08/15/18 3:30pm

RECENTER REBUILDING GETS GOING ON MAIN ST. Midtown sobriety nonprofit ReCenter — formerly the Men’s Center — is now getting started building a new building in place of its old campus at 3805 and 3809 Main St. BRAVE Architecture’s design for the new housing, education, and detox facility — shown above fronting the Red Line — hasn’t taken shape yet, but a big hole recently has, according to a passerby, foreshadowing the coming construction. Since demolishing the 2 structures previously on site, the center’s been operating out of the former gas station convenience store just east on the block, at the corner of Fannin and Alabama. (Some additional office space is also tucked inside a converted home at 3816 Fannin.) [Previously on Swamplot] Rendering: BRAVE Architects

08/15/18 2:15pm

ASTROTURF INDUSTRY SHOWS STEADY GROWTH AS HOUSTON HOMEOWNERS GIVE UP ON THEIR LAWNS Business is booming in the synthetic grass sector here where the product got its start. One Houston installation firm’s rep tells the Chronicle’s Dianne Cowen he’s scaled up his staff by a factor of 5 since 2013. Nationwide, demand for the green stuff has tripled since 2011 and in order to keep up, production is expected to grow 20 percent over the next 3 years. Multiple strains are now being cultivated: zoysia, Bermuda and even St. Augustine — designed with short and long fibers that when clumped look like the real thing. To townhome owners, it’s an attractive furnishing for their tiny backyards — reports Cowen. Same goes for pet owners whose lawns are suffering from too much trampling. Though for them, there’s some watering involved: a monthly hose-off with a $20 bottle of sanitizer. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of synthetic grass installation: London looks [license]

08/15/18 10:15am

A CURTAIN CALL FOR THE HIDDEN WESTERN UNION BUILDING BEFORE BANK OF AMERICA CENTER DIGESTS IT? With workers now punching holes in the facade where the Bank of America Center wraps the dead Western Union building it swallowed in 1983, city planner David Welch asks the question: “Will we be able to see the hidden building during construction?” It should be hard to miss; according to one Swamplot reader: “It is completely intact, tar and gravel roof included.” Size-wise, it takes up nearly a quarter of the B of A building’s ground floor, its northeast corner wrapped by the skyscraper’s own at Lousiana and Capitol streets — where the new openings are taking shape now. But its emergence may be brief: Once the planned new restaurant and cafe get situated inside it, the structure’s time-capsule mystique will be gone. And after new interior entrances open its innards to the tower’s own central lobby corridor, the telegram building will be completely metabolized. [David Welch; previously on Swamplot] Photo: David Welch

08/14/18 3:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A HIDDEN MEMORIAL DR. DOG SPOT MEETS ITS END “I always liked to go to that site with the dog in the winter; not sure why, but because of the slope, mixed with the cold air, it made me feel that I was not in Houston. It was not a well known location unless you lived in the neighborhood, though I did not. Others also played with their dogs there. Another cool hidden spot bites the dust.” [Montrose Resident, commenting on Alexan Memorial Apartments Are Heading to Rice Military] Illustration: Lulu

08/14/18 11:30am

ALEXAN MEMORIAL APARTMENTS ARE HEADING TO RICE MILITARY A group linked to Dallas developer Trammell Crow recently filed plans with Houston’s planning commission to prep the shaded 2.5-acre parcel shown on the map between Sandman and the dead end of Reinerman St. for new apartments under the Alexan name. The complex would be backed by a ramp that diverges from the north side of Memorial Dr. and neighbored by a 3-story building that forms part of the DePelchin Children’s Center’s main Houston campus. Ordered off the site to make way for the new construction: some parking for the adjacent adoption and foster care center and a vacant, H-shaped office building to the west. Map: Houston Planning Commission

08/13/18 4:00pm

NEARLY 100 MEYERLAND HOUSES WILL SOON BE UP OFF THE GROUND Forty homes total have now been elevated in Meyerland and 57 are currently on the way up, reports Nancy Sarnoff. Their boosters are seeking the same degree of flood protection enjoyed by the 29 percent of Meyerland homeowners whose houses have never flooded in the past. A few elevations have been paid for by the City of Houston; others were self-funded. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo of 4718 N. Braeswood Blvd.: Christine Gerbode

08/10/18 12:00pm

RICE PICKS UP 1.75 MORE ACRES NEAR WHEELER TRANSIT CENTER, STRIPPED-DOWN SEARS A pair of entities connected to Rice University have purchased some extra property near the molted Midtown Sears the school bought along with 3 adjacent acres last year. Included in the deal: the surface parking lot at 4510 Main St. — west of the Wheeler Transit Center — the Shipley Do-Nuts on the corner of Richmond, and the Gulf station next to the Spur 527 overpass. Nothing’s gone down on the land recently except for the gas station; it was demolished in June. But A long list of proposed Houston residential developments put out by mortgage bank Berkadia — now being passed around on HAIF — shows the surface parking now slated for a 243-unit highrise from developer Horizon Real Estate. Last time someone planned to do something with that parcel, ground-floor retail was in the mix, too, with 327 units of affordable housing upstairs. [Berkadia via HAIF; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Lou C.

08/10/18 10:00am

DAIRY ASHFORD H-E-B GETTING AXED NEXT MONTH H-E-B store number 471 in the Memorial Dr. strip at Dairy Ashford will close to the public next month, Nancy Sarnoff reports, but it’ll remain filled with food items. The company plans to turn it into a warehouse for its home delivery and curbside pickup services. The mini-store has been understocked relative to other H-E-Bs — and no matter how you slice up its 28,000 sq.-ft., “There just isn’t enough space to fit everything that you would be looking for,” company prez Scott McClelland said on Facebook yesterday. Its nearest regular-sized backup H-E-B: the standalone one nearly triple its size on Westheimer and S. Kirkwood, just under 3 miles away. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Weingarten Realty

08/09/18 1:00pm

A POST OAK PARKING GARAGE SOLUTION TO THE DEMAND FOR DRIVE-IN THEATERS The head of the company now bringing a movie theater to the top of the BLVD Place garage at Post Oak and San Felipe tells the Chronicle’s Ileana Najarro that he “hopes to offer a social experience for those nostalgic for drive-in theaters.” What better place to do it than in Houston, where people drive in and out of buildings all the time? The catch: you’ll have to get out of your car and amble up to the garage’s top floor above Whole Foods and other retail, where it might get noisy — especially with that bus lane construction happening now on Post Oak. But there’s a solution: wireless headphones for each audience member — which Rooftop Cinema Club’s head says will “replicate the intimate setting of one’s car,” just like the old days. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Whole Foods at 1700 Post Oak Blvd.: Dung L.

08/08/18 11:30am

NEW BIRD-SHAPED BOATS PUT FORMER WOODLANDS CRUISER PASSENGERS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT A flock of 10 swan-shaped boats has now picked up where The Woodlands’ 6 Waterway Cruisers left off when they were destroyed by Harvey last year — reports the Villager’s Marialuisa Rincon — rendering the township’s shipping channels unnavigable by public transit. (One Cruiser survived, but town officials decommissioned it anyway when they terminated their contract with the boat service’s operator in February.) Now, their “long-necked replacements” have former passengers taking water travel into their own hands through the use of a rudder — and their feet, by pedaling — to get where they want to go. Lake Robbins and anything past the Anadarko Bridge along the north edge of Lake Woodlands are off-limits — but aside from that, it’s pretty much free swim in the rest of the lake, as well as the upper and lower waterways. After hours, all bird boats rest in the Riva Row Boat House opposite The Pavilion. [Houston Chronicle; more info] Photo: The Woodlands Township

08/07/18 9:45am

WHAT’S ON THE TABLE IN HARRIS COUNTY’S FLOOD BOND MEGA VOTE, STARTING TOMORROW Included in the flood control bond package county residents are about to start voting on: $1.2 billion for channel improvements, $401 million for detention basins, $242 million for floodplain land purchases, $184 million (coupled with $500 million in outside funding) for 3,600 home buyouts, $12.5 million for new floodplain mapping, and $1.25 million for a better flood warning system — according to totals the Chronicle’s Zach Despart summed up from the master list of 237 individual projects. Not included: money for a third reservoir, although $750,000 is on the table to help the Army Corps study the possibility of one. Taken together, the $2.5 billion proposal‘s price tag is more than 20 times the Harris County Flood Control District’s annual budget of $120 million. Voting wraps up on Saturday, August 25, the anniversary of Harvey’s arrival in Houston. [Houston Chronicle ($); full list (PDF); previously on Swamplot] Photo of flooding at Creech Elementary School, 4242 S. Mason Rd., Katy:: Breta Gatlin

08/03/18 4:00pm

SCHOOLS ARE NOW BUYING SPECIAL INSURANCE POLICIES IN CASE THEY GET SHOT UP The market for “active-assailant” insurance is alive and well, reports the Wall Street Journal, as more and more private schools, public schools, charters, and universities go on fiscal defense against the threat posed by fire-armed students — who cost districts a lot of money in counseling expenses, crisis management, extra security, and of course lawsuits. (“If you’re a risk manager for a school district, you have to look at it with the same eye that you might look at coverage for a tornado,” says a researcher at the University of South Carolina. “We live in a very litigious United States.”) The policies function as a type of gap insurance, covering expenses not typically included in general liability like funeral costs and death benefits, often up to $250,000 per victim. For smaller schools, premiums range from roughly $1,800 to $1 million, and for larger ones up to $20 million. Just last month, Ohio underwriter McGowan Program Administrators wrote over 60 policies, a representatives tells the WSJ. And of the 300 policies it’s written total, some have already been paid out. [Wall Street Journal; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe, Texas: Santa Fe ISD

08/02/18 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: DEMOLITION FOR A BETTER FUTURE “When we do not preserve our past, we are able to have a wide open future. A future with more efficient, ecologically congruent buildings. Buildings with modern HVAC, windows, flood control. Tearing down old cool looking buildings is just that. We lose cool looking buildings from another time. I personally live in a renovated old house, and before that lived in another cool-looking old house. I preserved each. I don’t think renovating/preserving has anything to do with the future of either location. So, while the Deco style is great and would be fantastic if someone saw the residual value, it’s not crucial to anything. The market has spoken. If they build an unappealing, out-of-touch new building — the buy side will also speak, and not reward the owner with their business. This is how the world should work. Forcing a property owner through regulation to appreciate the styling of yesteryear is anti-productive. I have a heart a for gray area on this when it comes to public buildings. Then it is owned by the public, and needs to be considered more broadly on how the tax-paying public feels about the continued use/retention of a historic or interesting-looking, dated building. Think City Hall.” [Bo Darley, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Fannin Flames] Illustration: Lulu

08/02/18 10:30am

SOUTHWEST KEY SAYS EMANCIPATION DETENTION CENTER NEARLY READY TO WELCOME KIDS, CITY SAYS NOT WITHOUT PROPER PAPERS The nonprofit looking to house unaccompanied children who crossed the border illegally in the complex at 419 Emancipation Ave. tells the Chronicle‘s Lomi Kriel and Mike Morris it’s only seeking one more permit — okaying a commercial kitchen — before it plans to open the East Downtown facility. And even if that paperwork doesn’t arrive, company officials say, they could just open up anyway with food procured by some other means. But according to city officials, 2 permits the building received back in June — a certificate of occupancy and safety survey — are void because both came through based on the structure’s designation as a “shelter.” Houston’s fire chief now says the complex is more of a “custodial care facility” — a classification with different requirements for city sign-offs since “the occupants are not going to be free to enter and exit as they wish.” His recommendation: start the application process for those 2 documents over from scratch. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: LoopNet

07/31/18 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: NEW ART SUPPLY WILL CROP UP SOMEWHERE OFF MAIN ST. AHEAD OF PLANNED HIGHRISING “The owners of Art Supply are moving to a new location. This is a successful store, and the owners have no intention of closing up and retiring. In addition, this building has been used as studios for artists for decades as well as a location for art classes. Their new location will also have art studios.” [Robert Boyd, commenting on Australian Developer Now Has All 3 Midtown Blocks Lined Up for Incoming Highrise Trio] Photo: Keaton Joyner