05/07/15 4:15pm

Mural by Wiley Robertson, 3301 Cline St., Fifth Ward, Houston

A couple of brick walls adjacent to the Lower Fifth Ward home of online retailer Spectrum Audio are now graced with a mural meant to pay tribute to an earlier Upper Fifth Ward audio enterprise. Peacock Records, founded in 1949 by Don Robey, captured recordings by Big Mama Thornton, James Booker, Little Richard, and other jazz and gospel artists at its studio at 2809 Erastus St. — now the home of Charity Baptist Church. A couple miles to the southwest at 3301 Cline St., artist Wiley Robertson painted a version of the record label’s Peacock logo — adjacent to another of his signature “Love” murals:

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Sounds of the Fifth
05/04/15 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE ART OF OBTAINING CITY PERMITS Moving House for Fifth Ward Jam“When Havel Ruck Projects was commissioned to create ‘Fifth Ward Jam,’ it was under the premise that it was temporary (although 5th Ward CRC decided to keep and maintain it). We needed to obtain a permit to move the shack we used for the piece to the empty lot where it stands today. With the help of Fifth Ward CRC, we met with city permit people and discussed that we were not creating a dwelling, but a work of art. They said we needed a building permit to move the house. We said it was our desire that we did not need a building permit after moving the house because it was going to be made into a work of art. So, saying they never have done this before, they wrote us up a creative permit that deemed the house a dwelling while it was being picked up and moved, but it would be officially deemed an ‘art structure’ after it was on the site, thus allowing us not to need building permits to construct the piece. With a little education and persuasion, the permit people can be pretty accommodating . . . seems back in the day, us artists did stuff and then apologized later.” [Dan Havel, commenting on Saving Houston’s Unzoned Artistic Spirit] Illustration: Lulu

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?
03/30/15 1:30pm

Townhomes Under Construction, 400 Bayou St., Fifth Ward, Houston

How did these townhomes under construction on the northeast corner of Bayou and Baron streets in the Fifth Ward come by their extra-long, tongue-like driveways? It’s not exactly clear, but the reader who sent these pix of the project and its rather prominent culvert-leaping flatwork thinks the answer might have something to do with a willingness to build well past the property line — or at least a lack of familiarity with where the property line actually is. The orange complex across the street, in the background of the photo above, is the Kennedy Place Apartments. Here’s a view of the townhomes from that side, looking east:

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Just Add Street
01/06/15 1:30pm

Variance Sign for Living Green, MDI Superfund Site, 3617 Baer St., Fifth Ward, Houston

Signs have gone up around the former metal foundry site at 3617 Baer St. in the Fifth Ward indicating that a hearing is scheduled for this Thursday to get city approval for the latest rejiggering of homesites on the 35-acre tract. Developer Frank Liu of Lovett Homes, InTown Homes, and a few other local builder brands plans to put a total of 538 homes (down from 589) on the EPA-monitored property, known as the MDI Superfund Site after the last owner of the metal-casting operations, Many Diversified Interests, which shut down in the early 1990s (previously, the plants were owned by TESCO). The property, which lies just south of I-10 about 2 miles of east of downtown, was listed on the EPA’s list of priority Superfund sites in 1999, after tests showed the soil and groundwater was contaminated with lead and other hazardous metals.

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Living Green
12/23/14 3:15pm

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A teaser website is now up and more work is underway on the Residences at Hardy Yards, touted as a component of the Near Northside’s very first mixed-use development. The apartments — “part of a comprehensive, mixed-use redevelopment of the Hardy Rail Yard site,” per city documents — are going in on 5 acres of the long-neglected former Southern Pacific and Union Pacific rail yard near the corner of N. Main St. and Burnett St., 2 blocks north of I-10, hard by the new MetroRail line, and just east of UH-Downtown. 

Earlier this month City Council approved a performance-based loan of $14,500,000 in federal hurricane relief money to the Houston and Financing Corporation-created entity HY FS LLC to build a 350-residential unit development on part of the 49-acre recently guerrilla-gardened property.

One condition of the loan: that 179 of the total of 350 one- and 2-bedroom units be affordable:

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Tracks To Flats
11/12/14 12:00pm

Proposed Community Park at Kelly Village Housing Development, 3118 Green St., Fifth Ward, Houston

Signs are now up along the feeder road of the East Fwy. near Gregg St., a reader tells Swamplot, announcing an impending construction project on the site where last year demolition crews removed 63 units belonging to the Kelly Village Apartments that had been left to decay after sustaining damage from Hurricane Ike. Scheduled to go up soon in its place is the $800,000 freeway-side park illustrated above, which was announced last year. The 3-acre site near the confluence of I-10 and Hwy. 59 will include a playground, jogging and walking trails, exercise spots, and a community garden.

Rendering: Houston Housing Authority

A Park at Kelly Village
08/19/14 4:45pm

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Surreal artwork and rustic structural components left exposed seem to meld into a single composition within the Fifth Ward home and studio of artist Bert Long Jr., who died in February 2013. Fifteen years ago, the attached double-shotgun row houses had been painstakingly renovated (and combined) as the year-long thesis project of Brett Zamore, then a Rice University graduate architecture student. Long, who grew up nearby and was returning to Houston at the time, bought the property near the end of its transformation but before an art studio was added — for $30,000 $70,000 — and lived there with his wife, artist Joan Batson. The mixed-use property is located in the Pinecrest Court neighborhood near Wheatley High School, east of Waco St. and south of I-10. It was listed for sale this morning, with an asking price of $200,000.

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Home and Studio
01/23/14 10:30am

DeLuxe Theater, 3300 Lyons Ave., Fifth Ward, Houston

And look — all it took was a little uh, clearance from the city. You can see the working arm of the excavator inside what used to be the innards of the DeLuxe Theater at 3300 Lyons Ave. in this photo from this morning sent to Swamplot by a reader. Long the focus of various repurposing plans, the shell now appears ready for its latest renovation project.

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Innards Out
10/08/13 12:00pm

A reader sends these photos of the dirt that’s been moved at the corner of Meadow and Baron, where a rep from Urban Lofts says a new pack of townhouses will soon stand. (Presales haven’t yet begun.) West of Jensen and just a few blocks north of the former KBR property, the site bumps up against Swiney Park; it’s catty-corner from another 30 Urban Lofts townhouses on Sydnor, all of which have sold.

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09/19/13 1:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ROLLING OUT A NEW PIECE OF THE FIFTH WARD “Did y’all know that Montrose used to be within the 4th Ward, or that Midtown and EaDo used to be mostly within the 3rd Ward? The neighborhood that the original commenter referred to (south of I-10, west of Bringhurst) needs to be rebranded because it actually is different in character and is affected by different factors than what exists north of I-10. And I really hate to say that because it’ll pick up some cliched cutesy-ass name at some tremendous expense to the community in consulting fees. But as I can see from the comments on this thread, the results would amply compensate for the expense and embarrassment.” [TheNiche, commenting on Comment of the Day Runner-Up: Throwing Out Some Numbers on the Fifth Ward] Illustration: Lulu

09/17/13 11:45am

A reader sends in photos of a purty sunset lighting up this building’s “new paint and wood” in the Fifth Ward, right across Clinton Dr. from the former KBR site and its improved dirt. And what’s all this paint and wood gonna be for? A pizza place? Taco stand? The reader can only speculate: “Keep asking the construction folks when they are around but they don’t know. If you notice on top of the building they added a brand new ventilation/AC system, so we hope something starts soon.”

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08/16/13 2:30pm

Here’s a short documentary, uploaded at the end of July, about a group of Fifth Warders doing “guerrilla gardening” — as one shovel-wielding fella describes it — on a bit of the Hardy Yards, that 50-acre patch of former Union Pacific rail yard off Burnett St., just north of Downtown.

Video: Aprill Renee