06/14/18 3:30pm

HOW TO PICK OUT THE RIGHT BOAT AND ONBOARD GEAR FOR HOUSTON’S NEXT FLOOD A good, 16-to-22 foot aluminum boat, it can take a lot of abuse if you were to hit a mailbox or something like that without doing damage,” says the Premiere Boating Center’s Mark Kuchera, speaking to Houston Public Media’s Gail Delaughter. He’s one of many exhibitors at the 4-day Houston Summer Boat Show where in addition to normal window shopping, many folks are either looking to replace boats lost or damaged in Harvey — or hunting for something that’ll do well in the next storm. Fishing boats are a good bet for floods, too, says David Christian of the LMC Marine Center (next door to Kuchera’s shop on I-45 near E. Airtex Dr.). Because your typical model is designed for shallow water, it “also happens to be what you need to float down a street.” Then there’s the equipment you’ll want to have aboard: “a spotlight and GPS are helpful for night rescues,” says Christian, and “A hydraulic jack plate can protect your outboard motor in shallow water.” Lower-tech devices aren’t bad either: “a long rod or stick can help you determine the depth of the water in unfamiliar places.” [Houston Public Media] Photo of Houston Summer Boat Show 2018: Houston Summer Boat Show

06/12/18 11:00am

FIRST SEASIDE TEXADELPHIA SLATED FOR FORMER OCEAN GRILLE & BEACH BAR ON SEAWALL BLVD. Unobstructed Gulf of Mexico views,” will complement the food at the newest nearby location of Texas cheese-steak chain Texadelphia, situated right on the corner of Seawall Blvd. and 13th St. in Galveston, reports the HBJ’s Jen Para. The restaurant is picking up where Ocean Grille & Beach Bar left off in that spot when it shuttered 2 years ago, leaving behind a main building as well as the outdoor bar pictured above — and an even beachier Tiki hut structure with patio seating beneath it. How will Texadelphia make use of the existing amenities in this, its first ocean-adjacent spot? Its one corporate-owned, landlocked Houston location sprung up in Briar Meadow at 8383 Westheimer last October, bookending a 2-year hiatus the brand had taken from the city and its surroundings. It’s now mounting a three-pronged return: Earlier this year, it signed another lease for the spot in the Hawthorne Square Shopping Center that Yucatan Taco Stand vacated last year. [HBJ; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Ocean Grille & Beach Bar’s bar: Katya C.

05/31/18 1:30pm

WHAT’S NEXT FOR COCA-COLA’S 6 SOON-TO-CLOSE HOUSTON FACILITIES? Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages’ new million-sq.-ft. facility in Hines’ Pinto Business Park at I-45 and Beltway 8 won’t be complete for another 2 years — reports the Chronicle’s Paul Takahashi — giving the franchisee time to make plans for the 6 existing locations it’s looking to close as part of the consolidation. Among them: the 343,118-sq.-ft. bottling plant pictured above that’s stood at 2800 Bissonnet, 2 blocks west of Kirby, since 1950. Less than half its size is the bottler’s Pecan Park plant off the South Loop at Berkley St. Three smaller outer-Loop warehouse and distribution centers — in Conroe, Brittmoore, and Channelview — are also set to expire, as well as one off I-45 in Glenbrook. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of 2800 Bissonnet St.: RoadArchitecture

05/31/18 11:00am

HHA’S FIRST NEW MIXED-INCOME COMPLEX IN A DECADE DEBUTS AT CROSSTIMBERS AND N. MAIN The Houston Housing Authority has finished building its first development in 10 years: the 154-unit Independence Heights Apartments. Situated at the southeast corner of Crosstimbers and N. Main St., the garden-style complex has units available to tenants who earn less than $41,500 per year and have qualified for public housing vouchers. (The median household income in Independence Heights is around $25,000.) Mayor Turner okayed the project back in November, 2016 — 2 months after he killed a similar mixed-income complex that had been proposed for Briargrove, in place of one of the housing authority’s own office buildings on Fountain View Dr. That decision prompted a federal investigation in which HUD eventually found that the city’s rejection “was motivated either in whole or in part by the race, color or national origin of the likely tenants.” Of the $45 million Houston has received from HUD since 2011 (in response to Hurricane Ike) only $12 million has been spent — all of it on this just-built project. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of Independence Heights Apartments under construction: Apartments.com

05/25/18 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: NARROW THE STREETS TO MAKE NON-DRIVERS SAFER Looks like Montrose Blvd. needs some work—unsurprising, given it’s a street with a lot of combined foot and vehicle traffic, while being extremely wide with few obstructions to get motorists to slow down. Notice that Westheimer has fewer incidents even though it’s an even busier street with a lot more foot traffic. It will probably never happen, but Montrose Blvd. could really benefit safety-wise from much narrower lanes, and bike lanes and on-street parking substituted instead. It certainly has the space to do it, especially if you subtract the center turn lane in some places. [Christian, commenting on Your Map of Where Walkers and Bikers Have Been Run Over by Cars in Houston Over the Past 2 Years] Photo of Montrose Blvd. at W. Gray St.: Andrew Steffler [license]

05/18/18 12:15pm

BUC-EE’S VS. CHOKE CANYON: BATTLE OF THE ROADSIDE MASCOTS The jury trial began yesterday in a federal lawsuit Buc-ee’s filed 3 years ago against Choke Canyon, a rival, San Antonio rest-stop chain with a cartoon alligator mascot Buc-ee’s claims is too similar to its own trademark grinning beaver. Buc-ee’s’s lawyer Tracy Richardson (who’s also on the legal team for the chain’s other ongoing infringement suit against Nebraska-based Bucky’s), reports the Chronicle’s Gabrielle Banks, kicked things off with a digital slideshow that chronicled the evolution of Choke Canyon’s gator species over time: “‘They put a human hat on the alligator,’ he said, ‘they opened his mouth. Then they made him stand, which — I’ve never seen an alligator stand.'” Couple that with the animals’ big eyes, red tongue, yellow background, and associated aquatic environs — said Richardson — and the likeness is confusing. (“You’re driving down the road at 80 miles per hour and you see a sign,” he said. “Did you really see what the logo was?”) Also at issue: Choke Canyon’s use of Buc-ee’s-like design elements in its stores, including a vaguely Alamo-like parapet front, stone siding, khaki-colored paint, and oversized bathrooms. (“We have large, clean bathrooms,” said Choke Canyon’s lawyer. “The last time I looked that’s not illegal.”) The jurors will be asked to decide “whether Choke Canyon set out to or actually did confuse customers with the overlap.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Logos: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas

05/15/18 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHO CARES HOW FAR AWAY YOU ARE FROM A DECENT GROCERY STORE? “I live downtown and use Instacart every week. Saves a ton of time. I don’t understand the fixation about going to a grocery store in person.” [Matt, commenting on Comment of the Day Runner-Up: The Hole in the Donut] Photo inside H-E-B, 1701 West Alabama St.: Candace Garcia

05/14/18 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: BLAME IT ON THE TUNNELS “If you’ll forgive a play on words, the tunnel system is undermining Downtown’s bid to become a livable, walkable destination. The restaurants and businesses that occupy the tunnels skim the cream of the workforce during business hours on weekdays, then are sealed off from the public on evenings and weekends. Given the price of real estate and rents downtown, and that street level businesses have to survive on the evening and weekend trade to [stay in business], and the fact that so many buildings are inhospitable to pedestrians (many have only two street level entrances on an entire block) — retrofitting Downtown into a livable space is not going to be easy. There are exceptions: Market Square and stretches of Main Street. But for the most part, that which has already been built is an impediment to filling this donut hole.” [Big Tex, commenting on Comment of the Day Runner-Up: The Hole in the Donut] Photo of Lamar Tunnel: Swamplox inbox

05/14/18 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: HERE COME THE FULL-NESTERS “I bought in a community that I thought was a step up from inner loop city living. It turns out that of the 4 homes around my house, 3 homes have their married kids living with grandkids living with them. It will be interesting how this dynamic changes school systems in the suburbs.” [Suburbanite, commenting on Redo for the Omni Houston Hotel; Gearing Up for MFAH’s New Campus Opening; La Vibra Tacos for Heights Village at Yale and 5th St.] Illustration: Lulu

05/11/18 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: COULD A THIRD RESERVOIR, UP NORTH, HOLD WATER? “Make a reservoir or lake north of the city, just west of Humble at the confluence of Spring Creek and Cypress Creek, as well as the San Jacinto River just a bit to the east. This land is still undeveloped. These three major tributaries coming together in short order accentuates the flooding issues. If the water has nowhere to go it’s going to cause flooding. While a reservoir in west Harris County will hold that water back from surging downstream, it does absolutely nothing for the rainfall that falls on the hundreds of square miles of land in the Spring Creek, downstream Cypress Creek and San Jacinto River watersheds. The main intent of the proposed third dam is to keep the water from overflowing into Barker and Addicks. Creating a lake here could serve not only flood control issues, but also provide for another source of drinking water.” [Thomas, commenting on Abbott Signs Off on Harris County’s Harvey Anniversary Flood Bond Vote] Photo of the confluence of Spring and Willow Creeks: Northampton MUD

05/11/18 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: THE HOLE IN THE DONUT “I enjoy living downtown to be close to events, bars and work. But it is a major pain to not have a decent full-service grocery in walking distance. And all of the fast casual restaurants are closed on the weekends. And we desperately need something like a CityTarget or Walmart Neighborhood Market to get random everyday items. Spend all this money to be close to everything but still have to leave Downtown to do most shopping.” [JasperRasper18, commenting on Latest Downtown Houston Headcount; A Restaurant and Juice Bar for Houston’s First Whole Foods 365] Photo of Main St. at Commerce St.: Bill Barfield via Swamplot Flickr Pool

05/11/18 1:30pm

HOW SOME BIG INVESTMENT FIRMS ARE READYING HOUSTON FOR THE NEXT FLOOD Whether homes flooded by Harvey are sold to investors or not makes a big difference, argue the Chronicle’s David Hunn and Matt Dempsey. For one thing, a sale closes the door to a county buyout — which often takes much longer to complete than a private purchase. Since Harvey, the reporters note, 88 houses Harris County had hoped to buy and demolish have already been snatched up by private parties, often for rehab and rental. Investment firms, by the writers’ count, have bought about 150 Harvey-flooded homes so far. Since about 2013, larger firms have been bundling rental homes in order to “sell the securities on Wall Street as a way to borrow money, fueling the purchase of even more homes.” But by maintaining the supply of floodable housing, Harris County Flood Control District’s Matt Zeve tells the writers, “All we’re doing is perpetuating a cycle of flooding.” At a national scale, according to university researchers quoted by Hunn and Dempsey, “rent-backed loans are already exhibiting characteristics of mortgage-backed securities” — the keynotes of the 2008 U.S. financial mess: “they’ve transferred the risk of default to taxpayers, stockholders and investors.” But investors seeking info about such rent bundles may be hard-pressed to get it: “While U.S. securities laws require funds to disclose significant risks about their investments, there are no specific requirements regarding flooded homes.” Hunn and Dempsey’s review of documents put out by public companies invested in flooded Houston houses shows that few of them, “if any,” have voluntarily told shareholders that they own such assets. [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo of Harvey cleanup in Bellaire: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

05/08/18 10:00am

ABBOTT SIGNS OFF ON HARRIS COUNTY’S HARVEY ANNIVERSARY FLOOD BOND VOTE In a letter to the Commissioners Court yesterday, Gov. Abbott approved Harris County’s request to hold an August 25 bond election that would pay for a long, not-yet-finalized lineup of flood control projects. On the short list so far: “the buy-out of all of the county’s high-priority areas at highest-risk of flooding, approximately 5,500 properties,” Judge Emmett tells the Chronicle’s Mihir Zaveri — as well as the financing of “some portions a much-discussed third reservoir northwest of the city,” and “numerous bayou and creek widening projects.” Also included: a handful of detention basins and drainage improvements to waterways in both Houston and the MUDs of unincorporated Harris County, according to the flood control district. The district now has about 4 months to compile the list, during which time Harris County “plans to launch a public outreach campaign to seek input on what to include in the bond package, as well as drum up support for the measure.” [Houston Chronicle ($), previously on Swamplot] Photo of Sesquicentennial Park and Franklin St. during Harvey: Kelsie H. Dos Santos

05/07/18 3:30pm

ORTHODOX SYNAGOGUE MULLS CROSSING THE LOOP TO SOMEWHAT HIGHER GROUND The roughly 820 homeowners in Willow Meadows are now voting on a deed restriction change that — if passed — would allow the United Orthodox Synagogue to build a new structure outside The Loop, in place of 5 houses that sit 3 quarters of a mile south down Greenwillow St. from the congregation’s previous home at the corner of S. Braeswood. Many congregants walk to the synagogue — which could soon be leaving the 100-year floodplain for the 500 after flooding 6 times in the last 25 years, including 3 in the last 3. “According to preliminary renderings,” reports the Jewish Herald Voice’s Michael C. Duke on Studio Red’s proposed design, “the synagogue would be a single-story structure, measuring an ultimate height of 30 feet. Based on new building codes, the finished floor of the building would be built some 3 feet above curb height, and the building itself would have the same 25-foot setback as homes in Willow Meadows.” Passage of the proposal “would prompt Houston’s largest Orthodox congregation to hold its own congregation-wide vote on whether to stay at its current location north of I-610 South and rebuild portions of its campus at a significantly higher elevation; or, to move.” Most of the congregation’s 57-year-old building was demolished last month, except for a few portions including its social hall and mikvah. [Jewish Herald Voice; previously on Swamplot] Photo of United Orthodox Synagogue’s demolition, 9001 Greenwillow St.: United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston

05/07/18 11:00am

SHIPLEY DONUTS WILL ROUND OUT THE NEW STRIP CENTER ON 28TH AND YALE Here’s one early sign of life at the new 8,040-sq.-ft. strip building that developer Ancorian recently finished putting up on the corner of Yale and 28th St. — 2 blocks south of the new Whole Foods that’s under construction on the N. Loop. When the coming Shipley Do-Nuts outlet opens at 2723 Yale., it’ll be a brand-new complement to what’s now the chain’s only Heights location, the standalone drive-thru on the corner of N. Main and Walton St. a few blocks west of I-45. (Shipley’s corporate office at 5200 N. Main is just under a mile up the road from that location.) Most recently demolished at 2723 Yale to make way for the new donut store and accompanying tenants: an L-shaped commercial building home to Heights Insurance and Multiservice that stood on the block for well over a decade. Photo: Swamplox inbox