Articles by

Christine Gerbode

03/24/17 2:30pm

5415 Lawndale St., Sims Woods, Houston, 77023

The earth being pushed and shoved around on Lawndale St. between Hackney St. and the railroad tracks to the west this weekend looks like it’s being primed to sprout a field of new townhomes, if all goes according to Drake Homes’s plans. The irregularly shaped former warehouse site is already divvied up into more than 130 townhome-ready plotlets in the Harris County Appraisal District’s records system, each labeled with the moniker Magnolia Gardens. The land spreads between and behind the Eastwood post office and the Lawndale Street Carwash, right across Lawndale from the KIPP Explore Academy:

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Mowing Lawndale
03/24/17 10:45am

The Hamilton apartments, Downtown, Houston, 77002

Say, how’d those midrise apartments nestling delicately into the northernmost armpit of the 45-59 exchange turn out, anyway? An accessory to a Midtown drive-by past the scene sends a fresh shot of the finished product and its The Hamilton nametag, taken from the ramp that sends northbound 45-ers onto the potentially doomed Pierce Elevated. Construction started in 2014 and just wrapped in the fall as leasing started up.

Only the top 2 and a half of the complex’s 5 residential stories (never mind the parking podium levels below that) can peek over the railing of the freeway on the southern side of the structure, providing scenic views both to and of any loiterers on the building’s uppermost southern balconies. The blogging agent at FancyHoustonApartments.com even took the time to share the experience of staring down drivers on the closest ramp:

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Hamilton Now Showing
03/24/17 9:15am

1040 W. Cavalcade, Sunset Heights, Houston, 77009

The former liquor store that housed a more sessile version of snowcone trailer Mam’s House of Ice for the last few years appears to be up for grabs again, a reader notes (with a new HAR listing backing them up on the story). A sign on the window tipped the reader off, but the joint was closed at the time; it’s not yet clear yet whether the folks behind Mam’s are seeking a new space somewhere, have retreated to its more mobile lines-out-the-empty-lot business model, or have perhaps shut down altogether.

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Sunset in Sunset Heights
03/23/17 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOUSTONIANS WOULDN’T KNOW DENSITY IF IT PARKED RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM Illustration of Oversized Parking LotThis is exactly what happens in every dense city. If you go to Brooklyn, you will see cars street-parked in front of the brownstones. Few of those cars belong to the resident of the brownstone immediately adjacent. They recognize that they don’t own the street parking in front of their residence. It’s an incredible waste of resources to require that those perfectly good parking spaces remain vacant, in favor of large separate parking structures.” [Heightsresident, commenting on Comment of the Day: How To Tilt The Zero-Sum Houston Transit GameIllustration: Lulu

03/23/17 3:30pm

HOUSTON IS NO LONGER THE FASTEST GROWING CITY IN THE COUNTRY Harris and Surrounding CountiesNew Census Bureau numbers tracking population ins-and-outs between mid-2015 and mid-2016 have been released, Alexa Ura and Chris Essig note in the Texas Tribune this morning — and Houston is no longer in the number 1 spot nationally for growth among cities. Harris County as a whole, meanwhile, has also lost that top county population growth title (which it’s been defending for some 8 years) to Phoenix-containing Maricopa County in Arizona. The duo write that the growth that did occur in Houston itself was mainly from existing Houston residents having kids and from international immigrants moving in, while growth in Houston’s suburban orbit was more the product of migration in from elsewhere in the state and country; though the net population change was still positive, Harris County still lost around 44 people a day, probably in connection to the oil industry. [Texas Tribune] Map of Harris and surrounding counties: HGAC

03/23/17 12:00pm

Former Exxon Upstream Facility, 3102-3120 Buffalo Spdwy., Greenway/Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098Former Exxon Upstream Facility, 3102-3120 Buffalo Spdwy., Greenway/Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

More angles on the ongoing obliteration of structures at the freshly former Exxon Upstream Research facility on Buffalo Spdwy. at W. Alabama St. come this week from one of reader MontroseResident’s more elevated perches. The most prominently visible act of deconstruction has been the shattering breakup of the parking garage in the campus’s northwest corner, due south of the now-mostly-reskinned River Oaks Luxury Apartments midrise on Westheimer (which was stripped down to the slabs in the last 2 years for retooling as The River Oaks condo tower, visible below on the far left):

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Crushing on Buffalo Spdwy.
03/23/17 10:30am

2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

One of the low-slung spots fringing Portsmouth Square (the gravelly picket-fenced space between Portsmouth St. and Richmond Ave. which a reader refers to as “arguably Houston’s worst parking lot”) has been getting worked over for an identity swapout planned to take effect later this month. The former Blue Fish House sushi restaurant, just north of vegetarian- and Lord-of-the-Rings-geek-friendly Hobbit Cafe and facing off with Capone’s Oven and Bar, is now decked out in signage for Rim Tanon, billed by its Richmond-facing banner as a Thai street food joint.

Some of the Blue Fish’s old signage was still visible on the back side of the building as of earlier this week (as seen above), though the space’s hanging placard sign has already been replaced. And the building’s trees-in-the-holes front patio area has been getting a little bit of retooling:

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Tradeoff on Richmond Ave
03/22/17 4:30pm

Crane at under-construction Capitol Tower, Capitol St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Another shot of that crane that took to the air this weekend by the economy-stalled stub of Skanska’s Capitol Tower comes from a reader peering over the site’s parking structure from Rusk St. yesterday. (That’s the neighboring Chase Tower looming over the scene in the background.) Bank of America was outed as being in talks with Skanska about leasing space in the tower (which might add the bank’s current home in Bank of America Center to the list of recent abandonments of Downtown office towers by their namesake tenants). The other sign of life on the site this year was the addition of a street-level mural to the parking garage’s corner, which was dry in time for the Super Bowl last month:

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Sprouting Downtown
03/22/17 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO TILT THE ZERO-SUM HOUSTON TRANSIT GAME parking-garage“‘The overlooked reason why cycling isn’t more popular is because driving and parking are far, far easier in Houston than in Amsterdam.’ You‘re right. So you know what would help increase the use of bikes? Allowing the market to determine the number of parking spaces. If [a business] gets it wrong and offers too few spots, they’ll suffer. But give them the choice. Right now business are required to supply tons of parking, making driving the dominant way people will always get from point A to point B. At least loosen up the regs in areas like Midtown and Montrose where we have a population that’s far more willing to walk, bike, skate, rail, etc. (or even Uber, which, while it puts cars on the road, lowers parking demand.)” [Cody, commenting on Houston Bike Plan Up for a Vote Again This Morning Amid More California-ization Fears] Photo: Bill Barfield via Swamplot Flickr Pool

03/22/17 1:00pm

721 W. 19th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008 

Work has moved into the buildout and dressup phase for Phase II of the high-glycemic-index strip center at the corner of W. 19th St. and N. Shepherd Dr., a reader notes during a recent catty-corner oil change. The Benjamin Moore signage spotted around the new second building last year during the site’s flat-slab days is now reflected by buildout permits for the paint store, which should take up about 1,820 sq.ft. of the building’s 4,298. What’ll be filling up the rest of the space? Looks like the leftovers will house Austin export Tarka Indian Kitchen’s first inside-the-Beltway location.

The cameraman also captured a glimpse of Dallas pizzeria Cane Rosso‘s statue of a somewhat confusingly labeled suina rosso, which overlooks the intersection from its browsing position near the parking lot:

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Heights Austinites
03/22/17 11:00am

HOUSTON BIKE PLAN UP FOR A VOTE AGAIN THIS MORNING AMID MORE CALIFORNIA-IZATION FEARS Existing High Comfort Bike Lanes, Houston Bike Plan ca. March 2017This morning’s city council meeting has the Houston Bike Plan back on the docket, following the most recent round of public-input-based tweaking to the plan (as well as a delay of the vote, which was initially scheduled for earlier this month). Over in the Chronicle Dug Begley recaps some of the arguments being made for and against the years-in-development guidance plan, which have a bit of a chicken-vs-egg flavor: do only 0.5% of Houstonians bike to work because safe-feeling bike paths are scarce outside of certain Inner Loop neighborhoods? Or are those areas where the active bikers are already clustered the only ones where bike path improvements are warranted? Councilman Greg Travis, one of the folks who pushed back the vote at the last council meeting, told Begley he does see a need for some kind of bike safety improvement plan, but adds that he’s “not sure this is the plan for Houston. We’re not Amsterdam or San Francisco, and we don’t know what’s needed here, really needed.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Map of existing ‘high-comfort’ bike paths: Houston Bike Plan Interactive Map