The retreat of floodwaters has revealed the extent of the silt that Harvey-triggered flooding deposited along Buffalo Bayou. A beachgoing reader sends Swamplot these pics of the new dust-colored landscapes that have taken shape along Buffalo Bayou Park and adjacent former green spaces.
The silt-covered bench shown above sits across Buffalo Bayou from the Houston Police Officers Memorial, near Glenwood Cemetery. Here’s a view from further back:
WHAT THE HARVEY FLOODING DID TO BUFFALO BAYOU PARK “Please know that Buffalo Bayou Park was designed to flood, although we did not anticipate three historic flooding events in 1-1/2 years,” Buffalo Bayou Partnership president Anne Olson remarks drily in an email update this afternoon. So what’s the damage? “The bottom two thirds of the park are still under water, and we expect that they will remain so for several more weeks as water is released from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. Due to these circumstances, it is difficult for our staff to assess the impact the flowing water has had on the footpaths and landscape in these areas. We do know that the Johnny Steele Dog Park, which is still submerged, will be closed for two or three months.” Water and sediment that flooded the Buffalo Bayou Cistern is still draining, slowly, but the electrical system installed when the long-hidden underground space was made available for tours and art installations appears to be working. The Wortham Fountain and the trail lighting system have been damaged, Olson reports. The Bayou City Adventures kayak kiosk at Lost Lake and the Bike Barn at Sabine St. has been shut down for the remainder of the year at least; areas east of the Sabine St. bridge are mostly still underwater. But Olson reports landscaped areas in the upper areas of the park, where trails have already reopened, survived with only a small amount of damage: “We are extremely fortunate that the Lost Lake and Wortham Insurance Visitor Centers did not take on water. Both facilities are open and the Kitchen at The Dunlavy is operating with normal hours. Food trucks also are back in the entry court at Sabine Street from Thursday-Sunday.” Update: The Bike Barn at Sabine St. has resumed normal hours as of September 9. [Buffalo Bayou Partnership] Photo: Adam Brackman.
Houstorian James Glassman sends in this shot of the Wortham Fountain on Allen Pwky. yesterday, with only the nucleus of the dandelion-shaped structure left standing in place amid a dry basin. The unusually windy Laura Day weather did knock out electricity for tens of thousands throughout the Houston area, but isn’t what precipitated the fountain’s depetaling — that appears to have been the hard freeze that damaged the fountain’s slender bronze pipes at the start of this month:
The rendering up top shows the sort of scene that visitors can expect if they wander into the 1920’s leaking-water-reservoir-turned-public-art-space buried alongside Buffalo Bayou after December 10th (and before next June): Venezuelan artist Magdalena Fernández’s 2iPM009 projection, adapted from flat-walled origins to fill the 2-acre space (and going by the name Rain). As for what they’ll hear — that’d be an accompanying soundtrack of snaps, claps, and other meteorologically-inspired noisemaking from Slovenian choir Pertuum Jazzile. The original piece is part of the Museum of Fine Arts’s permanent collection; the adaptation will be the first temporary art installation in the column-studded space, which opened for tours in May.
Courtesy of a stripe-skeptical reader, here’s a partial walkthrough tour of the new parking scheme along Allen Pkwy. west of Downtown — these days looking a lot more like the flyover videos released of the planned changes last year. Those changes, including a lower speed limit for the rest of the roadway and and some strategic tree deployment, are intended to make the pseudo-highway into a “more urban environment” and to slow traffic down to next-to-a-park speeds. Also included in the deal: a series of crosswalks, like the over-then-over-again setup now striped into place at Gillette St. (seen above posing with the Federal Reserve Bank building, with the former city garbage incinerator site out of the frame to the left).
The new setup divvies up much of the turf formerly occupied by Allen Pkwy.’s westbound traffic lane into angled spaces — some almost long enough to “put 2 normal sized cars in each spot,” the reader claims:
Architect Paul Kweton sends his idea for a multi-deck observation tower for Buffalo Bayou Park, adding to the list of unsolicited but interesting projects dreamed up for the public space. The plans and drawings show stairs spiraling continuously upward around a central elevator shaft, enclosed only by a giant net-like facade (as well as a smaller actual net preventing visitors from exploring the exterior of the structure).
Kweton has 2 potential locations in mind — the rendering above shows the tower on the lawn in Eleanor Tinsley Park, across the bayou from the now open Cistern (the long-defunct 1920s subterranean city water reservoir turned found-art piece and potential exhibit space). The alternative spot is a little further west across Allen Pkwy., near the 1920s Gillette St. waste-incinerator sitesold last year year for redevelopment into the Broadstone Tinsley Park Apartments:
Friday’s tours of the 1920s underground water reservoir buried along Buffalo Bayou are already booked up, but the space will be open to the public Thursdays through Sundays from here on out. A 30-minute tour of the Cistern is $2 (except on Thursdays, when access is free), but reservations are required either way.
Can’t wait for the next open timeslots to scope out the space? Artist Donald Lipski’s Down Periscope is already up and running on the lawn above the reservoir, allowing digital spelunkers access to a light, a camera, and a microphone permanently installed in the space below. Off-site viewers can also queue up on the contraption’s website to take remote control of the installation for 5-minute intervals and swivel around in the underground chamber at will:
As Buffalo Bayou Partnership continues to seek out tour guides for the cavernous 1927 city water reservoir and maybe-future-art-space buried in Buffalo Bayou Park, University of Houston architecture grad Sheridan Staats sends over her design for turning the structure into a split-level public bath house, complete with pools, saunas, gardens, a bike trail connection, and a cafe. Renderings and schematics are showcased in Staats’s undergraduate thesis, which also dives into global bath house and infrastructure history and the case for reusing the site in a way that nods to its utilitarian aquatic past.
The kelley green box on the map above shows the cistern’s buried footprint on the north shore of Buffalo Bayou (in blue), just west of Sabine St. and south of Memorial Dr.; the darker green line passing through the southwest edge of the cistern shows a plan to run the bayou’s bike trail into the cistern and onto a suspended causeway:
Update, 3/24: BBP has updated the link to and language of the job posting; this story has been updated.
Wanted: Buffalo Bayou Partnership is seeking some college types folks to show people around the long-empty city drinking water reservoir near the intersection of Sabine St. and Memorial Dr., which the group also hopes to turn into a temporary art space some day. The “accidental cathedral” was only accessible by a set of hatches and 14-foot ladders back when BBP first examined it; a $1.2-million grant is being used to bring the 87,200-sq.-ft. underground space up to code for visitors.
The cistern, nicknamed after the 6th-century reservoir beneath Istanbul, lies just north of the Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park beneath what will become a raised outdoor lawn intended for concerts and events at Buffalo Bayou Park. The 1927 reservoir was drained and decommissioned decades ago after it started leaking uncontrollably; the structure was planned for demolition and fill-in by the city around the time the park’s planners took an interest in the space, initially imagining uses like parking and mulch storage.
The metal arm of a future traffic signal is now reaching out of the ground across a few westbound lanes of Allen Pkwy. at the intersection with Dunlavy St. The new crosswalk will protect foot traffic on the way to bayou-side party-venue The Dunlavy and to the Adath Yeshurun Cemetery next door.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE BUFFALO BAYOU PARK PINCH “When I see the improvements come on line at Buffalo Bayou, I keep thinking to myself ‘what’s the catch? Are these on loan from another city? Will Culberson make us take them down so he can build a new highway?’ But it is really happening. Buffalo Bayou is really turning into Houston’s Central Park (NY’s version does have a private restaurant right in the middle of it–Tavern on the Green). The nature playground on the east end is getting finishing touches as well as the performance space and snack bar over the old waterworks. The only problem I have encountered is the mud that slides down the banks and accumulates on the trails after a heavy rain. But it is much better than it used to be. Who knows. Maybe this is for real. And maybe people will actually start moving to Houston because it is a nice place to live.” [Old School, commenting on Finding Buffalo Bayou’s Lost Lake and Its ‘Morning Glory’ Hole, Almost Ready for Business] Illustration: Lulu
A reader sends pics of 3 notable new features near the western end of Buffalo Bayou Park that appear to be just about complete: The multi-purpose private event space known as The Dunlavy, overlooking a restored and upgraded pond now called Lost Lake — and its signature central feature, a bell-mouth spillway to suck up the overflow, referred to more commonly as a morning glory. That’s the hole in the middle of the water feature; if you look closely at the photos of it below you can see the odd sight of the tip of a construction ladder peeking out at the top:
Here’s the just-completed 250-sq.-ft. Memorial guard post recently completed in Buffalo Bayou Park. It’s right by that spot just south of Buffalo Bayou from Glenwood Cemetery where you’ll always find a cop car or 2, standing guard by the Houston Police Officers Memorial. The sculptor of that 1991 memorial, Jesús Moroles, was killed in an auto accident earlier this month. The new building, designed by Brave Architecture, is meant to allow the off-duty officers posted there to have more of a public presence as they keep an eye on the memorial through the large windows. It will also function as a small visitors center for the memorial.
Last week in gay Paris, authorities removed panels from the Pont des Arts that had been weighted down by hundreds of thousands of attached padlocks — installed there since late 2008 by visiting couples (and sure, probably an obsessed stalker or 7) who sought to commemorate their passions with a lockup and a ritual toss of the key into the River Seine below. Meanwhile, hereabouts in North Montrose, the “Love Lock” scene on the Rosemont Bridge over Buffalo Bayou just west of Downtown appears to be just getting started — the Buffalo Bayou Park version appears to be well behind copycat venues in other cities. While crossing the longer section of the bridge yesterday, Twitter user marathonjohn found 20 to 30 locks attached to the pedestrian crossing’s supports. Here are pics of a few of the ritual lockups he spotted:
A couple of simulatedfly-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: