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.:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

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:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

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:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

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:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Coming Down in Downtown
12/30/15 9:45am

Remodel of Heights Plaza, 420 E. 20th St., Heights, Houston, 77008

A makeover is underway at the Heights Plaza at 420 E. 20th St. between N. Main and Heights Blvd. Swamplot reader JerseyGirl sends photos of the strip center, once home to Sunny’s Washateria and J & R Boudin; the building is keeping some of its 1970s architectural details (such as those embedded cinderblocks) but is also getting some updates, including a total interior redo and a new white and bubblegum color scheme extending to the parking lot.

Workers on the site confirmed that one of the new tenants will be Birds Barbers, an Austin salon known for providing Shiner Bock as part of its customer experience — in addition to using it as a styling product, for “hair that is smooth and full of shine”. Steel City Pops will also move in — the Alabama-based popsicle chain, which the owner modeled off a Mexican paletas store encountered in Nashville, currently lists flavors including buttermilk, wassail, and spruce on the menu of their Dallas location.

Earlier renderings from Schaum & Shieh show the Heights Plaza strip center (to be rechristened The 420) as it may soon appear — give or take a high-gloss sheen, and those pink parking stops and bricks:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Heights Gets the Birds
12/22/15 3:45pm

Hobby Airport New Parking Garage, 7800 Airport Blvd, Houston, TX 77061

Direct flights to Cuba from the US are back on the table (probably, eventually) per last week’s agreement between Havana and the State Department — and whenever that happens, Southwest Airlines is looking to get in on the action from its newly-minted international concourse at Hobby Airport. The concourse has been launching passengers to Central America and the Caribbean since its mid-October opening, which marked the airport’s return to the international game for the first time since IAH opened in 1969.

Other major additions to Hobby include a 3,000-spot parking garage (shown above) still partially under construction on one of the former EcoPark lots, just west of the original garage (now labeled the Red Garage). The new structure (known as the Blue Garage) is rising in phases: Phase I opened just in time for Thanksgiving, and the rest of the structure should be ready to receive rather less anxious travelers some time next year. The pedestrian bridge shown in the photo above connects Level 3 of the new garage to the newly-expanded Terminal area:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Park and Fly
07/10/15 2:00pm

CVS Pharmacy Under Construction, 3112 S. Shepherd Dr., Westlawn Terrace, Houston

CVS Pharmacy Under Construction, 3112 S. Shepherd Dr., Westlawn Terrace, HoustonThe new CVS Pharmacy that’s replacing a couple of former veterinary clinics on W. Alabama — as well as the Shepherd Corner shopping center that until late last year housed Roeder’s Pub, Ruchi’s Taqueria, and Oaks Cleaners — is almost ready to show off the 40 shiny new parking spaces that will front the S. Shepherd Dr. corner a block south from the Trader Joe’s-ified Alabama Theater.

Don’t worry that parking will be scarce, though — more spaces will be available along the side and back of the new building, which faces S. Shepherd Dr. behind 2 full parking lanes. If you’re looking for a development that might be a little more street-fronting, you’ll have to wait: Construction hasn’t even begun yet on the fast-food drive-thru planned for the adjacent former site of jewelry store Fly High Little Bunny; it’ll go in where the big pile of dirt is, at the left of this photo:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

06/23/15 1:45pm

REVEALING THE FULL PLAN FOR SKANSKA’S DOWNTOWN BLOCK WILL TAKE SOME TIME Construction of Temporary Parking Garage, Houston Club Building, 811 Rusk St., Downtown HoustonThe Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff does her level best to decipher and explain the strange sequence of events at Skanska’s ongoing demolition-construction-demolition-construction project across the street from Pennzoil Place: “The developer planning Capitol Tower, the 35-story office building slated for downtown’s former Houston Club building site, is planning to pour the foundation for the structure next month, but as of now, there are no plans to construct the tower portion of the project. So what’s with all the construction on the property? The Houston Club building was imploded last year, but the garage on the site was to remain because of an existing parking contract. During the implosion, however, the garage was damaged and had to be demolished. Project developer Skanska USA Commercial Development is now building a new garage on the southern half of the block. ‘We’re still executing our project plans,’ said Michael Mair, executive vice president and regional manager for Skanska USA in Houston.” Left out of the explanation: The multi-story steel parking structure and ramps Skanska built for the garage before it was demolished — pictured here under construction in front of the then-still-standing Houston Club Building last March. The downtown block, surrounded by Rusk, Travis, Milam, and Capitol streets, is now empty. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

06/15/15 3:00pm

TrueGrid Parking Lot, Ninfa's on Navigation, 2704 Navigation Blvd., East End, Houston

For the second time in 6 months, the original Ninfa’s at 2704 Navigation has a brand new parking lot surface. The owners hope this one will last a whole lot longer than the sog-prone crushed-limestone install that crews replaced prematurely last week (see photo above). “There were potholes everywhere,” declares a press release put out by the manufacturer of its replacement. Here’s a pic of how it looked before (found-in-place jalapeño included for scale and local flavor):

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Replacing a Swamp Lot