WAS IT A GOOD IDEA TO DERAIL I-10? Earlier this week Harris County Judge Ed Emmett appeared to pass judgment on one aspect of the Katy Fwy. wideningcompleted almost a decade ago: “We cannot go back in time and undo some poor decisions, but we can learn from those decisions. One of the most glaring mistakes was the failure to convert the abandoned Katy rail line to commuter rail. Think about it, we had a straight shot from Katy all the way into Downtown.” But ripping up the tracks did not render a future rail line along the path of I-10 completely impossible, notes Dug Begley: “Though the rail line was removed, Metropolitan Transit Authority paid for overpasses along I-10 to be built to rail standards, meaning that if the region ever wanted to use the freeway for light rail, that is possible. Larger, commuter, trains, however would not be able to operate in the freeway.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: cemaxx (license)
Carvana has confirmed that the work going on now at the former Big Tex Tree Nursery lot at 10939 Katy Fwy. is setup for the giant car vending machine referenced in September bid documents labeled with the site’s address. Building permits issued in January were applied for under the name of largely-non-digital used-car chain DriveTime, an investor in the Phoenix-based startup that also allows Carvana to borrow facilities to prepare vehicles for sale.
The new vending machine could be the first in Texas; Carvana opened a vending machine in Nashville last November, and also has a pickup site in Atlanta for those who don’t want to deal with delivery service. A reader sends some fresh shots of the action at the site, as well as a glimpse at a building plan:
Update, 3/2: A Carvana spokesperson has confirmed to Swamplot that the company’s first Houston vending machine will be located at 10939 Katy Fwy. This story has been updated.
Online car dealership Carvana appears to have been planning to place a multi-story robotic car delivery system on the I-10-side lot that Big Tex Tree Nursery vacated after the December holidays wrapped up. A reader notes some construction bid documentation dating from September listing a project for the company at the 10939 Katy Fwy. address: The documents show a search for construction contractors for a ‘car vending machine’, scoped to involve multi-level car storage and an automated lift to bring vehicles down to the 1st floor on command.
But it looks like those plans fell through — at least as far as the location on the former Big Tex lot. Permits were issued last month to non-digital car dealer chain DriveTime for construction of a new sales building on the site. DriveTime currently has 4 locations around the Houston area, including one further west on the Katy Fwy. past Highway 6.
Carvana plugged in its first vending machine in Nashville last November, after jumping into the Houston market in October. The above video shows the Tennessee machine in action: cars are shuffled down from their glassy perch after users place a Carvana token into a coin slot.
This flag-flying 12-story tower planned for the under-development Block 10 West Office Park might end up hiding the renovations underway on the former Great Indoors, which you can see peeking out in the distance in the rendering above.Real Estate Bisnow’s Catie Dixon reports that Hicks Ventures is building out the out-of-business big box into a 2-story, 245,000-sq.-ft. spec office building. Plans include the construction of a 5-level parking garage behind the new building and a 6-level garage between it and this proposed I-10-facing tower.
Here’s an aerial view of the park and its neighbors:
The city’s official new “Welcome to Houston” sign for travelers approaching from the east west was moved further west to Brookshire over the weekend, as the ginormous new Rooms To Go Super Center facing the Katy Freeway opened for business. The distribution center and store stretch a mere 1,600 ft. along the I-10 frontage road, directly across from the Igloo plant and almost 6 miles west of the Katy Mills Mall. The entire facility takes up more than 1,000,000 sq. ft. A quick partial drive-by view:
A reader directs our attention to this proposed 16-story office building facing the south side of the Katy Freeway, just outside the Loop — on the current site of a Houston’s First Baptist Church parking lot.
Hines plans to build the office building and an 11-level, 1,500-car parking garage on the lot, which the developer would lease from the church. The congregation has already voted to authorize church representatives to finalize and sign a 99-year ground lease for the property.
The garage would help solve the church’s chronic parking problems: According to the HFBC website, 300 cars currently park off-site on weekends. With the Hines development, the church would lose the 480 spaces in the lot now available during the week, but gain 1,500 spaces for church use on weekends and after office hours.
Below the fold, lots more images of the proposed office building and garage on HFBC property.