04/20/17 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A HOUSTON LITMUS TEST FOR PARKING LOT PROGRESS Parking Lot for Hobbit Cafe, Blue Fish House, and Yelapa Playa Mexicana, 2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston“That parking lot was epic for decades. Let’s hope it was actually reconstructed, and not just the lunar craters poured over with asphalt. The next good flood will tell.” [Miz Brooke Smith, commenting on Richmond Ave’s Contender for Worst Parking Lot in Houston Gets Smoothed Over] Photo: Swamplot inbox

04/19/17 4:30pm

2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

Pothole in Parking Lot for Hobbit Cafe, Blue Fish House, and Yelapa Playa Mexicana, 2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, HoustonThe folks at Rim Tanon (the Thai place that recently replaced the former Blue Fish House sushi spot on Richmond) send word that the hole-spangled brick, asphalt, and rubble parking lot at the center of the Portsmouth Square restaurant clump has been freshly paved over. The spot, which won top honors on a 2011 list of Houston’s worst restaurant parking lots, was resurfaced from Richmond to Portsmouth St. just in time for Tax Day. Above and below are a couple of damp shots of the lot circa some 2010 gawking:

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Flattening the Competition
03/03/17 5:00pm

Gas Station at 1st Food Stop, Durhill St. and Buffalo Spdwy., Knollwood Village, Houston, 77025

A contemplative moment for the end of the week: the large excavator above was spotted bowing its head at the corner of Durhill St. and Buffalo Spdwy. as cement poured down from the sky next to the 1st Stop Food Mart, currently undergoing what appears to be Valero conversion. The portraitist notes that new glass and some signage structures have gone up at the site since the Saturday visit during which the scene above was captured; workers also appeared to have made progress on flattening out the new pavement on the Durhill side of the property, which was first crunched up late last fall:

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Tank Now In Hiding
03/02/17 3:00pm

2901 S. Shepherd Dr., WAMM, Houston, 77006

1618 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006The body-oriented retail strip across from the recently browned-out Alabama Theater has just swapped second-or-more-hand clothing retailer Buffalo Exchange into the spot by Kipling St. last occupied by Centre Fitness Fusion, a reader notes. (Centre Fitness took over from Orange Shoe Fitness, which itself succeeded bike shop and implicit fitness purveyor Cycle Spectrum.) Buffalo Exchange joins Epique Massage next to Darque Tan, separated only by a driveway and some parking spots from Demeris Bar-B-Q.

And what of the old Buffalo Exchange spot, recently spotted sporting a variance request notice out front?

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Fashion Recycler Recycling
01/30/17 5:30pm

1634 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006 1634 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006

Update, 1/31: A few readers noticed some TABC notices across the street — more here.

A reader noted the recent earth-scraping on the now-largely-grassless corner lot at 1634 Westheimer Rd. (shown above in last week’s aquatic trappings). The long-empty land, across Kuester St. from Buffalo Exchange, is listed as the former site of Kewpie’s Cleaners and Dyers, and was previously tapped as the intended site of a 5-story Bunkhouse hotel. The midrise plan fell through, though, freeing the land to become the future site of the Edmont. That plan also fell through: Only a temporary version of the woulda-been restaurant was ever built, for a 1-night fundraiser supporting a foundation started in memory of chef and Edmont co-founder Grant Gordon.

Recently issued city permits suggest the space is turning to the parking industry for now. Here’s another shot, facing southwest through the fence toward interior design shop Merchant & Market, exterior design shop Houston Ink Society, and smoke shop High End:

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Down to 0 Stories for Now
01/19/17 11:30am

Midtown Superblock Construction, January 2017, Main, McGowen, Travis, Anita streets, Midtown, Houston, 77003

A spokesperson from ESPN confirms to Swamplot that the network will not be using underground-parking-garaged Midtown Park as the main set for its Super Bowl week teevee shows after all, contrary to that October announcement. Workers were on the scene on Monday (as shown here), and the main pavilion structure appears to have been undergoing glow tests in the last few weeks by the same lighting design company that designed the new US59 bridge LEDs. The scaffolding-covered Camden apartments structure, however, appears to be missing some more significant finishing touches:

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Super Bowl Super Blocks
01/11/17 1:30pm

Transmission Line Tower Installation, Westpark Dr., 77081

Transmission Line Tower Installation, Westpark Dr., 77081The view this week around Westpark Dr. at the West Loop includes both the old lattice towers currently holding CenterPoint’s electrical transmission lines and the taller, skinnier single pole models that will be taking over the gig. A reader captured some side-by-side portraits of the old towers and their replacements, which CenterPoint is deploying to raise the lines out of the way of TxDOT’s proposed future edits to the 610-59 interchange tangle. The cherry picker above is shown tethered to one of the new towers in the easement just west of 610; the top shot shows a pole up on the east side of the freeway between the Loop Central office midrises and the Danny Jackson Family Bark Park (which closed down last summer so CenterPoint could work on the land the county had been using as the park’s parking lot).

Here’s a ground-level shot at the base of an old-and-new tower pair just outside the dog park, with some Houston Garden Center inventory in the background for scale:

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Bark Park Sparks
11/08/16 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE CHICKEN, THE EGG, AND THE HOUSTON SPRAWLSCAPE Proposed Heights H-E-B with 10 ft. building setback“I do usually avoid stores with no bike parking or unfriendly pedestrian/bike access, so I see the other side of [the parking lot] coin. Stores need to cater to their customers; it’s customer demand that’s ultimately at fault for hideous parking lots and runoff and heat islands and sprawl and all the rest. But one way to drive demand is creating feedback loops, and one way to start that is stores building less parking.” [Sid, commenting on H-E-B’s Plan and Backup Plan for the Double Decker Heights Dry Zone Store] Rendering of preliminary parking garage plans for N. Shepherd H-E-B: Houston Planning Commission

10/31/16 3:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW ANOTHER KIDDIE TRAIN COULD PRESERVE HERMANN PARK’S PARKING HERITAGE New Hermann Park Train“Right now is a bad time to be predicting parking lot requirements for the next 20 years. Driverless cars may make them obsolete. If that happens, they can turn the parking lot into a ‘parking lot museum’ — kids of the future can visit it to get a feel for what life in the 20th century was like. They could even ride the Vulture Express, a 2mph trip up and down row after row of filled parking spaces that goes on for hours.” [Memebag, commenting on Grassy Knolls, Children’s Swamp Part of Possible Hermann Park Parking CoverupPhoto of Hermann Park kiddie train: Lou Minatti

09/30/16 4:30pm

Whole Foods Montrose, 701 Waugh, North Montrose, Houston, 77019

View of New Whole Foods Market, 701 Waugh Dr., North Montrose, HoustonFrom the AIG tower neighboring to the north, a reader peers down behind the construction fencing now up at the corner of Waugh Dr. and D’Amico St., in an effort to figure out what might be gettin’ real in the Whole Foods Montrose parking lot. An employee tells Swamplot over the phone that the store is planting additional parking spaces on top of what was previously a walkway lined with grass and picnic tables, adding parking has been a squeeze on the weekends (which lines up pretty well with earlier reports from the scene). The rep also says that the tables (positioned across Waugh from BMW service garage Bavarian Machine Specialties and catty-corner to the health-and-beauty-shop-laden strip center across D’amico), were almost never used. Permits for the pave-over were issued at the end of May.

Photos: Randy Saad (top), Swamplot inbox (bottom photo showing opening day, 2011)

Leaner Green
07/22/16 11:30am

Jackson Dog Park, 4828 1/2 Loop Central Dr., Pin Oak, Houston, 77081

Update, 2:30 pm: Commissioner Steve Radack tells Swamplot that the dog park itself will also be closed while the parking area is inaccessible. This article has been updated.

Jackson Dog Park, 4828 1/2 Loop Central Dr., Pin Oak, Houston, 77081 A well-labeled notice was spotted by a reader at the Danny Jackson Family Dog Park on Westpark Dr. (south of the Houston Post-turned-Chronicle complex, just inside the West Loop). The sign includes what appears to be a letter addressed to Mike McMahan of Harris County Precinct 3’s parks department, affectionately sign by CenterPoint Energy (which owns the electrical transmission corridor currently borrowed in part as parking for the linear dog run). The note indicates that some or all of the dog park’s lot may be off limits as the company takes care of some work to raise its transmission structures (which cross over the 610 Loop just south of where Westpark crosses under), to get them out of the way of some TxDOT road work planned for the area.

Swamplot is still waiting to hear back as to whether the park itself will stay open Precinct 3 says that the park itself will also be closed during the work period, which the letter says will run from August 15th through June 1, 2017. We’ll update as soon as we have more info; meanwhile, here’s a closeup of the text:

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Marking Territory
05/23/16 10:00am

2410 Woodhead St., Hyde Park, Houston, 77019

The retail strip at 1927 Fairview St. is now being gutted and cleaned out into a large dumpster parked in front of the former Te House of Tea and Trudy’s resale boutique. Permits to clear out some interior walls and redo the space were issued at the start of this month to an entity named Riel Restaurant; also listed on those permits are the company phone number and CEO of South Union-based seafood importer Marine Foods Express. 

Out back behind the retail strip, the nextdoor 1935 bungalow at 2410 Woodhead St. appears to be joining Te’s former backyard garden in becoming a parking lot — purportedly a green one:

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Something Fishy on Fairview
04/28/16 4:15pm

Proposed Prairie Tunnel Map, per Theater Square lawsuit filings

What led up to the neighborly lawsuit filed last week over the former Houston Chronicle building’s planned demolition? A pair of letters filed with the county clerk’s office as part of the suit sheds a little light on the back-and-forth between the building’s new owners and their new neighbors. Plaintiff Theater Square, a partnership controlled by construction and development firm Linbeck, is developing the downtown block marked SITE in the map above, immediately across Prairie St. from the former Chronicle property (bought last year by Hines entity Block 58 Investors). Theater Square wants to link its own could-be-a-Class-A-contender block into the Downtown tunnel network (traced above in solid black).

The company sued both Hines and Chronicle owner Hearst News last week to stop the demo, claiming that Hearst gave it property rights to build a new tunnel through the newspaper building’s basement (via the route shown in stripes above along Travis St.) and that the demo (as currently intended) interferes with that plan. Theater Square sent a letter to Hines on April 15th citing news stories about the impending demo and requesting both access to inspect the basement and assurances that the demolition would be carried out in a way that doesn’t harm certain existing structures that the new tunnel’s already-semi-permitted building plans depend on.

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Fight For The Right To Tunnel
03/08/16 10:00am

TREE PROFESSIONALS: PECAN AT 509 LOUISIANA ST. WOULD HAVE JUST DIED ANYWAY Pecan Tree formerly at 509 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002The pecan tree formerly behind the former Longhorn Cafe on Louisiana St. is down at last, following the 100-plus-year-old buildings at 509 and 517 Louisiana into that Great Big Preservation District in the Sky. Nancy Sarnoff of the Houston Chronicle reports that 2 arborists were called in to examine the tree, and pronounced it dead-or-close-enough: Lauren Lusk Willis, a member of the family that owns the next-door Lancaster Hotel, told the Chronicle that a lightning strike had damaged the tree, and that its core was rotting. Willis said that the pecan “would not likely have survived the leveling of the lot for any construction,” and that “ultimately, it wouldn’t have survived regardless.” The tree, haunted by a both-Sam-and-city-of Houston ghost story, was long visible only to those who entered 509 Louisiana’s hidden courtyard, until the pecan’s 2001 outing by the demo of the Rice Rittenhouse parking garage; it went back into hiding by the end of 2003 with the help of 33-story Calpine Center. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of the pecan tree, following demolition of 509 Louisiana St.: KineticD