A Houston Chronicle attempt to get more info about the surprise chemical warehouse fire that turned Spring Branch Creek blood red earlier this year has been denied by the city, writes Matt Dempsey this week. The city has reportedly appealed to the state attorney general’s office to block the records request, as well as the paper’s broader request for “the name and address of every facility that files a hazardous material inventory form.”
The early May fire spread from a residence on Laverne St., igniting still-unquantified amounts of still-unnamed chemicals stored at the Custom Packaging & Filling warehouse behind it — a business that didn’t show up on the list of storage facilities the Chronicle was able to compile from local emergency planning groups, after the city and state blocked a previous request for similar info last year. The blaze left some firefighters with chemical burns and respiratory issues, and left stretches of nearby waterways decorated with festive biohazard signs and oil booms as the EPA did what they could about the mixture of pesticides and whatever else was killing the fish that drained from the site.
Following a few months of permit angst and the placement of a red pig in the parking lot, the N. Shepherd location of Dallas-import pizza join Cane Rosso says it will open this evening at 5pm. Cane Rosso’s other planned Houston spot is still getting worked over on Yoakum St. at Richmond Ave.
Just beating it to the punch this afternoon is the even-longer-delayed 4th location of Niko Niko’s Greek & American Bakery & Cafe, opening at 3pm in the former Chili’s building across the parking lot from Houston Community College’s Spring Branch campus:
GOOD THING SPRING BRANCH HAD ALL THAT FLOODING LAST MONTH A press release from the city notes that last month’s flooding may actually make the chemical spill caused by yesterday’s warehouse fire significantly less of a problem for the waterways around Spring Branch: “Fortunately, recent heavy rainfall and flooding has caused high waters in our creeks and bayous. This will assist in diluting the pesticide contaminates and minimize its impact.” Harris County Flood Control District says the areas of Spring Branch creek marked in the map above (from the site of the fire to the creek’s junction with Buffalo Bayou) should be avoided. [City of Houston; previously on Swamplot] Image: Harris County Flood Control District
The ditches ran red in the Spring Branch area yesterday as the billowing 4-alarm fire near Laverne St. at Spring Branch Dr. triggered evacuations and shelter-in-place orders across the surrounding areas. The blaze reportedly started in a home-slash-auto-shop on Laverne and spread next door to the A-1 Custom Packaging warehouse (which transfers large quantities of various industrial liquids into smaller bottles for distribution). Some of those stored chemicals (including the bright red petroleum additive visible in the shot above) made their way into drainage ditches and culverts flowing into Spring Branch itself.
The red additive is non-water-soluble and has been getting pushed around by contract clean-up crews downstream to stop the spread. But contractors cannot, the city says, catch the pesticide that also made its way into the same drainage channels, as it dissolves in water. It’s still unclear how much of the 500 gallons or so thought to have been stored at the site made it all the way into Spring Branch (which flows into Buffalo Bayou south of I-10), but some water quality test results are due back later today.
Update, May 6: The chemicals released by yesterday’s fire turned Spring Branch Creek blood red — photo and more info here.
The fire department posted a long-distance shot this morning of the A1 Custom Packaging warehouse, currently on fire near the intersection of Laverne St. and Spring Branch Dr. north of Longpoint Dr. The 4-alarm blaze (shown above from nearly 9 miles away looking out over 59 across Upper Kirby) is about a quarter mile from Spring Branch Elementary School, which KPRC reports is being evacuated. Roughly 500 students and teachers are being bussed to the Coleman Community Coliseum about 5 miles west-by-southwest, at 1050 Dairy Ashford Rd.
Noting the release of hazardous chemicals, the city’s emergency notification system recommends that anyone not evacuating the square formed by Blalock Rd., Bingle Rd., Westview Dr., and Hammerly Blvd. (shaded in red on the map above) should close their windows, turn off the AC and ventilation systems, and maybe have a go at sealing up cracks with duct tape and plastic sheeting.
Developer MetroNational is calling the 6-story Energy Corridor District office building and parking garage it officially announced today “the first step in expanding Memorial City north of I-10.” The 240,000-sq.-ft. structure planned for 10100 Katy Fwy. will house 15,000 sq. ft. of retail space on its ground floor — but the rendering of the building designed by Powers Brown Architecture sent out by the company does make the development look like an outpost in an even more suburban office park. As Swamplot reported last week, Mexican building-materials company Cemex will be leasing 80,000 sq. ft. in the complex for its U.S. headquarters.
Not a whole lot has been going on at the former Chili’s at 1040 West Sam Houston Tollway next to the HCC Spring Branch campus, a reader notes. Last September, Montrose-born Greek restaurant Niko Niko’s announced it would be opening its fourth Houston-area location there, near the overpasses connecting I-10 to Beltway 8.
MetroNational appears to have concrete plans for the new development it’s putting together for the 24-acre corner of Gessner Rd. and the Katy Fwy. feeder directly across I-10 from the company’s distinctive headquarters: It’s already signed up building materials company Cemex USA to become the lead tenant in a new office building intended for a portion of the site, a source tells Swamplot. The company will be leasing around 80,000 sq. ft. of space in the Energy Gateway District.
What looks to be the last structure standing in the way of MetroNational’s hush-hush Energy Gateway District project across I-10 from its headquarters is now ready for its exit. The 32-year-old PoMo style strip center at 1055 Gessner Rd., which formerly housed an HPD substation, Terrace Limousine, and the Asiana Garden restaurant, appears fenced off and ready for demolition in this photo sent to Swamplot by a reader. The center stands at the far northern end of the 24-acre property, which — following the city’s approval of a variance request last month — will be bisected by the extension of Mathewson Ln. to Gessner Rd. from Conrad Sauer Rd.
Photo: Bayan Raji
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.
Note: The original version of this story misreported the home’s asking price. It is being offered at $749,900.
Blue. Red. Green. Orange. Were it not for the Dublinesque color rotation on the doors of a 4-pack of eco-friendly contemporary homes in Spring Branch’s Melody Oaks neighborhood, might owners accidentally enter the wrong one? Unit 1 — the bluesy one (top) that shores up one end of the lookalikes — is back on the market. Its listing by the owner-agent over the weekend has a
$789,900 $749,900 price tag attached. That’s up, uh, somewhat from its purchase price in April 2013: $484,950.
The team at The ODD Group, (aka Open Design & Development, and including Royce/Eagleton Architects), is behind these “urban cottages” (above) proliferating in a newly minted “pocket community” tagged Janak Place. It’s located north of Westview Dr. between Wirt Rd. and Antoine Dr.