11/11/13 3:15pm

A regular Swamplot reader has a question about the sidewalk on the south side of Cinco Ranch Blvd. as the street passes between retention ponds for the North Lake Village and South Lake Village neighborhoods, just west of Cinco Lakes Dr. (map here). “The sidewalk exists on the south side of the street block from Peek Rd. to Mason Rd. When it reaches the pond, the sidewalk moves to the inside of the fence and becomes private. The fence is between the street and the sidewalk.” What’s a pedestrian supposed to do when the only sidewalk moves into a gated area, and is marked as off limits? Asks the reader: “Can a pedestrian be cited as a trespasser? Note the North side of the street is a golf course with no sidewalk.”

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10/15/13 10:00am

ORDINANCE OPENING CHECKBOOKS, NOT SPACES How much new parkland has the city acquired since 2007, when it passed the so-called open space ordinance meant to encourage residential developers to donate part of their properties to the public? “Not one acre,” reports the Houston Chronicle. Almost all the developers, reports Jayme Fraser, have “written checks” instead. But the city hasn’t spent the $11 million it has garnered in fees to buy land; much of it, rather, has gone to maintain and add amenities to the parks it already has: “Mark Ross, deputy director of parks development, said neighborhoods often want upgrades that can be easier to fund, such as . . . [a] playground and water fountains . . . . ‘Most of these might be considered minor improvements, but it’s what people appreciate the most,’ Ross said, pointing to 28 projects completed.” [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo of Mason Park: Jose Luna

10/07/13 10:00am

Construction should begin by the end of October to transform a chopped-up industrial street in East Downtown into something like the pedestrian promenade rendered here. Anton Sinkewich, the director of the East Downtown Management District, explains that 5 blocks of Bastrop St., between Bell and McKinney, running near the Houston Food Truck Park and leading toward BBVA Compass Stadium on Walker, will be regraded. A pedestrian-only crushed granite path will be installed and dozens of trees planted. This first part of the project is modest, says Sinkewich, though there are plans in place to include more amenities if and when the ’hood continues to grow.

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05/14/13 11:30am

This is what Hermann Park says it would like to look like when it turns 100 next year: This drawing of Centennial Gardens from Chicago landscape architecture firm Hoerr Schaudt shows the blossoming of the current 15-acre Garden Center that’s between the museums and golf course along Hermann Dr. Looking forward to its centennial in 2014, the park conservancy has also recruited Peter Bohlin, the architect behind the Highland Village Apple Store, to design a new entrance:

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05/01/13 4:30pm

Here are just a few of the designs created by a UH undergraduate architecture class that spent much of this semester going on field trips to the Almeda Mall. Under the direction of Susan Rogers of the UH Community Design Resource Center (or CDRC), the 4th- and 5th-year will-be architects, who also spent time on nearby Kingspoint Rd. taking in that street art study center known as the Mullet, were charged with developing strategies to reanimate the dead retail zone in South Houston.

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05/01/13 10:00am

ASTRODOME STRIPPED BARE BY THE ARCHITECTS, EVEN With the June 10th deadline to submit the Astrodome proposals that the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation kind of forgot to ask for approaching, architect Ben Koush pens some poetic support for UH grad student Ryan Slattery’s idea to open the Dome up for public use and reduce it to a shell of itself: “Architects, myself included, often tend to like ‘structure’ and buildings that are under construction better than those that are finished. Even crappy suburban spec houses have a noble purity when they are just a concrete slab and 2x4s, before the pipes, wires, and air-conditioning ducts go in and clutter everything up.” Noble purity notwithstanding, Koush does recognize at least one problem: “Since the Astrodome is essentially in the center of a giant parking lot with gates as well as a long, un-shaded walk discouraging the public from visiting, one wonders who would actually use [it].” [Arts + Culture Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Save the Astrodome

03/26/13 4:00pm

MAYOR PARKER ASKS CITY COUNCIL TO DECRIMINALIZE DIVING IN PUBLIC DUMPSTERS A Houston man’s arrest for Dumpster diving outside City Hall was news to Mayor Parker: “And I had to say, really?” says the mayor in teevee reporter Doug Miller’s story. “There’s an ordinance for that? Give me a break.” And Mayor Parker has since requested that city council revise the 1942 ordinance that criminalizes rummaging: Lawyers who want to see it repealed, reports the Houston Chronicle’s Mike Morris, say that the ordinance “adversely impacts homeless persons and absorbs law enforcement time that could otherwise be spent preventing more significant criminal activity.” But, reports Morris, potential changes won’t mean Houstonians will be free to help themselves to whatever and wherever they’d like: “[S]pokeswoman Janice Evans said the proposed repeal will be amended . . . to ensure that it only addresses the situation which saw [the man] cited for picking through a public trash can. Rummaging through trash cans or recycling bins at homes and businesses still will not be allowed . . . .” [KHOU; Houston Chronicle] Photo of Dumpster: Flickr user nicksaltman

02/20/13 1:00pm

Design plans for the $18 million Emancipation Park overhaul are done, reports KUHF’s Pat Hernandez, and the work — including renovations (as this rendering suggests) to the gym, baseball field, pool, and community center — is expected to begin at the 10-acre Third Ward park this summer.

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02/05/13 11:30am

COMMENT OF THE DAY: TATTERS TALE “. . . I rather like greater Houston’s add-it-as-you-need it layout. I mean, I definitely see the distinct advantages that other cities have in their planning, so I’m not knocking them, but I think Houston has advantages, too. I couldn’t ever put my finger on why until reading this article, but I like that Houston doesn’t seem like some piece of created artifice, regulated in such a way as to preserve it in a frame. A “mediation between private homes and the impersonal corporate world” feels like some sort of sop. Like, if the city looks like something I see on TV, then everything must be fine here. No place is perfect, and no one should be lulled into thinking it is. Some more beauty would be nice (I can remember when this town had a lot more trees, for example), but our citizens are so disparate that I’m not even sure we can all agree on what ‘beauty’ is. We’re not homogenous, which gives us some great advantages, but it makes our public spaces kind of bland, even while the private ones are eye-popping. The city (including its many suburbs) wears its elbow pads on the outside of its jacket, showing off the tatters. It keeps the valuables on the inside, in hidden pockets. That won’t change for a long, long time.” [Sihaya, commenting on 'The Galleria Is My Idea of Hell' and Other Houston Stories]

01/31/13 4:15pm

All winter this Hermann Park high point has been fenced off while crews have worked on Miller Outdoor Theatre’s heavily used seating (and rolling-down) area to update drainage and irrigation systems, among other hill-improvement-type activities. The project, funded by the city, has a budget of almost $261,000. This photo shows a little patch of progress; though performances start back up in April, the theater warns you not to get your hopes up: the hill could remain closed through May.

Photo: Miller Outdoor Theatre

09/21/11 2:54pm

Houstonians and Woodlanders: Be on the lookout for: 1) loner backpacks; 2) sneaky, pouty model types with cameras and notebooks; 3) sketchy, overdressed dudes wearing out-of-season clothes; 4) overly polite door-openers; 5) illegally parked vehicles in crowded locations. Or really, any other potential threats.

Be aware. Trust your instincts. You make the call.

Video: iWatchHouston.org

02/22/11 11:30am

TEAS NURSERY BUYERS: WE DID IT FOR MOM The new public open space on the former site of Teas Nursery will be named Evelyn’s Park, in honor of the mother of Jerry and Bo Rubenstein — the 2 brothers whose foundation bought the 5-acre property a little more than a year ago. The deed to the property at 4400 Bellaire Blvd. between Newcastle and Mulberry Ln. was turned over to the city of Bellaire at yesterday’s city council meeting. Also set up: a nonprofit conservancy to raise funds and develop the space for recreational use. The park’s planners hope to have it open within 4 years, with gardens, water features, and possibly some sort of monument or memorial to Evelyn Rubenstein on part of the property. [Previously on Swamplot]

12/02/10 11:50am

SETTING UP A NEW PUBLIC PARK THING AT THE FORMER TEAS NURSERY Bellaire’s city council approved an agreement earlier this week that makes the future of the 5-acre property that used to be Teas Nursery a little more clear: It’ll be some sort of public space, but the exact details will be worked out by a new conservancy, with input from the public. A foundation controlled by two Bellaire brothers bought the property at 4400 Bellaire Blvd. late last year — after the nursery’s owners announced plans to sell it off piece by piece to homebuilders. The Jerry and Maury Rubenstein Foundation now plans to deed the land to the city. Under the agreement, half of the conservancy’s members will be appointed by the city, and half by the foundation. [Previously on Swamplot]

06/11/10 11:35pm

Got a question about something going on in your neighborhood you’d like Swamplot to answer? Sorry, we can’t help you. But if you ask real nice and include a photo or 2 with your request, maybe the Swamplot Street Sleuths can! Who are they? Other readers, just like you, ready to demonstrate their mad skillz in hunting down stuff like this:

Answers — of a sort — to your questions:

  • Montrose: Alas, none of our readers were able to identify concrete plans for the uh, seminal Montrose nightclub at the corner of Westheimer and Yoakum, which closed last year. But some of you were happy to pass on rumors about Mary’s: “Last I heard it was being purchased/leased again and will become a new Montrose hangout paying homage to the original, but that was about two months after it closed,” reports kjb434. LandGuy points out that the next-door parking lot between Mary’s and Burger King is owned by someone else; however HCAD records indicate the owners of Mary’s still also own the lot directly behind the former club, facing California St.
  • Riverside Terrace and beyond: Can anyone snap photos of your home? “If you are in a public space, you can photograph anything you like. There may be restrictions around military installations or FBI buildings, though,” declares roving pic-snapper RWB. But watch out for overzealous security guards and cops, he warns. RWB has some experience in that department; but not so much as Downtown electric shuttle entrepreneur Erik Ibarra — who, sadly, did not weigh in to this discussion. (Ibarra founded REV Eco-Shuttle in 2008, shortly after he and his brother received a $1.7 million lawsuit settlement from the city. Six years earlier, sheriff’s deputies had entered their home near Park Place, seized their film, and arrested them after Ibarra’s brother took photos — from his own and public property — of a drug search being conducted at their next-door neighbor’s home.)

    Lauren offered a link to this handy guide to photographers’ rights. But a couple readers were certain the would-be design stalker was casing, not admiring: Says montrose: “They were just seeing if anyone was home before they robbed the joint. Nobody wants to take a picture of your house.”

We’ll post the next set of reader questions next Tuesday. Send us what you’ve got before then!

Photo of 1022 Westheimer Rd.: Swamplot inbox