08/11/17 1:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: PARKING REQUIREMENTS FOR SELF-PARKING CARS “I think the live load requirements for a parking structure are actually a little higher than a residential building, but the bigger misconception is that shared autonomous cars don’t need to park. The fleet of autonomous cars will have to be sized to meet peak demand, which happens for a few hours in the morning and a few in the afternoon. Outside of those hours, a large proportion of the fleet will need to be stored somewhere. Overnight, that somewhere can be a non-central location, since presumably many people will still live in suburbs. But during the day, surplus vehicles will be most efficiently stored somewhere close to where their passengers will be in the afternoon. The real advantage is that the car storage won’t have to be so closely tied to the destination, so a parking structure every few blocks should be adequate, rather than each building needing its own dedicated (usually surface) parking. It’s more likely that this garage will stay a garage, but nearby surface lots can be developed into actual buildings.” [Angostura, commenting on How To Design a Parking Garage That Won’t Become Useless Once Cars Get Restless] Illustration: Lulu

08/10/17 1:15pm

HOW TO DESIGN A PARKING GARAGE THAT WON’T BECOME USELESS ONCE CARS GET RESTLESS The best way to make sure parking garages don’t become obsolete heaps of concrete once cars figure out better things to do with their time when drivers aren’t using them is to build structures that have flat floorplates and more headroom, Gensler’s Peter Merwin tells reporter Kyle Hagerty: “Any future use will require level ground rather than the steep slopes typical to garages, so designing flat floors on every level is critical. To convert to residential, developers need a minimum 11-foot floor-to-floor height. That allows designers to properly core the infrastructure and build out the space.” Merwin, who works in Gensler’s Houston office, is guiding the design of the proposed Fairview District Garage at Fairview and Genesee streets in Montrose. His ideal future-proofing floor-to-floor dimension for garages as we approach the age of the driverless car? 15 ft. “That opens up the option to convert each floor into lofts, residential, retail or office. Another added benefit is that in the event you need more parking, not less, you can convert a 15-foot level into a double stacking parking floor like those in operation in many dense metros.” [Bisnow] Rendering of Fairview District Garage: Gensler

06/28/17 3:00pm

The latest of Gensler’s renderings of that midrise parking garage planned atop the recently evacuated location of nightclub and drag venue Meteor shows the structure rocking a swath of greenery in place of the decorative bicycles pictured across the facade in earlier drafts. Cara Smith reports in the Houston Business Journal this week that the garage is one of the projects that Gensler is “future proofing” — that is, designing with an eye to an eventual decline in Houston parking garage needs, whether spurred by the rise of self-driving cars or other shifts in transportation patterns. The firm was featured by Web Urbanist last month in an article discussing some of its other current garage projects, some of which are being outfitted with conversion-minded utility hookup spacing, as well as ceiling heights suited to something other than car stacking; modular features like easy-to-tack-on facades and removable ramps are also in the mix.

There appear to be 6 retail spots in the foot of the garage that will be ready for tenants before such time as the rest of the garage might hypothetically be repurposed (along with a slew of other spaces in the development, per Edge Realty’s leasing flier):

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Prepped for Obsolescence in Fourth Ward
04/19/17 4:30pm

2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

Pothole in Parking Lot for Hobbit Cafe, Blue Fish House, and Yelapa Playa Mexicana, 2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, HoustonThe folks at Rim Tanon (the Thai place that recently replaced the former Blue Fish House sushi spot on Richmond) send word that the hole-spangled brick, asphalt, and rubble parking lot at the center of the Portsmouth Square restaurant clump has been freshly paved over. The spot, which won top honors on a 2011 list of Houston’s worst restaurant parking lots, was resurfaced from Richmond to Portsmouth St. just in time for Tax Day. Above and below are a couple of damp shots of the lot circa some 2010 gawking:

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Flattening the Competition
01/10/17 10:30am

Meteor Lounge brick reuse, Fairview at Genesee streets, East Montrose, Houston, 77006

Meteor, 2306 Genesee St, Montrose, HoustonThe deconstruction crew that brought Meteor Lounge to the ground at Fairview and Genesee streets last week got in a last round of crushing digs at the fallen structure over the weekend, a reader reports: “They piled up all the bricks and ran over them with the huge excavator, crushing them.  They then moved the debris and spread it over the dirt in the ‘parking’ lot across the street from Max’s Wine Dive.” The obliterated former club’s corner property is planned as the location of a proposed 5-story parking garage for the Fairview District redevelopment; here’s the view from Fairview of the rearranged structure itself, facing southeast toward the CenterPoint electrical substation on Genesee:

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Fairview Impacts
11/08/16 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE CHICKEN, THE EGG, AND THE HOUSTON SPRAWLSCAPE Proposed Heights H-E-B with 10 ft. building setback“I do usually avoid stores with no bike parking or unfriendly pedestrian/bike access, so I see the other side of [the parking lot] coin. Stores need to cater to their customers; it’s customer demand that’s ultimately at fault for hideous parking lots and runoff and heat islands and sprawl and all the rest. But one way to drive demand is creating feedback loops, and one way to start that is stores building less parking.” [Sid, commenting on H-E-B’s Plan and Backup Plan for the Double Decker Heights Dry Zone Store] Rendering of preliminary parking garage plans for N. Shepherd H-E-B: Houston Planning Commission

10/31/16 3:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW ANOTHER KIDDIE TRAIN COULD PRESERVE HERMANN PARK’S PARKING HERITAGE New Hermann Park Train“Right now is a bad time to be predicting parking lot requirements for the next 20 years. Driverless cars may make them obsolete. If that happens, they can turn the parking lot into a ‘parking lot museum’ — kids of the future can visit it to get a feel for what life in the 20th century was like. They could even ride the Vulture Express, a 2mph trip up and down row after row of filled parking spaces that goes on for hours.” [Memebag, commenting on Grassy Knolls, Children’s Swamp Part of Possible Hermann Park Parking CoverupPhoto of Hermann Park kiddie train: Lou Minatti

10/28/16 3:30pm

Lyric Center garage site, 440 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Lyric Center garage site, 440 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

lyric-centre-cellist-sculptureA few readers note that work is underway on the site of the new parking garage planned next to music-themed office highrise Lyric Centre at the corner of Louisiana and Preston streets (catty-corner from Market Square Tower’s newly-filled sky-high resident display tank). The top photo above shows the crews digging around on the former surface parking lot as of yesterday afternoon; the city issued a permit for work on the building-to-be’s exterior shell earlier this month.  A glass-skinned design for the structure can be seen in the rendering above, which peers at the site from the north along Smith St., looking past the skybridge between the Wortham Theater and the Houston Ballet’s Center for Dance. The drawing shows folks making use of the ground floor of the structure, which is intended to house retail (in contrast to the garage going up a few blocks north at Milam and Franklin streets, which is intended to look like it could house retail).

The floorplan included with the listing for that 41,000 sq. ft. of space shows a ramp for the garage hitting Smith St.:

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Sowing Downtown Parking Space
10/18/16 4:45pm

CityWestPlace Parking Garage, Briarforest, Houston, 77042

A reader sends a shot of the roof of the last of the 4 former BMC Software campus parking garages to get put on the parking-space straight-and-narrow. Last Friday the angled stripes got powerwashed off of the top floor of the turn-of-the-millenium structure, which sits along CityWest Blvd. north of the new Phillips 66 campus just outside Beltway 8. All of the remaining garages on the site appear to have been restriped one at a time over the past decade or so with 90-degree parking spots (as can be seen on the roof of another of the garages in the upper right, further north along CityWest). The office complex goes by CityWestPlace these days; the complex is one of the properties held by new Houston-only REIT (New) Parkway, which was formed earlier this month when old Parkway and Cousins Properties merged then dumped all of their Houston holdings into a new, separate REIT.

Perpendicular spaces will better fit in with the campus’s general rectilinear motifs — for example, with this series of narrow rectangular water features on the other side of that northern parking garage:

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CityWestParkingPlaces
09/30/16 4:30pm

Whole Foods Montrose, 701 Waugh, North Montrose, Houston, 77019

View of New Whole Foods Market, 701 Waugh Dr., North Montrose, HoustonFrom the AIG tower neighboring to the north, a reader peers down behind the construction fencing now up at the corner of Waugh Dr. and D’Amico St., in an effort to figure out what might be gettin’ real in the Whole Foods Montrose parking lot. An employee tells Swamplot over the phone that the store is planting additional parking spaces on top of what was previously a walkway lined with grass and picnic tables, adding parking has been a squeeze on the weekends (which lines up pretty well with earlier reports from the scene). The rep also says that the tables (positioned across Waugh from BMW service garage Bavarian Machine Specialties and catty-corner to the health-and-beauty-shop-laden strip center across D’amico), were almost never used. Permits for the pave-over were issued at the end of May.

Photos: Randy Saad (top), Swamplot inbox (bottom photo showing opening day, 2011)

Leaner Green
09/16/16 2:00pm

Park(ing) Day 2016, 500 McKinney St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

What’s all this sitting by the meters on the 500 block of McKinney St. today? Allyn West sends over some shots of the parking-spot-sized pocket parks currently occupying a few of Downtown’s on-street spaces. And you, too, can sit there, but only if you hustle: The ephemeral parklets are open for communal use until about 3 PM as part of the annual Park(ing) Day affair, now in its 12th year of instigating fleeting streetscape conversions in hundreds of cities around the world.

One of this year’s parks has its very own ideologically-conflicted seesaw:

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Metered Park(ing)
03/18/16 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT ’THERE’S NOWHERE TO PARK’ REALLY MEANS Stuck in Parking Lot on 290“People would rather circle for hours for a spot that is 3 ft. from the door they wish to enter than to: A) pay to park B) walk. So please keep in mind, when someone says ‘there’s nowhere to park in the village’ what they mean is: There’s nowhere within 3 ft. of my destination to park. Of course, everyone knows where they can park, but the last thing they want to do is walk from their car to their destination.” [toasty, commenting on Shake Shack Will Take Over La Madeleine’s Rice Village Space] Illustration: Lulu

03/08/16 10:00am

TREE PROFESSIONALS: PECAN AT 509 LOUISIANA ST. WOULD HAVE JUST DIED ANYWAY Pecan Tree formerly at 509 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002The pecan tree formerly behind the former Longhorn Cafe on Louisiana St. is down at last, following the 100-plus-year-old buildings at 509 and 517 Louisiana into that Great Big Preservation District in the Sky. Nancy Sarnoff of the Houston Chronicle reports that 2 arborists were called in to examine the tree, and pronounced it dead-or-close-enough: Lauren Lusk Willis, a member of the family that owns the next-door Lancaster Hotel, told the Chronicle that a lightning strike had damaged the tree, and that its core was rotting. Willis said that the pecan “would not likely have survived the leveling of the lot for any construction,” and that “ultimately, it wouldn’t have survived regardless.” The tree, haunted by a both-Sam-and-city-of Houston ghost story, was long visible only to those who entered 509 Louisiana’s hidden courtyard, until the pecan’s 2001 outing by the demo of the Rice Rittenhouse parking garage; it went back into hiding by the end of 2003 with the help of 33-story Calpine Center. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of the pecan tree, following demolition of 509 Louisiana St.: KineticD

01/18/16 2:30pm

SWEEPING UP THE CRUMBS AT THE FORMER HOME OF MIYAKO, RED ONION, AND MADRAS PAVILION Corporate Plaza 2 and 3 Demolitions, Kirby at Norfolk, Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098 A reader surveys the scant leftovers of the once-restaurant-filled office park at Kirby at Norfolk this morning. The knock-’em-down phase of the demolition of Corporate Plaza II and III, which began in mid-December, appears to have wrapped up and transitioned into the haul-’em-away. The complex’s still-standing parking garage,  pictured on the right, was issued its demo permit on Friday. The last structure of the office park trio, the Corporate Plaza I midrise (hiding unsuccessfully behind the garage), has recently acquired a sash of debris netting around the middle; Nancy Sarnoff reports that Corporate Plaza I will be demolished as well. The complex should be fully done in by the end of April. [Chron.com, previously on Swamplot] Photo of 3910 and 3930 Kirby Dr.: Swamplot inbox

01/12/16 3:45pm

Demolition of 517 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Time to bid adieu to 2 more of downtown’s oldest buildings: readers sent both sky-high and excavator-side photos of yesterday’s teardown work at 517 Louisiana St., and 509 is permitted to follow). According to the building’s owners, the next-door Lancaster Hotel’s parking crunch is the reason the 2 1906 Theater District neighbors will meet their flattened fates, along with a long-hidden pecan tree that shades a once-secret courtyard at 509. Taking their place: a surface lot for 50 cars — and, maybe, one day, an expansion to the hotel.

517’s transformation to empty space was complete by the end of the day yesterday:

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Coming Down in Downtown