11/28/17 11:30am

The Kroger once on the corner of OST and Cambridge St. is now demolished. These photos taken by a Swamplot reader last weekend look south toward a cluster of UTHealth buildings, right past where the supermarket stood before its Halloween-era teardown.

The parking lot was left intact during the demo.

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Gone Grocery
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

06/08/17 1:45pm

What’s going on with the Astrodome, after state senator John Whitmire’s plan to require a vote on a planned reconfiguration of the long-vacant former stadium was blocked last month? The project is still in a “design phase” that continued through the legislative session and is expected to last through the end of this year, and which includes some rather unglamorous tasks — such as verifying existing drawings and digging up the facility’s drainage pipe to see what condition it’s in. But officials won’t wait until the design phase is complete before getting estimates from construction managers. “After we get all the estimates, we’ll go back to commissioners court for approval to proceed,” county engineer John Blount tells Community Impact reporter Shawn Arrajj.

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Offices and Restaurants and Retail Too
05/30/17 2:15pm

The state bill proposed by Houston-area senator John Whitmire (to require a vote on major county-funded upgrades to certain Texas stadiums that happen to be the Astrodome) was killed in the Texas House by a different Houston-area legislator, Robert Arnold reports this week for KHOU. (That likely means the work on Harris County’s plan to fill in the bottom of the Dome with an underground parking garage can go ahead without a special election on the spending.) The bill actually passed the Senate at the end of March, but died in the House’s County Affairs committee chaired by representative Garnet Coleman (whose own legislative district ever-so-slightly overlaps Whitmire’s around Fourth Ward: From there, Coleman’s District 147 stretches down through Third Ward toward the Beltway along the Gulf Freeway, while Whitmire’s Senate District 15 horseshoes up 290 to FM 1960 and Humble before looping back down to the Ship Channel). Arnold says the bill made an unsuccessful comeback attempt as an amendment to another measure, and looks to be dead for now as of yesterday’s end of the normal legislative calendar. (Then again — who knows what might pop up during a special session?)

Schematic of county Astrodome parking garage plan: Harris County Engineering Dept.

Parking Plan Stop-and-Go
02/16/17 11:15am

Uptown MD and TIRZ 16 Boundaries

A new lawsuit was filed yesterday against TIRZ 16, the Uptown Development Authority, and the city, alleging that the creation of the reinvestment zone in the Galleria area was in violation of Texas law, since the zone can’t reasonably be considered “unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted.” Rather, the filing claims, the city ordinance that originally created the TIRZ used the justification that the Uptown area needed traffic decongestion to avoid losing its status as one of the wealthiest districts in the city, and to avoid draining business to the city’s ever-expanding suburban fringe. A hearing is going on today over a possible injunction on further spending or work on Uptown projects, and Mike Morris says that city council delayed a vote yesterday on allowing Uptown an additional $65 million in debt.

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Uptown Up for Trial
02/03/17 9:30am

Super Bowl LI Road Closures, Downtown

An essential addition to the growing list of guides for Houstonians on where not to go this weekend: the above map of road closures around the George R. Brown Convention Center district. Both red shading and cross-hatching mark the temporary carless zones, while a dashed black line shows the location of the perimeter fence for area events. Meanwhile, miles away at actual Super Bowl location NRG Stadium, other street closures were planned to go into effect yesterday evening (and are scheduled to last through Monday morning):

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Lines of Scrimmage
01/27/17 3:00pm

Astrodome Super Bowl Lighting Rendering
 
After a few years of mulling it over, the Texas Historical Commission voted this morning to give State Antiquities Landmark status to the Astrodome (formally known, the agency notes, as the Harris County Domed Stadium). About a dozen Houston buildings have the designation (which can also go to shipwrecks and archaeological sites); the status means that any attempts to “remove, alter, damage, salvage, or excavate” the Dome — a spread of activity which probably includes installing that parking garage in the bottom — will now also need a permit from the state. 

THC’s Executive Director Mark Wolfe says in this morning’s statement that the Dome is “one of the most significant sports and entertainment venues in history, setting the standard for modern facilities around the world.” The structure will continue adding to its sports resume during the impending Super Bowl week by storing Super Bowl-related things and being lit up nearby (as rendered above).

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Under State Protection
01/25/17 4:00pm

Astrodome Super Bowl Lighting Rendering

Judge Emmett’s office passes along the rendering above today, showing plans for the Astrodome’s Super Bowl vestment — namely, a new swath of blue-green lighting around the stadium’s exterior wall. That proposed projected light show on the roof got shot down in the fall, along with the possibility of holding any events in the building; Brent Schrotenboer of USAtoday notes the Dome currently holds the distinction of “biggest and most famous storage facility in Texas,” however, and as such will be carrying out its related stuff-holding duties for a variety of Super Bowl lead-up events. 

Rendering of Astrodome Super Bowl lighting: Super Bowl Host Committee

Local Color
01/09/17 4:00pm

Kroger Signature Grocery Store, 1990 Old Spanish Trail at Cambridge St., Houston

An employee confirms to Swamplot this afternoon that the Kroger at 1990 Old Spanish Tr. will be shutting down on January 24th. The formerly 24-hour grocery store (referred to previously as Slow Jam Kroger in Jeff Balke’s 2010 Inner Loop Kroger census, though arguably having earned the nickname Bank Robbery Kroger in the years since) has already reduced its hours and is closing up at midnight these days. Readers report low morale among car-less residents of the nearby apartments; they also report a few slightly mismatched rumors that the land has been sold to a big name  in the Medical Center.

Photo of Kroger at 1990 Old Spanish Tr.: Edgar V.

Slow Jam Countdown
07/01/16 1:30pm

Proposed Astrodome Parking Garage Plans

Here are some of the plans the Harris County commissioners looked over this week as they reviewed the engineering study for the proposal to raise the Astrodome’s below-grade floor and stick a parking garage beneath it. The view above shows an entrance ramp for cars from the east, with a service ramp running up from the southwest; NRG Stadium is shown peeking in on the scene from the left.

Got questions about the plan, or about anything else Dome-related? Someone claiming to be involved with the project is now taking inquiries from all comers over on Reddit. The thread started up yesterday and was still active this morning; topics addressed so far have included how the latest proposal would be funded, the feasibility of that spiral-ey skeletonized park idea, and the surprising number of people who have suggested turning the Dome into an indoor skiing venue.

The poster says they’ll try to keep checking back to answer new questions. While you wait, have a look at more views of the proposed changes to the structure — here’s what the ground-level park on Level 3 might look like, with pedestrian entrances on all 4 sides:

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Park and Parking Plans
06/27/16 12:15pm

COUNTY WANTS TO FILL IN THE ASTRODOME’S FLOOD LEVELS WITH PARKING AstrodomeThere are still no set plans for what will eventually happen to the Astrodome, but the county is already gearing up to work on the parking situation. Tomorrow the county commissioners court will look over an engineering report on plans to raise the main floor of the structure (which currently sits some 30 feet below the surrounding grade) and stick a 2-story 1,400-space parking garage beneath it. The meeting’s agenda indicates that approvals on specifics for the roughly $105 million plan won’t be put to a vote until September; a spokesman for county judge Ed Emmett also tells Mihir Zaveri that no construction would start until after the Super Bowl, regardless of approval. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

06/15/16 3:30pm

Proposed Astrodome modifications (A-Dome Park)

Proposed Astrodome modifications (A-Dome Park)Architects James Richards and Ben Olschner, dissatisfied with the current talk of turning the Astrodome into the world’s largest air-conditioned park, have started drumming up support (and selling t-shirts) for their own idea for overhauling the long-empty structure: stripping the building of all but its core steel structure (“like the Eiffel Tower in Paris”, the duo’s website reads) and adding a spiraling hike and bike trail up to the center of the roof. The duo estimates the project would cost $180 million to execute ($62 million less than what the indoor park plan is estimated to cost); they expect the work could be paid for as a public-private effort like the one that funded Discovery Green (and branded all of its features).

The plan (which also removes all nonessential letters, redubbing the place A-Dome Park) calls for  the replacement of some 13 acres of existing Dome-side parking lot with live oaks, planted in alignment with the building’s steel columns (as seen here from above). Below are a bunch of renderings showing the trees and walkways in place, and some zoomy depictions of the stripped-down ‘Dome back in action:

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Dome Dreams
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
03/03/16 11:30am

UT WRITES BACK TO UH PEN PALS, LAWMAKERS ON HOUSTON CAMPUS PLANS UT Houston Campus Site, Buffalo Lakes, HoustonUniversity of Texas Chancellor Bill McRaven sent a letter yesterday afternoon to a list of higher-ups in Texas higher education and in the state legislature. McRaven’s letter comes in response to a February letter signed by 35 former University of Houston regents and addressed to the same crowd; that letter followed UT’s January purchase of 100 acres near the intersection of Willowbend Dr. and Buffalo Spdwy. for a planned Houston campus. Yesterday’s letter from McRaven repeated past assertions that the still-ambiguously-purposed land would not become another university, and that UT is not trying to hinder UH’s development as a research institution, adding that “it takes two or more to collaborate.” McRaven also writes that UT is including the state higher-ed coordinating board on its task force to determine what to do with the new space, and asks if those opposing the expansion are “really convinced that Houston, the fourth largest and most international city in the U.S., has all it needs in terms of intellectual and innovative horsepower for the decades ahead?” [UT System via Dallas Morning News; previously on Swamplot] Conceptual rendering of proposed UT campus: UT System

02/02/16 1:30pm

JUDGE EMMETT HAS AT LEAST 6 THINGS TO SAY ABOUT THE ASTRODOME Landscaping at the Astrodome, Reliant Park, Houston, 77054It’s time again this Groundhog Day afternoon for the County Judge’s annual State of the County address. Judge Emmett’s speech was slated to include 6 points about the State of the Astrodome (which, as Astros historian Mike Acosta notes, is now fence-free and getting some new landscaping, as pictured above). The points, as summarized by the Houston Chronicle: 1. The Dome is iconic and revered by ‘a large majority’ in the county. 2. The Dome belongs to Harris County and is fully paid for. Upkeep costs are minimal. 3. The Dome is structurally sound, but a major repurposing will cost hundreds of millions. 4. Anything done to alter the Dome must be approved by the Texas Historical Commission. 5. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Houston Texans have contractual rights at NRG Park, and the county must keep its end of that bargain with maintenance. 6. No private interest has come up with the money to save the Dome.” The latest plans being batted around for the Dome: bring the first floor up to ground level to create parking or storage space underneath, then start talking about a public-private-retail-indoor-park space. [Houston Chronicle, previously on Swamplot] Photo: Mike Acosta