10/22/14 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT I SHOULD HAVE SAID ABOUT STRAKE JESUIT Suburban Bubble“If people want to self-segregate and move somewhere like The Woodlands, great. I’m glad they are free to do that. What I don’t understand is the myopia that self-segregation can create, when people forget that anyone would ever value anything else over clean and shiny (and white) suburbs. An example of what bothers me so much: I was leaving a Strake Jesuit football game earlier this year, and a Woodlands dad and I fell into conversation on the way out. He commented “this is such a great campus. Too bad it’s in this neighborhood.” As a SJ parent, I didn’t have any choice but to answer him politely, so I murmured something about how the lower property costs made it possible for the school to buy more land to improve and expand. But in reality, I was just incensed by his comments — still am, actually. What, a working class neighborhood doesn’t deserve something nice like a private school campus in it? The school has nothing to offer the neighborhood, and vice versa? The neighborhood has less value in absolute terms because it’s not wealthy, or aesthetically pleasing? What is it about living somewhere like The Woodlands that changes the way a person thinks, that they can look at the (abundant) life going on outside their clean little bubble and not recognize its value? I don’t have an answer to this question — it just bothers me an awful lot.” [Vonnegan, commenting on How The Woodlands Has Gone Astray; A Suitable Houston Honor for the Inventor of Air Conditioning] Illustration: Lulu

09/08/11 10:48am

SOMEBODY FORGED TURTLEWOOD SQUARE SIGNATURES, BUT IT WASN’T HOANG Who forged neighbor signatures on a petition circulated to change the name of Turtlewood Dr. to Little Saigon Dr.? Someone who submitted them to city council member Al Hoang, a preliminary inquiry by the city’s Office of the Investigator General has determined. The report, issued last week, also appears to clear Hoang of allegations that he abused city resources in seeking to get the name of his street — in a development called Turtlewood Square, south of Bellaire Blvd. just outside the Beltway — switched. A lawsuit filed by neighbors in the case will continue; the decision on whether to proceed with an investigation of the forgeries will be up to the district attorney’s office. [Houston Politics; more detail; previously on Swamplot] Photo: HAR

08/01/11 4:18pm

THE 5 PLACES IN HOUSTON WHERE YOU’RE MOST LIKELY TO RUN INTO PEDESTRIANS The intersections of Milam and Dallas, Milam and Prairie, and San Jacinto and Congress St. Downtown; Westheimer and McCue near the Galleria; and Bellaire and Corporate Dr. just inside Beltway 8 in Asiatown rank as the top locations for auto-pedestrian accidents, according to a Chronicle review of city records. A grand total of 2,204 collisions involving cars and people traveling on foot have taken place in Houston since 2008, resulting in a total of 174 pedestrian deaths. The deaths were concentrated differently, “along the U.S. Highway 59 corridor near West Park and along Interstate 45 North and I-10 East,” with 43 percent of them taking place on freeways or major highways. [Houston Chronicle]

07/15/11 3:21pm

Whatever happened to that Park 8 condo tower, hospital, and strip-mall development planned for Beltway 8 next to Arthur Storey Park, just south of Bellaire Blvd.? The Chronicle‘s Purva Patel surveys the wreckage of the self-styled “Land of Oz”: The highrise project has long been in bankruptcy, the contractor and lender are battling over ownership of the land in court, and 2 different groups of investors and condo buyers are suing developer David Wu for their investment losses (totaling more than $2 million), alleging he has or had no intention or ability to complete the project, and that he misled them about funding and leasing commitments. Neither Wu nor his attorney would respond to the reporter’s questions.

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06/20/11 12:02pm

THE NANNY DIDN’T DO IT In a statement released last Friday, council member Al Hoang clarifies statements he made earlier to the Chronicle and KHOU 11 News’s Jeremy Rogalski that appeared to place blame for the forging of 16 neighbors’ signatures on a nanny no longer employed by Hoang’s family. The signatures were gathered for a petition requesting the name of Hoang’s street be changed from Turtlewood Dr. to Little Saigon Dr. “I have never placed blame on my former personal assistant, as some stories have portrayed,” the statement reads. “I have clearly said that the homeowners association tendered the petition to my assistant at home, not that she maliciously forged that petition.” Hoang says he welcomes the Office of Inspector General investigation into the incident, which Mayor Parker announced last week. [Houston Politics; previously on Swamplot]

06/17/11 12:08pm

Update, 6/20: Hoang has issued a statement about his nanny.

Mayor Parker has requested a separate city investigation into whether council member Al Hoang forged the signatures of 16 neighbors in a bid to change the name of his street from Turtlewood Dr. to Little Saigon Dr. A petition requesting the name change was circulated among the residents of Turtlewood Square — a development of 47 nine-or-so-year-old homes located behind a Bellaire Blvd. strip center just west of Arthur Storey Park. A lawsuit filed by several residents of the development alleges that the when the petition was given to Hoang it didn’t have the signatures of the required 75 percent of residents. The lawsuit claims that by the time Hoang submitted the petition to the city, it had gained an additional 16 names — all forged. Hoang appears to have told 11 News reporter Jeremy Rogalski that he believes his nanny — who no longer works for him — was responsible for the extra names. After the allegations of forgery, Hoang submitted a direct request for the name change to the city’s planning department. The mayor has put both name change requests on hold pending resolution of the investigation.

Photo: HAR

05/10/10 5:45pm

University of Houston architecture professor Susan Rogers explores the Bellaire-Holcombe corridor from Highway 6 to the Med Center and finds a donut in her path.

For each census tract that intersects Holcombe or Bellaire Blvd., Rogers tallied the total number of residents born outside the United States and those residents’ country of origin, using 2000 Census data. The results surprised her:

Most of the action is in the zone between the Loop and the Beltway. “The diversity drops steeply inside 610,” she notes:

I had graphed the street from just 610 to Hwy. 6 for a talk on the links between Asia and Houston and then decided to add the rest as a potential “contrast” – what I found when I completed it absolutely astounded me – the absolute drop is so stark – and of course the income graph is nearly the exact opposite . . .

That graph showing median household income in the same census tracts:

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04/05/10 2:02pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: STILL WAITING FOR PARK 8 TO ARRIVE IN THE LAND OF OZ “Do you have any update on this project? I’m very curious to find out more about the status and what the projected outcome will be for the many buyers of this condo that is 3 years behind schedule.” [Caroling, commenting on Park 8 Chinatown Condo Project: Parked?] Rendering: Marketing Park8

03/13/09 9:23am

Here’s a surprise: a construction permit for a new 23-story Chinatown Asiatown condominium tower was issued yesterday for Park 8 Place. Remember Park8? That’s the freeway feeder megastrip project planned for just across Brays Bayou from Arthur Storey Park, along Beltway 8 south of Bellaire Blvd. The one that called itself “The Land of Oz.”

The entire development was supposed to include three 20-something-story residential towers, a hospital, two 2-story retail-and-office strips, and a couple of parking garages — all in a quaint freeway-and-park-side setting. A foundation was poured for the first condo building last year, but Park 8 CEO David Wu put the project on hold after he was unable to secure financing. So the construction crane came down.

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03/04/09 11:49am

FORGET IT, JAKE. IT’S ASIATOWN The Chronicle quietly debuts that new, more inclusive name for the pan-Asian strip along Bellaire Blvd. between 59 and Highway 6 formerly known as Chinatown: Asiatown. A recent email describing marauding, gun-toting, and noodle-slurping gangs in the area is wrong: “Janet Chiu, manager of Tan Tan, one of the purportedly robbed restaurants, said the tales caused business to drop by 20 percent. ‘It’s more Dead Town than Asiatown,’ she complained, voicing a strident denial that her cafe had been robbed.” [Houston Chronicle]

07/09/08 10:43am

Crane for Park 8, Beltway 8 Near Arthur Storey Park, Houston

Lou Minatti notes that the construction crane parked on the site of the Park 8 condo tower project on the west side of Beltway 8 between Bellaire and Beechnut has at long last been dismantled and removed. Is it time to say goodbye to the Land of Oz?

More bad news for fans of the 3-tower (plus hospital and strip center) project: The video originally embedded in our story about the project from last year is down too. But don’t worry . . . YouTube has a copy! See it again — and relive some of that Oz highrise magic — after the jump.

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06/30/08 9:48am

Jungle Cafe and Patisserie, Diho Square, Chinatown, Houston

Tasty Bits blogger Misha catches up with Diho Square on Bellaire:

Where else do you find Sichuan duck tongues, sushi, babh mi, bubble tea, vegetarian pork kidneys and French pastries within steps of each other?

On this (extended) visit: Sichuan Cuisine, Shanghai Restaurant, and the Pine Forest Garden Vegetarian Restaurant. But the Jungle Café & Pâtisserie warrants his closest attention:

I must have passed it a dozen times, but never thought to look inside. If I had, I would have found French-style pastries inflected with pokemon graphics, the likes of which I have never seen in Chinatown before or anywhere else in Houston for that matter.

After the jump: a few more photos from the scene.

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04/30/08 3:42pm

Turn by Turn Directions with Google Street View

Google has just added street-level photos to the driving directions available on Google Maps. This means — if you’re headed through an area covered by Google’s Street View — you can now use photographs of each intersection to guide your journey, with helpful arrows superimposed to show your path.

Though the areas covered by Street View in Houston were recently expanded, most inside-the-Loop neighborhoods are still not covered. Let’s say you’re at the new Pagoda Vietnamese restaurant near Cottage Grove, trying to find your way to Chinatown — you know, that neighborhood on Bellaire in southwest Houston, where all those Vietnamese restaurants are. If you plot your trip using Google maps, the directions won’t show photos of your first few turns. From I-10 on, though, you get preview photographs of every intersection. And you can pan and zoom around them, as if looking for oncoming traffic.

After the jump: A video from Google, showing how Street View directions work . . . and what they’re good for.

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04/30/08 10:28am

4705 Inker St., Houston

Discussing Vietnamese restaurants in Houston, Food in Houston’s Anonymouseater notes the upcoming launch of Pagoda Vietnamese Bistro and Bar — the latest addition to the agglomeration of restaurants off Shepherd and Durham, just south of I-10. But Pagoda appears to be struggling to gain its bearings. The restaurant’s website and menu claim:

We are the first authentic Vietnamese eatery west of downtown with a full menu comparative in traditional quality that can be found in Southeast Houston better known as Chinatown.

There’s more Houston neighborhood-related entertainment in Pagoda’s description of itself on its website:

Up and coming restaurant surely to be a neighborhood favorite to the Heights hippies, Midtown young professionals, Montrose eclectic crowd, Museum District artisans, River Oakies, and the Downtown/Allen Parkway industry professionals.

Anonymouseater provides a helpful summary — and preliminary verdict:

Translation: bringing Vietnamese food from Bellaire to a non-Asian audience with nice decor and high prices. Sounds like Vietopia? Those goals are not necessarily bad. But the food has to be compelling for it to work.

Photo of 4705 Inker St. (from 2006): HAR

04/24/08 1:12pm

Paradise Cafe, 9889 Bellaire Blvd No. 1128, Houston

A shopping center tucked off Bellaire Blvd. just inside Beltway 8 hosts a particularly intriguing restaurant row:

Within feet of Fu Fu Cafe are something like 7 or 8 eateries offering a bewildering range of options in just a single shopping strip. The gelato shop is right next to a bakery that sells French desserts, Chinese pastries and rice cakes that look like guerilla hand grenades. A restaurant a few doors down serves Braised Lion Head, a Shanghai pork meatball specialty cooked with Napa cabbage I have never come across and have yet to sample (no, it’s not made with real lion meat, I checked). Noodle House 88, which Robb Walsh swears serves some of the best Indonesian food in the country, is in the very same strip. If Indonesian food doesn’t suit you, you can order sushi from the same menu. A new dim sum place opened just days ago and already looks packed.

But some of these food establishments aren’t so accessible for newcomers, warns the author of the Tasty Bits blog:

Tucked in at the end of the strip Paradise Cafe looks almost impenetrable to a non-Chinese American. Other than the name and descriptive signs such as “noodles” and “soups”, the only real clue as to what is inside is a magazine article pasted in the window showing a chef pulling noodles by hand. I got a blank stare when I asked for a to go menu, making me even more curious. For all I know the article could have been about the importance of keeping a tidy kitchen, but the promise of hand made noodles was too much to ignore, so I made it my mission to figure out what was behind the iron curtain.

Keep reading for Tasty Bits’ lowdown on Paradise Cafe noodles!

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