09/13/16 2:45pm

THE NEXT BIG HURRICANE REBUILD WILL GO MUCH FASTER IF YOU START ON IT NOW Meanwhile, in Brownsville: Housing advocates in Dolly-battered South Texas have since developed a disaster response program optimistically called Rapido; new legislation (similar to a bill that failed in the last Texas legislative session) is in the works to make Rapido-style “precovery” response a statewide standard. The program involves the fast deployment of permanent 1-room housing “cores” that can be quickly assembled by local workers and then added onto later; the bigger component of the program, Leah Binkovitz writes this week, is extensive pre-planning initiatives in potential disaster areas, instead of what housing advocate John Henneberger calls “reinventing disaster recovery from a blank sheet of paper every time there’s a disaster.” Binkovitz writes that the program calls for preemptive outreach “to determine what kind of disaster housing would be most appropriate, who could build it, who would be eligible to receive it and what resources would be available. That conversation should even include whether folks want to rebuild in vulnerable neighborhoods and how to offer alternatives.” [Urban Edge; previously on Swamplot]

05/27/16 10:30am

BRYAN POLICE: PLEASE STOP DRIVING INTO FLOODWATER SO WE CAN WORK ON TORNADO PROBLEMS Flood-related Road Closures, 5/27Dozens of roads are still closed this morning following yesterday’s heavy storms to the north and west. The National Weather Service reports that the nearly 17 inches of rain measured over 24 hours at its Brenham station would by itself beat the total for the 3rd-wettest month on station record (and fall less than an inch short of second place). Bryan-College Station’s The Eagle reported yesterday that the Bryan Police Department was urging drivers to stay off the roads, as first responders were getting tied up with sinking vehicle calls while also trying to respond to calls related to the tornado that touched down near Highway 6 and Briarcrest Dr. At least 50 houses were reported damaged and 3 destroyed; other possible tornado-related incidents reported in the area include damage to the Miramont Country Club and to the Wallace Pack Unit prison in Navasota. [National Weather Service, The Eagle] Map of road closures: TxDOT

06/10/15 11:00am

A BETTER FENCE FOR THE AXIS APARTMENTS SITE Fence Surrounding Site of Axis Apartments, 2400 West Dallas St., North Montrose, HoustonThe construction fence surrounding the burned site of JLB Partners’ planned Axis Apartments at 2400 West Dallas St. in North Montrose is receiving an upgrade — from veiled chain link to wood plank. A reader who wonders if the property still qualifies as a construction site notes that the fence still blocks the sidewalk along W. Dallas. This photo shows the current intersection of the 2 fence types along Montrose Blvd. The apartments burned during construction last year. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

06/09/15 4:00pm

WESTBURY CENTERETTE SITE WILL REMAIN DRY Hot off the presses from the latest Westbury Crier — amid reports on the aftermath of May’s bayou overflow events, which flooded 267 homes in the neighborhood: An update on the status of the site of the former Westbury Centerette at the corner of W. Bellfort and Chimney Rock, which was demolished in March. “Originally,” the newsletter reports, “the property owner planned to construct a facility for LA Fitness; however, we regret to announce that this plan will not proceed. The property owner continues to evaluate options for the site.” [Westbury Crier; previously on Swamplot] Video of Westbury Centerette demolition: Brays Oaks Management District

06/02/15 1:30pm

Sinkhole, Hyde Park Blvd. at Mason St., Montrose, Houston

Sinkhole, Hyde Park Blvd. at Mason St., Montrose, Houston

Here are views of a couple of holes that appeared at the eastern edge of East Montrose after last week’s flood. The sizable tire-grabber at the corner of Hyde Park Blvd. and Mason St. shown here was decorated by nearby residents who repurposed the cones and barricade from a nearby construction site, explains reader Brittanie Shey.

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What Lies Beneath
05/22/15 3:30pm

Parking Garage, Mix at Midtown, Milam St. at Elgin St., Midtown, Houston

Parking Garage, Mix at Midtown, Milam St. at Elgin St., Midtown, HoustonThe parking garage behind the Mix at Midtown retail center between Louisiana and Milam south of Elgin St. is still in operation after last week’s fire, but photos sent to Swamplot yesterday from the scene show that the steel 3-level structure behind 24 Hour Fitness, Holley’s Seafood Restaurant, Piola, and other businesses facing Milam St. isn’t operating at capacity. At least a dozen parking spaces on the middle and top level are blocked off, noted as unsafe because of fire damage to the structure:

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Stand Back
02/11/15 1:30pm

DISTRIBUTING DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS THROUGH TIRZ Map of Houston TIRZsA reader has a question about a particular Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone in Houston: “In this example scenario, the city of Houston is giving [Hurricane Ike] money to a developer for infrastructure improvements on their lot (located in a TIRZ) but the requirement is that the developer must build some affordable homes on that lot. The twist to this is that the city would give the developer money, but only if it is given through the TIRZ. Speaking with the TIRZ board, they said that they plan to distribute that money around the entire TIRZ and not just to that single development. This of course has the neighboring residents and the developer worried about how the funds will be given. Is this the normal process for distributing Ike funding? And can a TIRZ take money away from the developing area?” Map of area Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones: City of Houston

09/19/14 1:45pm

Demolition of Axis Apartments Garage, 2400 West Dallas St., North Montrose, Houston

Remember the fire back in March at those apartments under construction on West Dallas next to the cemetery that destroyed the whole complex except for the parking garage? No big deal if you don’t, because you’d need to adjust your memory anyway. A reader notes to Swamplot that the surviving parking garage is now being demolished as well, months after the singed stick-frame structures around it at JLB Parters’ would-have-been Axis Apartments were carted away. So now you can remember the fire so bad they had to tear the whole thing down — though it took them a while to give up on the garage.

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On Second Thought, Scrap That
04/09/14 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THAT SINKING FEELING Flooded Houses“At 13 seconds in, those houses across the water at the top of the frame are at the end of my street, South Burnett Drive, in the Lakewood subdivision. The street rises gradually as you travel away from the water, but the low end of the street lost over 20 houses during Hurricane Ike. Some owners have rebuilt on pilings, some have rebuilt at grade, and others have abandoned the property. (My own house is further up the street, at about 31 feet elevation.) The end of the flood debris field from Ike was about three lots south of my house. So, while the name ‘Swamplot’ is amusing, to some of us it is no joke.” [Reeseman, commenting on Flying High Over the Baytown Subdivision That Sunk] Illustration: Lulu

10/07/13 11:00am

BUILDING A MONUMENT TO GATED FLOOD CONTROL AND TOURISM Protecting the Ship Channel during an Ike-like (or worse) storm surge has led some to propose a big dike, others a big gate. But UH professor of urban planning Tom Colbert doesn’t see why we couldn’t trouble ourselves to make such protection a real sight to see too: “Colbert likes the idea of . . . connecting the Centennial Gate and its levees to the proposed Lone Star National Recreation Area, undeveloped land that would both attract ecotourists and slow floodwaters,” reports the Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Gray: “I remembered one drawing I’d seen in [Colbert’s] PowerPoint show: Happy tourists, paddling kayaks past the Hartman Bridge, on one of the byways out of the big ships’ path, waterbirds and wetlands all around. Colbert motioned southeast, toward the Ship Channel’s mouth, toward Barbours Cut, the other possible location for the floodgate. There, he said, the levees would cross the channel’s water, connecting the Ship Channel’s artificial islands — made from dirt dredged from the channel — to the shore. Enough room could be left on top of the levee for a hiking path or even for car access; for the first time, it would be possible for people to get to the Atkinson Island Wildlife Management Area — a bird mecca on manmade land — without a boat. You could even, he notes, build a tourist destination atop one of those islands: He proposes a monument to Houston, the gateway to North America, the place where nature meets industry. In some drawings, just to give people the idea, he plunks the Statue of Liberty atop a Ship Channel island.” [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo of Fred Hartman Bridge: Chuck Wilkson

05/03/13 10:00am

A new stick frame began going up Wednesday on the corner of Heights Blvd. and E. 2nd St., on a concrete slab cleared of the heap of wood studs, trusses, shear walls, and framed staircases that had landed there with a crash last Saturday night. All remnants of the 2 toppled Keystone Classic Homes 4-story townhouses in the Madison Park development just south of White Oak Bayou have been swept away. The site, pictured above in a photo taken by a Swamplot reader this morning, now looks rather different from the way it appeared last Sunday:

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07/10/12 11:34pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HURRICANE RITAS “I know there are people who ‘go out for Margaritas’ . . . that is, they are looking for a good ’Rita and don’t care that much about the food. However, I don’t think that means a place can succeed if that’s all they’ve got. No shortage in this town of good ’Ritas or good Mexican food or places that can do both, like Hugo’s or Sylvia’s. On the other hand, I have a fond memory of the Ninfa’s on Kirby because they were open right after Ike when most of the city was still without power. Under those circumstances, I thought the food was awesome.” [toadfroggy, commenting on Out with Mama Ninfa’s, in with Maggie Rita’s]

05/09/12 4:09pm

The city recently bought 2 custom roll-off trailers so it could set up its brand-new fleet of 17 solar-powered shipping containers without having to hire contractors or cranes. And the method of opening the solar panels (or closing them before a hurricane hits the area) is now OSHA-compliant, says Andrew Vrana of Metalab, the local architecture and fabrication firm that designed them. (2 people on a ladder can do it pretty quickly.) The photos above show the unit installed recently at Fire Station 72 at 17401 Saturn Ln. just north of NASA Rd. 1, near the Johnson Space Center. “Yes they do produce a little power on a cloudy day,” Vrana reports.

All the units have now been delivered to their sites. In the event of a major power outage, the 140-sq.-ft. containers will become staffed disaster response centersair-conditioned information and water-distribution centers: a place to charge your cell phone or laptop, power a medical device, or keep medicines refrigerated. In short, the kind of space it might have been nice to have nearby after Hurricane Ike hit. (As long as the solar panels are folded in and latched, the units will withstand hurricane-force winds.) In the meantime, they’ll provide additional office space and power for the facilities that host them. The container at Lake Houston Park, for example, will become an office for the new woodland archery range.

Here’s a map showing the fire stations, schools, and other locations around the city where you can now find the completely off-grid structures:

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03/19/12 2:29pm

GALVESTON ELEMENTARY STILL IN AFTER-SCHOOL DETENTION Well into Burnet Elementary School’s third year of post-Ike limbo, a school district spokesman says one idea is to fix the hurricane-ravaged property’s exterior, roof, and air conditioning so it can be used as warehouse space. There’s “a good chance” FEMA would pay for repairs, but no funds have been negotiated yet. Then there’s the other option: selling the campus. But the district doesn’t think it would get a very good price in the current market, and what if they need to open up a new school a few years later? [Galveston County Daily News] Photo: Galveston ISD

11/14/11 9:40pm

What could possibly have been worse than Hurricane Ike? Super Ike, a stronger hurricane aimed 30 miles further west, causing a larger storm surge, more deaths, and significantly greater damage to Houston’s industrial infrastructure. To protect against that hypothetical $100 billion threat, a Rice University team is recommending some bolstered defenses for the region. Included among the suggestions: a “moveable gate structure” just upstream from Baytown’s Fred Hartman Bridge, to block the Ship Channel and San Jacinto River from rising waters in Galveston Bay (pictured above); elevating Hwy. 146 along the west edge of Galveston Bay so that it forms a levee protecting much of La Marque, Dickinson, League City, Clear Lake, and La Porte; a “baywall” to protect Galveston Island’s backside from sneaky storm surge waters; and preserving a 130-mile-long stretch of existing coastal wetlands between High Island and Matagorda as a recreation area and when-needed storm barrier.

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