08/18/17 4:15pm

RESTRICTIONS ON MUNICIPAL TREE ORDINANCES CUT DOWN, SIGNED BY GOVERNOR The special session of the Texas Legislature ended without passing a law — which Governor Abbott had wantedbanning cities from regulating owners’ rights to cut down trees on their property. But the Lege didn’t exactly leave the issue alone, either: HB7, signed into law earlier this week by Governor Abbott and scheduled to go into effect on December 1, prevents municipalities (that haven’t already done so) from charging homeowners a fee for trees cut down on their property that are smaller than 10 in. — and requires cities that levy any mitigation fee for cutting down larger trees to also allow a credit for planting 2-in.-diameter replacements. The credits would be required to range from 40 percent to 100 percent of the fee itself; if the property is an owner-occupied residence, the credit would have to equal the mitigation fee. [Houston Chronicle ($); bill text; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

08/17/17 4:45pm

HOW THE NEW ARCHITECTURE CENTER HOUSTON WILL BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES WHEN HIGH WATER COMES What’s going to happen to the new exhibition, meeting, and office spaces at the Architecture Center Houston — set to reopen next month in its new location in the ground floor and former boiler room of the 1906 B.A. Riesner Building at 900 Commerce St., next to the Bayou Lofts and across from the Spaghetti Warehouse Downtown — in the very likely event that floodwaters rise from nearby Buffalo Bayou? Kyle Humphries of Murphy Mears Architects, the firm chosen to lead the reconfiguration of the space after a competition last year, tells the Architect’s Newspaper’s Jason Sayer that the designers imagined the interior as a bathtub, and accordingly wrapped a quarter-inch-thick plate made of aluminum around the interior on 2 sides: “’Our storefront system that faces Commerce Street is sealed and uses structural steel panels up to 3.5 feet long all along that facade,’ described Humphries. Furthermore, custom fills and seals on the doors (the profiles of which were manufactured in Switzerland) were prescribed with a custom-designed drop-in flood panel that can be operated by one person standing outside.” [The Architect’s Newspaper] Video walkthrough: Murphy Mears Architects

08/17/17 12:15pm

THE RIDE TO THE BULLET TRAIN AT NORTHWEST MALL One piece of the agreement announced by Mayor Turner this morning with Texas Central Partners, the company behind a planned bullet train between here and Dallas: a promise that the city and the company will work together on transit options to and from the train’s Houston station. “In the memorandum,” Dug Begley reports, “Texas Central notes the likely end of their Houston-to-Dallas line will be south of U.S. 290, west of Loop 610 and north of Interstate 10. The exact site has been long suspected as the current location of Northwest Mall.” All but a handful of stores inside the mall shut down earlier this year. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo of Northwest Mall: Levcor  

08/16/17 5:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: BIG SIGNS FOR BIG TEXAS CORNERS “I wish they’d rethink the billboard laws in Texas. Allow more and bigger billboards. The billboards could be taxed, and the money earmarked to our State Parks — they desperately need it. Scenic routes could be designated in certain places, and billboards banned there. This would turn the buildings at the intersections of freeways into major advertising opportunities. It wouldn’t matter if the buildings lose money, the giant billboards on the roofs would make whatever profit the owners need. Or they might wind up demolishing the buildings to put billboards up in their place.” [ZAW, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Black Holes Where Freeways Intersect] Illustration: Lulu

08/16/17 4:45pm

GUNNAR BIRKERTS, 1925-2017 Latvian-born architect Gunnar Birkerts, designer of the stainless-steel-clad Contemporary Arts Museum that’s stood at the northwest corner of Montrose Blvd. and Bissonnet St. since 1972, passed away yesterday at the age of 92. Birkerts moved to Michigan in 1949 after graduating from architecture school in Germany; he later worked in the office of Eero Saarinen and set up his own architectural practice in Birmingham, a Detroit suburb. The exterior of the CAMH was altered to its current appearance in 1997 after a design by Houston architect Bill Stern. [Chicago Tribune; more here] Photo: CAMH

08/15/17 4:00pm

JOE’S CRAB SHACK IS ALREADY HALF-GONE FROM HOUSTON If you’re willing to count Galveston, as of this week the number of Houston-area locations of seafood chain Joe’s Crab Shack is down to 3, cut in half after the abrupt closures of the Gulf Fwy. at Fuqua (pictured), North Fwy. at Airtex, and Pearland (3239 Silverlake Village Dr., near 288) restaurants. Nationwide, more than 25 of the chain’s 112 locations have been shuttered, ahead of a scheduled Thursday bankruptcy hearing for chain owner Ignite Restaurant Group at which a $55 million sale to former owner Landry’s is expected to be approved. (Landry’s sold the chain in 2006 for $192 million, to a private equity firm that later spun out Ignite as a separate entity.) The Joe’s Crab Shack locations in Galveston (at Seawall Blvd. near 35th), Humble (across I-69 from the Deerbrook Mall) and on Hwy. 6 (between the West Oaks Mall and Briar Forest Dr.) are still open. [Consumerist, via HBJ] Photo of Joe’s Crab Shack at 12400 Gulf Fwy.: Camren O.

08/15/17 2:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE BLACK HOLES WHERE FREEWAYS INTERSECT “Freeway interchange corners like this one seem to be tricky places for anything to last a long time. The long flyover ramps create this weird phenomenon where you have to exit a couple miles back and ride the feeder to that spot. Yet those same ramps make the property very prominently visible to tens of thousands of people each day who pass by overhead in their car. For whatever reason, the properties seem to cycle in and out of use and disuse. The changeover is probably exacerbated by construction freeway construction, widening, and ramp rebuilds.” [Superdave, commenting on The End of the Greenspoint Mall Is Upon Us] Illustration: Lulu

08/15/17 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: FROM THE SOIL OF A DEAD MALL, LET A BUNCH OF APARTMENT TOWERS BLOOM “Malls that are about to die need to utilize their best asset and that is having large AC filled connector hallways that can hold pretty much any small business such as coffee shops/barber shops/pet supplies/retail obviously. Using the large department store areas like Macy’s/Sears/Dillards/Palais Royal, investors could make 6-8 story apartment/condo towers. Plenty of parking lot space around in case the apartment towers needs to be built wider than what the old department stores have to offer in space. The location at I-45 & North Beltway is great and parking lots will have exits to both feeders. Residents would be able to enjoy not just living in a nice condo lifestyle but also have AC filled hallways with all kinds of small businesses, I could see baby boomers loving this since many of them are early morning mall walkers anyway. It would be a long process, especially getting 4 different towers completed; but since they are all at different corners of the mall, residents will not have the construction headaches that you might assume would come along with it. I think its a better idea than just tearing old malls down.” [mas, commenting on The End of the Greenspoint Mall Is Upon Us] Photo of Greenspoint Mall: Colliers International

08/14/17 1:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE SECRET LONELINESS OF THE ‘CHEF’S KITCHEN’ “It seems like the standard marketing protocol in homes like this is to always refer to the kitchen as a ‘cook’s kitchen’ or ‘chef’s kitchen.’ Maybe I’m just being pedantic, but a home cook/chef really doesn’t need all of the bells and whistles (48-in. gas range with double ovens, huge built-in fridge, pot filler, 2 dishwashers, prep sink, wine fridge, etc.) to produce a great end result for (presumably) just their own family. It’s almost like saying, ‘If you don’t have a kitchen like this, you must not be a very serious cook!’ I know it’s just salesmanship, but rubs me the wrong way nonetheless. That, and I think deep down inside that there might be a little bit of an inverse relationship between the price tag of the kitchen and the amount of cooking that actually gets done in them. It’s kind of like calling a four-car garage a ‘mechanic’s dream’ even though it’s really most likely that it’s going to be holding a couple decades’ worth of crap that no one wants to get rid of. Maybe a car or two.” [Balthazar, commenting on Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: Eat in Kitchen] Illustration: Lulu

08/14/17 10:00am

THE END OF THE GREENSPOINT MALL IS UPON US Greenspoint Mall may close its doors for good in as little as 60 days, a source tells Click2Houston reporter Sophia Beausoleil — after news broke late Friday that the hobbled 42-year-old shopping center at I-45 North and Beltway 8 is under contract for purchase by an investment group headed by Chinese investor Gao Feng. Global Plaza Union says it is still considering several different redevelopment concepts for its newly acquired property. Not included in the purchase, but expected to be added to it for any transformation to take place: the 3 independently owned anchor store sites within the property. The Sears store at the southeast corner of the property closed 7 years ago; the Macy’s, in the northwest corner, shut down earlier this year; the Dillard’s in the southwest corner, closest to the freeway interchange, is one of only 2 anchors still operating in the mall. (The other is a Palais Royal.) [Click2Houston; Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: Colliers International    

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 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE HYDE PARK SALES AND CLEARANCE RUSH “My family moved out of Hyde Park four years ago, and it’s incredible how much the neighborhood has changed in that time. Yes, I know change is inevitable and can be for the better, but this neighborhood has changed at a breakneck pace. I’m pretty sure at least half of the houses/buildings along Commonwealth and Waugh have been torn down since we left (admittedly some of them really needed to go, given the terrible shape they were in). I guess this will be added to the heap.” [Courtney, commenting on Corazon Now Being Removed from Its Big Red Dot Spot at Waugh and Fairview] Photo of Corazon, 2813 Waugh Dr.: Margo

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

08/09/17 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: MONTROSE HASN’T EVEN HIT PUBERTY YET “I regularly walk around in Montrose. I’ve also been to many urban neighborhoods in the northeast which are as close to 100% gentrified as you can get. I’m talking Greenwich Village in NYC, Beacon Hill in Boston, Georgetown in DC. Montrose is not anywhere close to that level of gentrification. It won’t even be there in 20 years. Right now, you can still walk around Montrose and see loads of old 60s and 70s garden complexes with $700 a month apartments. There are plenty of trashy convenience stores, rundown strip malls, and vacant lots. And yes, there are still plenty of young artists and musicians who live in the area and hang out in areas like the Menil plying their craft. Any neighborhood where a lot on a major commercial street can sit vacant for over a year is not that gentrified yet. Okay, so yes. Montrose is obviously gentrifying. It’s different from how it was 20, 30, 40 years ago. That’s part of city life–places change, some people move out, other people move in. And eventually, maybe in a few decades, if Houston doesn’t get destroyed in a hurricane or become the next Detroit due to economic collapse, Montrose probably will become the kind of bland-ish upper crust West U-ish neighborhood people act like it already is. But here’s the reality: It’s not there yet, and it won’t be for quite awhile.” [Christian, commenting on Comment of the Day Runner-Up: The Creative Destruction of Montrose] Illustration: Lulu