Here’s one way to make a graphic comparison of the tight-knit electric streetcar routes that crisscrossed tiny 1895 Houston (pop. 44,643) to today’s more spindly 22.7-mile light-rail network: Zoom way in, so that Buffalo and White Oak Bayous, not the more familiar target-like succession of looping freeways, appear as the major urban landscape feature — and stops in the Museum District and at UH line up at the edge of the frame like far-flung commuter suburbs. That’s the approach New York-based serial transit-system cartographer Jake Berman has taken in his latest in a series of now-and-then rail comparisons, also suitable for framing.
The light at the end of the N. Main St. tunnel beneath the Union Pacific Line was obscured for a bit this morning where the northbound side of the road re-emerges into tossed-coffee-cup range of the Burnett Transit Center light-rail stop (atop the topmost overpass in the shot above.) The semi that briefly plugged the hole looks to have scraped its way through the entire length of the tunnel before getting stuck at the northern exit. Transtar pinned the stopup to about 10:38 this morning; not much had changed as of 40 minutes ago (see below), but the road is now marked by professional traffic-watchers as cleared.
METRO is currently seeking some public input on replacing the Reliant Park light-rail stop’s outdated moniker. The agency’s preface to the poll notes that the naming rights to the station itself were never a part of Reliant’s $300-million park-branding deal back in 2002, and says any new name “needs to be reflective of the area, but should not include any reference to a corporate entity which might require another change in years to come.”
Setting aside any potential consideration of that plan from a reader to go ahead and get nearly 30 potential future name changes over with at once, the nominated names currently in the running are (drumroll):
Chris Andrews has caught a few snapshots of what appears to be a soil sampling crew at work at 1901 N. Main St., formerly the site of Uncle Johnny’s Good Cars. Most of the 37,679-sq.-ft. property, occupying the block on the east side of N. Main between Hogan and Gargan streets (including the 1950s auto shop and the next door 1930s Beer’s Building), was transferred to a legal entity called Cerveza Four in May of 2015. Shortly thereafter, Keller Williams Realty posted the cheerily-soundtracked video listing below showing the ins and outs of the property, nestled between the Casa De Amigos city health clinic to the south and the former home of Alamo Thrifty Bail Bonds (now bike shop HAM Cycles 2) across Gargan:
In response to word from the Chronicle‘s Dug Begley this week that the Red Line’s Reliant Park light-rail stop might get its station name updated to an even older name, a Swamplot reader jumps on the case with a system-wide list of potential station name changes that might remain unaffected by the sale, rebranding, or demise of any nearby venues or landmarks. Begley notes it could cost Metro around $486,000 to change the Reliant Park stop’s signage. The agency says it would prefer to make the switch at the same time as 2 other station name changes currently under consideration (if they’re approved) — but not until after the Super Bowl, for which a set of cheaper temporary stickers will be deployed to help visitors find NRG Stadium.
The reader, in the spirit of Houston’s budding redesign-it-yourself urban planning scene, suggests that paying up now to swap out all the names that might become a problem later might actually be a long-term cost-saver. The proposed scheme makes sure every station name mentions a cross-street (or maybe a bayou), and keeps some references to existing transit centers,parks, or neighborhoods.
Here’s the full list of suggested switch-outs, separated by rail line, with the current names on the left:
Like the looks of the conceptual drawing above, showing one of the possible ways to dress up HBDi’s Palm Center on Griggs Rd.? Or think you’ve got a better idea, and the real estate connections to pull it off? Adolfo Pesquera notes a current call for proposals from developers interested in redoing the site — you’ve got until early October to submit your own plan.
The changes wouldn’t happen all at once: HBDi’s documents show that it hopes to split up the work into a few different phases, dependent on how the economy looks. The first order of business would be to pretty up the old buildings on the site; the next phase would include adding a plaza and some office space, followed by the addition of whatever mix of office, retail, residential, and medical space is eventually selected. Though most of the images included with the proposal guidelines are speculative, HBDi’s conceptual drawings do show some of the more concrete plans for the site, which is the last stop on Metro’s Purple Line:
Previous plans for the University Line show it running from the Wheeler Red Line station along Richmond to Cummins St., where a turn south would take the line down to Westpark Dr. before continuing out to the Hillcroft Transit Center just past 59 — connecting along the way to the also-stalledUptownrail-turned-bus-line). The Richmond part of the route includes a 1.7 mile stretch west of S. Shepherd Dr. that falls in Culberson’s district; the rest of the route to Hillcroft falls within 7th district territory as well.
This week’s video release from hometown country singer Robert Ellis takes viewers on a forlorn wandering tour of Houston’s downtown and surrounding thoroughfares, sans all of those pesky people and cars. Iconic cameos include the AIA’s future headquarters on the corner of Franklin and Commerce streets, the WALD warehouse sign at Live Oak and Rusk streets, and Bad News Bar on Main St.; the video also includes a hike down a dead-empty I-45 and associated entrance ramps, several frantic light-rail stops, and a dramatic reunion on the pedestrian bridge over Memorial Dr. at Sabine St.
The recent restoration of the Hardy Yards district sign’s upright stature and youthful good looks appears to have been short-lived — Christopher Andrews found the H sprawled flat on its back over the weekend, with a few of the other letters also looking less than fully vertical in the late-night shot above (peering east down Burnett St. from the corner with N. Main under the light-rail overpass). Metro says it’s on the case, again.
Downtown light-rail riders: Your patronage of public transit isn’t enough. A giant billboard covering most of the facade of the 2-story building at 312 Main St. now urges passengers emerging from the northbound Preston stop to get rid of their vehicles altogether. The unassuming Houston Site Acquisitions storefront has scrapped its own above-door signage in favor of a story-high ad for Texas Direct Auto, complete with oversized doggie in the window.
Large-scale advertising for businesses not currently in the building is nothing new for this block of Main St.: Just next door, the sky-high neon above perpetually hungover neighbors Dean’s and Notsuoh still heralds the days of credit clothing retail. But the Texas Direct Auto ad incorporates the structure of the building itself, placing the large image of a small dog behind an actual window visible through a cutout in the wrap:
With a row of Downtown towers looking on from the south, 2 lanes are being added to Burnett St., along the northern boundary of the 50-acre site formerly known as the Hardy Rail Yards. The thickening runs between N. Main St. and Hardy St. At the western end of that stretch, next to the Burnett Transit Center stop on the Red Line’s northern extension, a new baby intersection has been born at Freeman St. just in front of the rail overpass, just up a ways from the N. Main tunnel: