05/13/15 1:30pm

Conrad Sauer Detention Basin, Energy Gateway District, Spring Branch, Houston

Here’s a purty watercolor-filtered drawing that shows how a portion of the concrete-lined Conrad Sauer Detention Basin extending north from the I-10 feeder road between Gessner and Conrad Sauer Dr. is supposed to look after MetroNational and TIRZ 17 upgrade it into a grassy, bike-lane-crossed area with park space that improves on its current ditch functions. It sits directly across the little ol’ Katy Fwy. from MetroNational’s ‘Death Star‘ HQ; the normally secretive company reveals a tiny bit about its plans for the area around the detention basin, lining the northwest corner of Gessner and the outbound I-10 feeder, in a variance application that’s scheduled to be discussed and possibly voted on in a planning commission meeting this Thursday.

MetroNational is calling the cleared 24-acre site (shown below) the Energy Gateway District.


From the Death Star to You
02/20/15 11:45am

NO PARKING VARIANCE FOR HEIGHTS MERCANTILE RETAIL REDO ON 7TH AND YALE Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston HeightsDespite a recommendation from the planning department staff to allow the development to proceed with significantly fewer parking places than required by ordinance, the planning commission yesterday denied a parking variance for the proposed Heights Mercantile mixed-use building complex along 7th St. between Yale St. and Heights Blvd., the longtime site of a warehouse complex for the Pappas Restaurant group. The Finial Group, the project’s developers, had hoped to be allowed to count 58 existing head-in public parking spaces along 7th St., many of them fronting the MKT Hike and Bike Trail, toward the development’s off-street parking requirements. [Previously on Swamplot] Rendering of proposed new building along Yale St.: Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

02/13/15 1:15pm

Proposed Saudi Arabia General Consulate of Houston, Wilcrest Dr. Between Richmond Ave and Meadowglen Ln., Westchase, Houston

“Does a building have diplomatic immunity to local ordinances if [its site] is deemed international soil?” asks Architect’s Newspaper reporter Jay Thomas, reporting on the variance request made on behalf of a new General Consulate of Saudi Arabia complex in Westchase — which Houston’s planning commission denied in December. The applicants for the variance appear to say yes, it does: “The Consulate should be considered foreign soil and should be allowed to develop the property as they have planned as long as it doesn’t harm the public in any way,” reads the application.

But the design team went ahead and applied for the variance anyway. Why?


International Setbacks
02/05/15 12:45pm

Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston Heights

Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston HeightsResidents near the section of 7th St. between Yale St. and Heights Blvd. have been discussing plans to turn the group of warehouse buildings long held by Pappas Restaurants into a 4-building “creative neighborhood and shopping destination” called Heights Mercantile. The Finial Group, which bought the properties from Pappas and a few other landowners last year, hired Austin architect Michael Hsu to come up with plans for renovating 3 of the buildings lining 7th St., tearing down the long warehouse lining Yale St. and replacing it with the new 2-story structure pictured above. The new project is a joint venture between Finial and a local investment firm called Radom Capital.

A notable feature of the 1.4-acre site plan is 3 stretches of head-in parking along 7th St. The plan shows 36 spaces on the north side of the street, facing the row of wooden bollards lining the hike-and-bike trail converted from the path of the former MKT rail line and 2 banks of 11 spaces in a row on the opposite side. Although head-in parking configurations dominate in some portions of the city (Rice Village, for example), new stretches of more than 4 spaces in a row have been prohibited by city regulations for decades.

The Pappas warehouses have head-in parking along 7th St. The developer not only wants to preserve and adjust that arrangement for the new development, but is asking the city to count these on-street spaces toward the required number of off-street spaces. The planning commission is scheduled to rule on the associated parking variance application this afternoon.

Here’s a site plan:


Retail Revamp
11/03/14 10:30am

THE BACK AND FORTH ON DUNLAVY ST. Dunlavy St. at Westheimer Rd., Lower Westheimer, Montrose, HoustonBack in May some Montrose urbanists rejoiced at a report that city traffic planners were hoping to constrict Dunlavy St. from 4 lanes to 2. However, as part of this year’s annual Major Thoroughfare and Freeway Plan, the city’s planning commission advised widening the Dunlavy corridor’s right-of-way 10 feet in certain areas. In an e-blast to her constituents, city council’s Ellen Cohen cited a lack of public input on the widening proposal and its potential negative impact on homeowners as key factors in shaping her “grave concerns” over the prospect of a fattened corridor, so that proposal has been tabled until next year’s review. [Houston Chronicle; Ellen Cohen] Photo: Raj Mankad /OffCite

08/22/12 12:28pm

THE PASSING OF THAT PLANNING COMMISSION LADY Kay Crooker, an outspoken longtime member of Houston’s city planning commission, died earlier this week. She was a fixture on the commission from 1984 to 2009, acting as a consistent advocate for what she viewed as the integrity of Houston neighborhoods. Part of her legacy: landscaping requirements encoded in the “tree and shrub” ordinance the city approved in 1991, as well as its more recent expansions. And hundreds of negotiated niceties added to developments where her approval was required. [Legacy; more info]

11/29/10 1:15pm

The dangling 2x4s on the ceiling and the photomurals of giant oaks inside just aren’t enough. And umbrellas on the patio just blow over. So Claire Smith and Russell Murrell of Canopy, the restaurant at the southern end of the strip center at 3939 Montrose, now want to build an actual wooden canopy outside on the side patio. One small problem: any extension from the building to Branard St. will cross into the neighborhood’s 10-ft. building line, which means they need a variance. Can’t they just say, “hey, it’s in our name?” Naah — variances aren’t granted as the result of “a hardship created or imposed by the applicant,” says the planning department. So part of the restaurant’s application reads, “The limitations on the use of outdoor space are the result of the Houston climate.” A neighbor who’s “fine with it” whispers to Swamplot about the submission: “My boyfriend and I think it’s funny how The Sun is taking all the heat here.” The issue goes before the planning commission on December 2nd.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

03/14/08 4:00pm

Former Post Office at 2601 Baylor St., Sunset Heights, Houston

East Sunset Heights Methadone Clinic Ad

This Methadone Clinic graphic was posted today on the Medusa Properties website, and conveys in slightly different fashion the same news we received in our email from a Heights-area reader:

The oh-so-neighborly Mr. Jared Meadors did *not* receive the variance he requested for the Baylor St subdivision.

Photo of 2601 Baylor St. and Methadone Clinic Graphic: Medusa Properties

03/14/08 10:10am

Screen Shot from Planning Commission Meeting Showing Proposed Houstonian Hotel in Texas Medical Center from Main St.

Nope, no condos in the planned Houstonian Medical Center hotel — but there will be 100 apartments. Medistar consultant Doug Williams gave a few more details about the planned 40-story Main St. tower at the edge of Southgate in yesterday’s Planning Commission hearing:

The commission approved a revised version of the variance request but attached several conditions having to do with landscaping and parking spaces.

After the jump, the view from Southgate!


03/13/08 6:23pm

Former Post Office at 2601 Baylor St., Sunset Heights, Houston

Here’s just one paragraph from a nine-page variance request application submitted for consideration at today’s Planning Commission hearing:

So what message does this whole process send to people like me who are willing to go out and spend their time and their hard earned money and take risks in order to improve the city and improve our neighborhoods? The message is: Only the guys with deep pockets and deep connections—the Perry Homes, the Tricons, the Fingers, the Olmsteads, the Levits, the Weingartens—only those guys get to win at this game. Those guys can build what they want when they want. Everybody else loses. Everybody else gets bad advice and the run around. Everybody else should just stay home and sit quietly on their couches and watch TV.

There’s more to like in Jared Meadors’s request to subdivide the 49-by-120-ft. property he owns at 2601 Baylor St. in Sunset Heights into three separate lots — including an accounting of his annual net adjusted income over the last three years, two HAR.com screen shots, and some occasional heavy leaning on the CAPS LOCK key. But it’s nothing, really, compared to his more wide-ranging complaints about his difficulties with his neighbors and the Prevailing Lot Size ordinance that he has posted on the website of his company, Medusa Properties. It begins:


More name-calling, after the jump!


03/13/08 10:23am

View from Main St. of New Houstonian Hotel and Condominiums, Texas Medical Center, Houston

From fuzzy video stills to washed-out photocopies: In the agenda handout for today’s Planning Commission hearing are hazy images that provide even more details about the new 40-story hotel and condo tower Medistar wants to build on Main St. in the Medical Center, at the eastern boundary of Southgate.

The drawing labels identify the hotel as the Houstonian Texas Medical Center, or Houstonian TMC for short. The architect is the Hill Glazier Studio of HKS, out of California. And a section drawing gives an actual height for the tower.

After the jump: It’s very tall!


02/29/08 3:30pm

Screen Capture of Planning Commission Discussion of New Medistar 40-Story Condo and Hotel Tower at Dryden and Main St., near Southgate, Texas Medical Center, Houston

Thanks to some intrepid reporting lazy online-video scanning over here at Swamplot, we now have more information about Medistar’s 40-story hotel and condominium tower planned for the corner of Dryden and Main St. in the Medical Center.

Yesterday, the Planning Commission voted to defer any consideration of Medistar’s request for a lot-line variance along Main St. But the president of the Southgate Civic Club voiced his objections to the variance — and other aspects of the project — anyway.

After the jump, more stills from the civic-club president’s presentation to the Planning Commission, plus a few bits of armchair analysis from our crack crew of expert TV watchers.