03/08/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: BOOTSTRAPPING INNOVATION WHILE GIVING UT THE BOOT UT Houston Campus Site, Buffalo Lakes, Houston“It’s absolutely surreal to see these extraordinarily non-innovative approaches to becoming an innovation hub. Does anyone really think ‘being innovative’ is a status that one can inherit, or subcontract out, or buy like a product? . . . Also, I can’t help but wonder how much of this push for innovation was based on an expectation of that UT grad-student center being built. It would seem Houston’s last chance to be an actual center for innovation walked out the door along with that project.” [justaswell, commenting on Houston’s Innovation Problem; Sneak Peek at The Carter Penthouses] Conceptual rendering of cancelled UT Houston campus: UT System

03/07/17 4:30pm

HARRIS COUNTY GETTING IN ON THE PASADENA REFINERY AIR POLLUTION LAWSUIT ACTION Pasadena Refinery System plant at 111 Red Bluff Rd., Pasadena, TX 77506In the wake of the lawsuit the Sierra Club and Environment Texas filed last week alleging that the century-old Pasadena Refining System plant has violated the federal Clean Air Act some thousands of times, Harris County attorney Vince Ryan has filed another suit against the plant.  This one’s to do with the facility allegedly breaking state level environmental laws, Diana Wray writes in this week’s Houston Press; incidents of particular note include last summer’s major sulfur dioxide leak, which briefly shut down both the nearby Washburn Tunnel and the rest of the Ship Channel (while sending Galena Park into duck-and-cover mode). Wray writes that both lawsuits seem mostly geared toward getting the plant to clean up its act; each suit also has the potential to require that some kind of compliance watchdog or overseer be assigned to plant to ensure that it’s doing so. [Houston Press; previously on SwamplotPhoto of Pasadena Refinery Systems, Inc. plant at 111 Red Bluff Rd.: Center for Land Use Interpretation (license)

03/07/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO EITHER ELIMINATE OR WILDLY EXACERBATE THE HOUSTON TRAFFIC JAMS OF THE FUTURE Cars in Traffic“Once people figure out that it’s cheaper to keep the autonomous cars on the road rather than storing them in parking garages, and that having them circle the block at a very low rate of speed in perpetuity keeps them in a ready state – ready to zoom off to pick up passengers and bring in income while the owner is at work – then, and only then, will Houston residents know the true meaning of ‘gridlock’ and immediately wish that legitimate mass transportation alternatives had been built long ago.” [justaswell, commenting on Comment of the Day: Holding Out for that Younger, Sexier Mass Transit Option We Haven’t Met YetIllustration: Lulu

03/06/17 12:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOLDING OUT FOR THAT YOUNGER, SEXIER MASS TRANSIT OPTION WE HAVEN’T MET YET Freeways“Great. As I spend the next few years in grinding traffic, I can take comfort in knowing that no new mass commuting options will be initiated in our region, because we are waiting on futuristic autonomous cars to solve all of our problems. People will give up the comfort of their own private transportation for the luxury of riding in a glorified Uber (but without a driver to keep it clean or compensate for navigation errors). From an urban planning perspective, that’s like meeting a beautiful woman with a great personality but never asking her out because you are just certain that if you ever meet Kate Upton, she will find you infinitely attractive and satisfy you forever.” [Shmoo, commenting on Comment of the Day: Wait, So ‘Keep Adding Freeways’ Was the Long-Term Fix?Illustration: Lulu

03/06/17 10:45am

HUMAN SKELETON DISCOVERED IN THAT HEIGHTS HOUSE THAT WOULDN’T SELL TO TRAMMELL CROW 610 Allston St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77007A skeleton and some tattered cloth were discovered this weekend in an attic crawlspace in that house on Allston St. now neighbored on 3 sides by the 5-story Alexan Heights apartment complex, which occupies most of the Yale St. block between 6th St. and the Heights hike & bike trail. The home’s then-owner, Mary Cerruti, was reported missing in September of 2015, having been last seen for sure in the spring. ABC13 reports that investigators reportedly searched the house when Cerruti disappeared, but found only the bodies of several dead cats. Police are now trying to figure out whether or not the skeleton is Cerruti’s; it’s also not yet clear whether the skeleton came to land in the crawl space with assistance, or by its own doing. [ABC13; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 610 Allston St.: HAR

03/03/17 1:30pm

YOU TOO CAN BE THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OBSCURE HOUSTON HISTORY YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD Blue tile sign at 2500 block of Westheimer Rd., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098Got questions about early Texas drinking culture? Looking for info on Houston’s most prominent Bulgarian philosophers? Need to know who took the photos sketched in around that famous map of 1869 Downtown? All this and more is now archived for your online perusal in the Houston History Alliance’s new Handbook of Houston, which went live yesterday. The HHA (which the handbook says was established after then-mayor Bill White started looking for ways to make Houstonians care about the city’s history) says it had been tossing around the encyclopedia idea since 2008, but finally got a grant from the Houston Endowment to work on it with the state’s historical alliance in 2015. The initial launch includes about 1,300 articles; you can browse them all here, or help write more of them yourself. [Houston Historical Association via Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of new-ish street tiles styled after Houston’s historic ones: James Glassman

03/02/17 4:30pm

A BUNCH OF NORTHWEST MALL’S TENANTS MAY SHUT DOWN THIS MONTH Northwest Mall, 555 NW Mall, Spring Branch East, Houston, 77092Swamplot hasn’t heard back from the management office of borderline zombie shopping center Northwest Mall yet to confirm plans for the structure — but some of the mall’s tenants have been advertising their own impending closure, including alcoholic cake shop Bundt Cake-a-holic (which is currently trying to crowdfund its own relocation). Rumors on Reddit and The Leader suggest that a few shops like Thompson’s Antique Center of Texas and the in-mall College of Healthcare Professions will stay open, but that most of the tenants are getting booted for remodeling by March 31st.  [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of Northwest Mall: Moni

03/02/17 3:45pm

FACEBOOK COMMENT OF THE DAY: CARL SANDBURG ON GROCERY STORE AESTHETICS Signage at Kroger, 239 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008“Pile the carts high at Auchan and Weingarten. / Shovel them under and let me work— / I am the beige. I cover all. / And pile them high at Globe / And pile them high at Sage and Gemco / Shovel them under and let me work. / Two years, ten years, and shoppers ask the manager: / What place is this?/ Where are we now? / I am the beige. Let me work.” [Jerry Wright on Swamplot’s Facebook page, commenting on Secretly Preserved Weingarten History Quickly Erased from Side of Weingarten-Owned Heights Kroger; original poem here] Photo of briefly revealed Weingarten’s signage at W. 20th St. Kroger: Chris Barnes

Facebook Comment of the Day
03/02/17 12:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WAIT, SO ‘KEEP ADDING FREEWAYS’ WAS THE LONG-TERM FIX? loops“The Chronicle article made a fairly big deal out of the following H-GAC quote: ‘Future growth and the resulting travel is expected to surpass our ability to meet regional mobility needs by relying solely on increased roadway capacity.’ I question the significance of this excerpt. Is that not the case at the present time? Has that ever not been the case?” [TheNiche, commenting on Houston #1 in Sublease Office Space; Downtown Getting a WeWork] Illustration: Lulu

02/28/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO BUILD ON THE EIGHTH WONDER’S EMERGENCY HOUSING LEGACY Astrodome“We’ve already got a built structure that has housed people in distress before. We are already paying millions of dollars a year in upkeep for a useless building. Showers, bathrooms, food prep, these services all already exist in this space. We’ve got a round peg, let’s just fit it into the round hole: The Astrodome is the perfect building to house our homeless!” [toasty, commenting on Mansion Flats Reincarnated; What a Homeless Campground Might Cost; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Astrodome: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

02/27/17 5:00pm

TXDOT TO PIERCE ELEVATED: YOUR YEARS ARE NUMBERED, PROBABLY pierce-street-45-downtownPending a vote next month by the Texas Transportation Committee, some early-stage projects connected to TxDOT’s plan to reroute I-45 and the whole downtown freeway exchange system could be getting started a few years sooner than TxDOT officials initially thought they would, Dug Begley writes in the Chronicle. (Those early stages include the reworking of the bottleneck on northbound US-59 where Spur 527 now peels off 2 of the freeway’s lanes just before SH 288 merges into the mix.) The first few projects “are incremental compared to the overall plan,” writes Begley, but “officials say [the projects] are important and send the clear message: The I-45 freeway is relocating and the elevated portion along Pierce will be abandoned and maybe demolished within the next dozen years. . . .Work on revamping the freeway intersections is slated for late 2020 or early 2021.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Pierce Elevated: Russell Hancock

02/27/17 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ON HAVING YOUR ART DECO STRIP CENTER AND EATING IT, TOO River Oaks Shopping Center highrise plan, Houston, 77019“’Everybody wants walkability, but nobody wants density’ is the urban-planning equivalent of ‘everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.’” [Angostura, commenting on Where Weingarten Plans To Stab That 30-Story Residential Highrise into the River Oaks Shopping Center] Site plan of future highrise development: Weingarten Realty

02/27/17 9:15am

FLOODED-OUT FLOODING SYMPOSIUM TO TRY AGAIN IN APRIL Flooding around The Halstead 4620 N Braeswood Blvd., Meyerland, Houston, 77096That January meeting of city officials, scientists, urban planners, business folks, engineers, conservationists, architects, and other flood-minded citizens — the one that was cancelled due to flash flooding — has now been rescheduled for April 5th. The symposium is still slated to take place at the George R. Brown Convention Center, and the same panelists appear to be on the docket. The event is free and open to all high water spectators, but you’ll need to register online by March 29th.  [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of flooding along Brays Bayou on April 17th, 2016: Chris Klesch

02/22/17 5:30pm

BRAD MOORE AND FRIENDS SNATCH EMPTY BODY OF INVASION ICE HOUSE Invasion Ice House, 823 Dumble St., Eastwood, Houston, 77023 Formerly apostrophe-averse Grand Prize co-owner Brad Moore and his business partners have a new bar now up and running in the work-out-the-kinks, wait-for-the-liquor-license phase. The business, operating under the syllable-rich name Lil’ Danny Speedo’s Go Fly a Kite Lounge, has taken over the space in the 1950s building at 823 Dumble St. (shown here as seen early last year in its then-new alien mural skin). Danny Speedo’s is the latest link in a long chain of bars on the property — most recently including Invasion Ice House, which the Ramos family opened last spring before shutting it down at the end of October. Phaedra Cook reports that Lil’ Danny Speedos is limiting the alcohol menu to beer, wine, and frozen shandies until the liquor permit comes through. [Houston Foodfinder; previously on Swamplot] Photo of former Invasion Ice House at 823 Dumble St.: Swamplot inbox