COMMENT OF THE DAY: SELLING THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW “Fabulous lot adorned with critters of all varieties, this property now features wild herrings, cranes, frogs, alligators and migrating herds of antelope during the rainy season. The home was originally built as an ark on pristine gathering grounds for pairs of animals to accumulate during the final days of destruction per sellers disclosure. Tall mature trees on property present amazing opportunity to cultivate your very own white dove habitat for olive branch collection.” [Toby, commenting on Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: Outdoor Dining Area] Illustration: Lulu
LIBERTY KITCHEN NOW FREE FROM GARDEN OAKS 5 months after a grand reopening to celebrate the end of road construction along Alba Rd. that had been hindering access to the restaurant, Liberty Kitchen Garden Oaks has shut down. Last night was its last meal. The restaurant had opened at 3715 Alba Rd. in June 2016, taking over a renovation of the property (and demolition of an adjacent Quonset hut to make room for parking) originally intended to house a Facundo Restaurante. “We debuted a new menu, a new beer garden and a new parking lot in an effort to revitalize patronage” after the road construction ended earlier this year, write the owners of Liberty Kitchen. But that wasn’t enough, and Hurricane Harvey “served as an additional financial hurdle company-wide.” The Liberty Kitchen Heights, San Felipe, and Memorial City locations remain open; the Little Liberty in the Rice Village closed this past March. Photo: Oksana W.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT FLOODING ON THE WEST SIDE TOOK AWAY “Homes underwater for extended periods can be rebuilt, as long as they were not subjected to currents sufficient to cause major structural damage or foundation scour. They just take longer to dry out (ours took over a month).
Like Local Planner said, in many of the flooded neighborhoods north of the bayou, original-condition homes had basically no value before the flood (i.e. they were being sold for lot value and torn down). The process is indeed accelerating, with new builds being elevated à la Bellaire and Meyerland.
The big question mark for me is how much of a market there’ll be for $1+ million new homes in a potentially flood-prone area (even if your elevated home doesn’t flood during the next big one, you’d likely lose the cars in your non-elevated garage and need to be evac’d by boat). The market was soft in the Energy Corridor even before the flood. A new supply of high-end homes doesn’t automatically beget demand. Hopefully the new MD Anderson complex in the area will help (and potentially spur further diversification of employment in the Energy Corridor beyond oil and gas).” [Grant, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Memorial Glint] Illustration: Lulu
MOSAIC SOUTH TOWER ONLY NOW GOING BY HANOVER HERMANN PARK The 29-story, 394-unit glass apartment building at 5927 Almeda Rd. known as the Mosaic South Tower, and before that the Montage, and before that the south tower of the Mosaic, shall henceforth (or until it sells again, probably) be known as the Hanover Hermann Park. (It’s pictured at right in the above photo.) Last week PGIM, the real estate division of Prudential Financial, bought the building, which fronts Hermann Park and backs up to 288 — along with the retail portion of the building’s gone-condo identical twin immediately to the north, still known not-at-all-confusingly as the Mosaic on Hermann Park. The seller was Winthrop Realty Liquidating Trust, which (in case it’s not obvious from that company’s name) is in the process of selling off every property it owns. In case the name change wouldn’t be enough of a clue, a note sent last week to residents by the seller indicates that the building will now be managed by the Hanover Company. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: elnina, via Swamplot Flickr pool
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WALKING IS NOT NATIVE TO HOUSTON “. . . I do think Houstonians tend to really regard walkers as oddities of nature.
Our climate doesn’t really foster a natural desire to walk outside so it is a strange sight to see someone actually — outside. Walking. As a native Houstonian, it has taken me decades to realize that walking along a bayou trail — and using relevant sidewalks to get to/from it — is actually quite nice.
That being said, I’m more mindful of fellow pedestrians when I’m in my car. I yield for them not only out of lawful duty, general Southern courtesy, but also as a slight ‘Atta boy!’ for them actually walking.” [Wolf Brand Chili, commenting on Comment of the Day: Unlearning That Nasty Stopping for Pedestrians Habit] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: WHY YOU SHOULD TRY BOATING ON THE BAYOU “. . . Buffalo Bayou looks really nice from a kayak or canoe, and you can see the houses from the water. I’ve encountered all sorts of wildlife including many different bird species, turtles, and an alligator. There are maps online locating the put-in / take-out spots, if you’re so inclined. Pro tip: if you’re paddling by yourself and wish to take out at the same spot you put in, paddle upstream first, and save the easier downstream half for when you’re tired and just want to go home.” [GoogleMaster, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Real Reason Why Buffalo Bayou Smells and Looks the Way It Does]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE REAL REASON WHY BUFFALO BAYOU SMELLS AND LOOKS THE WAY IT DOES “If Buffalo Bayou stunk so much, then no one would have built a bunch of expensive homes all along it (west of downtown). Most of the Houston area’s waste water effluent flows into the Bayou east of downtown anyways. The Clinton/69th plant (the largest in the city) is just east of downtown, and the Sims and Braes plants don’t enter until well past downtown. With that said, I don’t think the treatment plants are the big contributors to the overall unpleasantness of the Buffalo Bayou water (flood events not withstanding). Most of the effluent (when the plants are properly operating) is nearly clear and usually only has an ‘earthy’ odor to it if any at all. I think the big issue with the bayou’s water quality is the regular runoff and trash that flows into it and eventually lines the shores of it all along downtown.” [nmj, commenting on The North Canal, a New Downtown Island, and Other Secret Plans for Downtown Houston’s Future] Photo: Swamplot inbox
THE TIPLINE IS STANDING BY Drive-thru taxidermy shop taking over an abandoned Mickey D’s? If you spot something interesting going on in your neighborhood, let us know! To cover this city well, Swamplot needs your tips. If you’ve taken some nice pics around town, send them to our Flickr group. If you’ve uploaded a video to YouTube you think we might be interested in, send us a link. While you’re at it, be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and sign up to be on Swamplot’s email list.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: UNLEARNING THAT NASTY STOPPING FOR PEDESTRIANS HABIT “I recently moved back to Houston after living in Colorado for a few years. I still find myself in the habit of coming to a complete stop any time that I see a pedestrian attempting to cross a street. In CO, it is state law to stop at any legal pedestrian crossing should someone be there. Many of those crossings have signage that illuminates when the pedestrian presses the button to cross. Some even illuminate the crosswalk itself á la Galleria crosswalks, but it’s expected that you stop whether those are in place or not. Also, most people there abide by the rule of allowing people to cross at major intersections (traffic lights) before passing through in their vehicles; this is something that my fellow Houstonians always honk at me for doing here.” [TD, commenting on Walk This Way] Photo: Kevin Trotman (license)
WALK THIS WAY Only 17 percent of projects eligible for incentives included in the city’s 8-year-old Transit Corridor ordinance have taken advantage of them, reports Hilary Ybarra. So the next city initiative aimed at walkability will take a different approach: “The recently established Walkable Places Committee has been tasked with reevaluating the city code to dive deeper into the issue of walkability in Houston. The committee is currently focused on creating an application-based process to establish specific ‘walkable place’ areas,” she writes. “Under this new system, any neighborhood could voluntarily apply to become a ‘walkable place’ and in doing so establish their own set of self-defined unique rules for development to encourage walkability. These rules would include specific regulations covering the building setback, design of the pedestrian realm, landscaping, pedestrian friendly building design, and parking (a separate subcommittee has been formed exclusively to deal with parking).
But once adopted, unlike the Transit Corridor Ordinance, neighborhood- and site-specific building rules would be required, not optional, for all new development. Though still in the early planning stages — adoption of a new ordinance is targeted for 2019 — the proposal certainly faces challenges. How will a neighborhood come to consensus on new guidelines? What are the incentives to apply to become a ‘walkable place?’ What will trigger the application of the new guidelines to existing development? Are historic structures exempt? And perhaps most importantly, what about the spaces between and connecting to the specific neighborhoods?” [The Urban Edge] Photo of Gray St., Midtown: Mark Taylor Cunningham (license)
TAKING OFF FOR VETERANS DAY Swamplot salutes the many brave men and women who have served — or still serve — in our armed forces. And we’re off for the long Veterans Day weekend. Please join us again Monday for more of our regularly scheduled Houston real estate fun. Photo of Wings Over Houston: WoH2009 (license)
THE KATY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WITH A FLOOD POOL SECRET Some documents related to the Katy ISD’s 1998 purchase of the 15-acre site now occupied by Creech Elementary School at 4242 S. Mason Rd. have been frozen — in an attempt to preserve them, after they got flooded when Barker Reservoir got backed up after Hurricane Harvey. What those records might show, once thawed: some explanation for why school officials at the time signed a notice indicating they did not review a map filed with the county by Westbrook Cinco East LP (the developer from whom the property was purchased) that disclosed in a note that the land came with the risk of “extended controlled inundation.” Though several Katy schools sit on land near or in the Barker reservoir flood pool — the area expected to fill up with water when the dam is closed for a major flooding event — only Creech suffered major damage. All 800 Creech students are now attending classes at the University of Houston’s nearby Cinco Ranch campus while the school undergoes an estimated $5 million worth of repairs. The school district’s superintendent tells the Chronicle‘s Lise Olsen that he and other school officials were unaware that the school was built in the flood pool until they were contacted for her story. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of flooding at Creech Elementary School, 4242 S. Mason Rd., Katy: Breta Gatlin
HEIGHTS ALCOHOL ‘DRY ZONE’ NOW MOSTLY WASHED AWAY With 2 successful ballot initiatives in successive years, the rules that for more than 100 years restricted alcohol sales within the portion of the Houston Heights that was once a separate city (outlined in the map shown here) have now been whittled down to a single prohibition: Grocery and convenience stores in the area are still not allowed to sell liquor. In yesterday’s election, 1,479 Heights residents voted in favor of Proposition F, allowing the sales of mixed drinks in the district — in effect ending the quirky gotta-join-a-club loophole run through by alcohol-serving restaurants. 960 voted against. [Harris Votes; previously on Swamplot] Map of Heights dry zone: HoustonHeights.org
COMMENT OF THE DAY: IF THE HEIGHTS LIQUOR SALES REFERENDUM GOES DOWN “I understand that data is not the plural of anecdote, but I’m pretty sure Prop F (the relaxation of prohibition in the Heights) will fail to pass. Turnout is going to be very low, especially among the demographic that would favor repealing the dry status. Also, the best argument for lifting the alcohol sales ban, getting a decent grocery store, was rendered moot by the partial repeal last year.
If people want to try again, I suggest they wait until the next presidential election year, where turnout would be higher, and consider restricting the local option to food and beverage permit holders only, as a lot of the neighborhood seem to be terrified of bars opening near them.” [Angostura, commenting on EaDo for Offices; Heights Mercantile Near Capacity; Heights Liquor Laws on the Ballot Today] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: BEWARE OF NEIGHBORHOOD AVERAGES “Anything zoomed out to the neighborhood scale post-Harvey impact-wise waters down the data so much as to be useless. In the Knollwood-Woodside area where homes are “up ~3%,” it’s a mix of ~$800k newbuilds that mostly didn’t flood and ~$400-500k 1950s houses, some of which flooded and many-most that didn’t. That means any additional newbuild sale immediately skews the pricing average. What has already hit the market lately are mostly original homes that flooded, being sold as-is as teardowns (continuing the trend of the neighborhood), with lot-value on an upswing. I guess I presume all of Knollwood will be new construction in the near future, and almost all of ‘greater Braeswood’ being new construction soon, with everything getting higher elevations . . .” [juancarlos31, commenting on Harvey’s Effect on Housing Prices, Neighborhood by Neighborhood; Houston Press Stops the Presses; Astros Fans Flood Downtown] Photo of house for sale at 8311 Lorrie Dr., Knollwood Village: HAR