01/10/17 2:45pm

Tarkett Site, Katyville, Houston, 77007
Tarkett Site, Katyville, Houston, 77007This afternoon a wall of orange and white barricades along the edge of the Heights hike & bike trail just south of I-10 is hemming in the construction equipment recently migrated onto Tarkett’s former Texas Tile Manufacturing warehouse site. Permits for some earthmoving on the former industrial side were issued just before the close of the year under the name Lower Heights District, and the Katyville property showed up on last week’s city planning commission agenda for some preliminary approvals and flood-potential scrutiny. No official word yet whether the site’s owner’s previous mention of stacked big box possibilities is still on the table.

Reader and tower scrutinizer Lucky Gutierrez also took a closer look at the oil derrick hanging around next to the site, on the edge of the bike trail:

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Grading Katyville Heights
11/08/16 1:30pm

Hardy Yards, Near Northside, Houston, 77026

Not many signs of the buildings yet — but Chris Andrews notes the new benches, sidewalks, and railyard-themed signage recently installed in the formerly-a-railyard Hardy Yards site, along some initial roadways laid out for that planned mixed-use redevelopment complex. The signage above, complete with what appear to be segments of decorative rail track, is at the corner of now-extended Chapman and Leona streets.  Here’s a look at a new industrial-chic bike rack installed nearby, with a bonus glimpse of a few of the warehouses along parallel-ish Burnett St. visible to the north:

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Tracking Near Northside
07/07/16 2:30pm

MIDWAY: GIANT FIFTH WARD KBR SITE WON’T BE CALLED NORTHBANK BUFFALO BAYOU, BUT SOMETHING ELSE MIGHT Former KBR Campus, 4100 Clinton Dr., Fifth Ward, HoustonA representative from Midway tells Swamplot that, while the company has been working on a trademark for the name Northbank Buffalo Bayou, it won’t be used for whatever the company is planning for the 136-acre former KBR site in Fifth Ward (which was recently bought by a Midway affiliate). The name is actually connected to another project floating around on the company’s drawing board — no confirmation yet as to exactly where that development might be located, if it comes to be, but the north bank of Buffalo Bayou seems like a reasonable guess. Wherever the moniker is applied, the US Patent and Trademark Office lists the name as intended for use related to both commercial and residential real estate marketing and construction. Also on the list of things the brand could be used for: wine and food tastings, and presenting live musical performances. [Previously on Swamplot] Listing photo of KBR site: LoopNet

07/05/16 10:00am

Former KBR Campus, 4100 Clinton Dr., Fifth Ward, Houston

Whatever’s in store for the 136-acre former KBR site along the the Ship Channel at 4100 Clinton Dr., CityCentre developer Midway now looks to be involved. Documents filed with the county clerk’s office near the end of May reveal that Cathexis Holdings recently sold the site to KBRN, an entity connected to Midway through a recently minted corporate partnership (and officially located down the hall from Midway’s CityCentre office.)

And might Midway — which also heads the team that turned failed Downtown Mall Houston Pavilions into GreenStreet, and is developing the Kirby Grove park-and-office-building complex along the banks of the Southwest Fwy. in Upper Kirby — have some big office-shopping-residential-and-park-y plans in mind for this vast property, which lies about a mile and a half downstream from Downtown? A couple of clues are out there:

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Sold on the Ship Channel
05/05/16 2:30pm

WHERE THE HECK IS HOUSTON’S BIOTECH BOOM? TMC Commons Parking Garage, 6550 Bertner Ave, Houston, TX 77030Almost $3 billion in new construction projects are underway in the Texas Medical Center, says Roxanna Asgarian in last month’s Houstonia. The district is known as the world’s largest cluster of medical practice and research facilities — but “what the TMC is not known for,” writes Asgarian, “is turning that research into new drugs and devices . . . The situation is, in many respects, baffling. All the major building blocks for a thriving biotech industry exist here, including huge clinical and research institutions, world-renowned physicians and researchers, highly skilled engineers, and a bustling business community. So what’s missing?” [Houstonia] Photo of Texas Medical Center Commons parking garage at 6550 Bertner Ave.: Texas Medical Center

04/20/16 3:45pm

Sims Metal Management Proler Southwest Scrap Recycling Facility, 90 Hirsch Rd, Galena Park, Houston, 77052

Bryan Parras snagged some after-shots of Buffalo Bayou’s up-and-down number near Tony Marron Park just east of Hirsch Rd. this week, as the rain let up on Monday afternoon and again yesterday morning. Across the channel on the north bank is the Sims Metal Management’s Proler Southwest recycling facility, whose scrap piles shown above were still soaking their toes beneath the freshly-elevated water line at the time of the Monday photos.

Below is a view of both the park’s trails and the Sims facility, looking east from the Hirsch bridge across the bayou’s confluence with somewhat-redecorated Japhet Creek from the north:

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Piled High in Fifth Ward
03/04/16 10:30am

hell-or-high-water-screenshot

Predicted Before and After Flood Map, 500 Year Flood Event

That’s Galveston Island going for a dip in the before-and-after captures above, from a set of interactive timelapse maps released by the Texas Tribune and ProPublica yesterday (along with several articles by authors Kiah Collier and Neena Satija). The new maps model flooding across the Houston region during Hurricane Ike — as well as what would have happened if Ike had actually hit just south of Houston, as meteorologists initially expected.

The maps are your chance to relive an old disaster, or to see how many of your neighbors you can take out with a hypothetical-but-not-unrealistic future storm: users can pick between Ike, south-er Ike, a storm 15% stronger than Ike (nicknamed Mighty Ike), and a modeled 500-year storm (which the article suggests may actually be a concern on the every-few-decades-or-so level; ‘500-year’ has always meant ‘a low probability in any year’, and climate change is shaking up old modeling assumptions). The graphics also include a few dramatic face-offs:  Mighty Ike and the 500-year storm VS. 2 of the miles-long multi-billion-dollar coastal protection projects being studied for the upper Texas coast.

You can even search for your home address in the map system to see what flood levels might look like in your own back yard. Here’s what the maps show happening to the Clear Lake, Seabrook, and League City areas at the peak of the 500-year storm model’s storm surge, which the article says is a “not if, but when” event:

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Hell and High Water
06/11/15 1:00pm

broadstone-tinsley-park-aerial

Former Brownfield Site at 801 and 1701 Gillette St., Fourth Ward, HoustonThe complicated transaction that allowed the city to sell the 10.52-acre brownfield site along Allen Parkway between the Federal Reserve building and Allen Parkway Village to an apartment developer was concluded in late April, the Houston Business Journal‘s Paul Takahashi reports. Alliance Residential paid $39.9 million for the property along Gillette St., where the city began operating a solid waste incinerator in the 1920s and later converted the site for use as its fleet maintenance facility. The company immediately sold the northern 6 acres to an unnamed private investor; Alliance now plans to build a 365-unit apartment complex on the southern half of the property, fronting Gillette and West Dallas St.

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Fourth Ward
03/27/14 11:00am

Phosphogypsum Hill Near South Phosphogypsum Stack Complex, Pasadena, Texas

Cite magazine editor Raj Mankad leads readers on a brief photo tour of “one of the most mind-boggling sites in the Houston area.” Hills, in Pasadena! “Many of the slopes are planted with grass,” he writes. “On one visit several years ago, I saw a horse grazing at the base of one. If I squinted, I could imagine myself in Montana, if not the Alps.

Better than a waiting-for-snow ski resort, though, these landforms north of Hwy. 225 inside Beltway 8 east of Red Bluff Rd. on the south side of the Houston Ship Channel are made of phosphogypsum. Phosphogypsum is a byproduct of the production of phosphate fertilizers, which took place on the site between 1960 and 2011, under the successive stewardship of a series of companies including ExxonMobil and Agrifos. Why was all this gypsum kept in mountainous piles instead of stuffed into wallboards or something? Well, the EPA doesn’t allow that if the material is too radioactive, which phosphogypsum generally is. So the glowy stuff has to be stored somewhere.

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There’s Glow in Them Thar Hills