10/09/17 4:30pm

Here’s the backside of the 12-story former KBR office building that Midway has for the last week lit up with a new message in hopes of signaling to Amazon and avian passers-by that it buys into the concept underlying many of Jeff Bezos’s business decisions. Also: That the surrounding 150-acre property on the north side of Buffalo Bayou east of Downtown Houston that the company has renamed East River would make a fine second headquarters campus for the online and offline retailer. Day 1 is the name assigned successively to 3 different Amazon buildings in Seattle, the latest a new 37-story downtown tower that itself features a lit-up sign on its lower floors that reads HELLO WORLD. Day 1 is also a common catchphrase in the company, a reminder to itself, among other things, to focus on outcomes rather than process and to make decisions quickly, even if you have less information available than you’d like.

Day 1 for this Houston sign was October 2nd. As a reader reported last week, since then the vacant building has been sporting the company’s NASDAQ ticker symbol on the opposite side to match:

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Day 1 on Clinton Dr.
10/06/17 1:00pm

The tallest of the 5 vacant structures remaining in the 136-acre former KBR campus fronting Buffalo Bayou east of Downtown that new owner Midway has dubbed East River has been sporting a new night-time look as of this week. The lights in the photo above, taken last night by a reader, spell out the NASDAQ ticker symbol of Amazon — which has announced a nationwide search for a second headquarters campus.

Previously, the lights in the 12-story office building at 4100 Clinton Dr. in the Fifth Ward had been tuned to HTX:

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Hey Lookie Here!
09/07/17 3:45pm

SOMETHING POWERFUL IN THE CROSBY AIR This vivid description is included in the original petition of a lawsuit filed today against Arkema, operators of the chemical plant off the Beaumont Hwy. in Crosby — by 7 first responders injured after incidents there last week: “In the early morning hours of August 31, 2017, the first of several explosions occurred as a result of the abandoned chemicals heating up and igniting. Although the explosions had occurred, no one from Arkema alerted the first responders who were manning the perimeter of the arbitrary mandatory evacuation area. Immediately upon being exposed to the fumes from the explosion. and one by one. the police officers and first responders began to fall ill in the middle of the road. Calls for medics were made, but still no one from Arkema warned of the toxic fumes in the air. Emergency medical personnel arrived on scene. and even before exiting their vehicle, they became overcome by the fumes as well. The scene was nothing less than chaos. Police officers were doubled over vomiting, unable to breathe. Medical personnel, in their attempts to provide assistance to the officers became overwhelmed and they too began to vomit and gasp for air. Some of the police officers. unable to abandon their vehicles due to their weapons being present, jumped in their vehicles and drove themselves to the nearest hospital. The other officers and medical personnel were all placed in an ambulance, and were driven to the hospital.” [Houston Chronicle; International Business Times] Still image of smoke from fire after Thursday’s explosion: abc13

02/13/17 2:30pm

UNIDENTIFIED CHEMICAL STENCH, HAZE DRIFTING ACROSS TOWN OFFICIALLY NO CAUSE FOR CONCERN Albemarle Corporation Facility, 13000 Bay Park Rd., Pasadena, TX, 77507Suggested and mandatory restrictions on hanging around outside were issued by the Memorial Village area’s fire department and by Katy ISD respectively for a while this morning, in response to the acrid odor and haze blowing in some 40 miles across the city from somewhere near the Ship Channel. The Houston emergency response folks say that their monitoring has turned up no air quality red flags, but that anyone who can avoid the stink should probably do so just in case. The particular origin and composition of the odor also still seems to still be up for debate this afternoon: The Albemarle facility at 13000 Bay Park Rd. (shown above) called into the CAER hotline this morning to report that they might be releasing natural gas odorizer throughout the day as their gas facilities got worked on, and LyondellBasell’s Sheldon Rd. facility also sent a message to the CAER line that they would be conducting flaring today in response to a “unit upset,” but no official suspects have been named by the city.  The extent of the odor’s inland spread is notably broader than last month’s quickie Valero tank overfill stench incident in Manchester: KHOU reports that some of its viewers on the southeast side of town started calling in about the smell around 10 am, and that “by 11 a.m. the smell and an apparent haze covered most of downtown Houston and the west side, with some reports from as far north as Bush Airport.” [KHOU; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Albemarle facility at 13000 Bay Park Rd.: April R.  

12/12/16 11:15am

Rendering of Heights Market, 7122 Old Katy Rd., Hempstead Industrial, Houston, 77055

7122 Old Katy Rd., Hempstead Industrial, Houston, 77055

Here’s a peek at what the old Delta Fastener warehouse at 7122 Old Katy Rd. might look like once Braun Enterprises gets done with it. The property — located just inside the W. Loop in that wedge of industrial parks hemmed in by I-10 and Hempstead Rd., west of Cottage Grove — was snagged by Braun at the end of November. A handful of renderings from Tipps Architecture (also behind the design for another of Braun’s not-in-its-namesake-neighborhood redevelopments) depict the 57,845-sq.-ft. warehouse done over in brown and bearing the label Heights Market.

The renderings show some new windows, large and small, sliced into exterior of the 1940s warehouse, and an existing loading dock redone as a cafeteria space:

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Changes for Delta
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:

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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.:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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

broadstone-tinsley-park-aerial

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.

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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.

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SpindleTap
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