04/21/17 5:15pm

SUNNYSIDE PASSED OVER FOR LIST OF HOUSTON PLACES THAT ALWAYS GET PASSED OVER Complete Communities pilot areasThe Texas Low Income Housing Information Service released a statement right after Mayor Turner’s Monday announcement on the Complete Communities program questioning why Sunnyside didn’t make the cut, Steve Jansen reports this week for the Houston Press.  Despite the neighborhood’s oft-heralded blight resume (it made the LARA team during Mayor White’s time in office, and even got rolled into its very own tax increment reinvestment zone last year, a distinction theoretically reserved for “unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted” areas), Sunnyside didn’t make the list of the first 5 pilot neighborhoods for the new program, which so far looks like it might shuffle existing development money toward the targeted areas without adding any new cash. The statement, coauthored by a Sunnyside-area civic association leader, notes that the neighborhood even has a ready-to-go redevelopment plan that’s been in the work for the past few years.  [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Map of pilot areas for Complete Communities program: City of Houston

04/21/17 12:30pm

WHERE HIGHWAY 87 CRUMBLED BEFORE THE TIDE mcfaddin-erosionThe part of Texas “[where] storms are what you talk about” is the subject of John Nova Lomax’s dispatch this week in Texas Monthly — more specifically, the 16-mile stretch of coast where the state gave up on rebuilding SH 87 after the last of a series of hurricane washouts in the 1980s. Amid nude beach signage, dolphin carcasses, and the rusting remains of pipelines and 4-wheelers, Lomax meditates on the idea that the battered stretch of coast, where Texas’s beaches and barrier islands begin dissolve away into a Louisiana-style tangle of eroding wetlands, “once functioned as a seawall: there was a natural ridgeline made of shells and sand that was used as a trail by Native Americans, then Spaniards, then Texans. Then the ridge was bulldozed and repurposed to grade Highway 87, the road that no longer exists — and the one bulwark against the sea was gone.” [Texas Monthly] Photo of eroding highway in McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge: US Fish and Wildlife Service

04/20/17 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A HOUSTON LITMUS TEST FOR PARKING LOT PROGRESS Parking Lot for Hobbit Cafe, Blue Fish House, and Yelapa Playa Mexicana, 2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston“That parking lot was epic for decades. Let’s hope it was actually reconstructed, and not just the lunar craters poured over with asphalt. The next good flood will tell.” [Miz Brooke Smith, commenting on Richmond Ave’s Contender for Worst Parking Lot in Houston Gets Smoothed Over] Photo: Swamplot inbox

04/20/17 3:30pm

BART TRUXILLO, 1942-2017 Brewery Tap, 717 Franklin St., Downtown, Houston, 77002In 2006, the former brewery structure now hosting the Magnolia Ballroom was the first building in Houston to get protected landmark status — and was not the last, probably thanks in part to the life work of its restorer. Bart Truxillo bought the then-vacant building on the edge of Market Square in the late sixties, not too long before buying and restoring the crumbling Queen Anne Mansfield house in the Heights; both structures are now on the National Register of Historic Places. Truxillo later helped found what’s today known as Preservation Houston, and start the organization’s Good Brick Awards during the demolition-rich years of Houston’s first oil boom, as Lisa Gray notes today in the Chronicle; after years of work restoring historic buildings around town and serving a bunch of other history-minded groups, he died yesterday at age 74. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Magnolia Ballroom building on Franklin St.: Brewery Tap HTX

04/20/17 10:30am

W.A. PARISH COAL PLANT NOW RUNNING ‘CLEAN’ IN RICHMOND, HELPING BOOST OIL EMISSIONS FURTHER SOUTH W.A. Parish Electric Generation Station, Richmond, Texas, 77469The years-long retrofitting of the W.A. Parish coal plant next to Smithers Lake in Richmond was capped off last week by a valve opening ceremony, at which the plant’s new Petra Nova carbon dioxide collection machinery was ceremonially turned on (though NRG says its been running since September). The new machinery is currently the largest such capture operation in the country, and might help knock the plant down a few notches from its recent high score on the carbon pollution rankings. Monica Simmons of the San Antonio Current, however, points out this week that whether the project actually results in a net reduction of CO2 emissions is something of a question mark: The project, which has been in the works since the over-$70-a-barrel days of 2010, is helping to pay for itself by piping that excess CO2 down to Jackson County and into the ground at the West Ranch oil field — which NRG says will help the folks there squeeze out 15,000 barrels of oil a day instead of 300. [San Antonio Current; previously on Swamplot] Photo of W.A. Parish Generating Station and labeled Petra Nova add-ons: NRG

04/19/17 11:00am

SCENIC UPPER TEXAS COASTAL SWAMPS, BEACHES, PLANTATIONS A LITTLE CLOSER TO GOING NATIONAL Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area Proposed MapJefferson County’s commissioners are the latest to give a formal thumbs up to a proposal for the Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area, which would bundle together a patchwork of parks, historical sites, and variously refinery adjacent nature preserves from the Bolivar peninsula down to Matagorda Bay. The concept for a regional rec zone was developed shortly after Hurricane Ike’s big splash on the Texas coast in 2008: researchers noticed that some of those larger patches of undeveloped wetlands helped buffer storm surge damage, and started looking at whether keeping them around could be profitable in other ways. No new land would be scooped up for inclusion in the 4-county zone, unless it were offered voluntarily — but the whole region would be marketed under the National Parks Service’s banner as a package to birdwatchers, beachgoers, Strand-walkers, and the like. The proposed area would still need some level of National Parks Service staff, and approval from Congress — which is currently considering major cuts to the Department of the Interior’s budget. [Beaumont Enterprise; Houston Chronicle] Map of proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area: LSCNRA 

04/18/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FOR WHOM THE TRAIN ROLLS Trains to Office Buildings“. . . The few large cities that you’re referring to, where central living expenses are far higher than Houston, all provide far more extensive mass transit options. I know I have multiple transit options after midnight in other large cities — not so for Houston. For those without reliable transportation and non-office hours, the availability of Park and Rides does not solve or address accessibility issues.” [joel, commenting on Grand Central Park’s Official Debut; Houston’s Not All Sprawl] Illustration: Lulu

04/18/17 2:30pm

WOULD IT BE EASIER TO BRING THE ‘HIGH OPPORTUNITY’ AREAS TO THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING, INSTEAD? Proposed Housing Development at 2640 Fountainview Dr., Briargrove, Houston, 77057Yesterday Mayor Turner announced a few more details of a plan to redirect federal and local money toward some of the city’s low-investment areas, starting with Acres Homes, Gulfton, Second Ward, Northside Village and Third Ward, writes Rebecca Elliott for the Chronicle. The “Complete Communities” plan, Elliott notes, was mentioned in the city’s response to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which sent the city a letter in January finding that the nixing of that Briargrove mixed-income housing project was racially motivated. That letter instructed the city to move forward after all with the cancelled project (or one like it, in a different ‘high opportunity census tract’). A city lawyer wrote back, telling HUD that part of Houston’s plan to address the Department’s concerns is to “transform previously neglected neighborhoods into neighborhoods HUD would define as ‘high opportunity.’” Yesterday’s details didn’t include a price tag or timeline; Turner did mention possible partnerships with private groups and developers.  [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotImage of previously proposed apartments at 2640 Fountainview Dr.: Houston Housing Authority

04/14/17 6:00pm

THE EASTER BUNNY AND THE TAXMAN COMETH Amanda Parer's Intrude installation, 1600 Smith St., Downtown, Houston, 77002It doesn’t look like there’s too much rain on the schedule for Tax Day this time around, but Swamplot’ll be off Monday anyway, shoring up any potential leaks. Enjoy your weekend, whether it’s filled with hunts for Easter eggs or for that basketful of missing W-2s, and we’ll see you back here on Tuesday for the regular real estate tomfoolery. Photo of Amanda Parer’s Intrude installation: Swamplot inbox

04/14/17 4:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HOUSTON KEEPS ITS HISTORICAL RELATIONSHIPS STRICTLY PROFESSIONAL Witch Hat, circa December 2013“Houston is a city of practical and economical people. Emotion does not drive the focus of our communities like San Francisco or New Orleans. If it is economical to refurbish an old establishment for modern luxury, Houston will do it. If neighborhoods neglect their historic landmarks for 20 to 30 years and have the institutions fall into disrepair, they will cost the tax payers in a time where our budget is upside down.” [Mr.Clean19, commenting on Until We Forget the Alamo Wasn’t Always Just a Tex-Mex Chain] Photo of melted Witch’s Hat, since restored: Claude B. Anello

04/14/17 11:15am

UNTIL WE FORGET THE ALAMO WASN’T ALWAYS JUST A TEX-MEX CHAIN Mural by Wiley Robertson, 3301 Cline St., Fifth Ward, Houston“Once you start erasing history, who knows where it ends?” writes Cort McMurray in today’s Chronicle, scripting out a taste of potential dystopian franchise future for Houston and Texas’s most prominent landmarks should that bill that would gut preservation rules across the state make it through the legislature this session. The problem with the bill, he argues, is that it “makes forgetting easy” — and “in a place with no patience for memories, no place is sacred.” Before launching into a scene depicting how the Alamo might come to be repurposed into imaginary family-friendly megachain Casey Dilla’s, McMurray writes that “using a broad, vaguely worded standard — just what does ‘widely known’ mean? — to address the question of what’s historically significant to a community is a little like rewriting Hamlet entirely in emojis: a lot of really important stuff is going to be lost. And we will be left with a state that’s little more than the affable hell of FM 518 at Highway 288, traffic and pavement and an endless supply of family-friendly chain restaurants, serving an awful pastiche of Tex-Mex.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Mural commemorating Peacock Records, the former home of which was demolished last month: Spectrum Audio

04/13/17 4:30pm

REST OF THE ALAMO TO BE REMEMBERED IN GHOSTLY GLASS ECHOES Meanwhile, in San Antonio: New renderings are out of the plans for a redo of the Alamo’s streetscape, showing the missing pieces of the mission-fort’s compound’s original courtyard outlined in glass walls. The structure was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015; the under-development master plan for redoing the area around the existing structure would cede nearby street territory to pedestrians, landscaping, and the glass wall markers. The redesign would also use glass panels in the ground to showcase the buried rubble of some of the original compound walls, uncovered in last year’s digging around. [The Rivard Report]

04/11/17 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: CAN WE LAY TO REST THAT POSITIVE VIEW OF HISTORY? Gravestone and Ravine, Olivewood Cemetery, First and Sixth Wards, Houston“If one of the Georges (or let’s say King George to round things out a little) happened to have been responsible for the destruction of some place — notable or otherwise, regarded as new or old at that particular moment in time — is that not an event deserving the adjective historical? Why must history be construed to reflect the addition to some facet of our tangible world, and never a subtraction from it? Is a repository of construction waste not historic simply because it lacks gingerbread affectations? If cemeteries can be historic, then why not a dump? . . . As a society, I think that we must acknowledge that the physical manifestation of our civilization is an ongoing work in progress. We should not mortgage our future to honor the past in this way.” [TheNiche, commenting on Comment of the Day: History is in the Eye of the Deedholder; previously on Swamplot] Photo of eroded grave in Olivewood Cemetery, ca. 2010:  J.R. Gonzales

04/10/17 4:30pm

TACOS A GO GO IS A GO BENEATH DOWNTOWN Tacos a Go Go at 910 Louisiana Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002Tacos A Go Go’s latest location is currently being set up in the tunnel spot beneath soon-to-be-Shell-free One Shell Plaza at 910 Louisiana St. The permitting process for the remodel of the space (centered roughly between branches of Murphy’s Deli, Starbucks, and the People’s Trust Co-op) kicked off late last year, around the time Tacos a Go Go’s third location opened in the now-thoroughly disguised former Roznovsky’s Hamburgers spot in Garden Oaks. The company’s website currently says the fourth spot’ll open Downtown later this month, operating on breakfast and lunch taco hours (from 7 to 3). [Previously on Swamplot; tunnel coverage] Image of One Shell Plaza leasing flier: LoopNet