07/06/17 4:15pm

ADDING NEEDED FAST-FOOD DIVERSITY TO THE NRG PARK—SOUTH MAIN DONUT NEXUS “At least, an Arby’s will add a different fast-food chain to the area. Another donut shop would have been useless with the Shipley’s (Murworth/Main: SW corner), Dawn Donut (Murworth/Main: NW corner), and Glazed (Old Spanish Trail near Kirby) giving them a run for their money.” [Major Market, commenting on A Peek Inside the Half-Baked Krispy Kreme near NRG Stadium] Illustration: Lulu

05/05/17 11:30am

A little bit of tune-changing looks to have happened with respect to the University of Texas’s Houston data science campus idea in the month or 2 since UT formally canned the plans to pursue it.  At yesterday’s State of the City luncheon, where Mayor Turner asked a bunch of major regional universities to work together on making a data science research center happen after all, Lindsey Ellis reports that University of Houston board of regents chair and Landry’s CEO Tilman Fertitta also made some comments in support of the project. Fertitta (who back in March immediately issued a victorious press release when UT announced it would sell off the 300 acres of land it’d purchased) told the audience that UH would be “excited to sit down and collaborate” with other Houston and Texas universities on a campus, Lindsey Ellis reports for the Chronicle. 

The difference now (versus last spring when UH snubbed an invitation to join that task force working up potential uses for the land)? Fertitta says UT wouldn’t be able to single-handedly “come in and dictate” with respect to the final project; he also suggests that perhaps UT might like to donate the purchased property to whatever group of local universities might end up in charge.

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UT Houston Rematch
03/21/17 5:15pm

Houston Strikers Stadium rendering, possibly 288 at Mowery Rd., South Houston, Houston, 77045

The group of rugby aficionados called the Houston Strikers — seemingly a revival of the name of an 80’s-era semi-professional rugby club — has been showing around the rendering above of a new rugby stadium lately. The facility is said to be planned near the Houston Sports Park along 288 just south of Mowery Rd. by various rugby news sites and discussion groups; the early renderings floating around since last summer corroborate that, showing the stadium tucked next to the distinctively curved crossing of Sims Bayou under 288 (along with some parking lots and a detention basin):

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Fields by Streams off 288
03/01/17 5:45pm

UT Houston Campus Site, Buffalo Lakes, Houston

All that booing over the last year and a half from Houston’s most expansive university system and its legislative friends looks to have paid off: UT has cancelled its plans for a new research campus south of the Astrodome, citing fears that continuing to press for the project could throw a wet blanket on projects at its other campuses. The school’s press office announced the pivot this afternoon, adding that UT’s real estate office will look into how to sell the 307 acres they’ve spent the last year collecting, though it might take some time to put together a sale that makes sense.

UH Board of Regents chairman and reality real estate TV star Tilman Fertitta said today that the sustained backlash to UT’s land buy was really a team effort, assisted by elected officials, administrators, and other folks aiming to prevent what Fertitta calls an unnecessary duplication of state resources. UT had previously announced that the campus wouldn’t have been a 4-year university; chancellor Bill McRaven suggested this afternoon that plans for the land might have shaped up to include a big data science center with a focus on health care, energy, and education, and that the ideas from the task force put together to plan for the land could be put to use elsewhere instead.

Conceptual rendering of UT Houston campus: Houston Public Media

Higher Ed Shutout
03/01/17 1:30pm

Texas RRC Map of oil wells around Pierce Junction

Update, 6pm: UT announced this afternoon that the Houston campus plans are cancelled — more here.

UT system chancellor Bill McRaven objected in letter form this month to senator and Astrodome scrutinizer John Whitmire’s characterization of the 300 acres UT’s been buying in Houston as “a dump,” the Austin American Statesman’s Ralph K.M. Haurwitz reports. Excerpts from the letter assert that the property, nestled amid the industrial-residential jumble south of the Astrodome, has never in fact been a landfill. Sure, there’s a little bit of contamination from an old polymer facility that needs to be mopped up.  And sure, there may be a healthy smattering of old oil wells from the Pierce Junction boom days, as illustrated by the Rail Road Commission’s map of current and former wells drilled in the area. (UT’s new parcels are just inside the crook of the Holmes Rd.-S. Main St. elbow, to the northwest of the ring of wells drilled around the salt dome’s buried upper reaches.)

But Whitmire’s comments, McRaven’s letter notes, might “lead a listener to conclude that the property and the surrounding area are blighted and unlikely to ever be developed. In fact, the property is adjacent to apartments, neighborhoods, and commercial buildings, and it is highly likely that these adjacent developed lands had similar characteristics.” Meanwhile, the Wildcat Golf Course directly across Holmes Rd. from UT’s campus-to-be actually was a bona fide landfill; the only giveaway is all those rolling hills.

Image: Texas RRC Public GIS Viewer

What Lies Beneath
02/03/17 10:45am

THE HOUSTON ZIP CODE WHERE THE KIDS DON’T LEAVE HOME 3414 Ebbtide Dr., Glen Iris, HoustonNew number crunching from the Pew Research Center suggests that around 57 percent of the folks between 18 and 34 in the 77045 Zip Code may be living with their parents. (77045 includes both residential areas and the salt-dome-adjacent industrial hodgepodge between Holmes and Almeda roads, southwest of that recycling plant that smoked out the Med Center last year). That figure compares to a 28.2 percent boomerang rate across most of Houston, which falls below the current-ish 32 percent national average, writes Maggie Gordon (who notes that the “new” numbers are based on the organization’s 2014 data). What’s responsible for the anomalously high numbers in South Main, which shoots well past even the Great Depression’s 35 percent? The difference, Gordon writes, may be rooted not only in the area’s low average wages, but also in the lower rate of folks actively pursuing college (which Gordon says is connected to low wages); the study also notes that some of the difference might reflect the smaller proportion of the Zip Code’s Millennals living with a romantic partner (which, Gordon notes, might be easier to meet in college these days). [Houston Chronicle] Photo of 3414 Ebbtide Dr., 77045: HAR

11/17/16 11:30am

Smoke from Holmes Recycling Plant Fire

The fire that started late yesterday afternoon at the Holmes Road Recycling Center (just west of 288 south of 610) is still on the Houston Fire Department’s list of active incidents at the moment, after about 19 hours.  KHOU reports that the firefighting has been complicated by the need to cool off the heat-retaining piles of burning scrap metal on the scene, as well as a lack of water supply in the industrial patchwork around Pierce Junction. Hazmat crews reportedly say there’s no out-of-the-ordinary chemical concerns related to the smoke this time, though HFD captain Ruy Lozana did note to KHOU last night that the smoke’s strong smell and darker color is probably from leftover fluids in crushed cars catching fire.

Wind coming primarily from the south and southeast pushed smoke and haze from the fire across 610 all the way to the Texas Medical Center, some 3 miles north. Nearby Rice University sent out an alert around 4:45 warning folks with respiratory issues to stay indoors for a bit — below is a view (from several hours after that warning) of the haze from the Rice campus parking lot on Greenbriar, east of the stadium:

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Blowing In the Wind
10/18/16 2:30pm

Bethany United Methodist Church, 3511 Linkwood Dr., Linkwood, Houston, 77025

Bethany United Methodist Church recently posted some FAQs and answers about its plans to put a senior living development on its property, a reader in the area tells Swamplot. The land is south of the intersection of Linkwood and Bevlyn drives, and may be one of the 4 potential adult active-living housing projects Stream Realty mentioned to Paul Takahashi back in April, as the church’s website says the project’s developer is currently working on the Solea Copperfield senior living complex in Northwest Houston (just south of Birkes Elementary on Queenston Blvd.). The website also notes that 51 of the 101 living units would be rented out to folks with a household income between 33,000 and 45,000 at below-market rates.

The church’s main entrance is about a third of a mile from that set of lots stretching from Buffalo Spdwy. to Main St. where some stirrings were seen in July; a drawing submitted as part of a variance request put in for that land calls that project Traditions Buffalo Speedway Senior:

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Plans Maturing in Braeswood Place
06/01/16 11:00am

3055 S Loop W Fwy., South Main, Houston, TX 77054

The jutting, Tyvek-wrapped facade of the under-construction Krispy Kreme donut shop at 3055 S. Loop W. has looked like this for a while now, says a reader curious about the store’s progress. Following the North Carolina pastry chain’s complete retreat from the area in 2006 after a lawsuit with its main regional franchisee, the company opened 2 new Houston stores in 2015, though the announced-then-retracted February grand opening date of the Hwy. 6 location turned out to be much more December-ish than originally planned.

Eater attributed the slow-off-the-line opening to permitting delays, though regional franchise manager Guillermo Perales told the HBJ that the delays had to do with fears that the crowds would be too large for the store’s originally-planned infrastructure to handle. As for the South Main store? Posted to the inside of the front window is a highlighted letter from October documenting the donut stand’s theoretical ability to withstand hurricane-strength winds:

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Slow Rise in South Main
05/19/16 11:30am

Lovett Homes site at Buffalo Spdwy. and Main St., South Main, Houston, 77025

Lovett Homes site at Buffalo Spdwy. and Main St., South Main, Houston, 77025A mid-day shot from the Starbucks at the intersection of S. Main St. and Buffalo Spdwy. shows the new fencing now up around the 4-and-a-half-ish acres boxing in the coffee drive-thru. The snapping reader says the lot was cleared out and fenced off last week, a little more than a year after the America’s Best Value Inn and its abandoned grocery-and-nightclub strip center friend were demolished in the name of Lovett. Here’s a peek through the chain link at the palm-lined lot:

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S. Main
01/26/16 12:30pm

Oakmoor Pkwy. at Acaciawood Way, South Main, Houston, 77051

A ‘dozer was sighted this past week roaming across the newly-cleared plains at the dead end of Acaciawood Dr. into Oakmoor Pkwy., just south of Airport Blvd. between Almeda Rd. and a disconnected stretch of Kirby Dr. (nearly 2 miles southeast of where the main section of Kirby halts, on Holmes Rd. next to the intended UT Houston campus). Workers clearing the land last week told a reader that new apartments were planned for the spot (shown above); the tract, however, is sliced up into single-family-home-sized bites in County Appraisal District records. The land sits south of the Oakmoor Apartments, which sprouted up around the end of 2006. The short neighborhood streets on the other side of Oakmoor were in place by 2008, though the homes now lining them didn’t begin too appear until 2012.

In the distance, the photo above also catches a view of the nearby Harbor Hospice Houston Inpatient Facility (to the left of center, behind a brushpile), and the Citadel on Kirby (to the right), which hosts weddings, galas, and corporate events. Across Kirby lies the Houston Sports Park — work on the first 7 fields at the Houston Dynamo’s professional training facility started at the end of 2009 and wrapped up by 2012. The Houston Parks Board is now fundraising to add an additional 11 fields at the complex, which is also open for public recreational use.

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Oakmoor Oaks No More
08/28/13 3:15pm

A reader sends this photo of the work in progress at the former Blockbuster at 8001 S. Main St., which in September will open as Jollibee Chicken & Burgers, the first Texas location of the largest fast-food chain in the Philippines. It will be located right next door to the Jersey Mike’s there in the crotch of S. Main and O.S.T., just northwest of Reliant Park.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

06/18/13 11:00am

First things first: Here’s the new location of Morningside Thai. Hoping to open June 22, says owner Ying Roberts, the no-longer-on-Morningside, no-longer-eponymous restaurant can be found at 2473 S. Braeswood Blvd., inside the Kirby Glen Retail Center, north of OST, right where the South Main neighborhood bumps into University Place. Got that? Of course, the Braeswood address might be a tad misleading in this case, since the restaurant actually faces Kirby Dr.

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12/01/09 11:26am

Just what was going on at this property just a quarter-mile south of the South Main Super Target over the holiday weekend? A bit of land clearing, reports a reader, who says the machines are gone now — but so are a fair number of trees: There’s now a pile of logs at the back of the lot.

Its the Northernmost never-developed lot on South Main . . . For-Sale signs have been up forever, so its interesting to see bulldozers hard at work. . . . This combined with the demolition of the Speedway Inn at 10000 South Main is starting a trend for new development.

The L-shaped, 3.36-acre lot wraps behind the car wash to the north. Across the street is the westernmost Reliant Park parking lot. Here’s an aerial view from the listing:
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07/16/07 11:44am

Corner of Braeswood and Main

Buried at the end of a Houston Business Journal report on a new Hilton Garden Inn that’s going to replace the Droubi’s boxcar at 7807 Kirby, between South Main and OST, is this gem:

Moody National had been on the hunt for more property in the area, and was especially interested in finding more land next to the Hilton site to create a larger footprint for the project. . . .

A 1.2-acre vacant lot on the northeast corner of Main and Braeswood, across from Moody National’s Residence Inn, also caught the developer’s eye, but the price was too high there as well. Moody says an offer of $140 per square foot was rejected by the owner, who said he would entertain an offer of $185 per square foot.

“The land has been extremely hard to come by,” Moody says.

Sure, that’s expensive, but there’s a premium for waterfront property.

Photo: Bradley Broom