WHAT’S BLOCKING THE BRAYS BAYOU TRAIL That sign posted just west of Chimney Rock declaring that the Brays Bayou trail “connects 31 miles of uninterrupted, off-street, multi-use trails and greenspace from the Ship Channel to George Bush Park and the Addicks-Barker Reservoir” is more aspirational than accurate at this point, a Houston Parks Board official admits to David Olinger. (“It got ahead of itself, let’s put it that way.”) Olinger set out to walk the supposed marathon-distance-plus continuum, but found it blocked and interrupted by construction zones, an unidentified fork to a neighboring bayou, and dead ends, including some fronting 7-miles-worth of land adjacent to Arthur Storey Park the parks board is still in the process of acquiring: “I tried walking west from Kirkwood and waded into knee-high weeds. I tried walking north on Kirkwood and found no trail. I drove up and down Kirkwood, searching in vain for Arthur Storey Park. Finally I consulted a map — and found the park about 2.5 miles northeast from the westbound Kirkwood dead end.” The Bayou Greenways trail system is expected to connect that length of Brays Bayou by 2020. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Brays Bayou trail: Jan Buchholtz
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE MIDTOWN HOME OF DESTINY’S CHILD HAS MET ITS DESTINY “Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but House of Deréon is but a memory now, a pile of rubble.” [Fe Bencosme, commenting on Destiny’s Child Mural on House of Deréon Media Center Wins Midtown Demolition Staredown; more here] Photo of House of Deréon Media Center, 2204 Crawford St., Midtown Houston: Jordan
THE INVENTION OF UPPER KIRBY Among Houston’s grids, strips, and cul de sacs, let a million neighborhoods bloom! Perhaps the story of how the area around upper Kirby Dr. came to be known as Upper Kirby can form some sort of template for this city’s vast numbers of undifferentiated districts just waiting to be branded? “We weren’t Greenway Plaza, we weren’t Montrose, we weren’t Rice Village,” Upper Kirby Management District deputy director Travis Younkin tells reporter Nicki Koetting. It was a section of town that lacked identity. “This nameless neighborhood, Koetting adds, “was the sort of place you drove through on the way to other, named neighborhoods.” One helpful step along the way: Planting the shopping areas with red phone booths. “The authentic British phone booths are an homage to Upper Kirby’s acronym, and actually operated as phone booths for a few decades until cellphones became the norm,” Koetting notes. “Now, the telephone booths are lit from within and locked, serving today as a visual indication to visitors that they’ve arrived in Houston’s own UK.” [Houstonia] Photo: WhisperToMe
THE TIPLINE IS STANDING BY Spot a new highrise going up in the middle of a state park near Conroe? If you’ve got news, or a hint of a story, Swamplot wants to hear about it! Send your tips, photos, short videos, and projects to us here. And while you’re at it, be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and sign up to be on our email list.
IN WHICH THE OWNER OF THAT MANNEQUIN-PACKED HOUSE IN RICHMOND ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS AND THE REST OF THE COUNTRY’S “I’m just trying to sell my house,” says the long-time artist resident of 4302 Colony West Dr. in Richmond (the mind-boggling contents of which sent no fewer than 10 readers scrambling to send the listing to the Swamplot tip line earlier this week). “No, I’m not a hoarder. I could go down the list of things people are accusing me of. Yes, I own a weird business, but artists are weird, and if you find a normal artist [they’re] probably not a good one.” Those answers are all prompted by questions from Marcelino Benito, who toured the house this week for KHOU after the listing went nationally viral. The house and its contents have been viewed millions of times and have made the news in such far flung locations as St. Louis, MO, (where local station KMOV referred to its interior decor as ‘the stuff of nightmares‘) — in addition to being gawked at by readers of both the Huffington and the New York posts. As for what seems to be another burning question on the minds of some of the folks calling in with actual offers on the home — “Will you leave a mannequin for me?” — the owner’s answer appears to be a furrowed eyebrow or 2 and a “well . . . okay.” [KHOU; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 4302 Colony West Dr.: HAR
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO HELP CANINO’S NET THAT DESTINATION FISH MARKET APPEAL “Something that seems to make other markets around the world such successful destinations (Pike Place, Borough Market, Reading Terminal, etc.) is their accessibility within a dense urban core. In each case, the locations are accessible to pedestrians and located near high-traffic public transit locations. They are also near other walkable destinations like stores and restaurants, art galleries and museums; within walking distance from hotels and other destinations. It will be interesting to see how this works out in Houston on Airline Dr., with all of the car traffic and expansive space needed to accommodate parking. I hope Airline and Cavalcade get to be a little more walkable, and buses run there more often.” [Nearnort, commenting on Destination-Ization Plans for Airline Dr. Farmers Market Show New Rooftops, Playground, Multistory Observation Tower, Some Whitewashing] Rendering of plans for Canino Market on Airline Dr.: MLB Capital Partners
CANINO MARKET HAD ALREADY KINDA GENTRIFIED, SAY FOLKS PLANNING UPCOMING $10-MILLION REDO “Over time,” writes Nancy Sarnoff for the Chronicle this morning after talking to some of the folks behind that in-the-works redevelopment of the recently sold Canino farmer’s market on Airline Dr., the market has already become “a place where produce [is] shipped and trucked in from places like Mexico and elsewhere, like it is to a grocery store.” The local farmers and early-morning bread-seekers are mostly gone, and property values in the neighborhood are already on the rise — as are the townhomes. “We’ve come to the realization that no matter what we do here, it’s already happening,” MLB Partners’s Todd Mason tells Sarnoff; “We’ve looked around to buy more over here, and prices have already escalated.” The developers also run through some of the details for the $10-million project with Chris Baldwin over at PaperCity, who writes that “the 17.5-acre site is being almost completely re-imagined” — potential changes include some 60,000 sq. ft. of additional space, a “large lounging lawn,” a children’s play area, and “a distinctive towering sign from Studio Red Architects that can be seen from the freeway.” [Houston Chronicle and PaperCity; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Canino Produce Market
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE THE TEXAS OFFICE SPACE BUBBLES TEND TO BLOW “Houston is somewhat more diversified in terms of total jobs than it used to be – that’s why the region never went negative on job growth during this downturn. . . . That said, as far as users of large-scale office space go, there’s no question that diversification is sorely lacking. The energy industry and its service providers are still extremely dominant and drive the major swings in the market. This is a huge contrast to the Dallas side of the North Texas region . . . Look at the major relocations to the north suburban market there: huge deals — none of them are energy companies. . . . Around here, when an oil and gas boom is on, it seems to suck up all the oxygen, and growth in other sectors is squeezed out. When the inevitable downturn happens, there’s no rush by other economic sectors to fill the vacuum, despite the availability of high quality space and housing (and labor). I believe the Austin office market’s level of dependency on its tech sector is akin to Houston’s energy sector dependence, so a tech bust would be a disaster for them.” [Local Planner, commenting on Hines Parting Ways with 21 Eleven; The Most Expensive ZIP Code for Renters in Houston] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WAITING IMPATIENTLY FOR THE TRENDY DEVELOPER NICKNAMES TO SPREAD NORTH “The dumbest is ‘Near Northside’, separating it from the actual Northside, which no one understands unless you live there. So you have to tell people ‘Acres Homes’ (which it is not at all) or say ‘behind the Fiesta’ or ‘behind Gallery Furniture on 45 North.’ What other point of reference is there — across the freeway from Dago’s? Basically I’m waiting for gentrification to name my hood something that gentrifiers can easily recall.” [Robin, commenting on Comment of the Day: When They Move the Neighborhood To Sell the Home] Photo: Dago’s Tatt00 & Piercing Studio
THE ROCKETS ARE SUDDENLY UP FOR SALE A surprise announcement from Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander today: he’s selling the team. The Rockets moved to Houston back in 1971 from their original short-lived home in San Diego, where they were reportedly named for the team’s proximity to the plant where General Dynamics was working on the Atlas program. Alexander bought the franchise for some $85 million back in 1993, just before the Rockets earned Houston its first championship win and the nickname Clutch City; management made some noise about moving everybody to Kentucky around the end of the 90’s, possibly to add urgency to the push to secure city funds for a new stadium (which became known as Toyota Center). The Rockets were appraised at $1.65 billion by Forbes this past February. [NBA.com via KHOU; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool
COMMENT OF THE DAY: IS ‘ONE BIN FOR ALL’ TOO BIG TO SUCCEED IN HOUSTON? “Seems to me this innovative program steps on the toes of so many entrenched industries (and their political, financial and criminal associations.) Too big. If he could start in small communities, gain popular support and a groundswell of political goodwill, it would be better for success — but I suppose small-scale would not be at all economically viable.” [movocelot, commenting on Here Come the Pizza Chains; The Rise and Fall of One-Bin Recycling; previously on Swamplot] Photo of recycling bin in the Heights: Charles Kuffner
NEXT XSCAPE HEADING FOR THE FAR REACHES OF KATY The second of the 2 Xscape multiplexes planned for the “Houston” area will land at the far southwest corner of Katy, reports Virtual Builders Exchange — in an update to its story identifying the Kentucky-based theater chain’s Woodlands location. A 12-screen facility (marked down a couple from the typical 14 of the prototype) and accompanying 540-space parking lot will settle down at 26616 FM 1093, just east of FM 1463, in the southwest corner of the Westheimer Lakes North subdivision and across from Cross Creek Ranch — if contractors get their bids in to the company by the August 1 deadline. The plans for the 51,968-sq.-ft. Katy building appear virtually identical to those for the Woodlands theater. [Virtual Builders Exchange; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of Xscape prototype: Patoka Capital
MORE HOUSTON RETAIL BREAKUPS: ALFRED ANGELO BRIDAL CALLS IT QUITS Bridesmaid- and wedding-dress store Alfred Angelo appears to be shuttering all 62 of its locations nationwide, amid reports of a possible sudden bankruptcy filing. That would leave the Galleria-area Al’s Formal Wear all alone — it sits next door to the Alfred Angelo Bridal in the strip shopping center at 1801 Post Oak Blvd. It should leave the Al’s Formal Wear in the Baybrook Square shopping center kinda lonely too — it faces the Gulf Fwy. right next door to the Alfred Angelo Bridal at 1201 W. Bay Area Blvd. in Webster. The third Houston-area Alfred Angelo location — pictured above in the Commons at Willowbrook shopping center, across from the Willowbrook Mall at 7550-A FM 1960 West — is a little more sequestered from its tuxedo counterpart: Alfred Angelo sits between a DSW Shoe Warehouse and a Ross Dress for Less; the Al’s Formal Wear is wedged between a Panda Express and a Beck’s Prime on the opposite side of the shopping center parking lot. [abc13] Photo: Alfred Angelo Bridal
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE BIG THINGS YOU GET WHEN YOU LEAVE JUST A TINY SPACE BETWEEN HOUSES “The City of Houston’s codes are different for a ‘free-standing’ or ‘detached’ ‘single-family’ home, as opposed to a two- or multi-family property of some sort. Detention, lot coverage, building code, legal description, all different. So maintaining even the tiniest gap means you have a fee-simple, stand-alone property.” [dave102, commenting on Can You Beat This Townhome Gap?] Photo of 3108 Baer St., Fifth Ward: HAR
5 SLIM CHICKENS CAUGHT CROSSING HOUSTON BORDER The Slim Chicken drive-ups in Katy, Cypress, Spring, and Humble will soon be joined by 5 new locations of the restaurant franchise inside the Houston city limits. First up: wings and Texas-shaped waffles will become available at 9850 Louetta Rd. in Vintage Lakes, right by Aldi and just down the street from the fast-food mecca known as Vintage Marketplace. A Kingwood location at 30255 Loop 494 should open later this summer, though it isn’t clear if the Arkansas-based chain is counting that location as one of its 5 genuine Houston spots. [Eater Houston] Photo of the Slim Chicken opened late last year at 9255 FM 1960 Bypass Rd. in Humble: Edwin R.