05/05/15 12:00pm

Replacement Oak Tree in Front of Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The sixth and last of the replacement street trees was planted in the public right-of-way surrounding the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr. over the weekend. “It is a big specimen tree, taller than what was removed,” writes the reader who sent in these photos of the installation paid for by a special city fund for Houston parks — so we can all see for ourselves. The previous weekend, 5 replacement oaks were put in along the side street, North Blvd. Crews hired by the franchise owner, Mohammed Ali Dhanani of Haza Foods, had chopped down 6 trees on adjacent city property last October. You can compare the current scene in these photos and in our story last week with how it all looked before the chainsaws were fired up.

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Regrowth
04/30/15 1:00pm

New Trees at Wendy's Drive-Thru Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

New Trees at Wendy's Drive-Thru Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, HoustonA row of 5 already-growed-up oak trees took up their new home along the North Blvd. flank of the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr. last weekend, to replace the same number along the public right-of-way that went missing after dark last Halloween on account of they were chopped into pieces by order of the franchise owner. “The new trees at Wendy’s are so big they had to close the road to install them,” writes the reader who sent in these photos. “. . . almost as big as the ones cut down.

One more tree is still to come — for this spot on Kirby Dr., right in front:

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Fast Landscaping
04/24/15 1:00pm

Post Oak Live Oaks Growing at Environmental Design, 23544 Coons Rd., Tomball, Texas

Post Oak Live Oaks Growing at Environmental Design, 23544 Coons Rd., Tomball, TexasFor Arbor Day, the Uptown Houston District is showing off the 800 live oaks earmarked for Post Oak Blvd. now being trained in Tomball for a life on the streets. The tree reboxers and transplanters at Environmental Design are breeding the trees on the company’s Tomball campus at 23544 Coons Rd.

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Live Oaks Training for New Post
04/13/15 3:15pm

NEW INSTALLATION MARKS LOCATIONS OF KIRBY DR. WENDY’S OAKS WITH THICK YELLOW RIBBONS Protection for New Trees, Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, HoustonSpotted at the corner of North Blvd. and Kirby Dr., just north of Rice Village: 6 holes, 6 staked-off areas, and 6 fabric wraps around the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby. Is this another art installation in memory of the removed oaks? Naaah. Probably just the work of city crews, getting ready to plant their replacements. Expenditure of up to $300K for new live oaks — matching the amount paid by the franchise owner as part of a legal settlement for last year’s nighttime tree-hacking incident — was approved by city council back in February. Photo: Swamplot inbox

04/06/15 1:45pm

Driveway and Utility Pole, 2115 Taft St., Montrose, Houston

A couple of readers have sent in pics of the curious driveway installation at 2115 Taft St. just south of Welch St. just over the eastern border from Montrose, on the former site of the Taft St. Coffee House and Ecclesia Church. The utility pole dates from the lot’s former inhabitants; the courteous flatwork has been built around it for later patching. “In case you are wondering,” writes one of our tipsters, “the space on either side is not wide enough for a car to pass, nor does the driveway go all the way through to the next street.”

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The Townhomes Are Coming
03/31/15 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW THOSE NEW FIFTH WARD DRIVEWAYS CAME TO REACH ALL THE WAY INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET Townhomes Under Construction, 400 Bayou St., Fifth Ward, Houston“Here’s how you get to this point. (i) Neighborhood gets built with gravel streets, ditch drainage. (ii) City goes in and widens most of the streets in the neighborhood in the 1960s. 40′ asphalt, curb and gutter. Baron St. misses out on the neighborhood-wide repave because it has a railroad track in the middle. (iii) Railroad track gets abandoned, trackbed gets paved over, no one ever improves Baron. (iv) Townhome developer comes in and wants to put in a driveway. Houston Infrastructure Design Manual says any culvert in City right-of-way has to be 24″ minimum. Developer’s engineer knows if he touches that old 60s curb inlet he’ll have to replace it to current spec, better to match the flowline and save eight or ten large. Culverts go in and look huge because 24″ on top of the existing flowline is above the crown of the road. (v) Swamplot readers are confused because the 60s-era curb and gutter doesn’t match the existing right-of-way.” [Purple CIty, commenting on Here’s One Way To Get Extra Long Driveways for Your Fifth Ward Townhome] Photo: Swamplot inbox

03/31/15 3:15pm

Scene of Auto Accident at Baron St. and Bayou St., Fifth Ward, Houston

Townhomes Under Construction, 400 Bayou St., Fifth Ward, HoustonAs a cautionary demonstration of the hazards of the kind of wacky old-roadway-meets-new-driveway construction found in front of a set of under-construction townhomes at the corner of Bayou and Baron streets in the Fifth Ward, the accident pictured here doesn’t quite hold up to extended scrutiny. Sure, it might be tough for a vehicle to stay on the asphalt when a stretch of roadway suddenly disappears and new concrete driveways stretch across it (as illustrated in the second photo above). But here the damaged Escalade appears to have crashed into a stationary hazard on the opposite side of the street.

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Dude, Where’s My Road?
03/19/15 1:15pm

Dallas St. Streetscape Improvements, Downtown Houston

Chopped Trees on Dallas St. Near Milam St., Downtown HoustonIf you’ve been waiting to see what changes are coming to Dallas St. after the street-tree-chopping event earlier this month, here’s your scoop: the Downtown Redevelopment Authority is redoing the streetscape from Milam St. to Discovery Green with hopes of identifying Dallas St. as an actual shopping district. The plan was hatched back when one of the buildings facing Dallas was Downtown’s lone remaining department store, but it’s still going forward with the Macy’s out of the picture (actually, its former site is just behind and to the left of the view in the rendering above).

Instead, the repaving and re-treeing plan is intended to allow a bit more pedestrian activity and street parking for the remaining retail — including the entire northern flank of GreenStreet, the Houston Pavilions redo — and encouraging more to move in.

The changes will shrink the number of car lanes on the one-way street from 4 to 3, but add a parking lane to its north side.

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Tree Chopping for Street Shopping
03/05/15 12:00pm

Chopped Trees on Dallas St. Near Milam St., Downtown Houston

A Downtown reader sends in pics of a row of street trees on 6 blocks of Dallas St. that were chopped down over the weekend. The trees are distinctive because most of them were planted in the actual street, not on the adjacent sidewalk. They were planted in the street between parking spaces about 6 years ago, around the same time a single-lane-wide section of sidewalk that now serves a bus stop was installed in front of the HPD headquarters building at the corner of Travis and Dallas.

Here’s a view from above of a row of stumps that sits in front of the McDonald’s at 808 Dallas St.:

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Right of Way
02/25/15 11:45am

TREE-CUTTING SETTLEMENT BUYS NEW LANDSCAPING AROUND KIRBY DR. WENDY’S Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, HoustonCity council approved a measure last week to spend $300,000 from a special fund for Houston parks on the installation of 6 new live-oak trees on the right-of-way surrounding the Wendy’s drive-thru restaurant at 5003 Kirby Dr. That’s the now-mostly treeless corner of North Blvd. pictured here, where crews hired by the franchise owner, Mohammed Ali Dhanani of Haza Foods, removed 6 old live-oak trees at night last October. The budget for the replacement includes removing what remains of the 6 stumps, installation of irrigation and subdrainage systems, and a 2-year warranty for the new trees, which will measure between 14 and 16 inches in diameter. The allotted budget matches the amount Dhanani paid in a settlement to the city for the incident last year. Any amount left over will be used for “additional improvements within City rights-of-way or park lands” approved by the Houston Parks Board director. [City of Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

02/24/15 11:00am

A couple of simulated fly-overs of a portion of a revamped Allen Pkwy., put together by consulting engineering firm Walter P Moore, show how the signature River Oaks-to-Downtown sorta-highway will look after a park-centered makeover is completed next summer. The projected $10 million redo partially answers the question popping up in many people’s minds after seeing all the new trails and structures and amenities and dogs going in along the bayou it lines: How are car-bound Houstonians supposed to get to the new Buffalo Bayou Park?

Part of the answer, of course, is by using 175 new angled parking spaces, most of them lining a new separate parking access lane lining the north side of Allen Pkwy. between Rochow St. and Eleanor Tinsley Park. As the video above (showing the journey eastbound from Montrose Blvd. to Park Vista Dr.) indicates, if you’re headed into Downtown, you’ll need to turn around and head in the opposite direction somewhere to park in one of them. Here’s a video view of the journey westward from Park Vista (across from Eleanor Tinsley Park) back to Montrose Blvd., along which the spots are angled for easy entry:

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More Trees Too
02/09/15 12:45pm

Construction of Lamar St. Bike Lane, Downtown Houston

Construction of Lamar St. Bike Lane, Downtown HoustonOver the weekend construction began on the new bikeway meant to connect the heavily used trails along Buffalo Bayou west of Downtown with the Columbia Tap trail on Downtown’s east side — and from there to the trails along Brays Bayou and the Medical Center. The 2 blocks of Lamar St. between Smith and Bagby now have this green zone installed along their southern side, replacing curbside parking spaces on the one-way street. Additional construction is scheduled for every weekend between now and March 8, when the steadily growing green bike path will reach Discovery Green.

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Bayou Bike Connector
01/27/15 11:45am

Plaque on Wendy's Drive-Thru, 5003 Kirby Dr. at North Blvd., Upper Kirby, Houston

Oak Tree Stumps, North Blvd. at Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

Plaque on Wendy's Drive-Thru, 5003 Kirby Dr. at North Blvd., Upper Kirby, HoustonJaws have been dropping along North Blvd. at the intersection of Kirby Dr. at the sight of a prominently placed inscription that now greets drive-thru customers of the Wendy’s at 5003 Kirby Dr. Is this just one of those obliviously coincidental following-corporate-guidelines things, or is the management of this Wendy’s going out of its way to draw attention to the under-cover-of-night street-tree massacre it orchestrated late last year to clear away 6 oaks on the corner and that cost the franchise owners a well-publicized $300,000 settlement from the city’s legal department? Or is the assembly of words attached directly to the brick wall, which honors “SERVICE THAT DOESN’T CUT CORNERS,” meant to apologize for the hired landscaping crew’s actions — which y’know, really did cut a corner — and emphasize that the hardworking burger-makers inside are trying to do something . . . different?

In full, the signage reads, “QUALITY SERVICE THAT DOESN’T CUT CORNERS IS OUR RECIPE,” though the part about corner-cutting service in the middle is clearly meant as an add-on to the fast-food chain’s more famous “Quality is our recipe” tagline. For those of you who haven’t been following the saga closely enough to appreciate the . . . humor? chutzpah? contrition? obliviousness? involved here,  here’s the backstory:

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Corner Cutting
01/12/15 1:46pm

Reopened Wendy's Restaurant at 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

Burger King and Diminished Oak Tree at 5115 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

A regular Kirby Dr. street-tree watcher sends in this pair of recent images showing the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr. (at the far western end of oak-tree-bedecked North Blvd.), which reopened after renovations the week before Christmas, and its neighbor a few driveways down, the Burger King at 5115 Kirby Dr. (at the far western end of similarly shaded South Blvd). The photos show the aftermath of a series of chainsaw incidents that took place last year.

The daring but probably not death-inducing trimming of the lone surviving Kirby Dr. street tree in front of Wendy’s (shown at top) took place after the franchise’s owner, Ali Dhanani of Haza Foods, paid the city a $300,000 settlement for the nighttime removal of 6 other oaks on city property surrounding the restaurant shortly before Halloween. A report in November indicated that the city’s legal team was investigating the more aggressive paring of oak limbs in front of the neighboring Burger King, as well as another Burger King owned by Houston Foods, the second-largest Burger King franchisee in the country, which is run by Dhanani’s brother, Shoukat Dhanani.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

The Giving Trees
01/09/15 12:30pm

leeland-oaks-row

Behind this row of 9 live oak trees along Leeland St., one block north of the Gulf Fwy. (and the southern edge of East Downtown), Talia Homes is planning a development of 75 gated homes called Talia Village — on the site of what was, until last summer, the Spencer Company’s Florabunda wholesale nursery at 1609 Ennis St. South of the development is the Metro Auto Storage tow lot; to the east lies what a reader describes as “uh, a large pasture next to the bike trail which is used by somebody’s horses fairly often.”

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Talia Village Greenery