- 315 Embry St. [HAR]
There’s been a Metro train siting at the new Quitman station of the North Line extension, just south of the train’s turnoff from North Main, reader Joel Balderas reports. Unlike earlier appearances, the train appears to be operating under its own power. Here’s the photo evidence:
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WITH OR WITHOUT LIGHT RAIL “I would dispute that the light rail has had any substantive quantitative impact on Houston’s development patterns, except to shuffle around the placement of some developments within a distance of several blocks. (That is to say, for instance, that downtown was destined to pick up a few big highrises over the last decade, but perhaps they were closer to Main rather than Allen Center.) A lot of people forget that the re-gentrification of the Heights took place over a span of decades — without light rail. The gentrification of 3rd Ward, the East End, and the Near Northside has been ongoing for a shorter period of time, and these neighborhoods simply aren’t as well-located as Rice Military — which also transformed without light rail. I would suggest that these neighborhoods are all destined for gentrification, that it will happen slowly because we’re talking about a huge geographic area — and that it would’ve happened with or without light rail, just as with other neighborhoods. I might be swayed if it were the case that some meaningful number of people move to Houston because it has light rail, but aside from some extremely narrow subset of people, that strikes me as bullshit. It’s not an effective economic development tool, and certainly not without zoning (which I also oppose).” [TheNiche, commenting on A First Look at the Strip Center-and-Apartments Combo That Could Go Up Between UH and TSU] Illustration: Lulu
As many as 8 new bike-sharing stations could open inside the Loop in the next 2 weeks. Will Rub, director of Houston B-Cycle, tells Swamplot that permits are in hand and the bikes forthcoming for these 5 stations: Spotts Park, at 401 S. Heights Blvd; the intersection of Taft and Fairview, at 2401 Taft St.; the Menil Collection, at 1529 W. Alabama St.; Leonel Castillo Community Center, which is undergoing a restoration at 2109 South St.; and the intersection of Milam and Webster, at 2215 Milam St.
And Rub adds that 3 other locations are just waiting for their permits: Stude Park, at 1031 Stude St., and 2 others east, for the first time, of the Southwest Fwy.: Settegast Park at Garrow and Palmer in the Second Ward, and Project Row Houses at Holman and Live Oak in the Third Ward. Rub expects those to be ready to roll September 19th or 20th.
Photo of station at Lamar and Milam: Reddit user txsupernova
RADICAL EATS REPLACING LOWER WESTHEIMER’S PULLED-OUT ROOTS The Near Northside vegan dive Radical Eats is closing and relocating across town to the recently closed Roots Bistro on Westheimer, reports Gastronaut Katherine Shilcutt. (Roots closed in early June after some bungling of its marquee.) Shilcutt adds that Radical Eats owner Staci Davis sees the move to this less “scruffy” space as a chance expand her menu to include dishes that use meat, cheese, and eggs, a culinary move not without consequence: “She admitted that some of her diehard vegan customers were furious with her decision, even calling in to a radio show she was appearing on as a guest and lambasting her on-air. ‘What are you going to do?’ she asked, with a rhetorical shoulder shrug.” [Culturemap; Gastronaut; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 507 Westheimer: Allyn West
Overlooking Hogg Park and White Oak Bayou, the old Robert E. Lee Elementary school is being renovated into a community center for the Near Northside. The school was designed by Alfred C. Finn and dates to 1919 and 1920, though it’s been vacant in this historic district since 2002. Architecture firm PGAL is preserving 3 of the building’s walls and decorative geegaws as well as the arched entryway that faces South St.; new space for what’s been named the Leonel J. Castillo Community Center is being built out the back, as this photo shows.
Reader Heidi Hagen’s photos of construction on the North Line along N. Main St. north of UH-Downtown show the new bridge that’s “popped up outta nowhere” around Hogan St. No, there’s no rainbow at the north end of Downtown, but if you look carefully from the right far vantage point can see the elevated concrete and steel construction that’ll be carrying an extension to the existing rail line over the Union Pacific railroad tracks to further points north: Lindale Park, the Northline Transit Center, and 6 other newly named stations. More bridge pix from earlier in the month:
A reader sends in this photo showing the results of a recent heavy metal delivery to the median of Fulton St. across from Moody Park: Rails, for the coming 5.3-mile North Line extension to Lindale Park. Swamplot’s Northside construction correspondent reports the street appears paved and ready for the tracks to be installed.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
COMMENT OF THE DAY: LOOKING FORWARD TO MISSING YOU TOO “It’s weird to think that Rice Village had, at various times, a porn theater, a reggae bar, and a former gas station converted into a barbeque place called the Poor Man’s Country Club. A lot of the funkiness has gone, but that’s what the residents in the vicinity want. It’s an upscale neighborhood–and that tends to push out some of the more marginal businesses. But new funky neighborhoods are always coming into existence, so while I mourn the disappearance of great, unique neighborhood businesses, I welcome new ones elsewhere. Who knows — 20 years from now, Radical Eats might be a beloved neighborhood institution in a gentrifying neighborhood.” [Robert Boyd, commenting on Po’ Boys Priced Out of the Village]
Saves me money!!! Radical Eats owner Staci Davis has taken to Kickstarter — and this woozy video — to raise money to add a water filtration system, better air conditioning, and a beer and wine license to her new vegan Mexican restaurant location at 3903 Fulton St., just north of Moody Park. Davis, who jettisoned plans to work out of the kitchen at the Heights Ashbury Coffeehouse after only a few weeks there, took over the former Kiko’s Mexican Cafe location just before the July 4th holiday. So far, she’s raised $325 of $8,000 she hopes to net for improvements to the Radical Eats Cafe. What will you get for your contribution, besides — if the target is reached — the ability to buy and drink a meat-and-dairy-free cold one on site? For $5, a written thank-you note and a hug at each visit. For $500: a dish at the restaurant named after you or your organization, a few more goodies, and a custom-made hula hoop.
Has Metro ever made a more expensive mistake than spending $42 million on a contract with a Spanish rail-car construction firm that violated federal procurement rules? Now that the American subsidiary of Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles has agreed to return $14 million of that money, the answer is yes: That would be the $41 million Houston’s transit agency reports it spent on developing an intermodal terminal at the corner of Main and Burnett streets just north of Downtown. Metro CEO George Greanias confirms the agency has given up on the design (above), which would have included a giant octopus-like dome, bus bays, a commuter rail terminal, a “kiss-and-ride” area, and maybe a Metro RideStore, restrooms, newsstands, food stands, and gift shops. There will still be a Burnett Transit Center station with a North Line rail stop, but Greanias tells the Chronicle‘s Chris Moran the trashed design would have been too expensive to run. Metro may have even killed the bus station part: Greanias says they haven’t decided whether any other modes of transit will connect to the light-rail line at that location.
That North Main St. Intermodal Terminal planned for just north of the UH-Downtown business school has been renamed a little more humbly as Burnett Plaza, according to a note on the Metro website. And . . . it’s going to be just a little simpler than the fancy rendering shown above.
Rail watcher Christof Spieler points to a few key sentences that describe the downgrade:
The initial phase will include a half-circle on the east side of Burnett Station. There will be vertical circulation down to a 4-bay transit center with access to a “kiss and ride.”
METRO intends to construct the facility in phases, commensurate with funding and environmental clearances. Phase I transportation services will include METRORail, and local bus service, along with shuttle vans and taxis.
What this means is Phase 1 is an elevated light rail station with an elevated half-circle plaza with stairs down to a small parking lot with 4 bus bays.
Rendering: Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects
What’s the status of those plans for a big Intermodal Transit Center at North Main and Burnett just north of I-10 Downtown, meant to link commuter rail and bus lines to the coming northern reaches of Metro’s existing rail line?
L.A.’s Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects are now showing off this rendering of the terminal at the company’s website, along with the kind of encomium that usually accompanies abandoned or massively scaled-back projects. Rail-watcher Christof Spieler reported back in March that the terminal project on the North Line had been “shelved (for now, at least)”; plans to extend the new East End Line to that station were abandoned last year.
Rendering: Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects