Here’s a view from 2 Houston Center onto the construction site where a new 13-story precast-concrete parking garage is in the early stages of assembly. The site is the west half of the block bounded by Rusk, Fannin, and Walker streets Downtown. On the eastern half: The newly opened Le Meridien hotel (partly visible in the right foreground), built in the renovated former Melrose Building; and (hidden) behind that, the 11-level 1110 Rusk parking garage. On the opposite side of Fannin St. is another recent Downtown hotel: The Aloft, at 820 Fannin (in the left foreground of the image), with BG Group Place directly behind it.
The new parking garage going up on Downtown’s Block 94 appears to be an accessory to another development not visible in the photo, however: It’s a project of developers Lionstone and Midway, to go with the companies’ Jones at Main redo of the former Gulf Building and the adjacent Great Jones building at 712 and 708 Main St. respectively, both 2 blocks away to the northwest.
The parking garage site has been a surface parking lot since not long after Memorial Day 1986, when the retail building on the site was decimated by a natural gas explosion. The replacement structure is expected to be complete by the end of next year.
Photo: Eric Ramon
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WE TRIED THAT NO PARKING REQUIREMENTS THING BEFORE, IN AVONDALE “The urban fantasists who don’t believe in minimum parking should school themselves on the economic concept of the free rider and the common law concept of nuisance. They should also research a little of the history behind Houston minimum parking requirements. These regs did not emerge in a vacuum.
I lived in Avondale, in Montrose, during the nineties, when it was home to no less than nine bars, multiple restaurants, and other adult businesses, all without parking and no parking requirements. Houston minimum parking requirements arose because of what was going on in Avondale and a few other neighborhoods inside the Loop.
The patrons of these bars and restaurants did not and still do not live within Avondale. They all drove to Avondale because there was and is still no other way to get there. The bar owners did not provide parking, choosing instead to impose the costs of their patron parking on the city and the residents of Avondale (free rider). The patrons parked, imbibed, and then proceeded to be drunken asses all night disturbing the peace of the neighborhood (nuisance).
Forcing the business owner to bear the costs of patron parking shifts the costs back to the business which benefits from the patronage. It is a reasonable requirement. It also alleviates the nuisance issue by keeping the drunks off the property of other businesses and residences.” [Jardinero1, commenting on Comment of the Day: What Parking Requirements for Bars Really Encourage] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT PARKING REQUIREMENTS FOR BARS REALLY ENCOURAGE “Uggh . . . Every thread on here, or nextdoor, etc., about a new bar or restaurant attracts an inevitable ‘where will all these people park?‘ comment.
Why do people feel the need to drive to this bar, and the others in the vicinity? Because our obsession with parking requires every bar or restaurant to dedicate 3/4 of their land area to machinery storage, making everything so far apart you can’t walk anywhere.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to PROHIBIT bars from having parking lots, instead? Why does our city REQUIRE bar operators to subsidize one of the most dangerous and reckless activities people regularly engage in — drinking and driving — by forcing bars to provide parking for their patrons? Wouldn’t you rather the bars in your neighborhood made it as difficult as possible for people to drive there, and take an Uber instead?
Let’s keep the drunks off our streets: Zero out the parking minimum on any establishment with an on-premise liquor license.” [Angostura, commenting on The Up-Scaled Bungalow Bar Now Puffing Up in Shady Acres Across from Cedar Creek] Illustration: Lulu
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
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
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
The 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
The 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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COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE CHICKEN, THE EGG, AND THE HOUSTON SPRAWLSCAPE “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
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW ANOTHER KIDDIE TRAIN COULD PRESERVE HERMANN PARK’S PARKING HERITAGE “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 Coverup] Photo of Hermann Park kiddie train: Lou Minatti
A 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
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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From 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)
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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COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT ’THERE’S NOWHERE TO PARK’ REALLY MEANS “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