05/26/17 6:00pm

Okay. So. There’s a little bit of rain scheduled for Monday — but so far none of the forecasts seem to be showing anything like what turned up during the last few Memorial Day weekends. Swamplot’s gonna go ahead and take the day off anyway. Here’s hoping you and yours have a fun, safe, and largely dry break, if you’re getting one. (And if you don’t — we’ll still meet you back here on Tuesday to wade back into the Bayou City’s murky real estate waters, together.)

Photo of I-45, May 2015Marc Longoria

Remembering Memorial Day
05/26/17 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: DESTROY MY SEMI TRAILER ON N. MAIN ST. ONCE, SHAME ON ME “I’d bet that the signage, 12′-9″, is probably literally correct, in that the distance from the road deck to the bottom of the bridge measures 12′-9″. However, that doesn’t mean that a truck that’s 12′-8″ high can pass through. More to the point: that doesn’t mean a truck that’s 12′-8″ high can exit the other end. Problem is that since there’s an up-slope on the exit of the underpass, the longer the truck, the higher the effective height as it climbs up the slope. [And] with respect to the alternate route, the northbound signage is terrible. It seems to indicate that the driver should turn left into a chain link fence. Where they actually should go looks like its one-way the other way. If this happens once, I understand blaming the driver. If it happens frequently, it’s probably the result of poor design and poor signage.” [Angostura, commenting on Latest Semi To Get Stuck in that N. Main Tunnel by Hardy Yards Gets Top Shredded Off, Too] Photo: TransitCtrActivity

05/26/17 3:15pm

A CHECK ON EXPIRATION DATES AMID THE HEIGHTS FOODIE BOOM The restaurantheavy redevelopment of various used car dealerships and auto shops along N. Shepherd Dr. might bring with it some future trouble for the Heights area, Jonathan McElvy suggests in his column for the Leader this week. McElvy worries that too many new spots chasing after trends in the “culinary preferences of Houston’s red-hot foodie community,” (as he notes recently closed-for-re-concepting Heights restaurant Glass Wall described it) may mean that the area is “about to enter a period of constant turnover along our most important corridor.” Noting the startling estimates on how many restaurants close in fewer than 5 years (whether due to lack of business knowledge, bad construction traffic, or sheer bad luck), McElvy writes that while there’s little to be done to curb the popularity of “farm-to-table restaurants that know how to plate a dish but don’t have a clue how to pay franchise taxes on time . . . it is not going to help our community if 1 business opens and another closes every other week.” [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Karen S.

05/26/17 12:00pm

Today our sponsor is Oaks on Caroline, featuring units for sale by Nan and Company Properties Christie’s International Real Estate. Thank you for supporting Swamplot!

Oaks on Caroline is a new development in a pedestrian-friendly environment brimming with cutting-edge science, important cultural experiences, and beautiful masterpieces: Houston’s Museum District. An Oaks on Caroline home is one you can simply lock and leave when you travel.

The midrise condo offers several different 1- and 2-bedroom floor plans. Each features high ceilings, luxury finishes, stainless-steel appliances, and stone countertops.

Constructed by Urban Flats Builders, Oaks on Caroline is a cast-in-place concrete building with post-tensioned floors, allowing each unit a high level of privacy. The flats are equipped with floor-to-ceiling low-e glass windows. Private balconies on every floor offer skyline views of the Museum District, Downtown, and the Texas Medical Center.

For a quick tour of this property, watch the video above (or follow the link here). If you’re interested in finding out more, contact Nan and Company Properties at 713.980.0774 — or info@nanproperties.com.

To stay updated on the latest listings and announcements from Nan and Company Christie’s International Real Estate, check out the company’s website — or follow the company on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Swamplot readers appreciate our sponsors! Is it your turn to become a Sponsor of the Day?

Sponsor of the Day
05/26/17 11:30am

Perpetually hungering for on-the-scene updates on the ongoing demolition of KPRC’s old broadcast station south of Beechnut St. along the Southwest Freeway? Here’s one means of getting your fix: A construction webcam set up above and nearby is still posting updates on the site every 12-to-13 minutes at all hours of the day and night. The 1972 building is coming down right next door to the station’s newly opened replacement, designed to fit Tetris-style into a handy nook on the back of the original — that’s it wearing a protective blue tarp in the shot above, which was captured around 10:15 this morning. You can even follow the action all the way back to December 2015, before the breakup of the surface parking lot where the new building now stands.

That drone view of the demo that Russell Hancock snagged last week shows a broader view of both building still (mostly) in place together (and makes it marginally clearer why some station affiliates claim the seventies structure was meant to look like an old camera:)

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

24 Hour News Demo Cycle
05/26/17 8:30am

Photo of CenterPoint Energy Plaza: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Headlines
05/25/17 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW LONG UNTIL HOUSTON’S FLOODWATERS WASH AWAY THE OIL MONEY? “But hey, why bother [with impermeable ground cover]? I’m sure this city will continue to grow and prosper and the taxes will still come pouring in, years after it exacerbates its reputation as a flooded-out mess far behind the tipping point. It will make our elected leaders look so smart when the pension system fails anyway because energy companies choose to move to Austin, OKC, DFW and Denver, because they can’t in good conscience relocate people to the flooded mess of our city. Oh wait — you say energy companies would never leave Houston? Remember, the oil companies fled New York decades ago. Recently BP has moved its onshore group to Denver. Exxon is gone to the Woodlands (and lets not pretend that didn’t have anything to do with escaping the hot mess of city hall mismanagement.)” [Tired of flooding, commenting on Where 2 New Buildings and 542 New Surface Parking Spots Could Fit North of Washington Ave.Illustration: Lulu

05/25/17 3:45pm

RESIDENTS NEAR SMART FINANCIAL CENTRE: DON’T WANNA LIVE WITH ‘EM, MAYBE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT ‘EM Mike Snyder reports from a dead empty plaza at the new Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land for the Chronicle this week — utilizing the deserted backdrop for some quiet contemplation and speculation regarding the development’s likely ability to draw long-term business. So-called “destination center” projects like Smart Centre and Town Square are “a big part of [Sugar Land’s] long-term financial strategy to broaden our economic base and keep our property taxes low,” city business director Jennifer Mays tells Snyder — but Snyder and others suggest that a lack of nearby residential development may make it harder for Smart Centre to take off the way Town Square has. Snyder also notes that 900 new apartments were originally planned near Smart Centre, but were nixed on account of objections from “residents concerned that renters would increase traffic, crowd schools and damage their suburban lifestyle.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Smart Financial Centre

05/25/17 2:00pm

Not to be outdone by last week’s midday plug-up of the Alfred Hernandez Tunnel beneath the railroad tracks and the Burnett TC Red Line stop, another semi making its way through the passage got lodged in the tunnel late this morning — getting torn open end-to-end in the process. But that’s not even the first truck stuckage incident at the underpass in the last 24 hours, according to a reader who’s had both a camera and a Twitter account trained on the recently retooled intersection for at least the last few months.

The reader tells Swamplot that another truck got stuck briefly last night, and that it happens about 6 times a week: “Our camera system auto-wakes when it hears something beyond a certain threshold; most drive away, presumably nervous[ly] on their way to have a talk with the boss.” Some work on the tunnel has been on the city’s docket this spring, and was approved at a mid-April meeting; that’s likely to start around the end of the month. 

Here’s the scene from above as of early this afternoon:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Near-Daily Grind in Near Northside
05/25/17 12:00pm

Today our sponsor is Plan Downtown and the Downtown District, bringing you the last of 4 weekly posts focusing on the 4 pillars of the Plan Downtown effort. Thanks for supporting Swamplot!

How can the Plan Downtown effort establish Downtown Houston as a leading multi-modal center?

Pillar Four of the strategic initiative seeks to answer this question. More specifically: how to connect Downtown Houston to the general region, and how to capitalize on Downtown’s place as a walkable area with bikeway, greenway, transit, and roadway networks.

Dr. Carol Lewis, professor and director of the college of science, technology, and engineering at Texas Southern University, has spent much of her career researching transportation planning and policy, public transit operations, and public involvement. In this interview, Dr. Lewis discusses improvements meant to help Downtown Houston flourish as a destination that provides flexibility in its mobility options.

The goal? To improve neighborhood edge conditions, reduce barriers, and expand green networks, with streets serving as connectors to destinations that reinforce opportunities for land uses.

Q: Why is Downtown Houston important to the region?

A: Downtown is the symbolic heart of the city. At one time, people joked that one could roll up the streets of Downtown at the end of the workday. That wasn’t good.

This core is the seat of government for most of the region’s residents (City of Houston and Harris County), the historic location of the city’s founding, plus its cultural core, with theaters, sports, and entertainment. A strong Downtown will serve as the pulse of the region.

Q: Why do you feel we need to talk mobility now?

A: Because the City of Houston and our region are going to gain millions of people over the next 10 years. Essentially, we’re going to get the city of San Antonio and layer it on top of Houston. We’re already having trouble with our mobility.

I think mobility Downtown is critical because if people can’t get Downtown, it’s going to signal something negative for the rest of the region. We have to have enough dialogue around it to make sure our decisions are correct.

Q: What improvements can be done to make Downtown more walkable?

A: Beyond the physical — like increasing sidewalk width, adding a strip separating pedestrians from vehicular traffic, and improving lighting conditions at night — opening more ground-level retail and giving people other places to go would make Downtown more walkable.

The key to making an area more walkable is people. We have to get more people Downtown. It’s happening already, so we need to fuel that trend. Include more buildings that face the street with glass facades. If I’m outside, I can see people inside. If I’m inside, I can see people outside. That gives everyone a heightened sense of security.

Lighting has to be sufficient. You can’t feel like it’s dark or shadowy.

Q: What improvements can be made to better connect Downtown and central city neighborhoods?

A: Multiple easy transportation options, transit, Greenlink, taxi — I advocate a Downtown and Midtown zone where taxis are frequent, can be hailed on-street and are single priced within the zone.

When walking out of a door to the nearest corner, there should be something one could catch and ride within a couple of minutes.

Q: How will public transportation affect the growth of Downtown? Why is public transportation important?

A: In other cities, I have seen development gravitate toward station locations, which indicates permanence. We are seeing that at the Ensemble Station now. It’s not uncommon for that development to happen 10 to 30 years behind a station opening.

In a recent meeting for Plan Downtown, we all learned that the people who live closest to Downtown are still driving their cars, and the people who are taking transit are the ones who live farthest away. Why is that? I think it gives us something to investigate.

It comes down to, I propose, that people are always going to do what’s easiest for them.

Support people who care about your city. Become a Swamplot Sponsor.

Sponsor of the Day
05/25/17 10:45am

The Refinery Burgers & Whiskey is currently in the process of moving past its oil theme dependency and rebranding to pay homage to a different set of Gulf Coast-al tropes: the new name of the joint at 702 W. Dallas St. will be South Bank Seafood Bar, and a menu including some Asian and Cajun-Creole nods is purportedly in the works.

The patio in front of the 2-spot retail strip (which the restaurant shares with barber and beardwrangler Shave) has been getting dressed up and expanded as part of the remodel. And just this morning, a reader caught sight of what may be preparations to slice a service-window-shaped hole into the shipping container now sitting out front:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Habitat Alteration at Downtown’s Edge