12/07/16 11:00am

TALK ASTRODOME TOMORROW WITH THE GUYS THAT WROTE THE BOOK ON IT Book by Robert C. Trumpbour and Kenneth WomackThere’s a new tell-all biography of the Astrodome out this fall, now that year 50 since the stadium’s mid-1965 opening has wrapped up. Robert C. Trumpbour and Kenneth Womack’s The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston’s Iconic Astrodome covers Dome history from its development days, and gets into how the building shaped Houston and Houston’s reputation. The authors, one of whom has also written another book about stadium construction politics, will be in town tomorrow night for a free talk and book signing  — you can check out the when-and-where and RSVP here. The book includes what University of Nebraska Press refers to as some of the structure’s more “memorable problems, such as outfielders’ inability to see fly balls and failed attempts to grow natural grass — which ultimately led to the development of Astroturf.” The text also touches on some of the most recent will-they-won’t-they preservation scuffles— though its publication date precedes this year’s approval by Harris County of initial funding for that plan to turn the bottom levels of the stadium into a parking garage.  [University of Nebraska Press] Image of book cover: University of Nebraska Press

11/22/16 5:15pm

Rendering of Heights Mercantile Building 4

Expanding organic Rice Village fast-casual chain Local Foods will fill in one of the tenant holes in the biggest structure of under-construction Heights Mercantile, judging from the permits issued earlier this month for a buildout at 714 Yale St. The joint is supposed to share the double-decker structure with a fitness studio, per current marketing materials, though that tenant hasn’t been formally announced yet either. The leasing listing for the various subsections of the retail development is still active on LoopNet, indicating a handful of retail spaces potentially still up for grabs in the 2 buildings across 7th St.:

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More Mercantile Merchants
11/08/16 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE CHICKEN, THE EGG, AND THE HOUSTON SPRAWLSCAPE Proposed Heights H-E-B with 10 ft. building setback“I do usually avoid stores with no bike parking or unfriendly pedestrian/bike access, so I see the other side of [the parking lot] coin. Stores need to cater to their customers; it’s customer demand that’s ultimately at fault for hideous parking lots and runoff and heat islands and sprawl and all the rest. But one way to drive demand is creating feedback loops, and one way to start that is stores building less parking.” [Sid, commenting on H-E-B’s Plan and Backup Plan for the Double Decker Heights Dry Zone Store] Rendering of preliminary parking garage plans for N. Shepherd H-E-B: Houston Planning Commission

10/31/16 3:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW ANOTHER KIDDIE TRAIN COULD PRESERVE HERMANN PARK’S PARKING HERITAGE New Hermann Park Train“Right now is a bad time to be predicting parking lot requirements for the next 20 years. Driverless cars may make them obsolete. If that happens, they can turn the parking lot into a ‘parking lot museum’ — kids of the future can visit it to get a feel for what life in the 20th century was like. They could even ride the Vulture Express, a 2mph trip up and down row after row of filled parking spaces that goes on for hours.” [Memebag, commenting on Grassy Knolls, Children’s Swamp Part of Possible Hermann Park Parking CoverupPhoto of Hermann Park kiddie train: Lou Minatti

10/27/16 1:45pm

Crossing at Gillette St. and Allen Pkwy., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

Courtesy of a stripe-skeptical reader, here’s a partial walkthrough tour of the new parking scheme along Allen Pkwy. west of Downtown — these days looking a lot more like the flyover videos released of the planned changes last year. Those changes, including a lower speed limit for the rest of the roadway and and some strategic tree deployment, are intended to make the pseudo-highway into a “more urban environment” and to slow traffic down to next-to-a-park speeds. Also included in the deal: a series of crosswalks, like the over-then-over-again setup now striped into place at Gillette St. (seen above posing with the Federal Reserve Bank building, with the former city garbage incinerator site out of the frame to the left).

The new setup divvies up much of the turf formerly occupied by Allen Pkwy.’s westbound traffic lane into angled spaces — some almost long enough to “put 2 normal sized cars in each spot,” the reader claims:

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Stripe Scrutiny
10/13/16 1:00pm

CITY PLANNING APP TO REDUCE USELESS DOWNTOWN CIRCLING, $80 PARKING FEES downtown-parking-garageThe city approved $9,600 yesterday toward planning a system to help drivers (particularly out-of-towners) find parking Downtown, Dug Begley writes. The system would be designed to display prices and current space availability for 7-or-so to-be-finalized private parking vendors on a smartphone app, along with a series of electronic signs like the ones installed around the city’s airports. The city would pay for about 20 percent of the $4.1-ish million project, which would be mostly funded by federal money aimed at reducing air pollution (in this case, extra emissions from excessively long and looping parking space searches). Begley also writes that city leaders think the system could cut down on price gouging, noting that prices for recent special events, “especially near Minute Maid Park, have spiked to $80 as demand increased.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of downtown parking garage: Bill Barfield via Swamplot Flickr Pool

09/30/16 4:30pm

Whole Foods Montrose, 701 Waugh, North Montrose, Houston, 77019

View of New Whole Foods Market, 701 Waugh Dr., North Montrose, HoustonFrom the AIG tower neighboring to the north, a reader peers down behind the construction fencing now up at the corner of Waugh Dr. and D’Amico St., in an effort to figure out what might be gettin’ real in the Whole Foods Montrose parking lot. An employee tells Swamplot over the phone that the store is planting additional parking spaces on top of what was previously a walkway lined with grass and picnic tables, adding parking has been a squeeze on the weekends (which lines up pretty well with earlier reports from the scene). The rep also says that the tables (positioned across Waugh from BMW service garage Bavarian Machine Specialties and catty-corner to the health-and-beauty-shop-laden strip center across D’amico), were almost never used. Permits for the pave-over were issued at the end of May.

Photos: Randy Saad (top), Swamplot inbox (bottom photo showing opening day, 2011)

Leaner Green
09/28/16 1:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: SAVE-THE-DOME SAGA’S PARKING GARAGE ENDING LEAVES ROOM FOR A SEQUEL astrodome“I think people are missing the larger view here. Of course there is plenty of current surface parking — but putting parking beneath the Dome begins to open up the possibility of densification on this site and on the old Astroworld site. This is the first, and necessary, step in transforming this entire area. I am betting that in 20 years or so this site will barely resemble the vast wasteland of parking lots and open space that it is today.” [SH, commenting on County Approves First $10.5 Million for Astrodome Basement Parking Garage Plan] Photo: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

09/19/16 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW HOUSTON’S PARK(ING) PROPONENTS SHOULD TAKE IT TO THE STREETS Park(ing) Day 2016, 500 McKinney St., Downtown, Houston, 77002“While I understand, generally, the sentiment behind this initiative, I think in Houston it may be a little misguided. If we want a more walkable environment, with fewer buildings set back behind parking lots, we actually need more on-street parking spaces (to both accommodate business patrons arriving by car and help buffer pedestrians on the sidewalk), and fewer off-street ones.” [LocalPlanner, commenting on The SUV-Sized Parks Parked By City Hall Will Expire in About An HourPhoto of Park(ing) Day: Allyn West

09/16/16 2:00pm

Park(ing) Day 2016, 500 McKinney St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

What’s all this sitting by the meters on the 500 block of McKinney St. today? Allyn West sends over some shots of the parking-spot-sized pocket parks currently occupying a few of Downtown’s on-street spaces. And you, too, can sit there, but only if you hustle: The ephemeral parklets are open for communal use until about 3 PM as part of the annual Park(ing) Day affair, now in its 12th year of instigating fleeting streetscape conversions in hundreds of cities around the world.

One of this year’s parks has its very own ideologically-conflicted seesaw:

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Metered Park(ing)
07/20/16 3:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT’S REALLY STALLING HOUSTON’S DRIVE FOR SMOG REDUCTION Transit Frustration” . . . The serious ways to improve air quality in Houston are 1) to pass California emission standards for all vehicles, and 2) to install traffic light road sensors at intersections. I can’t believe how long we sit at intersections with no one moving.” [KB, commenting on Building for Baby Boomers; Revamping the Briar Club in Upper KirbyIllustration: Lulu

06/28/16 11:45am

Rendering of Heights Mercantile Building 3, 3A

Experimental ice cream shop Cloud 10 Creamery looks to be collecting building permits for a space at 711 Heights Blvd., one of the 1920s bungalows prepping for a second career in retail (as shown above) as part of the Heights Mercantile development. The project, which straddles 7th St. and its bike trail companion between Yale St. and Heights Blvd., hit a potential snag last year when the city didn’t approve a variance request that would have lowered the number of required new parking spaces. But the updated site plan below shows the workaround — the Golden Eagle Binder & Tab Co.’s former spots at 717 and 724 Heights, which were purchased by the developers last May, are depicted as additional parking lots:

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7th at Yale
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

05/18/16 5:00pm

City of Houston parking ticket map by Jordan Poles

The above heatmap showing where city parking tickets are most frequently issued is one result of an in-progress project by biology major and urban data enthusiast Jordan Poles. Areas shaded red mark where the tickets fall heaviest, while green areas see a lighter citation rain. Grey areas are not ticket-free — rather, the colored regions represent notable clusters of ticket activity (including Downtown, Montrose, Fourth Ward, Midtown, the Museum District, and the Rice Village).

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Fine Maps
03/18/16 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT ’THERE’S NOWHERE TO PARK’ REALLY MEANS Stuck in Parking Lot on 290“People would rather circle for hours for a spot that is 3 ft. from the door they wish to enter than to: A) pay to park B) walk. So please keep in mind, when someone says ‘there’s nowhere to park in the village’ what they mean is: There’s nowhere within 3 ft. of my destination to park. Of course, everyone knows where they can park, but the last thing they want to do is walk from their car to their destination.” [toasty, commenting on Shake Shack Will Take Over La Madeleine’s Rice Village Space] Illustration: Lulu