Meet Lasso, your mascot for the new Grand Texas Theme Park! The armed-and-friendly blond stud has been revealed as the long face of the Texas-themed theme park’s second-go-around in Texas. Back in July 2009, developer Monty Galland announced that he had a spot in Tomball for the park’s first phase to open by April 2010. Well, that was then. Now, Galland’s back — with Lasso in tow — and presenting a revised proposal to Montgomery Country leaders, reports the Tomball Potpourri: The developer’s eyeing property near New Caney, where Grand Texas might better hitch its wagon to dinosaur-friendly EarthQuest.
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A FAKE STREET FOR REAL ESTATE SHOPPERS IN SPRING Opening in February, reports CultureMap, is a 10,000-sq.-ft. real estate “park” where a dozen lavishly turned-out showcase homes, ranging in styles from “The Midtown” to “The Calais” to “The Ashby Manor,” are presented for your perusal on a private cul-de-sac near I-45. Think of the immersive, don’t-mind-if-I-do shopping at IKEA blown up to the scale of Disney World — except at MainStreet America there will be fireworks and Christmases and tailgating parties and almost everything will be for sale: “Do you like the paint color, the metallic faux technique on the ceiling or the graphic wallpaper accent in the bedroom? The details are available and so are the prices. In fact, you can make the purchase on site. If that couch, occasional table or rug is what you are looking for, swap that credit card and have them delivered. Floral arrangements? Yes, those are for sale as well. Mirrors? Check. Artwork? In stock. Window treatments? You bet.” Admission for adults is only $10; children aged 5-17 can get in for half that. [CultureMap] Photo: MainStreet America
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHO WANTS TO STAY DOWNTOWN? “. . . I ride my bike around downtown for pleasure on some evenings (unthinkable 15 years ago) and am always impressed by the level of activity after dark. Restaurants, bars, music venues and Discovery Green are always hopping. Another hotel can substantially increase this level of activity and hopefully sustain it by attracting business travelers, not just convention goers.
I am a business traveler, and work for a multi-national based here in Houston. When we have out-of-town guests, they never stay downtown — EVER. Actually, they prefer to stay where they can easily walk to entertainment, dinner, and bars, and quickly catch a cab to anywhere else they need to go. Usually, they go to CityCentre, the Woodlands, and Town Center in Sugar Land. When I ask around the office about this, most of my coworkers (suburbanites who have not been downtown in years, except for an errant Astros game) immediately wrinkle their noses at the idea of sending someone to stay there after dark. Word has not gotten out about the amenities downtown, and this hotel will help.” [Superdave, commenting on A Texas Island on the Next Convention Center Hotel]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: DIRECTING BAYPORT TOURISTS “This terminal sure has had some bad PR. Sure there’s the container terminal right next door, but it’s not so unsightly. And planting a few hundred or so palm trees could even obstruct that view from the roadway if so desired. There aren’t any refineries in the immediate area — lots of homes though.
Those departing from the Bayport Cruise Terminal should be directed to drive from I-45 to NASA Bypass/Parkway to 146 to Port Road — thus avoiding the unsightly industrial area on 225. Make sure the passengers see Clear Lake on their way to the terminal instead of the Port of Houston.
NASA and Kemah are just a few miles from this terminal. Kinda touristy if you ask me. Lots of land available for building hotels, restaurants, and shops too.
It’s not Galveston — no. But it’s not all dark clouds as many make it out to be.” [Thomas, commenting on Comment of the Day Runner-Up: Bayport for Tourists]
COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: BAYPORT FOR TOURISTS “So no rent and docking fees? Which means the port will only be making money off of parking? Maybe something off of the cruise tickets?
The Bayport cruise terminal is a nice feature, but the problem is that it’s located in the middle of nowhere. Most cruise ports are located where passengers can get off the cruise and be a tourist. Even though Galveston is the beginning and ending for many cruise passengers, it is also a destination for many also. New Orleans also feeds off this.
The Bayport terminal is essentially dropping off passengers at a cargo terminal in the middle of a petro-chemical complex. FUN!” [kjb434, commenting on Port of Houston Paying $6.7 Million in Cruise Bait for Suddenly Popular Bayport Terminal]
The regional tourism building planned for the northern of the 2 blocks between Minute Maid Park and the GRB will be called the Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage, Mayor Parker announced today. It’ll be named after beer distributor and $8-million-donor John Nau; fundraisers hope waving the rendering pictured above will help drum up an additional $32 million to get the thing built. ($15 million more is coming from Houston First, the “government corporation” that runs the city’s convention center, the Hilton Americas Hotel, and several city performance venues.)
The design leaves room for 2 houses dating from 1904 and 1905 and moved to the site last year, the only surviving structures from the neighborhood on nearby blocks named Quality Hill that by the 1930s had vanished — along with its storied reputation for integrity and elevation. The rendering also shows (at far right) the saved-from-scrap 1919 Southern Pacific 982 steam engine parked on the curb across from the East End Light Rail Line along Capitol St. Between the houses and the locomotive will sit the Nau Center’s signature dome entrance, held aloft, the rendering from Bailey Architects shows, by a ring of dainty columns resting at sidewalk level and a circular wall of glass.
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT THOSE TRAVEL WRITERS ALWAYS SAY ABOUT HOUSTON “Another colorful replay of the ‘ugly, random, full of food’ description. Any reputation is better than none at all.” [Dana-X, commenting on A New York Post Reporter’s Lost Houston Weekend]
A NEW YORK POST REPORTER’S LOST HOUSTON WEEKEND “Exhausted and content, I retired to the patio at El Gran Malo, a cool but divey tequila bar on a superbly awful corner facing a shoot ’n’ stab gas station, a Mexican restaurant and other assorted random Houstonia; I went here because every chef I encountered during my visit told me that this was the spot. I absolutely had to go, they said.
So I went and I drank tequila, because that’s what I saw everyone else doing. A lot of it too, apparently — by the end of the night, I vaguely remember being on the other side of town stalking a food truck selling lobster that may or may not have actually existed. Which was fine — it would be days before I was in a position to eat a proper meal again.” [New York Post] Photo of El Gran Malo: Almost Veggie Houston
THE LOWEDOWN ON LOWER WESTHEIMER? Travel + Leisure “Best, Most, Least” linkbaiter Katrina Brown Hunt tries out a little practical joke on Montrose-bound gullible types in her brief writeup of Houston, ranked a slackin’ No. 26 in the magazine’s accounting of America’s Best Cities for Hipsters: “Like many cities, Houston gives nicknames to its trendy neighborhoods. Case in point: LoWe, short for Lower Westheimer, where you can hang out at Mediterranean-themed coffee shop Agora, dive lounge Catbirds, or El Real Tex-Mex within a historic 1930s theater.” LoWe? Further tourist-oriented insight: “Houston also has two seemingly incompatible draws, according to readers: it ranked well for both luxury shopping and for being affordable.” [Travel + Leisure, via Hair Balls]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: NICE PLACE TO LIVE, BUT THEY DON’T WANT TO VISIT “I’ve lived in Houston for 30 years. It has taken me a long time to reconcile that! Every time I travel I’d come back and be annoyed for about 2 weeks that I lived here and not in one of those other “beautiful” cities. Compounding that, none of my family (on the East Coast) likes Houston or ever wants to come visit here. And I always felt like I had to apologize for Houston not being scenic or interesting or touristy. But not anymore! Like I said, I’ve reconciled that with the fact that Houston is a GREAT PLACE TO LIVE. Screw the tourists. We don’t have to apologize about living here. And there is no finer place to live than the (all too brief) green, flowery spring! (Then we dive into our homes for our AC’s !) And an added bonus, I don’t have to EVER worry about relatives coming to visit.” [Colleen, commenting on Comment of the Day: The High Cost of Beauty]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: FREEDMANSTOWNLAND ON THE GRAND PARKWAY “. . . We’re always talking about historical preservation, but I think it’s also important to preserve the ability for citizens to make the best use of the cities existing infrastructure and resources. Preserving swathes of near-town land precisely because we know it’s in high demand and primed for further development in the coming years seems a bit counterproductive to me.
Freedmans town has not existed in a form that accurately reflects it’s origins, original community, or the trials and travails of initially settling the area that forms it’s importance in a very very long time. Why not set up a TIRZ in the area for future development to fund the relocation and rebuilding of a scale model freedmans town on the grand parkway that would allow a fuller and more beneficial teaching of the importance of the area and the people that settled it?” [joel, commenting on Comment of the Day: Ballad of the Fourth Ward]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: GOOD ENOUGH FOR VISITORS “. . . I’m always befuddled when my husband’s family comes in from Boston or New York and is eager to go to the Galleria. Apparently, that’s enough of a tourist destination for some people . . .” [Adrianne, commenting on City Playing Musical Blocks with Downtown Houses]
Yesterday was moving day for 2 unusual Downtown buildings: The 1905 Cohn and 1904 Foley (above) houses cattycorner from the George R. Brown Convention Center. Leftover single-family homes from an area once known as Quality Hill and now strangers in the land of skyscrapers and stadiums, they’d be notable Downtown residents even if they weren’t designated historic structures. The city is moving them across the street and a block closer to Minute Maid Park, where they’re intended to become add-ons to a mysterious Regional Tourism Center proposed for the 600 block of Avenida de las Americas. According to plans flashed at the last public meeting for the Downtown/EaDo Livable Centers Study, this new building dedicated to Upper Texas Gulf Coast vacationers would face the westbound light-rail line along Capitol St. and sit at the bottom of an unidentified residential tower:
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: TOURISM, THE FINAL FRONTIER “Let’s face it, if you’ve ever been to Space Center Houston, it’s mostly geared towards elementary school field trips. It wasn’t til just a few years ago, one of the *real* crown jewels of America’s leftover space hardware, a complete friggin Saturn V, was even given a roof to protect it from the elements for posterity. I love NASA and remember being able to run around all over the campus with nary a locked door as a kid, but JSC simply hasn’t kept up with being a top toursist destination, domestically or internationally. Much like other ‘attractions’ in Houston, people see them incidentally when here visiting relatives or on business, they’re not destinations in themselves. I swear I think more people come down 45 and 59 from other states to see Galveston than Houston. Maybe we need to build that giant dome over the Loop after all to get some tourist cred.” [SL, commenting on Why No Shuttle for Houston? Because Space Center Houston Isn’t So Big with the Tourists]
If y’all had come to Space Center Houston, they’d have built a home for a retired space shuttle there. Well, maybe. Today’s report of the NASA inspector general points out a few details in the story of how Houston lost out in the retired-space-shuttle home sweepstakes. At a presentation given to NASA administrator Charles Bolden in November 2009, 4 out of 5 options being considered at the time by the agency’s recommendation team would have given Houston a shuttle. And Bolden says Houston was a sentimental favorite for him, too. He told investigators
that if it had been strictly a personal decision, his preference would have been to place an Orbiter in Houston. He noted that “[a]s a resident of Texas and a person who . . . spent the middle of my Marine Corps career in Houston, I would have loved to have placed an Orbiter in Houston.”
So what happened?
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