11/14/17 11:45am

More new features are imagined for the center of Houston than just the new Green Loop highlighted in the just-released Plan Downtown proposal. There’s also a mysterious new Downtown island. Where did it come from?

It’s the result of digging the long-whispered North Canal Channel Bypass, a re-linking of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous north of Downtown. Existing bends and narrow banks along the 2 bayous just east of Main St. restrict the flow of stormwater during flooding events. According to reports, engineering studies have estimated that cutting a straighter diversion channel to bypass the oxbow could reduce flooding Downtown by 3.5 ft.

But digging a new canal while maintaining the existing path of the bayou would create an island out of the area just north of Commerce St. An imagined map of the area in Plan Downtown’s report (rotated so North is aimed down and to the right) shows what car and pedestrian bridges might link it to the mainland:

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Plan Downtown
10/20/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW LAST NIGHT’S A$AP MOB SHOW ON THE WHITE OAK MUSIC HALL LAWN MIGHT’VE BROUGHT DOWN THE HOUSE “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. WOMH should cut a deal fast to make major sound mitigation improvements before the court and the City shuts them down. People on both sides of I-45 are hopping mad about the concert last night. It is a huge roll of the dice to expect a bunch of jurors to say: ‘Yeah, a big concert venue in the middle of a residential neighborhood is no big deal.’” [Old School, commenting on FEMA Aid Deadline Extended; Pre-Trial Outdoor Shows Can Go On at White Oak Music Hall; Hakeem Olajuwon in the Red Mango Biz] Video clip of last night’s outdoor concert (NSFW): FIRST CLASS BEATS

08/11/17 11:15am

The new Holiday Inn Express about to begin construction at 3401 N. Main St. in the Near Northside will have some consistently quiet neighbors and some occasionally very loud ones — with the steady drone of the adjacent North Fwy. available to somehow bridge the gap. The 1.44-acre site, where the Casa Grande Mexican Restaurant stood until it was torn down 2 years ago (and Stuarts Drive-In before it), sits across N. Main St. from the Hollywood Cemetery (yes, the same cemetery featured in Wes Anderson movie Rushmore). And it’s just a bit more than a quarter-mile up N. Main from the White Oak Music Hall complex, whose outdoor concert habit spurred nearby residents kept up late at night by the noise to file suit against the venue — and later, the city of Houston — for failing to follow (and enforce) local sound ordinances.

Late last month, crews removed the concrete paving left behind after the Casa Grande demolition (see photos above). Just this week, a city permit was granted for a 58,929-sq.-ft., 95-room Holiday Inn Express on the site — up 10 rooms from the 85 promised a couple of years ago, when the developers submitted these drawings as part of an application for a variance that would allow them not to have to extend or widen Norma St., on the north end of the lot:

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Near Near Northside
07/18/17 5:15pm

Currently listed for an undisclosed amount on CBRE’s website: a 10.69-acre chunk of the former Union Pacific railyard brownfield property previously sketched up for future conversion to the Hardy Yards mixed-use development. The section up for grabs appears to snuggle up to the west against a piece of land owned by Metro, whose Burnett Transit Center and light-rail Red Line are elevated above that semi-catching segment of N. Main St. tunnel; the parcel extends east to the new-ish segments of Fulton and Leona St., likely not too far from the spot where that rail car full of lithium batteries blew up back in April.

On the other side of the site, meanwhile, the Residences at Hardy Yards apartments are under construction, per photos from the Zieben Group published back in May:

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Near Northside Reallocations
05/25/17 2:00pm

Not to be outdone by last week’s midday plug-up of the Alfred Hernandez Tunnel beneath the railroad tracks and the Burnett TC Red Line stop, another semi making its way through the passage got lodged in the tunnel late this morning — getting torn open end-to-end in the process. But that’s not even the first truck stuckage incident at the underpass in the last 24 hours, according to a reader who’s had both a camera and a Twitter account trained on the recently retooled intersection for at least the last few months.

The reader tells Swamplot that another truck got stuck briefly last night, and that it happens about 6 times a week: “Our camera system auto-wakes when it hears something beyond a certain threshold; most drive away, presumably nervous[ly] on their way to have a talk with the boss.” Some work on the tunnel has been on the city’s docket this spring, and was approved at a mid-April meeting; that’s likely to start around the end of the month. 

Here’s the scene from above as of early this afternoon:

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Near-Daily Grind in Near Northside
04/24/17 12:45pm

RAIL CAR OF ‘NONHAZARDOUS’ MATERIAL BLOWS UP BY THE RAILROAD-THEMED HARDY YARDS SITE Fire Fight near Hardy Yards, Near Northside, Houston, 77009Union Pacific gives KHOU the answer to yesterday’s entry in the semi-regular citywide game of what’s-that-mysterious-cloud-of-smoke: a railcar loaded with lithium batteries headed to a recycling plant, which caught fire and exploded early Sunday evening. The blowout happened on a stretch of tracks skirting the southern edge of the former railyard now being redeveloped into the Hardy Yards mixed use area (complete with artsy homages to the land’s brownfield past). The explosion cracked walls and took out some windows at at least one house nearby on Chapman St. south of the tracks, in the strip of otherwise-mostly-industrial properties north of I-10 between N. Main St. and the reincarnating Elysian St. bridge. Nobody seems to have been seriously injured; the exploding batteries themselves are technically considered non-hazardous material, a Union Pacific spokesman notes. [KHOU; previously on Swamplot] Photo of yesterday’s firefight near Hardy Yards: Air Alliance Houston

04/18/17 11:30am

Demo of Elysian St. Viaduct, Near Northside/Downtown, Houston, 77002

The rapidly disappearing elevated segment of Elysian St. pointing north out of Downtown is the latest aging roadway structure to be crumbled apart, though it won’t be the last. But death is a natural part of the Houston roadway cycle! And a healthier, brawnier replacement viaduct is planned to take its place along roughly the same right-of-way — this one with broad shoulders and a sidewalk. TxDOT spokesman Danny Perez told Houston Public Media‘s Gail DeLaughter last month that work on the new structure, which connects Downtown to Near Northside by funneling drivers over Buffalo Bayou and I-10, should start before the demo of the mile-and-a-half-long original wraps up.

hunched excavator was spotted helping to bring the aging bridge down from above:

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Traffic Cycles in Near Northside
04/10/17 11:30am

Bible Days Church, 501 Quitman St., Near Northside, Houston, 77009Bible Days Church, 501 Quitman St., Near Northside, Houston, 77009

Bible Days Church, 501 Quitman St., Near Northside, Houston, 77009Showing up on the market this month, just in time for Easter: a couple of buildings and lots belonging to Bible Days Revival Church, formally located at or around 501 Quitman St. in Near Northside. The church gives 1935 as the construction date for at least one of the included structures up for grabs, which sit on a block along the northern light-rail line next to a formerly Exxon-branded gas station. Along with the sanctuary, the new listings include a few multifamily structures and empty lots: 

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Come Into the Light-Rail
02/16/17 3:00pm

Saint Arnold Brewing Company Expansion renderings, 2104 Lyons Ave., Near Northside, Houston, 77020Saint Arnold Brewing Company Expansion renderings, 2104 Lyons Ave., Near Northside, Houston, 77020

A fresh batch of renderings from the Office of James Burnett have been filed with the city planning commission this month as part of Saint Arnold Brewing Company’s request for a setback variance for that previously mentioned beer garden next door. Early permits have been trickling in since last fall for the ex-tow lot at 2104 Lyons Ave., across Semmes St. from the brewery’s new-ish downtown headquarters in the former HISD Food Service building (even more formerly the home of the Bemis Bag Company).

The new designs show what might be the site’s intended layout, including a restaurant structure which dissolves into an outdoor patio and garden space, a set of bocce courts, and more parking, including an area set aside for display of art cars (as shown up top featuring the company’s own tie-dye vehicles). Here’s the full tentative layout:

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Gardens of Fifth Ward
01/26/17 11:15am

WHITE OAK MUSIC HALL’S OUTDOOR SOUNDMAKING CAPPED UNTIL TRIAL IN MAY White Oak Music Hall Lawsuit Map, Near NorthsideThe judge judging the lawsuit filed by some Near Northside residents against White Oak Music Hall has issued another temporary injunction this week, this time limiting the venue to no more than 2 events on the venue’s outdoor Lawn area between now and May 15th, according to a document filed with the county clerk’s office. That means the Pixies show recently announced for April will still happen as planned (though the venue will have to pay for sound monitoring to prove they’re not passing city decibel limits, or cranking up the bass more than the order allows). Chris Gray writes that outdoor shows at the Raven Tower aren’t affected, as long as they comply with the volume and vibration metrics; a press release from the venue says all the indoor shows at both venues are still on as well. [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Image of map submitted in Theresa Cavin et al v. White Oak Events, LLC: Harris County District Clerk’s office

12/21/16 1:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: COMPARING THE INGREDIENTS IN HOUSTON’S NIMBY STANCES White Oak Music Hall Lawsuit Map, Near Northside“Just amazing what our city can do in [terms of] jeopardizing huge sums of taxpayer money to help Southampton fight off developers and laughable amounts of ‘increased traffic’ — and then turn a blind eye to communities having to do garage and bake sales just to fight to keep their children’s sanity and dignity.” [joel, commenting on Ban and Bake Sale for White Oak Music Hall; Hurricane Ike’s Last Blue Tarps] White Oak Music Hall lawsuit map: Harris County District Clerk’s office

12/15/16 12:30pm

womh-lawsuit-map-large

A lawsuit filed yesterday by a group of 9 residents of the area around White Oak Music Hall asks for both a temporary and permanent stop on the construction and permitting of the permanent outdoor stage planned for the venue, as well as its required entourage of new bathrooms. The suit also asks for a stop on all other amplified outdoor events at the complex (including those on the other smaller outdoor stages by bar-on-a-stick Raven Tower), and for damages related to noise nuisance issues — allegedly including sleep deprivation and bass-fueled vibrations strong enough to rattle windows and picture frames. (There’s also an affidavit from a schoolteacher in support of the plaintiffs’ contention that a neighborhood child diagnosed with a specific condition has been suffering panic attacks directly related to the noise.)

The map above of the area around Little White Oak Bayou‘s I-45 crossunder was included with the group’s filing. The map shows the 2-part venue’s stages in red and Raven Tower in its signature blue, along with some quarter-mile radius circles drawn over the sea of orange residential land; pink is for parking lots, and yellow shows the venue’s Lawn area.

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Stage Fight
11/18/16 4:15pm

Air New Zealand Houston Piece

The glossed-up scene above, which shows a pushing-its-limits White Oak Bayou flirting with the lower edge of the Height Hike and Bike Trail bridge, made an appearance in this month’s edition of Kia Ora, Air New Zealand’s in-flight magazine. A sky-high peruser on Reddit noticed the article, which is currently employing the flood photo to promote Houston and several other Texas cities as tourist destinations. The original source looks to be a Getty Images contributor who captioned the shot (along with another expansively aquatic view from 2015) as stock images of Downtown Houston in the rain. For comparison with the normal scenic view of Downtown’s northernmost freeway tangle, below is a recent shot of that trail construction near the Leonel Castillo Community Center, which caught the same angle and foliage (minus the high water, but plus some heavy equipment):

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Water Under the Bridge
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