06/17/15 3:45pm

SHAKING AT THE TOP OF A HOUSTON SKYSCRAPER IN THE MIDDLE OF A HURRICANE Wells Fargo Plaza, Downtown HoustonHoustonians who were around for Hurricane Alicia in 1983 might remember that the Wells Fargo Plaza tower downtown — then known as the brand-new Allied Bank Plaza — ended up losing more than 3,000 glass panels in the storm. But did you know that the building that night became the site of one of the few live wiggling-skyscrapers-in-a-storm experiments ever conducted? Engineers Robert Halvorson and Michael Fletcher spent the night of the hurricane in the 71-story tower’s unfinished top floor, just to see how much the building would sway; more than 30 years later, they described their experiences to Washington Post reporter Emily Badger. The peak acceleration of 43 milli-g’s they recorded — enough back-and-forth and twisting to make it impossible for them to walk upright — turned out to be “give or take, exactly the same thing that had been predicted by the wind tunnel” before the structure was built. [Gizmodo] Photo of Wells Fargo Plaza: Jackson Myers

06/11/15 1:00pm

broadstone-tinsley-park-aerial

Former Brownfield Site at 801 and 1701 Gillette St., Fourth Ward, HoustonThe complicated transaction that allowed the city to sell the 10.52-acre brownfield site along Allen Parkway between the Federal Reserve building and Allen Parkway Village to an apartment developer was concluded in late April, the Houston Business Journal‘s Paul Takahashi reports. Alliance Residential paid $39.9 million for the property along Gillette St., where the city began operating a solid waste incinerator in the 1920s and later converted the site for use as its fleet maintenance facility. The company immediately sold the northern 6 acres to an unnamed private investor; Alliance now plans to build a 365-unit apartment complex on the southern half of the property, fronting Gillette and West Dallas St.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Fourth Ward
06/03/15 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WILL THE NEW BIKE TRAIL SYSTEM BE THIS SHOCKING? Biking Along a Powerline Easement“Here’s something a little off topic but has to do with putting trails on power easements. Has anyone ever experienced what happens when you ride under the lines down the dirt road in Memorial Park? The electromagnetic field actually shocks you where you are touching the frame or handlebars especially during peak Summer usage hours and when sweaty. Not sure if that’s ever been addressed.” [j, commenting on FPSF Moving Next to the Astrodome; I-10 Toll Hike Delay; Secrets of the I-45 Redo Plan] Illustration: Lulu

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.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

What Lies Beneath
05/27/15 3:15pm

Flooded Cars on I-45 North at Patton St., Near Northside, Houston, May 26, 2015

If you’re compiling a list of best photo spots for during or after another one of Houston’s every-dozen-years-or-so never-seen-anything-like-it flooding events, you’ll probably want to make room on it for the stretch of I-45 North between the N. Main St. and Patton St. exits. Back in 2001, images of cars and trucks floating along an insta-lake in this same spot made national news. And yesterday, pix of the automotive flotilla pictured above found their way to Facebook feeds and front pages around the globe.

But the low spot just north of Downtown wedged between Brooke Smith and the Near Northside was also a tough place to be when the water started rising, reports the Chronicle‘s Dane Schiller. Drivers found an early morning traffic jam in the rain changed nature quickly: “A surge was coming at them, squeezed by high barrier walls into the confines of the interstate. In less than 15 minutes, there was nothing to do but abandon ship.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

05/27/15 11:15am

Flooding at AMLI 2121 Apartments, 2121 Allen Pkwy., North Montrose, Houston

Flooding at AMLI 2121 Apartments, 2121 Allen Pkwy., North Montrose, HoustonA resident of the bayou-side North Montrose apartments at 2121 Allen Pkwy. now known as AMLI 2121 (and formerly as the Bel Air; see the pictured monument sign) has cataloged a few of the nicer cars that were likely totaled yesterday as they took on water in the lower level of the garage of the complex. Included: a Lexus IS250, a Nissan 370z, and an Audi A4.

The pop-up lake that appeared on Allen Parkway and the adjacent Buffalo Bayou Park has already subsided considerably, though underpasses are still filled with water. Liquid levels lowered in the garage too, which sits underneath the apartment structure, just east of Montrose Blvd.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Wet Spaces
05/26/15 11:30am

Burnt Home at 116 Westheimer Rd. at Bagby St., Montrose, Houston

Burnt Home at 116 Westheimer Rd. at Bagby St., Montrose, HoustonWhile much of the rest of Houston is recovering from — or still dealing with — high water after last night’s torrential rains, the long-vacant house at 116 Westheimer Rd. is showing off the scars it incurred from a disaster of a different sort. A fire raged through the structure Friday night.

The 1904 building is adjacent to the Jus’ Mac macaroni and cheese outlet in the 106 Westheimer strip center at the corner of Bagby St. A Swamplot reader sent in these photos showing the home as it appeared this morning:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Fire This Time
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:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Stand Back
05/15/15 4:15pm

Hole in Paving, White Oak Dr. at Beauchamp St., Woodland Heights, Houston

Hole in Paving, White Oak Dr. at Beauchamp St., Woodland Heights, Houston

Heavy equipment is back on the scene — and a metal plate on the way, a reader tells us — at the corner of White Oak Dr. and Beauchamp in Woodland Heights, adjacent to White Oak Bayou, where a hole suddenly appeared in freshly spread asphalt just hours after the street was resurfaced yesterday.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

That Sinking Feeling
03/31/15 3:15pm

Scene of Auto Accident at Baron St. and Bayou St., Fifth Ward, Houston

Townhomes Under Construction, 400 Bayou St., Fifth Ward, HoustonAs a cautionary demonstration of the hazards of the kind of wacky old-roadway-meets-new-driveway construction found in front of a set of under-construction townhomes at the corner of Bayou and Baron streets in the Fifth Ward, the accident pictured here doesn’t quite hold up to extended scrutiny. Sure, it might be tough for a vehicle to stay on the asphalt when a stretch of roadway suddenly disappears and new concrete driveways stretch across it (as illustrated in the second photo above). But here the damaged Escalade appears to have crashed into a stationary hazard on the opposite side of the street.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Dude, Where’s My Road?
01/06/15 1:30pm

Variance Sign for Living Green, MDI Superfund Site, 3617 Baer St., Fifth Ward, Houston

Signs have gone up around the former metal foundry site at 3617 Baer St. in the Fifth Ward indicating that a hearing is scheduled for this Thursday to get city approval for the latest rejiggering of homesites on the 35-acre tract. Developer Frank Liu of Lovett Homes, InTown Homes, and a few other local builder brands plans to put a total of 538 homes (down from 589) on the EPA-monitored property, known as the MDI Superfund Site after the last owner of the metal-casting operations, Many Diversified Interests, which shut down in the early 1990s (previously, the plants were owned by TESCO). The property, which lies just south of I-10 about 2 miles of east of downtown, was listed on the EPA’s list of priority Superfund sites in 1999, after tests showed the soil and groundwater was contaminated with lead and other hazardous metals.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Living Green
07/14/14 3:00pm

STREET POOPING, WIPING, AND PHOTOGRAPHING IS BACK IN THE WOODLAND HEIGHTS Man Pooping on Sidewalk, 500 Block of Byrne St., Woodland HeightsAccording to a Houston Chronicle report, a resident of Byrne St. reported to police earlier today an encounter with yet another act of public pooping in the 77009. And it appears to be the work of a familiar figure from that neighborhood: that of the defecating, toilet-paper-toting man commonly referred to as the, uh, “serial pooper” of Woodland Heights. Back in May, a surveillance camera posted in a tree had caught images (above right) of the sidewalk hijinx of a man who, residents say, had repeatedly been defecating in and around the yards and driveways of the 500 block of Byrne St. A 56-year-old man had confessed to the defecatory acts after he was later picked up on a related charge of public urination near the Fiesta Mart at Quitman and Fulton  — but was not charged with a crime at the time, because “the man had serious mental health issues,” Heather Alexander reports. There’s apparently a photo of the man’s most recent exploits as well; Harris County precinct 1 spokesperson J.C. Mosier tells Alexander “there’s a very good chance it is the same guy,” but is waiting to receive a copy of the photo before confirming. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Click2Houston  

07/01/14 2:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: YOU JUST DON’T KNOW Drawing of Marooned Red Mustang in a Cloud of Uncertainty“The driver might have been rich. They might been entitled. They might have been drunk. They might not respect traffic laws at all or such sentiment may be situationally limited. They might have a small penis. They might have no patience. They might be narcissistic. They might be egotistical. They might be a dumb-ass. (I will add to this list of possibilities, they might have been distracted, they might have been very tired, or they might have been subject to the influence of prescription medication; and there are in fact many other possibilities, so many that it is nigh impossible to enumerate all of them.) The construction manager might have abided by recent history and changed protocols; they might have judged their protocols to be adequate. Barricades might not have been erected at all, or properly, or in a manner that would be appropriate for traffic in that location. What we know for sure is that any combination of these possibilities might have contributed to the accident. Although being drunk certainly increases the odds of having an accident, even drunk drivers are usually responsive to barricades; and yet, I’ve also known a fair number of people that even on their best of days are capable of jumping curbs or driving into buildings. The fact is, we don’t know very much about what happened. We do not know what the driver did. We do not know what the driver deserves. Even if we were capable of rendering judgment over-the-wires with such limited information, it does not stand to reason that the driver will get what they deserve in the legal system. This is one of those instances when the commentary on a news item is more tragic than the news item. It exposes the ease with which people spin a tale, assign guilt, and express faith in the powers that be to mete out a poorly-conceived notion of justice. It is an unfortunate tendency.” [TheNiche, commenting on Notorious Wet Concrete, the Scourge of Upper Kirby, Claims the Shiny Red Mustang of Victim No. 3] Illustration: Lulu

07/01/14 11:45am

Damage to Search Homeless Services Building, 2505 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston

Damage to Search Homeless Services Building, 2505 Fannin St., Midtown, HoustonIt’s the kind of façade mangling that could only happen to a fifties-mod office building: A reader sends pics showing damage to the front of the 1959-vintage Search Homeless Services headquarters at 2505 Fannin St. just north of McGowen in Midtown in the aftermath of last month’s vehicle-meets-building drive-up accident. The collision twisted one of the embedded steel columns along the sidewalk into a nonprofit-organization-logo-worthy S shape. Where’d the extra steel come from to allow that to happen? Look up, and you’ll see:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

A Unique Fifties Fender Bender
06/30/14 10:30am

Mustang Stuck in Concrete, Southwest Fwy. Feeder Rd. at Greenbriar, Upper Kirby, Houston

The closest thing Houston has to a Bermuda Triangle — also known as various patches of curing roadway concrete known to appear in and around the intersection of Kirby Dr. and the Southwest Fwy. — claimed its third (known) victim over the weekend. It wasn’t a Lexus this time, or a Jaguar, but a bright red Mustang that found itself solidly rooted in the recently poured stew on the westbound feeder road between Greenbriar and Kirby Dr. early Saturday morning.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Feeder Road at a Standstill