WHY ALL THE FOOD TRUCKS VANISHED FROM EAST DOWNTOWN’S TRUCK YARD
Health department officials ousted all food trucks from the open-air structure pictured adjacent to outdoor seating in August — reports Samantha Morris over at Houston Food Finder — nearly 4 months after the Lamar St. bar opened. Their justification: City code bans food trucks from parking within 100 ft. of dining areas and from parking underneath “any canopy, awning or other covering,” that isn’t attached to the truck itself. (If the covering’s already there for another purpose, and the truck just happens to park under it, the city lets it slide.) As a partial fix, “We’re going to take the roof off,” Truck Yard’s general manager tells Morris. Until the city okays plans for that change, cheesesteaks from the bar’s in-house kitchen will be the only food source available. [Houston Food Finder; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Truck Yard Houston
HOW HOUSTON’S 2 PLANNED ROBO-PARKING GARAGES COMPARE IN SIZE
The one that’d go next to the proposed Railway Heights food hall will be bigger: 89-ft. tall with a roughly 18,000-sq.-ft. footprint, reports Nancy Sarnoff. A site plan for the development at Wash Ave and Hempstead previously indicated it’d hold 600 cars. The other high-tech garage — planned in place of the existing analog facility on White Oak Dr. next to Tacos A Go Go — is being designed for a third of that capacity: 200 vehicles, reports Sarnoff, would fit there in a structure “no taller than 75 ft.,” with a 6,500-sq.-ft. footprint. The same tech company — New Jersey-based U-tron — is behind both buildings, in cooperation with Chicago developer Easy Park. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Image: Centric Commercial
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE HOUSTON’S PARKING MATH DOESN’T QUITE ADD UP
“Is it typical for a municipality to use GFA (Gross Floor Area) to calculate parking requirements for businesses? Would Net Floor Area be more accurate and eliminate this debate? Gross Floor Area calculations includes things like mechanical rooms, bathrooms, hallways, storage areas, and refrigeration while Net Floor Area excludes those areas and could be considered the actual space where a business actually accommodates customers and staff. In Houston a business owner must provide a parking space for its water heater, toilets, air handler, and inventory. A little dramatic yes, but I’m not oversimplifying.” [Steskal, commenting on Here’s Everywhere Off-Street Parking Requirements Will No Longer Apply If City Council Says So] Illustration: Lulu
The city’s latest proposal to eliminate off-street parking requirements in Midtown and East Downtown got a vote of confidence from the management districts of both neighborhoods when staff members presented it to them last Monday. Shown above are the new areas (in blue and green) that’d supplement Downtown’s existing Central Business District (red) where developers are free to build without leaving room — like the rest of Houston must — for on-site parking spots. To the east, the designation extends out to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and then down to I-45. And to the south, it follows the 527 spur, ending at 59. (If put in place, the whole contiguous zone would fall under a new term the city’s invented for it: Market Based Parking.)
There’s still a ways to go before the map becomes more than a pretty picture: A 30-day public comment period will culminate in a recap next month. Then city council gets its final say on things at a meeting proponents hope will take place before the end of the year.
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The newest work showing at Hiram Butler Gallery occupies a special position on the grounds: It’s right outside along Blossom St., facing the townhouse that River Pointe Church owns and uses for events. (Its main religious campus is in Richmond between Ransom Rd. and 59.) Artist Robert Rosenberg designed the sign for that spot specifically, and Melissa Eason put it together. It now fronts the row of 4 parking spots at the edge of gallery’s property.
Since the church moved in across the street at 4513 Blossom in 2015, those parking spots — along with the rest of the block — have been seeing a lot more car traffic than they used to:
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Among the many changes now slated for Memorial Park: parking meters. The $70 million gift the Kinder Foundation pledged in April to expedite park renovations came with a few spend-it-wisely stipulations, including one that the city won’t blow any of it on maintenance costs — which could rise as the redo adds new trails, drainage improvements, a running complex, and a land bridge (depicted in the rendering above) across Memorial Dr. to the green space over the next 10 years. Although the $1-per-3-hour-block meters will only crop up in certain sections of the park, the change they collect will help offset upkeep across the whole 1,500-acre area.
A consolation: the new trail system proposed for the park will be vast, according to a handout from the city’s Quality of Life Committee, “thereby reducing the need for car access” in the first place. But that workaround only helps if you’re arriving empty-handed, unlike golfers who’ll have top pay $1 per hour to park in the course and driving range lot — Mike Bailey notes in Golf Advisor — beginning sometime before the fall.
Rendering of planned Memorial Dr. tunnels beneath park: Memorial Park Conservancy
Upping the Ante
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO MAKE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD’S NEW STRIP CENTER MORE PEDESTRIAN-FRIENDLY
“Just walk around to the other side and pretend that’s the front. Then the parking lot will be in the back! A walkable solution!” [Memebag, commenting on The Strip Center with Offices Above Planned for the Corner of Chimney Rock and San Felipe] Site plan of Shops at Tanglewood proposed for San Felipe St. at Chimney Rock Rd.: Edge Realty
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WE TRIED THAT NO PARKING REQUIREMENTS THING BEFORE, IN AVONDALE “The urban fantasists who don’t believe in minimum parking should school themselves on the economic concept of the free rider and the common law concept of nuisance. They should also research a little of the history behind Houston minimum parking requirements. These regs did not emerge in a vacuum.
I lived in Avondale, in Montrose, during the nineties, when it was home to no less than nine bars, multiple restaurants, and other adult businesses, all without parking and no parking requirements. Houston minimum parking requirements arose because of what was going on in Avondale and a few other neighborhoods inside the Loop.
The patrons of these bars and restaurants did not and still do not live within Avondale. They all drove to Avondale because there was and is still no other way to get there. The bar owners did not provide parking, choosing instead to impose the costs of their patron parking on the city and the residents of Avondale (free rider). The patrons parked, imbibed, and then proceeded to be drunken asses all night disturbing the peace of the neighborhood (nuisance).
Forcing the business owner to bear the costs of patron parking shifts the costs back to the business which benefits from the patronage. It is a reasonable requirement. It also alleviates the nuisance issue by keeping the drunks off the property of other businesses and residences.” [Jardinero1, commenting on Comment of the Day: What Parking Requirements for Bars Really Encourage] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT PARKING REQUIREMENTS FOR BARS REALLY ENCOURAGE “Uggh . . . Every thread on here, or nextdoor, etc., about a new bar or restaurant attracts an inevitable ‘where will all these people park?‘ comment.
Why do people feel the need to drive to this bar, and the others in the vicinity? Because our obsession with parking requires every bar or restaurant to dedicate 3/4 of their land area to machinery storage, making everything so far apart you can’t walk anywhere.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to PROHIBIT bars from having parking lots, instead? Why does our city REQUIRE bar operators to subsidize one of the most dangerous and reckless activities people regularly engage in — drinking and driving — by forcing bars to provide parking for their patrons? Wouldn’t you rather the bars in your neighborhood made it as difficult as possible for people to drive there, and take an Uber instead?
Let’s keep the drunks off our streets: Zero out the parking minimum on any establishment with an on-premise liquor license.” [Angostura, commenting on The Up-Scaled Bungalow Bar Now Puffing Up in Shady Acres Across from Cedar Creek] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: PARKING REQUIREMENTS FOR SELF-PARKING CARS “I think the live load requirements for a parking structure are actually a little higher than a residential building, but the bigger misconception is that shared autonomous cars don’t need to park. The fleet of autonomous cars will have to be sized to meet peak demand, which happens for a few hours in the morning and a few in the afternoon. Outside of those hours, a large proportion of the fleet will need to be stored somewhere.
Overnight, that somewhere can be a non-central location, since presumably many people will still live in suburbs. But during the day, surplus vehicles will be most efficiently stored somewhere close to where their passengers will be in the afternoon.
The real advantage is that the car storage won’t have to be so closely tied to the destination, so a parking structure every few blocks should be adequate, rather than each building needing its own dedicated (usually surface) parking. It’s more likely that this garage will stay a garage, but nearby surface lots can be developed into actual buildings.” [Angostura, commenting on How To Design a Parking Garage That Won’t Become Useless Once Cars Get Restless] Illustration: Lulu
HOW TO DESIGN A PARKING GARAGE THAT WON’T BECOME USELESS ONCE CARS GET RESTLESS The best way to make sure parking garages don’t become obsolete heaps of concrete once cars figure out better things to do with their time when drivers aren’t using them is to build structures that have flat floorplates and more headroom, Gensler’s Peter Merwin tells reporter Kyle Hagerty: “Any future use will require level ground rather than the steep slopes typical to garages, so designing flat floors on every level is critical. To convert to residential, developers need a minimum 11-foot floor-to-floor height. That allows designers to properly core the infrastructure and build out the space.” Merwin, who works in Gensler’s Houston office, is guiding the design of the proposed Fairview District Garage at Fairview and Genesee streets in Montrose. His ideal future-proofing floor-to-floor dimension for garages as we approach the age of the driverless car? 15 ft. “That opens up the option to convert each floor into lofts, residential, retail or office. Another added benefit is that in the event you need more parking, not less, you can convert a 15-foot level into a double stacking parking floor like those in operation in many dense metros.” [Bisnow] Rendering of Fairview District Garage: Gensler
Another potential future target in
striking walking range of that 542-space parking lot Lovett Commercial looks to be planning at Center and Silver streets: the color-splashed warehouse redo sketched out above, as seen in another of the company’s current leasing fliers. This one is for a facelift of the 1970s building former occupied by Mass Electric Construction Company at 1201 Oliver St., a few blocks west down the railroad tracks past Sawyer St. Clustered nearby are a fair number of other Lovett-affiliated developments (including some of the artsy hubbub between Sawyer and Silver).
Renderings and site plans suggest a cidery could be taking over the west end of the building — the flier includes a north-is-down look at plans for splitting up the space, including a cutout for a breezeway:
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Wash Ave Sketch
The paved lot now being marketed as 1818 Washington Ave. (across Silver St. from that recently recolonized cluster of ex-nightclub buildings, and bookended to the east by the former bakery now housing B&B Butchers) appears to be marked for some higher purposes, per recently released leasing materials for the property. Plans on Lovett Commercial’s flier for the site show 2 structures (rendered above as things might look from Washington Ave., facing toward Tacodeli) that pretty much fill up the whole piece of land — but fear not, parking-requirement hawks! The land directly north of the property, a 2-block elongated space nestled mostly between Center St. and a stretch of Union Pacific railroad, is marked up to become a 4-plus-acre surface lot, with room for 542 cars or so; that’d likely more than make up for the parking spaces that B&B would lose, too.
That’s the apparent plan for now, anyway — the flier does point out that some kind of garage structure is probably on the table for later on. As for the yet-unbuilt spaces for lease: The site plans show an L-shaped 2-story building, plus a smaller, squatter freestanding restaurant space tucked back along the corner of Silver and Center. The larger structure has spots marked off for a couple of upstairs patios, as well as office use:
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The more-or-less repeating window patterns on the backs of the Buffalo Manor townhomes are currently on display as digging continues at 9339 Buffalo Spwdy. this week. That’s where Dallas-based developer Tradition Senior Living is setting up a 316-unit facility (about a quarter mile from the other senior living facility planned in the area, though this one doesn’t seem to have gotten a sharp-toothed cartoon avatar). All that dirt, once scooped, appears to be slated for a U-shaped mound on the segment of the irregularly-shaped property that reaches toward Main St., if this diagram of the site spotted by a reader is still up to date:
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Playing in the Dirt in Westridge
A double-decker strip center appears to be planned for 307 Westheimer Rd., which for just shy of 5 decades has been home to Avondale Italian restaurant and house-with-a-tree-in-it Michaelangelo’s. Michaelangelo’s, Inc., sold the property in March to an entity tied to the CEO of Habitat Construction, and a 2,000-sq.-ft. space in the proposed replacement building is currently for lease. Renderings for the strip label the over-the-edge top floor as set aside for a fitness business, and call for a restaurant to take over most of the street level (noting that another tenant has already staked out a small section of the ground floor floorplan):
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Rising Above Parking Requirements