05/26/17 12:00pm

Today our sponsor is Oaks on Caroline, featuring units for sale by Nan and Company Properties Christie’s International Real Estate. Thank you for supporting Swamplot!

Oaks on Caroline is a new development in a pedestrian-friendly environment brimming with cutting-edge science, important cultural experiences, and beautiful masterpieces: Houston’s Museum District. An Oaks on Caroline home is one you can simply lock and leave when you travel.

The midrise condo offers several different 1- and 2-bedroom floor plans. Each features high ceilings, luxury finishes, stainless-steel appliances, and stone countertops.

Constructed by Urban Flats Builders, Oaks on Caroline is a cast-in-place concrete building with post-tensioned floors, allowing each unit a high level of privacy. The flats are equipped with floor-to-ceiling low-e glass windows. Private balconies on every floor offer skyline views of the Museum District, Downtown, and the Texas Medical Center.

For a quick tour of this property, watch the video above (or follow the link here). If you’re interested in finding out more, contact Nan and Company Properties at 713.980.0774 — or info@nanproperties.com.

To stay updated on the latest listings and announcements from Nan and Company Christie’s International Real Estate, check out the company’s website — or follow the company on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Swamplot readers appreciate our sponsors! Is it your turn to become a Sponsor of the Day?

Sponsor of the Day
05/25/17 12:00pm

Today our sponsor is Plan Downtown and the Downtown District, bringing you the last of 4 weekly posts focusing on the 4 pillars of the Plan Downtown effort. Thanks for supporting Swamplot!

How can the Plan Downtown effort establish Downtown Houston as a leading multi-modal center?

Pillar Four of the strategic initiative seeks to answer this question. More specifically: how to connect Downtown Houston to the general region, and how to capitalize on Downtown’s place as a walkable area with bikeway, greenway, transit, and roadway networks.

Dr. Carol Lewis, professor and director of the college of science, technology, and engineering at Texas Southern University, has spent much of her career researching transportation planning and policy, public transit operations, and public involvement. In this interview, Dr. Lewis discusses improvements meant to help Downtown Houston flourish as a destination that provides flexibility in its mobility options.

The goal? To improve neighborhood edge conditions, reduce barriers, and expand green networks, with streets serving as connectors to destinations that reinforce opportunities for land uses.

Q: Why is Downtown Houston important to the region?

A: Downtown is the symbolic heart of the city. At one time, people joked that one could roll up the streets of Downtown at the end of the workday. That wasn’t good.

This core is the seat of government for most of the region’s residents (City of Houston and Harris County), the historic location of the city’s founding, plus its cultural core, with theaters, sports, and entertainment. A strong Downtown will serve as the pulse of the region.

Q: Why do you feel we need to talk mobility now?

A: Because the City of Houston and our region are going to gain millions of people over the next 10 years. Essentially, we’re going to get the city of San Antonio and layer it on top of Houston. We’re already having trouble with our mobility.

I think mobility Downtown is critical because if people can’t get Downtown, it’s going to signal something negative for the rest of the region. We have to have enough dialogue around it to make sure our decisions are correct.

Q: What improvements can be done to make Downtown more walkable?

A: Beyond the physical — like increasing sidewalk width, adding a strip separating pedestrians from vehicular traffic, and improving lighting conditions at night — opening more ground-level retail and giving people other places to go would make Downtown more walkable.

The key to making an area more walkable is people. We have to get more people Downtown. It’s happening already, so we need to fuel that trend. Include more buildings that face the street with glass facades. If I’m outside, I can see people inside. If I’m inside, I can see people outside. That gives everyone a heightened sense of security.

Lighting has to be sufficient. You can’t feel like it’s dark or shadowy.

Q: What improvements can be made to better connect Downtown and central city neighborhoods?

A: Multiple easy transportation options, transit, Greenlink, taxi — I advocate a Downtown and Midtown zone where taxis are frequent, can be hailed on-street and are single priced within the zone.

When walking out of a door to the nearest corner, there should be something one could catch and ride within a couple of minutes.

Q: How will public transportation affect the growth of Downtown? Why is public transportation important?

A: In other cities, I have seen development gravitate toward station locations, which indicates permanence. We are seeing that at the Ensemble Station now. It’s not uncommon for that development to happen 10 to 30 years behind a station opening.

In a recent meeting for Plan Downtown, we all learned that the people who live closest to Downtown are still driving their cars, and the people who are taking transit are the ones who live farthest away. Why is that? I think it gives us something to investigate.

It comes down to, I propose, that people are always going to do what’s easiest for them.

Support people who care about your city. Become a Swamplot Sponsor.

Sponsor of the Day
05/24/17 12:00pm

Today our sponsor is the home at 2711 Morrison St. in Woodland Heights, which is being offered for sale by Norhill Realty. Thanks for supporting Swamplot!

Designed and built by award-winning design-build firm StudioMET — aka AIA Houston’s 2016 Firm of the Year — this custom home blends modern design with family-focused spaces both inside and out. In addition to the 3206-sq.-ft. main house, there’s also a 1122-sq.-ft., 1-bedroom guest quarters with a full kitchen and its own private entrance.

The Woodland Heights location — just a block off White Oak Blvd. — is convenient for active Houstonians. Before taking a short commute Downtown, you can swim a few laps in your 62-ft. pool, lay out on the sun deck, or go for a jog along the White Oak hike-and-bike trail.

It’s also a home for entertaining: Built on a 10,000-sq.-ft. double lot, this property includes a covered patio, sun deck, 3 balconies, and a landscaped back yard — plenty of space to host guests. And the separate guest quarters means out-of-town visitors can stay longer and more comfortably.

Start the day with your family in the island kitchen within the open-floor-plan main living area. Features include a glass-tile backsplash, granite countertops, a walk-in pantry, a stainless-steel Jenn-Air range, a built-in Miele coffee system, and a 4-stool breakfast bar.

The home is listed as a 3-bedroom, but the floor plan provides flexibility: You’ll find 2 additional rooms — currently being used as an indoor gym and a design studio. Both can be adapted to your specific needs.

Additional photos, a walk-through video, and listing details are available at norhillrealty.com.  If you are interested in more information or would like to schedule a showing, contact Vincent Biondillo at 713-449-2416 — or email him at vincent@norhillrealty.com. To keep up with Norhill Realty’s latest listings and real estate tips, follow up on the Norhill Realty Facebook page or check out the Norhill Realty website.

Show Swamplot readers what you’ve got going on. Become a Sponsor of the Day.

Sponsor of the Day
05/20/17 12:00pm

Swamplot is normally off for the weekend, but we’ve got a sponsor for today: the unique home at 402 E. 25th St. in the Houston Heights. Thanks for the support!

Why a sponsor post on a Saturday? To let you know (or remind you if already did) about the open house for this property on Sunday (see the details below). And also to let you know that its price has just been reduced.

From 1957 to the 1990s, the small commercial building at the corner of Arlington and E. 25th St. served as a lawnmower and small-engine repair shop. It’s since been converted into a 1,216-sq.-ft. 2-bedroom, 1-1/2-bath home, which is now for sale.

The home has concrete floors, exposed air ducts, and a vaulted ceiling that reaches a peak of 24 ft. The kitchen (pictured above) has been completely redone — with granite countertops, a double sink, and an island with seating for 6.

The kitchen faces the higher-ceilinged main living space; above it is a 240-sq.-ft. loft space with 2 closets in it, currently being used as a third bedroom. It’s reachable using an attached rolling library-style ladder. Out the kitchen door is a pergola-topped patio for outdoor dining; around the corner, set back from another section of the back yard, is a small separate storage building.

Oak barn-style doors mark the entrance to both the master bedroom and the master bath; a space outside the second bedroom works as an office nook.

If you’re looking for a smaller home in the Heights, you might want to check out this home. That should be easy to do this weekend, because of the open house on Sunday, May 21st, from 2 to 4 pm. In the meantime, you’ll find many more photos and details on the property website.

Posts from sponsors draw attention. Become a Swamplot Sponsor of the Day.

Sponsor of the Day
05/19/17 12:00pm

Swamplot’s sponsor today is Houston’s own Central Bank. Thanks for the continuing support!

Central Bank has 4 (central) Houston branches available to meet your business or personal needs: in Midtown, the Heights, West Houston, and Post Oak Place.

Central Bank believes that change is essential to its success; the company actively pursues the latest in service, technology, and products. Central Bank aims to know its customers personally and to be their primary business and personal financial resource. The bank’s staff values relationships and strives to be available when you need them.

To learn more about how Central Bank can meet your banking needs, please call any of the following Senior Vice Presidents: Kenny Beard, at 832.485.2376; Bonnie Purvis, at 832.485.2354; Carlos Alvarez, at 832.485.2372; or Ryan Tillman, at 832.485.2307. You can also find out more on the bank’s website.

Stand up for Swamplot. Become a Sponsor of the Day. 

Sponsor of the Day
05/18/17 12:00pm

Swamplot is brought to you today by Plan Downtown and the Downtown District, which are bringing you the third of 4 weekly posts focusing on the 4 pillars of the Plan Downtown effort. Thanks for supporting this website!

What would convince you to move to Downtown Houston? What would need to change in order for you to find urban living in Downtown Houston enticing?

Plan Downtown committees and participants are exploring possible answers to this question. The third pillar of this strategic initiative focuses on how Downtown Houston can serve as the standard of urban livability. Specifically, how it can:

  • provide a holistic set of services that build community for residents, workers, and visitors;
  • grow a residential population to make a Downtown that’s vibrant at all hours; and
  • support strong neighboring communities that complement Downtown and each other.

To delve deeper into this subject, Plan Downtown interviewed Xavier Peña, the vice president of finance and general counsel of the Houston Endowment and chairman of the Downtown Redevelopment Authority:

Q: Why is planning so important?

A: Planning gives an opportunity for people to come together and share ideas to understand what’s important individually and collectively. It enables us to think through how individual ideas can form a great plan that everyone can buy into.

Q: How would you describe living in Downtown Houston?

A: Residents enjoy a great urban lifestyle in Downtown Houston with options for entertainment, a thriving restaurant scene, green space, and sports facilities. We have a lot more choices for living in Downtown Houston, more than we had 5 years ago. Those choices enhance people’s idea of how they visualize living in the city.

Q: Why would someone want to move into the city?

A: There’s a real interest in walkability. There aren’t other parts of Houston with so many amenities — restaurants, entertainment, access to the arts and sports — in a walkable environment.

Q: What’s missing in order to attract more people to live in Downtown Houston?

A: We’ve made great strides in terms of amenities in Downtown, but I think we can always have more retail.

We can also enhance our workforce housing by making it more affordable to those in certain income brackets. Statistics show that the average residential property in Downtown is geared toward someone who earns approximately $100,000 annually. There are many more people that work Downtown that don’t fall in that category. Thinking about that segment of the population is extremely important as we move into the future.

Q: How would you accommodate that population?

A: We need to think what that means for developers and what incentives we can offer so that this type of housing has a place in Downtown Houston. It’s complicated, but it’s essential.

Q: What steps can Downtown take to connect and strengthen neighboring communities?

A: There are natural barriers that exist between Downtown Houston and other surrounding areas. The Pierce Elevated divides Downtown and Midtown. The George R. Brown Convention Center and I-69 are barriers between Downtown and EaDo. There’s a perception that there’s a lack of access to those areas, and we counteract that by doing a lot with the streets that connect those areas to bring those communities together.

That can be accomplished, for example, by bringing awareness to Greenlink and through increased transportation.

Q: How we can make downtown safer?

A: We’ve learned that when you activate street level activity, you create a safer environment for all. As we think through adding retail, restaurants, and other types of entertainment options, we need to think about how to also add public areas so more people feel included to be outside. Safety, and a feeling of safety, will follow.

Q: How can Downtown Houston enhance healthy activities and active living?

A: When we enhance our green spaces, active living follows — weather it be hanging out at a park or going on a walk. People are eager for that type of activity, we just need to provide areas that will accommodate it.

Focus on Houston. Become a Swamplot Sponsor of the Day.

Sponsor of the Day
05/17/17 12:00pm

Today’s sponsor is the unique home at 402 E. 25th St. in the Houston Heights. Thanks for supporting Swamplot!

From 1957 to the 1990s, the small commercial building at the corner of Arlington and E. 25th St. served as a lawnmower and small-engine repair shop. It’s since been converted into a 1,216-sq.-ft. 2-bedroom, 1-1/2-bath home, which is now for sale.

The home has concrete floors, exposed air ducts, and a vaulted ceiling that reaches a peak of 24 ft. The kitchen (pictured above) has been completely redone — with granite countertops, a double sink, and an island with seating for 6.

The kitchen faces the higher-ceilinged main living space; above it is a 240-sq.-ft. loft space with 2 closets in it, currently being used as a third bedroom. It’s reachable using an attached rolling library-style ladder. Out the kitchen door is a pergola-topped patio for outdoor dining; around the corner, set back from another section of the back yard, is a small separate storage building.

Oak barn-style doors mark the entrance to both the master bedroom and the master bath; a space outside the second bedroom works as an office nook.

If you’re looking for a smaller home in the Heights, you might want to check out this home. That should be easy to do this weekend, because there’s an open house this Sunday, May 21st, from 2 to 4 pm. In the meantime, you’ll find many more photos and details on the property website.

What makes your property distinctive? Become a Sponsor of the Day and show it on Swamplot.

Sponsor of the Day
05/16/17 12:00pm

In today’s sponsor post we introduce EZneeds, a new Houston-based company that delivers grocery, household, and office essentials directly to your door. Thanks to EZneeds for supporting Swamplot!

EZneeds was founded on the mission to be your one-stop online shop — making life easier by delivering everyday needs (groceries, household items, office supplies) directly to your doorstep at low prices and with fast shipping. EZneeds wants to make shopping for your everyday essentials easy and convenient — without any extra fees! That means no membership fees, no service fees, and no tips.

EZneeds offers both bulk and single items:

  • Free 1-3 day shipping nationwide on orders over $50
  • For every case of water purchased from EZneeds.com, the company will donate $1 to the EZneeds Campaign for Water (please visit the website for details)

Check out EZneeds.com to see what the company has to offer. You can also follow the company on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. EZneeds was founded in Houston and is based in Houston.

Get attention for your Houston ventures by becoming a Swamplot Sponsor of the Day. Here’s how to do it.

Sponsor of the Day
05/12/17 12:00pm

Our sponsor today is the pair of new homes at 615 E. 11th 1/2 St. in the Houston Heights. Thank you for supporting Swamplot!

These 2 modern homes in a farmhouse style were designed and constructed by the Ferguson Home Group. Each home has 4 bedrooms and 4-1/2 bathrooms, in a plan that takes advantage of the site’s alley access: tucked between the alley-facing garage and the family room at the back of the first floor is a covered screen porch, which looks onto a side yard.

The kitchen (pictured above) sits at the heart of the first-floor plan, looking past a peninsula to the dining room, across the island to its breakfast bar, and to the open family room behind it. Floor-to-ceiling cabinetry continues past the kitchen to the back door, offering mudroom-style storage and a built-in desk. There’s a dramatically painted powder room downstairs; all 4 bedrooms, each with their own bathroom, are upstairs.

The homes face south on 11th 1/2 St., a 2-block long residential street tucked close to the commercial nexus at the intersection of Studewood and 11th St. that features dining destinations Ruggles Green, Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar, DaCapo’s, Field & Tides, and Red Dessert Dive. Also short walks away: Berryhill Baja Grill, Buchanan’s Native Plants, and C&D Hardware.

You can view more photos and find out more about the homes by checking out the property website. They’ll also be on view Saturday (that’s tomorrow!), May 13, in an open house scheduled to run from 10 am to 2 pm. If that time doesn’t work out for you, contact the listing agent, Clay Robinson of Full City Block, at 713.851.4254 to make an appointment.

Got any cool new developments you’d like to show Swamplot readers? Become a Sponsor of the Day.

Sponsor of the Day
05/11/17 12:00pm

Today Plan Downtown and the Downtown District are sponsoring Swamplot — with the second of 4 weekly posts focusing on the 4 pillars of the Plan Downtown effort. Thanks for supporting this website!

What’s the second pillar of Plan Downtown? Making Downtown Houston the premier business destination in the region. By building on the strength and diversity of existing businesses, enhancing competitive advantages that serve the energy sector and other industries, and investing in Downtown’s appeal — to attract new business activity to the district as well as the region.

How can this be accomplished? To tackle this question, Plan Downtown has enlisted the expertise of Elissa Hoagland Izmailyan, principal of HR&A Advisors, a consulting firm that provides services in real estate, economic development, and program design and implementation.

Q: What’s remarkable about Downtown Houston’s business center?

A: For any downtown area, you have to evaluate its strengths as a reflection of the region. Houston is the fastest growing job market in the country — the most vibrant, the most international, one of the best talent bases in the country.

So much of what’s special about Downtown is what’s special about Houston. It’s the center of, and the gateway to, the region. It’s the only business district in Houston where you’re likely to rub elbows with your counterparts on the street. There’s a real community of leaders — public, private, and civic — who are shaping the future.

Q: What improvements would you suggest to strengthen business activity? What’s missing?

A: It’s not so much what’s missing, but what do we need more of. Downtown Houston already has so many of the assets that businesses of the future are seeking, which is why they’re already here.

What we hear from the more than 150,000 workers who have chosen to be Downtown is that they love the walkability, restaurants, parks, and transit. They want more of the same. And what businesses of the future want is more of the same.

Q: How can Downtown Houston attract more business and diversify its commerce?

A: Making people aware of all of Downtown’s opportunities and options. I was introduced to Houston from the outside in, like most people are when they come to work here. My first meeting in Houston was in the Galleria, then in Greenspoint. I slowly worked my way into Downtown. It took a couple years for me to get to know the Downtown community.

I think when outsiders come to Houston they see Downtown as the urban core they might have left in New York, London, or Portland. However, it’s a slower process of introducing or reintroducing the Downtown community to them.

Q: Describe the ideal workspace for the future workforce: What will this look like and how can Downtown Houston accommodate it?

A: There are 2 changes: A change in office space, and a change in the fabric we create between the offices.

Within office space, you see square feet per employee going down quite precipitously across the country in all industries. There are a few reasons for that. We’re automating a lot of the routines, the analytical and administrative tasks that no longer require people to sit in cubicles and file. Instead, we work together and collaborate more. In workspaces, we’re seeing more collaborative configurations and less individual areas.

That same ethos needs to extend into the broader Downtown. What we need is less community within a building and more between buildings and public spaces — to create a social network that connects us.

As we get back to how can Downtown grow and attract the businesses of the future, it’s about incubating now the businesses that will be big in 30 years and providing spaces that can support them.

Q: What additional services and amenities does Downtown Houston need to strengthen the appeal for businesses to move into the area?

A: I recently had a very interesting conversation with a number of business leaders after asking that question. They all said yes, we need more restaurants, stores, gyms, and daycare centers. But we won’t get any of that until we get more residents.

Of course there’s more that we could, should, and will provide to grow business activity in Downtown Houston, but the first step is to broaden our community outside of the office, supporting the argument that visitation isn’t only for tourists. Regional residents are here not only for a day.

People who are moving to Houston and choose to be Downtown instead of somewhere else are building that community over time. So while we need more supportive services for businesses, those same services are needed for residents.

So there’s a chicken-or-egg argument regarding amenities and who’s using them.

Swamplot is where important conversations happen. Find out how to become a Sponsor of the Day.

Sponsor of the Day
05/10/17 12:00pm

Swamplot’s sponsor today is a house with a name: The Perforated House. It’s at 1134 Waverly St. in the Houston Heights, and it’s being offered for sale by Boulevard Realty. Thanks for supporting this site!

If this modern home seems at all familiar to you, it might be because it made a Houstonia magazine curated list of the 10 greatest homes in Houston (it was 1 of only 2 on the list built in this decade). It also served as a cover story in Texas Architect magazine, after winning a 2014 TxA Design Award. And it was featured in the AIA Houston home tour that same year.

The basic idea behind the Perforated House — designed by Houston’s LOJO Architecture for the family of Jason Logan (one of the firm’s 2 principals) — is that breezeways are good. You might find a breezeway in the middle of a traditional Texas dogtrot house, separating the 2 sides of the home. Logan and his partner Matt Johnson took this idea a little further, creating a home with 4 breezeways. “If one is good, then four are better,” they note in their own writeup of the property on the firm’s website, where some helpful diagrams illustrate the idea. These breezeways, or “perforations” — along with a few related construction strategies — help keep the home cool with cross-ventilation, increase the amount of indirect natural lighting, and generally reduce the home’s energy consumption.

The most prominent of the 4 breezeways is the home’s front porch (pictured at top) which is sheathed in front with corrugated siding that has — yes — tiny perforations in it. This gives it privacy during the day and a signature glow at night, a feature the architects illustrate on their website with a GIF. A second first-floor breezeway separates the kitchen from the garage, which faces the back alley. The other 2 breezeways are upstairs — one, visible at the top of the second photo above, overlooks (and vents) the double-height living room; the other adjoins the master suite in back.

A yard with 3 separate zones follows the house along the north side of the lot, the middle section covered by a deck just outside the kitchen. A few other notable spaces in the 3-bedroom, 3-1/2-bath, 2,649-sq.-ft. home on a 6,600-sq.-ft. Heights lot: The cockpit-like study at the front of the home, with windows facing the porch; and the back-stair landing that overlooks the kitchen’s breakfast area and pantry. (The third bedroom, at the front of the home, has its own separate staircase.)

You can find photos of many of these spaces on the property website. The Perforated House just went on the market this week — your first opportunity to tour it will be at an open house this Sunday from 2 to 4 pm. (Except for a brokers-only open house this Thursday, May 11, from 5 to 7 pm.) For more information, contact the listing agent, Jaye Tullai of Boulevard Realty.

Photos: Luis Ayala, AIA

Distinctive homes deserve attention. That’s the big idea behind Swamplot sponsorships.

Sponsor of the Day
05/09/17 12:00pm

Today Swamplot is brought to you by 2711 Morrison St. in Woodland Heights, which is being offered for sale by Norhill Realty. Thanks for supporting this site!

Designed and built by award-winning design-build firm StudioMET — aka AIA Houston’s 2016 Firm of the Year — this custom home blends modern design with family-focused spaces both inside and out. In addition to the 3206-sq.-ft. main house, there’s also a 1122-sq.-ft., 1-bedroom guest quarters with a full kitchen and its own private entrance.

The Woodland Heights location — just a block off White Oak Blvd. — is convenient for active Houstonians. Before taking a short commute Downtown, you can swim a few laps in your 62-ft. pool, lay out on the sun deck, or go for a jog along the White Oak hike-and-bike trail.

It’s also a home for entertaining: Built on a 10,000-sq.-ft. double lot, this property includes a covered patio, sun deck, 3 balconies, and a landscaped back yard — plenty of space to host guests. And the separate guest quarters means out-of-town visitors can stay longer and more comfortably.

Start the day with your family in the island kitchen within the open-floor-plan main living area. Features include a glass-tile backsplash, granite countertops, a walk-in pantry, a stainless-steel Jenn-Air range, a built-in Miele coffee system, and a 4-stool breakfast bar.

The home is listed as a 3-bedroom, but the floor plan provides flexibility: You’ll find 2 additional rooms — currently being used as an indoor gym and a design studio. Both can be adapted to your specific needs.

Additional photos, a walk-through video, and listing details are available at norhillrealty.com.  If you are interested in more information or would like to schedule a showing, contact Vincent Biondillo at 713-449-2416 — or email him at vincent@norhillrealty.com. To keep up with Norhill Realty’s latest listings and real estate tips, follow up on the Norhill Realty Facebook page or check out the Norhill Realty website.

Ready to become a Swamplot Sponsor of the Day? Find out more here.

Sponsor of the Day
05/08/17 12:00pm

Our sponsor today is ASCOT — also known as the Alcohol Servers Counsel of Texas. Thanks for supporting Swamplot!

If you work in a restaurant, or in any kind of food-service or food-prep operation, you’re probably already familiar with state requirements for training in food-handling safety. And if you work in a bar or for an alcohol distributor, you probably already know why it’s so important that everyone who has anything to do with selling, dispensing, or delivering any kind of alcoholic beverage complete state-certified training in alcohol safety.

Since 1988, ASCOT has been licensed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to provide TABC-certified alcohol-server training programs. That makes ASCOT one of the oldest and most established food and beverage certification programs in the country — as well as Texas’s longest-running provider of training in this important field. And ASCOT has been a preferred source for training in food handling in Houston since 2004.

If you’re responsible for making sure new employees are trained promptly and well in these particular areas, you can be sure they’re getting the exact program they need — in the most helpful format possible — by sending them to ASCOT. ASCOT offers its training courses both in a classroom setting and online, in both English and Spanish.

Use the discount code ASCOT on the alcoholservers.com website and the online alcohol-server training course works out to just $9.89 per class. The food-handling class costs just $7.00 — no discount code is needed.

ASCOT’s server-training program is certified by the TABC, and its food-handler program is ANSI Accredited as meeting the ASTM E2659-09 standard. For more details, or to sign up, head over to the ASCOT website — alcoholservers.com — or call 713.922.1223.

Sponsor responsibly: Become a Swamplot Sponsor of the Day.

Sponsor of the Day
05/05/17 12:00pm

Today our sponsor is Houston’s own Central Bank. Thanks for the continuing support for Swamplot!

Central Bank has 4 (central) Houston branches available to meet your business or personal needs: in Midtown, the Heights, West Houston, and Post Oak Place.

Central Bank believes that change is essential to its success; the company actively pursues the latest in service, technology, and products. Central Bank aims to know its customers personally and to be their primary business and personal financial resource. The bank’s staff values relationships and strives to be available when you need them.

To learn more about how Central Bank can meet your banking needs, please call any of the following Senior Vice Presidents: Kenny Beard, at 832.485.2376; Bonnie Purvis, at 832.485.2354; Gary Noble, at 832.485.2366; or Ryan Tillman, at 832.485.2307. You can also find out more on the bank’s website.

Join a great group of Houston businesses and organizations — by supporting Swamplot. Here’s how to do it. 

Sponsor of the Day
05/04/17 12:00pm

Today Plan Downtown and the Downtown District are sponsoring Swamplot — with the first of 4 weekly posts focusing on the 4 pillars of the Plan Downtown effort. Thanks for supporting this website!

In this interview, Mike Waterman, president of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau and executive vice president of Houston First, discusses how to make Downtown a great place to be. (A longer version is shown in the video above.) Specifically: how to connect centers of activity, what attractions need to be developed, and how to position Downtown Houston as an authentic, “no-planning” leisure destination:

Q: What are you most proud of about Downtown Houston?

A: For Houston First, that’s Avenida Houston — 3 years in the making. We had the opportunity to unveil it during the Super Bowl, which was magical. We had 1.3 million people experience the whole area, and the reviews were spectacular.

Q: Why was it so important to develop this area?

A: The George R. Brown Convention Center really didn’t have a front door. The 8-lane bus access road made sense when there wasn’t as much activity, when Discovery Green wasn’t there. Turning this into 6 lanes of pedestrian friendly space, plus 4 restaurants and hotels is a game changer for Houston and Discovery Green. There are 12 restaurants within a block of the GRB that weren’t there 4 months ago. That’s an amazing asset for the city, residents and visitors.

Q: Talk about ways that different areas of Downtown can be connected and energized. How is this achieved?

A: There are pockets of Houston that have unique characteristics. Still, they need to be connected. EaDo is a classic example of an area that’s up and coming. But the freeway is a barrier. Do we light it? Paint it? How do we make the barrier go away or become an attractor rather than a detractor? METRORail has achieved connecting EaDo to Downtown Houston, but there’s more we can do.

If we think about all the pockets in and around Downtown such as Market Square Park, Theater District, Museum District, Avenida Houston, and Midtown, all of these can be connected through programming or ease of access. It would make the city more vibrant.

Someone told me that Houston was designed by engineers — its grid pattern is very efficient and it makes a lot of sense. Our job now is to add some character back in so there’s ease of moving from one area into another — from Market Square Park to the Theater District to Buffalo Bayou Park and the bayou down to Discovery Green.

Q: What new attractions would you like to see in Downtown and why?

A: We’re working on opportunities to program and activate the city, primarily around Discovery Green. Festivals are a great way to achieve this. Think about the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the Sydney Opera House. All these landmarks have created a gathering place that’s of wide interest. Houston is ripe for a destination like this as well. What if it were a lighting, pyrotechnics, 3D spectacle that activated the area around GRB? Something authentic to Houston. It would give another reason for people to come to Downtown Houston.

Q: Why should Downtown be a “no-planning” destination? A place where people can come without an agenda and find lots of things to do.

A: I think it’s extremely important. Downtown Houston is seen already as the place to do business. The leisure piece is newer in our history and evolution. In New York and Chicago, for example, you can visit without a plan and find infinite things to do. In Houston, we have more work to do on that front.

Q: Name buildings, areas or landmarks that you feel are being underutilized: How would you activate them?

A: The Cheek Neal Coffee Building in Eado is beautiful and ripe with opportunity. I’d love to see it turn into a farmers market. The JP Morgan Chase Building, where we have an observatory (or had it), has closed it to the public for a variety of reasons. Most cities have some sort of place where you can get a bird’s eye view of the city that attracts tourists and visitors. Houston doesn’t have that.

Sam Houston Park is another diamond in the rough. Much like GRB, it doesn’t have a front door. The historic homes are really fun and interesting, but I think programming and activations could really enliven the space.

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