01/09/15 12:30pm


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.”


Talia Village Greenery
11/19/14 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO GROW THE CITY MONEY ON TREES Money Growing on Tree“Hedge funds would blush at these returns. What did it cost the city to plant these suckers? $1k at most . . . And they got $50k apiece for them? Now I’m not saying we should celebrate the loss of these trees, but I hope right now some keen eager young city arborist is planning some oak plantings along the most outrage-worthy corridors in Houston, where they will best rankle the franchises of the future. How old does a tree have to be to elicit outrage? Maybe 20 years? At an eye-popping 22% IRR, perhaps some strategic tree-driven investments can make future union pension negotiations a bit easier . . .” [Sebastian Good, commenting on City Nets $300K Settlement for Late-Night Kirby Dr. Wendy’s Oak-Axing Incident] Illustration: Lulu

11/03/14 10:30am

THE BACK AND FORTH ON DUNLAVY ST. Dunlavy St. at Westheimer Rd., Lower Westheimer, Montrose, HoustonBack in May some Montrose urbanists rejoiced at a report that city traffic planners were hoping to constrict Dunlavy St. from 4 lanes to 2. However, as part of this year’s annual Major Thoroughfare and Freeway Plan, the city’s planning commission advised widening the Dunlavy corridor’s right-of-way 10 feet in certain areas. In an e-blast to her constituents, city council’s Ellen Cohen cited a lack of public input on the widening proposal and its potential negative impact on homeowners as key factors in shaping her “grave concerns” over the prospect of a fattened corridor, so that proposal has been tabled until next year’s review. [Houston Chronicle; Ellen Cohen] Photo: Raj Mankad /OffCite

10/31/14 3:30pm

Tree Stumps Along North Blvd., Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The owner of the property at the southeast corner of Kirby Dr. and North Blvd. has indicated he might attempt to evict the Wendy’s franchise whose operator appears to have ordered the nighttime removal of 6 oak trees on public property surrounding the fast-food outlet earlier this week. Lias J. “Jeff” Steen, the property’s landlord, says he sent an email saying “I am extremely disappointed he took down the trees under cover of darkness . . . And I am looking at terminating our lease,” according to a report by abc13’s Deborah Wrigley.


Removed ‘in Good Faith’
10/30/14 10:45am

Chopping Down of Trees along North Blvd. at Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The City of Houston intends to proceed with legal action in connection with the overnight disappearance of half a dozen oak trees from the public right-of-way surrounding the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr., according to 2 separate sources. The trees were chopped down and ground up on site under cover of darkness Tuesday night as part of a renovation of the fast-food spot, which sits at the corner of Kirby and North Blvd. The removals took place on city property, but had not been permitted by the city.

“I have already been assured by the City of Houston’s enforcement officer that the city intends to proceed with a civil case,” writes Trees for Houston executive director Barry Ward in an email sent to members of the canopy-enhancement organization this morning. He calls plans to pursue legal action “a continuation of the recent, positive trend by the current administration to put an end to illegal tree removal in the City right-of-way or on city property.”


$150K for More Sunlight
09/25/14 11:00am

Traffic Signal on Rusk St. Outside Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Parking Garage, 800 Bagby St., Downtown Houston

hobby-garage-signalOccasional downtown parker Monica Savino notes the recent traffic signal now operating outside the north exit of the Hobby Center parking garage facing Rusk St. just west of Bagby (pictured above and at left), and wonders how other midblock parking garages with difficult exits might be able to get in on this kind of automated car-stopping action: “I’m sure it’ll be very helpful for that mass exodus after an event but was wondering about a couple things. How does a parking garage get its own traffic signal? Also, who funds this infrastructure? Is this a private initiative or a CoH move? I imagine that there are several other downtown parking garages that would like a signal of their own especially if the City’s providing them.”

Photos: M. Kusey

Please Wait
07/25/14 11:30am

HOW HOUSTON SCAVENGERS STAYED OUT OF GUTTERS AND DITCHES BACK THEN Elinor Evans Collection of Can Pull Tabs Culled from Houston StreetsEmbedded in a profile of 99-year-old artist Elinor Evans, who taught freshman design at the university in the sixties, seventies, and eighties — and whose exhibition of collages at the Moody Gallery opened earlier this month — is this bit of old-fashioned Houston street smarts: “She retrieved another basket and displayed a most orderly collection of hundreds of aluminum pull-tabs. Decades ago, Houston’s streets sloped inward and the centers provided ripe pickings for Evans, who said she surveyed them for ‘as found’ objects of interest.” [Rice News; exhibition] Still image: Rice News

07/16/14 2:45pm

CALL HOUSTON A METROPOLIS INSIDE THE LOOP, BUT IT’S A MEGALOPOLIS BEYOND Diagrams of Grids and Ladders by Albert Pope“In the 1950s just about the entire world abandoned continuous block and street urbanism and switched over to spine-based urbanism. We moved from a metropolitan to a megalopolitan type of urbanism and to really get that you have to know the distinction between the two terms. On some level, we all know that when we go outside the Loop that we have moved into a different world, a different reality. The way we navigate outside the Loop is totally different from the way we navigate inside the Loop. Our relationship to nature is different, and our relationship to built form completely changes. We need to be more precise with language in order to appreciate these differences.” — Rice architecture prof Albert Pope, in the latest issue of Cite magazine. [OffCite] Diagram of traffic patterns in grid (left) and spine systems (right): Albert Pope

07/09/14 12:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHO’S SUPPOSED TO FIX YOUR WONKY SIDEWALK Drawing of Broken Sidewalk“When I was a Super Neighborhood President, I learned all about sidewalks. In general, they are the responsibility of the adjacent property owners — UNLESS they are adjacent to or on a heavily traveled route to a school. Then the City of Houston will build them as part of their Safe Sidewalk Program (SSP). They also have a deal where if PWE digs up a sidewalk or driveway curb cut for any reason, they will replace it — like juancarlos said. But that’s kind of a given. (If they didn’t, they’d be real douches). That being the case, if Montrose residents are begging the City for better sidewalks, they’re probably barking up the wrong tree. I wonder if it would be better to get together with commercial and multifamily owners in the area, and lobby the Management District to do it. The Montrose District has funding, unlike the Civic Clubs and Super Neighborhoods, and they also have the project management skill to get this sort of thing done. And if I’m a business or apartment owner who pays an assessment, I want something in return; a new sidewalk for my customers would be nice.” [ZAW, commenting on Replacing a Texas City H-E-B with an H-E-B; Would You Like Taller Billboards?] Illustration: Lulu

05/21/14 5:15pm

Tree in front of 501 W. Drew St. at Whitney, East Montrose, Houston

Tree in front of 501 W. Drew St. at Whitney, East Montrose, HoustonUpdate, 5/22: Swamplot has now confirmed that the tree was a Chinese Tallow, not an oak, as neighbors, and Swamplot, had originally reported.

Oh, those East Montrosians and their continuing tree battles. Here’s a photo of the street tree that once stood in more more leafly fashion in front of the property at 501 W. Drew St. The gentle warning tape wrapped around it appears not to have made much difference to the chainsaw operators who cut off its limbs last week, though. Had the tape been attached by a tree-hugging neighbor? Not exactly:


The Giving Up Tree
05/08/14 3:30pm

Man Defecating on Sidewalk, Woodland Heights, Houston

An enterprising Woodland Heights resident set up a camera in a tree in front of her home in order to capture images of the man who had been repeatedly pooping on the sidewalk and driveway of her residence and other homes in and around the 500 block of Byrne St. And . . . success! The animated image above, culled from surveillance footage provided to HPD and Channel 2 reporter Jennifer Bauer, shows the perpetrator in the act and its immediate aftermath — though, fortunately, the foreground leaves tastefully shield our view from most of the nastiness.

Bauer, though, provides helpful commentary:


The Poop on the Street
04/16/14 11:00am

Rendering of Proposed 3615 Montrose Condo Tower with Green Garage Wall

A representative of Riverway Properties, the developer proposing a 7-story condo tower on the vacant former site of the River Cafe in Montrose, says a rendering submitted as part of an application for a variance from the city isn’t an entirely accurate representation of the garage wall the company wants to build in front of the sidewalks on Montrose Blvd. and Marshall St. The rendering of the 3615 Montrose building featured on Swamplot earlier this week showed a blank wall at the base surrounding a single-level parking garage on the ground floor, punctured only by a driveway entrance with an overhead door along Montrose. But Riverway Properties partner Michael Carroll says his company is planning either a “green wall system” or an installation by an artist for the wall.


Montrose Street Life
04/10/14 2:00pm

Proposed Dedicated Bus Lanes on Post Oak Blvd., Uptown, Houston

Proposed Dedicated Bus Lanes on Post Oak Blvd., Uptown, Houston

Here are some of the purty watercolor renderings the Uptown District has been presenting of what Post Oak Blvd. will look like after the addition of 2 dedicated bus lanes down its middle. The proposed changes to the thoroughfare won’t take away any of the 6 existing car lanes or 13 existing left-turn-signal lanes. There’ll be a few modifications, though: new protected-left-turn signals will be put in at West Briar Lane and Fairdale, for example, and 3 median openings will be closed. The space for the buses and 8 transit stations along the Boulevard between the West Loop and Richmond Ave will come from acquiring 8 feet of right-of-way from each side of the existing street. The bus lanes and light-rail-style stations will go in the median:


Uptown Transit
04/07/14 12:15pm

Installation of Tree and Three Flowers Sculpture on Kirby Dr. South of Westheimer, Upper Kirby, Houston

Here’s an overhead view of the installation over the weekend of the 38-ft.-tall, 7,000-lb. sculpture by James Surls on the previously treeless median between West Ave and the 2727 Kirby condo tower on Kirby Dr., just south of Westheimer. Assembled from bronze and stainless-steel components, Tree and Three Flowers was commissioned by the Upper Kirby District; it’s meant to move in the wind. It’ll join other Surls public works in Houston — at Rice University, in Market Square, and at the Parks and Recreation department headquarters on Gragg St. The Kirby sculpture went in on this base:


Won’t Grow, but Will Move