04/10/17 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HISTORY IS IN THE EYE OF THE DEEDHOLDER Historic and Gone“Demolish your great aunt’s soup tureen! Every person wants to preserve her or his family history, yet is bonkers to bulldoze the neighbor’s. BS. All of it is Houston’s history — whether, or not, George Washington or George Bush slept there.” [movocelot, commenting on Texas May Demolish Your Local Preservation LawsIllustration of demolished historic structure: Lulu

04/07/17 5:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: TEXAS PROBLEMS WITH A TEXAS HYPERLOOP Cow Grazing on Subdivision“Setting aside the pie-in-the-sky[-ness of the] plan, is this track supposed to be underground 0r above ground? Either way, that’s going to cost a lot of money. And, talk about a tempting terrorist target. Underground: risk being buried alive. Above ground: risk being blown up in front of the people on the freeway. And cows. In front of cows.” [Hyperactive Imagination, commenting on Where a Houston Hyperloop Track Could LeadIllustration: Lulu

04/07/17 1:45pm

TEXAS MAY DEMOLISH YOUR LOCAL PRESERVATION LAWS 2120 Sabine St., First Ward, Houston, 77007Ever worry that Houston’s historical preservation rules are just too darn strict? Tired of having to wait a whole 90 days to go ahead and do whatever you were going to do anyway to that non-protected city landmark? A public hearing has been scheduled for next Tuesday in Austin on a state bill that would gut and restructure local historic preservation procedures across Texas. The bill, as Preservation Houston Texas put it to VBX‘s Adolfo Pesquera last month, “clumsily attempts to impose a woefully old-fashioned ‘George Washington slept here’ standard of historical significance:” The measure appears to limit new historical designations to either 1) structures lived in by a famous person or 2) places where something “widely recognized as a historic event” happened. (Under that standard, the Astrodome might make the cut for Evel Knieval’s 13-car motorcycle jump.) Houston’s own District 135 rep Gary Elkins is the only sponsor of the measure, which would also require that any movements to designate areas of “historical, cultural, or architectural significance” get support from 3 quarters of the city council or the local planning commission. The measure also may put the final say on any proposed changes to a protected structure in the hands of a single “municipal official,” who will have 30 days to give a yea or nay. [Virtual Builder’s Exchange; bill here; previously on Swamplot] Photo of protected former home of August von Haxthausen at 2120 Sabine St.: HAR

04/06/17 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AN ABSURDIST EVERYMAN’S VISIT TO HIS LOCAL MANAGEMENT DISTRICT BOARD Illustration of Master Planners“If you attend a TIRZ meeting at 8:00 AM on a Friday morning, you will realize the distrust and dissent that the TIRZ has created in a once cohesive community. As the meeting convenes, you can hear the roar of the cement truck in the background, covering every square foot of the TIRZ district with parking garages and multistory apartments. And where is the detention for all this impervious surface? The storm water runoff is detained in the residential streets and private homes of the surrounding neighborhoods. Just try signing up for the Public Comment period. Your 2 minutes disappear as the Chair detects an speaker unsympathetic to the TIRZ and cuts the mike. Your questions are not answered, so you try again, this time with an Open Records Request. Now you meet the TIRZ lawyers, plural, a sassy bunch, who can look you in the face and say with impunity that the record does not exist. It was just a typo.” [Long Time Houstonian, commenting on State Bill Would Call for TIRZ Elections in Certain Cities That End in ‑OUSTONIllustration: Lulu

04/06/17 3:15pm

THE TUNNEL BENEATH THE DEAD CHRONICLE BUILDING IS NOW OPEN AGAIN Capitol Tower Tunnel MapManagement for 717 Texas (or Calpine Center, if you’re less of a fan of numerically-forward tower vernacular) just sent out word that the tunnel from that building to Chase Tower at 600 Travis St. is now open again. The route takes a turn beneath the pretty-much-done demo of the newly former Houston Chronicle headquarters, evidently still slated by Hines for surface-lotdom for now — plus whatever work the folks next door have planned below ground to tie their own development into the tunnel network. Meanwhile, another block southwest down the same tunnel system (as visible in the 90-degrees-or-so rotated schematic above), Skanska has just signaled the go-ahead on the above-ground section of its Capitol Tower; no word yet on whether that construction will have another round of tunnel closure associated with it. [Previously on Swamplot] Map of Downtown tunnel connections: Skanska

04/05/17 5:30pm

TPWD: CHEF INVOLVED IN RUGGLES ESTABLISHMENTS INVOLVED IN GIANT ILLEGAL FISH NETWORK, TOO Ruggles Green Alabma, 2305 W. Alabama St., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098Following 2 years of investigation — and the discovery of some 1,900 pounds of illegal red snapper on an unlicensed boat near Freeport — the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department alleged today that Bruce Molzan  (long one of the main players in most of the Ruggles [Blank] establishments around town, most recently Ruggles Black) is tangled up with what may be the largest illegal seafood network ever uncovered in Texas. A press release from the department says the aquatic activities in question, which so far have warranted the handout of some 200 misdemeanor citations, have been going on since 2013. The state’s allegations toward Molzan include the purchase of illegally harvested finfish, as well as illegal shrimp purchases from another restaurant, for inclusion on Ruggles Black’s and Ruggles Green’s implicitly health– and sustainability-minded menus. (Molzan separated from Ruggles Green back in October, after its original W. Alabama location scooted over into the new midrise down the block; the new owners of Ruggles Green say that fish acquisitions since Molzan left have all been by the books.) [TPWD; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Ruggles Green on W. Alabama: Swamplot inbox

04/03/17 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FOR IF YOU GAZE LONGINGLY AT TRENDY DEVELOPMENT, IT GAZES ALSO BACK AT YOU Looming Townhomes“All you ‘trendy people’ in Spring Branch need to bear in mind that even though your property values have risen dramatically, legacy homeowners don’t just immediately convert or turn over into ‘trendy people.’ That’s a process that takes time — [and] once it happens, you’ll feel nostalgia for the way things were. The newcomers won’t be ‘trendy’ — that term has positive connotations and you’ll reserve it for yourself. You will speak of them in derogatory tones, using words like yuppie and hipster. You’ll complain about how they’ve overrun your neighborhood, creating parking SNAFUs, cyclist-disrespecting traffic, and drunk drivers. You’ll complain about how closely packed the new townhomes are, even though you live in one; and about how loud the bars are, even though you bought a house next to one that had been there for 20 years. You’ll complain about how your property taxes rise 10 percent per year every year, and simultaneously protest new public housing, even though your unrealized capital gains are being subsidized by state statue — and you’ll demand even more subsidy! You might even vote for Dan Patrick. You’ll vote for localized prohibition and think that it’s ‘weird,’ kind of like living in Austin would be, except you don’t live in Austin and aren’t as weird as them — which is a terrible thing because they aren’t very weird either. You will have been co-opted by the powers that be. This is understandable. You were trendy, and will fall in line with somebody, sort of thoughtlessly, and complain relentlessly. That’s what it is to be trendy. It’s what you always wanted.” [TheNiche, commenting on Comment of the Day: Send the Trendies Outside the Loop, PleaseIllustration: Lulu

03/31/17 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: SEND THE TRENDIES OUTSIDE THE LOOP, PLEASE Inside and Outside the Loop“Ridiculous that all trendy restaurants must be packed in the same area. Move out of the Loop and dominate. Spring Branch north of I-10 for example has Heights-y demographics but the restaurant dollars go elsewhere for the most part. Take a risk like some are already doing and venture out. The old Hollister Grill location is getting a trendy new restaurant and one of the bartenders from Anvil (I think it is) is opening up shop on Long Point Rd. Karbach’s already has a new restaurant on Karbach Street in Spring Branch. Sheesh people. Move outward!” [Spring Branch, commenting on Hunky Dory and Bernadine’s Are Not Dead Yet] Illustration: Lulu

03/31/17 11:45am

HUNKY DORY AND BERNADINE’S ARE NOT DEAD YET Patio, Hunky Dory Tavern, 1801 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston HeightsIn a statement posted simultaneously yesterday to the Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory Tavern Facebook pages, Treadsack’s management team says the twin restaurants at 1801 N. Shepherd (along with the company’s remaining establishments: Down House, D&T Tavern, and Johnny’s Gold Brick) remain open — and that it’s hoping customers will support the decision by continuing to eat there:We’ve filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy for Hunky Dory and Bernadine’s so we can restructure our debt and continue to operate. This was a very difficult decision, and not one we came to lightly, but the chance to save the businesses that all of our employees have worked so hard to build and so many of you, our guests, have supported, made it a risk worth taking. We love these restaurants and will continue to fight for them.” [Eater Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Hunky Dory

03/30/17 12:30pm

THE CONTINUING UNTOLD STORY OF WHAT HAPPENED WHEN EXXONMOBIL MOVED NORTH Former Exxon Upstream Facility, 3102-3120 Buffalo Spdwy., Greenway/Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098We’ve been following the separate stories of various former ExxonMobil facilities around Houston individually after the company moved operations to its massive new North Houston campus. But if you want a good, quick rundown of the resulting real-estate fallout, take a look at this summary by veteran reporter Ralph Bivins, who chronicles the current status of the oil giant’s abandoned outposts Downtown, in Greenspoint, and elsewhere around town. The former upstream research campus on Buffalo Speedway between West U and River Oaks (pictured here), Bivins declares, “is expected to be transformed into a major mixed-use development.” The 24-acre Brookhollow campus near Hwy. 290 and Dacoma, which he notes is “not far” from the proposed terminal site for the Texas Central Houston-to-Dallas bullet train, “may be redeveloped for retail use.” The 35-acre former ExxonMobil Chemical facility at 13501 Katy Fwy. in the Energy Corridor, now called Republic Square, is the site of a proposed 2.6-million-sq.-ft. mixed-use project that might include a beer garden and art studios. But until that happens, owner Third Palm is “doing something very un-Exxon like — allowing the public to venture onto the grounds.” [Realty News Report; previously on Swamplot] Photo of demolition of former ExxonMobil facility on Buffalo Spdwy. and West Alabama: MontroseResident

03/29/17 4:30pm

BIG I-45 DOWNTOWN REROUTING, GRAND PARKWAY EXPANSION GET GO-AHEADS Proposed Changes to I-45, I-10, and I-69, HoustonYesterday was a big day for Houston freeway expansion and reconfiguration: On Tuesday, the Texas Transportation Commission gave the go-ahead for construction to begin in late 2020 on the first of 7 separate projects that will move I-45 from the west and south sides of Downtown to its east side, paralleling U.S. 59 behind the George R. Brown, reports Chron transportation writer Dug Begley. Separately, the commission also selected design and construction crews for the next segment of the Grand Parkway, from I-69 near New Caney to I-10 east of Baytown. How grand that section of the Grand Parkway actually ends up being may depend on your perspective: This segment of the Houston area’s fourth ring road is expected to cost $1.25 billion and open in 2022 — but the tollway will have only a single lane in each direction. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Diagram of I-45 rerouting: TxDOT  

03/29/17 2:30pm

WITH BETTER LUCK TOMORROW, DRY CREEK IS ABOUT TO GET VERY WET LATER THIS MONTH Dry Creek Cafe, 544 Yale St., Houston HeightsThe spot on the corner of White Oak Dr. and Yale St. where Dry Creek Cafe (pictured) closed down last year is expected to open next month as a “neighborhood bar with food that meets restaurant standards.” Proprietors Bobby Heugel (who got his start at Anvil) and Justin Yu (who shut down Oxheart) know a bit about each, respectively. The newly renovated space at 544 Yale will be called Better Luck Tomorrow, they announced today. [Eater Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Andy M.

03/28/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE NO-BIKE-LANE BIKE PLAN Bike Rider in Traffic“There’s even a more simple plan: Make the right lane 12 ft. (or more) and the left lane 10 ft. Don’t stripe new bike lanes or overly alter existing regulations. Don’t plan. Don’t get approvals. Don’t p/o motorists with the silly bike lanes that bikers fear and never use. We just need a little extra space for cars to pass us by. And: Motorists will like having buses and other heavy vehicles in the larger right-lane, too . . . you don’t even need signage.” [Chris M(2)., commenting on Comment of the Day: Houston’s New Bike Plan Is Just a Plan] Illustration: Lulu

03/28/17 11:45am

WE’VE REACHED CHAPTER 11 IN THE HUNKY DORY, BERNADINE’S STORY Hunky Dory, 1801 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston HeightsHere’s an update to continuing reports on the financial health of the Treadsack restaurant group, the company behind Heights-area establishments Down House, D&T Drive Inn, Johnny’s Gold Brick, Hunky Dory, Bernadine’s, Foreign Correspondents, and Canard: Mothership Ventures, LLC, an entity owned by Treadsack partner Chris Cusack and — according to Houston Press reporter Craig Malisow, the business entity that operates as Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection over this past weekend. Foreign Correspondents and its next-door-neighbor bar Canard closed for business in the shopping center at 4721 N. Main St. suddenly at the end of last year; in February, Malisow published a detailed saga of payroll and tax problems behind the shutdown, alleging Treadsack restaurants had become subject to IRS and state liens totaling more than $1.3 million, and that at one point the Texas Comptroller’s office had threatened a seizure of assets at Down House if taxes were not paid. Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory have been operating since late 2015 in a new building constructed for them at the corner of 18th St. and N. Shepherd. Update, 1:30 pm: An investor has filed suit against the owners of Treadsack, the Houston Press now reports. Craig Malisow also notes that the debtor in the bankruptcy filing has been granted funds to pay for the next employee paychecks. Photo: Hunky Dory

03/27/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT IT TAKES TO LIVE NEXT TO THE FAST LANES Freeway Overpass Next to Building“The housing stock of the city has MANY luxury apartments located too close to comfort to a freeway. On I-10, the Sawyer Lofts’ north side [sits] right up on the freeway with some units being feet away from an exit ramp. Go further west and I-10 is lined with luxury apartments that look out at the freeway from a very uncomfortably close distance (basically two lanes away, plus a small setback). This is becoming a permanent fixture of the city. I’m not sure why anyone would voluntarily rent one of these, but the developers are banking on housing being in so short supply that someone will basically lose out when the music stops playing and there’s not a chair to sit in and they will be forced to rent one of these. I think that must be the game plan. Maybe they think if it’s common enough people will just subconsciously modify their lifestyle expectations in a big city to thinking its okay to live between 7 and 50 feet from one of the widest freeways in the world.” [Commenter7, commenting on The Downtown Apartments Caught Between a Freeway and a Curved Place] Illustration: Lulu