01/16/17 10:30am

HUD ORDERS GO-AHEAD ON BRIARGROVE AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROJECT OR SOMETHING KINDA LIKE IT Proposed Housing Development at 2640 Fountainview Dr., Briargrove, Houston, 77057Houston Public Media reports that the city is mulling over its options with regards to the letter sent last week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which relayed the agency’s findings that the nixing of the mixed-income apartment complex at 2640 Fountainview Dr. was based in part on “racially motivated local opposition.” Among other things, the letter orders the city to okay the project (or a similar project within another “low minority and high opportunity” census tract), to develop a plan to promote other similar projects in other low-poverty areas, and to work out incentives for property owners in those same areas to accept housing vouchers.  [Houston Public Media; previously on Swamplot] Images of proposed apartments at 2640 Fountainview Dr.: Houston Housing Authority

01/16/17 8:30am

Gray Smoke Stake in Houston

Photo of the Port of Houston: James Ray via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Headlines
01/13/17 5:15pm

Fannin at Dennis streets, Midtown, Houston, 77003

Demolition setup at 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003Before being shooed away by fire department folks near the corner of Dennis and Fannin streets around noon yesterday, reader and art blogger Robert Boyd managed to snap a shot of the hole dug recently along the sidewalk. “You might be able to see that the fire fighters were wearing gas masks,” Boyd notes, surmising that the digging was related to the gas lines for the under-deconstruction former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Association building building a block further south (shown above); the digging apparently also caused the gas leak that triggered the shutdown of several nearby streets for part of the day. Boyd reports that the folks in the Art Supply on Main building, located between the digging and the demo site, “were totally cut off for most of [the day]. HFD showed up and asked up all to stay inside — we could get out of our parking lot, but not back in.

The emergency crews departed mid-afternoon, shortly after Boyd snapped a more elevated shot of the fire engine (evocatively juxtaposed with a signal-red stop sign and a rare view of fall-esque Houston foliage):

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Sights and Scents of Dennis St.
01/13/17 12:30pm

CITY-WIDE DRAINAGE SWAT TEAM POSSIBLY BANKROLLED BY HEIGHTS WATERWORKS SALE Draft SWAT project mapMayor Turner announced plans for a dramatically monikered Storm Water Action Team at this week’s council meeting, along with 22 projects at the top the program’s initial list, based on metrics of urgency like frequency of 311 calls. The goal of the program is to deal with non-bayou-centric flooding issues like collapsed culverts and junk-clogged drainage ditches; flood czar Steve Costello said after the council meeting that the city wants to resolve the fixable issues at each site within 90 days of a site visit and initial drainage triage. Meagan Flynn writes this week that the $10 million currently budgeted for the program comes mostly from a one-time sale of city land; that land might well be the Heights Waterworks properties at W. 20th and Nicholson streets, which were sold to apartmenteer Alliance in mid-December for a reported $15.2 million. [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Draft map of 22 SWAT project locations: City of Houston SWAT program materials

01/13/17 12:00pm

Downtown Houston Skyline

Swamplot’s sponsor today is Houston’s own Central Bank. Thank you for the continued support!

Central Bank has 4 (central) Houston branches available to meet your business or personal needs: in Midtown, the Heights, West Houston, and Post Oak Place.

Central Bank believes that change is essential to its success; the company actively pursues the latest in service, technology, and products. Central Bank aims to know its customers personally and to be their primary business and personal financial resource. The bank’s staff values relationships and strives to be available when you need them.

To learn more about how Central Bank can meet your banking needs, please call any of the following Senior Vice Presidents: Kenny Beard, at 832.485.2376; Bonnie Purvis, at 832.485.2354; Gary Noble, at 832.485.2366; or Ryan Tillman, at 832.485.2307. You can also find out more on the bank’s website.

Some great Houston businesses support Swamplot. Here’s how yours can too

Sponsor of the Day
01/13/17 10:45am

Lighting testing of 59 bridge

Upate, 4pm: The text has been updated to clarify the bridge’s color capabilities and include more info on current setup from the design firm.

Hazard St. Bridge Lighting TestsThe curvy crossings over Hwy. 59 east of Spur 527 have been caught on camera glowing at passing drivers this week as workers test out the new colored lighting systems. Sarah Gandy of Gandy² Lighting Design tells Swamplot that the plan is to have all 6 bridges lit nightly by the first week of February as the pre-Super Bowl hullaballoo ramps up, but that final tweaks and adjustments are still being made (as seen here).

Gandy tells Swamplot that the bridge’s color patterns are still being programmed, and that they’ll soon be capable of a full range of groovy multi-tone modes like those shown in renderings previously released by the Montrose Management District (shown below):

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Pre-Super Bowl Exhibition
01/13/17 8:30am

discovery-green

Photo of Discovery Green: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Headlines
01/12/17 5:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE TRANSMISSION LINES ARE ALWAYS DEEPER ON THE OTHER SIDE Transmission Line Tower Installation, Westpark Dr.,  77081“While working with Entergy in New Orleans (12 plus years ago), at every public meeting I went to, citizens always complained about the city’s third world look when we would tell them burying power lines was not a part of the long-term plan (maintenance and upgrades). They would frequently state that no other major city had above ground lines — and that on their most recent business trip to Houston, they did not see any above ground,  and that we should follow Houston’s lead.” [Nend, commenting on Electrical Transmission Lines About To Get Really High by the Dog Park at 59 and 610] Photo of current and replacement electrical transmission towers at Westpark Dr. and 610: Swamplot inbox

01/12/17 3:45pm

Murals at former MHMRA building, 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003Demolition setup at 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

The colorful faces behind the chain-link fencing surrounding the former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority building at 2850 Fannin St. have been joined this week by a few pieces of bright yellow knock-down equipment. Permits came through last week clearing the site for clearance in advance of a planned 27-story apartment highrise going by the name Main Midtown. The tower was okayed for a parking variance in late October, as part of which Australian developer Caydon Properties agreed to install over 200 bike spaces. 

The long-empty MHMRA structure got its last hurrah this fall when much of the street-level wallspace was painted over in tan, making way for new muralage. A nearby resident buzzed around the site recently taking some final snaps of the paintings (like the one featured at the top of the page) before the demo gets going in earnest — here’s a sampling below:

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Midtown Breakdown
01/12/17 1:30pm

UN-RE-ZONING OF MISSOURI CITY TRACT PAVES WAY FOR SHIPMAN’S COVE MASTER PLANS Proposed Site of Shipman's Cove Subdivision, Missouri City, 77545 The Missouri City council voted last week to approve a “planned development” zoning classification for a woody 95.3-acre tract at the edge of the Creekmont and Newpoint Estates subdivisions off Hwy. 6 at Watts Plantation Rd., which master plan planner Ashton Woods wants to turn into a 287-unit housing development called Shipman’s Cove. The January vote came after a determination by the city’s attorney that the failed September vote on the same issue had technically passed: Councilmembers now says that the vote to change the undeveloped land’s zoning classification (an act that would have required a 75 percent majority among the 7 council members, and fell 1 vote short of that hurdle) actually only counted as a vote to zone it for the first time — which only needs a simple majority for approval. Amelia Brust reports that neither the city council nor city attorney “explained what prompted the further review, nor did they identify the outside legal counsel hired by the city” that helped review the situation; Missouri City mayor Allen Owen also said at the time of the vote that multiple lawsuits looked to be in the works. [Community Impact] Image of planned site of Shipman’s Cove: Missouri City

Feels Like the First Time
01/12/17 12:00pm

Loam Agronomics logo

Loam AgronomicsToday Swamplot is brought to you by Loam Agronomics, in order to introduce the company’s new CSA program for Houston. Thanks for the support!

Have you been looking for a way to get a regular supply of fresh, locally grown produce for your household? Do you like the idea of eating food that hasn’t been shipped thousands of miles, but is picked at peak ripeness nearby and available to you in 48 hours or less? Then you’ll want to know all about the launch of Loam Agronomics.

The first crops are growing now on a 40-acre portion of a 288-acre agricultural site the company has acquired in Richmond. And you can participate — by joining the Loan Agronomics CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The CSA will give Houston residents direct access to high-quality, fresh produce grown on this local farm. When you become a member of the Loam Agronomics CSA, you’re purchasing a weekly “share” of vegetables from the company and supporting the production of local food in your community. Loam Agronomics will begin regular weekly distribution of CSA shares in March.

Loam Agronomics is a project of the same people behind Edible Earth Resources, the local gardening firm that’s been transforming some high-profile urban lots in Houston into attractive edible gardens. Loam Agronomics will serve much of the same community, but at a larger scale.

If you’ve got questions about the CSA program or the operation and standards of the farm, take a look at the answers to the FAQ posted on the brand-spanking-new Loam Agronomics website.

Loam Agronomics offers:

  • Drop sites across Houston
  • Pickups on Thursdays and Saturdays
  • Signups available any time
  • Cooking and storing tips
  • Community events

. . . all for just $30 per week.

To sign up, all you need to do is select a convenient drop site; fill out a member information profile; and choose a payment plan (4-, 12-, 26-, and 52-week plans are available, some with discounted rates) — all of which you can do from this page on the Loam Agronomics website.

Swamplot is a smart place to announce exciting new community projects. Learn about our Sponsor of the Day program here.

Sponsor of the Day
01/12/17 11:30am

Midtown Entry Portal work site, Brazos St. at I-45 and Pierce St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

More signs of the Midtown Redevelopment Authority’s current 3-part landscaping project: the large hill being crafted where the long I-45 exit ramp into Pierce St. hits Brazos St. Bid documents for the project also mention landscaping walls, accent lighting, and decorative stone as part of the rest of the plan for the spot. The newly elevated site sits east across the I-45 offloader from the former home of high-gloss steak and seafood house Mr. Peeples, which shut down back in March. The Bagby-facing building, which served as a Boy Scouts of America office prior to the restaurant makeover, is still up for lease; a marketing flier advertises all 3 stories as up for grabs, along with the 8,702-sq.-ft. basement. Here’s the full frontal:

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Moving Up in Midtown