Gillette and West Dallas St.


Fourth Ward
05/21/15 1:00pm

Lightning Logistics and SpindleTap Brewery, 10622 Hirsch Rd., Northside, Houston

Beer and trucking: 2 great Texas pastimes will unite under one roof this September, once the brand new SpindleTap Brewery opens up its brewing operation and tavern inside the brand-new tilt-up warehouse at 10622 Hirsch Rd. built for trucking company Lightning Logistics (pictured here under construction in a photo from February). SpindleTap’s facility is taking up 10,000 of the building’s 70,000 sq. ft., reports the Houston Business Journal‘s Joe Martin. (It’ll also include an outdoor patio space and possibly a dog run.) Much of the remainder of the building, which is located just south of Little York, a superblock east of I-69, will serve as headquarters for Lightning Logistics’s 250-truck fleet.


04/29/15 2:45pm

American Brakeshoe Company Building, 3315 W. 12th St., Inner Loop Northwest, Houston

A lowslung brick 1965 building in the warehouse district in the northwest quadrant of the Inner Loop west of Timbergrove Manor and Lazybrook scored landmark status from the city today, marking the first such designation for an industrial, Modern, and suburban (well, at least used-to-be suburban) structure. NuSmile, a company that manufactures pediatric dental crowns, bought the former American Brakeshoe Company building in 2011 and then renovated it, adding a taller 6,140-sq.-ft. metal-wrapped extension to the back of the 8,584-sq.-ft. structure in 2013 and winning a Good Brick Award from Preservation Houston in the process. A report the company submitted with the application notes that “no records of an architect, contractor, or developer have been found” for the original building. Among the former tenants of the property at 3315 W. 12th St.: Smith Industries, TelTex, and TD Rowe Amusements.

Photo: SWCA

NuSmile on Building
04/22/15 1:00pm

Demolition of Former Riviana Foods Processing Building, 1702 Taylor St., First Ward, Houston

A portion of the Riviana Foods complex at Summer and Taylor Streets in the First Ward was torn down this week. Reader Rony Canales’s panoramic photos of the former Riviana processing building and a few accompanying structures show the demo in process (above) and a little further along in the process (below):


After the Rice Is Gone
04/07/15 1:30pm

Guy Wires, 4101 Fulton St., Silverdale, Houston

All that’s left of a 1956 steel-frame industrial building on the campus of ALG Truck & Trailer Repair at 4101 Fulton St. just south of Patton is these old cast-in-place concrete supports. The building, which lines the west side of the North Line light-rail extension in the Near Northside, was torn down over the last 2 weeks. Why are just these portions left standing?

It’s not entirely clear, but it might have something to do with the guy wires that are holding down a radio antenna tower adjacent to a service bay behind the Love’s Truck Stop directly to the west, which is accessed from nearby Patton St. It’s visible at the far left of the above photo — and in this marked-up view from Google, showing how it looked when the building was still intact:


Hang Tight
01/07/15 12:15pm

WORLD’S LARGEST AIR CONDITIONING MANUFACTURER TO BUILD GIANT COMFORTPLEX AT NORTHERN REACHES OF KATY PRAIRIE Proposed Daikin Industries Comfortplex, near Hockley, TexasAh, Houston industry! Oil may be down, but air conditioning is booming — and ready to do its part to further our fine city’s sprawl-ward spread. Ralph Bivins reports this morning that Japanese HVAC giant Daikin Industries, which paid $3.7 billion back in 2012 to buy Houston’s Goodman Global, will build a $417 million, 4,000,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing and logistics campus on virgin prairie southeast of Hockley, off U.S. 290 a good 3 miles west of the Grand Parkway. Dubbed the “Comfortplex,” the facility (portrayed in the rendering above) will consolidate current company operations in both Tennessee and Texas, and increase the company’s Houston-area workforce to approximately 4,000 employees. The Comfortplex will replace an existing 525,000-sq.-ft. Goodman air-conditioner factory near Loop 610 and 290 when it opens in 2016, Bivins notes. The company produces ducted and ductless AC systems under the Daikin, Goodman, and Amana brand names. [Realty News Report] Rendering: Daikin Industries

10/02/14 1:15pm

Smoke Over New Karbach Brewery, Dacoma St. at Karbach St., Dacoma, Houston

If you’re wondering, like the person who took this photo earlier today, what the story is behind the smoke seen here coming out of the top of the new Karbach Brewing Co. building under construction at the corner of Karbach St. and Dacoma St., just west of Mangum Rd., there’s no need to worry: A small fire at the the construction site was put out quickly a short while ago with minimal damage, according to a company rep.

Karbach was rated last year as one of the fastest-growing craft breweries in the U.S. The new 2-story, 19,000-sq.-ft. brewery building adjacent to its existing facility was designed by Three Square Design Group, and will include a public tap room and kitchen, along with a special-event space upstairs.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Your Beer Is Safe
06/30/14 3:45pm

Amazon Fulfillment Center, 8120 Humble-Westfield Rd., Houston

Amazon Fulfillment Center, 8120 Humble-Westfield Rd., HoustonHumble-area news website HKA Texas has a few exterior pics of the new Amazon.com fulfillment center that opened last week at 8120 Humble-Westfield Dr. between Kenswick Dr. and Lee Rd. in Houston — a good mile west of the Humble city limits, according to the story, but good enough to rate a Humble address. The author of the story was restricted to exterior photos of the 250,000-sq.-ft. facility a couple miles northeast of Bush Intercontinental Airport, which is officially labeled a “sortation center” by Amazon. (The company typically reserves interior access to carefully controlled media visits such as the one described in this month’s profile of a Phoenix center in Wired magazine.)


They’ve Got Your Package Here