04/19/18 3:45pm

METRO NOW TESTING OUT SELF-DRIVING BUSES FOR HOUSTON Preliminary tests of the new autonomous buses METRO is studying for potential use in Houston have gone well so far, agency board member Sanhjay Ramabhadran said at a luncheon in Cy-Fair on Tuesday — “although,” he added, “they tend to overheat in the Texas weather.” The next test phase, METRO spokesperson Jerome Gray tells abc13, “will be on the campus of Texas Southern University with a small bus at slow speeds.” If it goes well, a prototype could then graduate to real traffic. Last January, the U.S. Department of Transportation named Houston one of 10 official proving grounds for driverless buses “in part for its miles of HOV lanes that could easily work as testing lanes.” [abc13] Photo: METRO

04/19/18 1:00pm

Crescent Communities sent a letter last week to all residents of The Georgian apartments at 2511 Willowick, just north of Westheimer, letting them know that they’ll be kicked out of the complex in 6 months. The existing 114 units — home to residents over 55 — will be torn down and replaced with what the letter describes as “a new apartment building with integrated retail.” Crescent closed on the 53-year-old complex in 2015 after the purchase stalled the previous year.

Obviously, the redevelopment of this site will require you to find a new home, and we are dedicated to assisting in this transition,” reads the letter. To that end, the owner is letting people out of their leases early, offering some financial assistance to relocate, and “engaging a relocation specialist to assist residents.” The final move out date is October 15.

At the northern end of the 3.4-acre property, townhouses line Wickersham Ln.:

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Aged Out of Highland Village
04/19/18 11:30am

CLEANUP CREWS NOW POLISHING DOWNTOWN HOUSTON’S MOST FAMOUS ABANDONED BUILDING A reader in the KBR Tower 2 blocks east of the former Days Inn at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. reports sightings of several different crews that have appeared outside the north face of the hotel within the past week. A pair of crane trucks have been parked at the foot of the hotel’s garage, and a swing-stage scaffold is hanging near the top of the podium. Also noted: Workers have cleared out debris from inside the garage, and accumulated trash has been removed from the pool of the 31-story hotel-turned-Vedic-school. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Kimberly Knight

04/18/18 4:30pm

One week oil and gas equipment warehouse just north of the Katy that Work America Capital is converting into a place of business has been partially skinned. Its street-fronting side is now open and the illuminated sign that spelled out the Surefire Industries name atop the front entrance has been replaced with Burton Construction’s unlit banner.

Work America says the structure at 1336 Brittmoore will anchor a 25-acre business campus it’s developing, dubbed The Cannon. It’s slated to include co-working offices, as well as an event center, athletic facility, restaurants, retail and some sort of living space.

Here’s a view of what the barn-like structure will look like re-sided and with new windows:

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The Cannon
04/18/18 3:00pm

NASA TO STUDY HOW LOUD SUPERSONIC JET GETS BY FLYING OVER GALVESTON Lockheed Martin is pitching its planned supersonic passenger plane as the quietest yet — despite its top speed of 940 mph. The company says a prototype will be ready within the next few years. But NASA won’t wait that long to find out how loud it’ll be: “the government agency will use an F/A-18 Hornet aircraft to replicate the softer sonic boom and measure how receptive Galvestonians will be,” reports the Chronicle‘s Andrea Rumbaugh. After lifting off from Ellington Airport, the plane will dive down at a 53-degree angle off the Galveston coast, breaking the sound barrier as it does. “Most of that sound will go toward the water,” writes Rumbaugh. But when it pulls up, “some of the sound will travel toward Galveston. By the time it reaches the island, it will be at the sound level expected from NASA’s X-plane.” Five hundred chosen residents and a handful of sound monitors will listen up for 10 non-consecutive days in November and provide feedback on the noise level — which NASA’s project manager says shouldn’t be that bad: “If a traditional sonic boom is hearing a thunderstorm directly overhead,” he explains “then the new reduced sonic boom will be like hearing a storm rumble far in the distance.” [Houston Chronicle ($)] Rendering of Low Boom Flight Demonstration X-plane: NASA

04/18/18 11:45am

An official aerial video shows off the golf-course-to-retention transformation that’s taken place across a few holes of the former Clear Lake City course north of where Diana Ln. and Ramada Dr. converge. The first all-inclusive shot comes at about 30 seconds. In it, paved and unpaved trails wrap the new pond, which is surrounding by just a few saplings — although plans note it will eventually be an “abundant natural habitat” filled with native vegetation. Some of those incoming species may reside on the so-called “habitat island” that shows up clearly at the 40 second mark.

A parking lot neighbors the southwestern waterfront, adjacent to a pair of new sports fields:

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Exploration Green
04/17/18 4:30pm

AFTER HARVEY, WILL KINGWOOD PROPERTY TAXES BE ENOUGH TO FUND A NEW EVACUATION ROUTE? What would it take to turn Northpark Dr. into an all-weather evacuation route for Kingwood? “We’re going to have to bring it up out of that [floodplain],” TIRZ 10 consultant Ralph De Leon tells the Chronicle‘s Melainie Feuk, “which means the road’s going to have to come up.” The goal: “In a Harvey-like event, the road will still be passable and you can move people from the back of Kingwood to 69,” says city councilmember Dave Martin. TIRZ 10 had planned to issue bonds to fund a mile-and-a quarter segment of the project — between Russell Palmer Rd. and the Eastex Fwy. — but hit a snag. “Our big holdup,” TIRZ chairman Stan Sarman now says, “is waiting to see what’s going to happen to the appraised value.” Still in the works: the TIRZ’s funding application for the other portion of the road — east to Woodland Hills Dr. — which it plans to send in to the Houston Galveston Area Council sometime between June and July.  [Houston Chronicle] Map of Northpark Dr. between Eastex Fwy. and Woodland Hills Dr.: Houston City Council

04/17/18 12:30pm

A NEW HEIGHTS PARK FOR THE SHUTTERED BUS STOP ON N. MAIN? METRO rendered the Heights Transit Center just north of Cavalcade obsolete when its new bus routes went into service in 2015. Although 3 routes still converge below the southern tip of the 0.88-acre, triangular property where Studewood dies into N. Main, not all of them let on at that location and none of them arrive at the covered waiting area riders once used for boarding. Now, reports the Chronicle’s Mike Morris, the City plans to buy the unused lot. The price: $1,425,000, to be funded by fees imposed on developers who didn’t include green space in their projects as specified in a 2007 ordinance. The fees, writes Morris, “must be spent there within three years and can be used only for park improvements.” The city council will vote on the land purchase today. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Save the Heights Transit Center

04/17/18 10:15am

Wharton Elementary School’s 3-story backyard addition has moved up steadily from its previous grade level since 2016 and is now standing tall behind the existing single-story schoolhouse at 900 W. Gray. The least-finished portion of the new building shown in the photo at top is where the school’s new glassy main entrance will go in supplement of the current one at the front of the existing building. North of the 3-story entry atrium facing Columbus St., the new first floor will house mostly administrative offices — with some added classrooms above them.

A shady but still grassless courtyard separates the new structure from the old:

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Schooling North Montrose
04/16/18 4:30pm

Two-tone design elements run the show at 4104 Greeley — from the front entry (top) to the dining room tableware (above). The 2,471-sq.-ft. house 2 blocks north of  Richmond was built in 1920 and sold to its current owner about 60 years later.

It’s been a bed and breakfast dubbed the Robin’s Nest for nearly 30 years:

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The Robin’s Nest
04/16/18 1:00pm

The marketing materials for Hunington Properties’ new apartment building planned in place of Bethel Church a block north of Wash Ave come chock full of cultural references. There’s the Seinfeldian restaurant sign depicted on the corner of Shepherd and Center St, pick-up and drop-off zones adjacent to the parking garage’s entrances labeled Uber (sorry, Lyft!) in the site plan — and if that’s not enough, the leasing brochure notes that tenants “will be given latitude to incorporate unique elements into their storefronts promoting their individual brand identity.

Of the 4 corner retail segments planned — 25,000 sq. ft. total — 3 include patios. To accommodate them, Hunington is requesting several modifications to the setbacks: on Center St., on Durham, and the boldest on Shepherd — where the patio would sit only 5 ft. from the roadway, 20 ft. closer than is typically allowed. Last Thursday, Houston’s planning commission deferred the variance request. It’s now waiting on more information regarding the proposed patios before reconsidering the developer’s plans.

Bethel Church’s building currently takes up half of the block:

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The Interpose
04/13/18 5:00pm

Crews are now peeling back the corrugated metal paneling that covers over the original façade of the Sears building on the corner of Main and Wheeler, exposing some of the 1930s art deco details underneath. The plain skin was added onto the 4-story structure in the 1960s. It remained in place after the company that manages Rice University’s endowment bought out Sears’ lease on the property 6 months ago and the department store closed in January.

Yesterday, Mayor Turner announced that an extensive redo of the building — overseen by Hines and designed by Gensler along with New York-firm James Carpenter — would transform it into a startup incubation center, the anchor of a 4-mile “innovation corridor” planned between Downtown and the med center. The vertical mosaic pattern pictured above on the south side of the building is one of the first hidden touches to see the light of day as part of the work that’s now beginning to restore the exterior.

Also uncovered is the row of metal beams used to mount the outer shell:

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Art Deco Unveiling
04/13/18 3:00pm

The former Haliburton manufacturing plant at 1907 Sabine St. is now the eighth structure to take on a post-industrial life by joining the group of First Ward art buildings collectively dubbed Sawyer Yards. Developer Jon Deal oversaw the redo of what he’s now calling Sabine Street Studios. Its new look consists of freshly-installed siding as well as added clerestory windows and doors along the parking lot on the corner of Silver and Spring streets. Spring Street Studios — another Sawyer Yards building — is just north across the street.

To the south, the building spans the entirety of Shearn St. between Silver and Sabine:

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Done Deal
04/13/18 12:15pm

What’s going on at Greenway Plaza besides the coming Lifetime Fitness and the patio addition west of Edloe? A new covered walkway now traverses the complex’s Fountain Green — linking buildings 9 and 11 to each other at ground level. The path divides the quadrant into 2 separate lawns: one to the north where the fountain pictured at top bubbles up behind the row of flags that line Richmond. The other, to the south, is a smaller strip along City Club Dr.

A rendering of the renovated plaza from its then-owner Parkway (which was bought by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board last year) shows the full partition:

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Office Park Pathway
04/12/18 4:45pm

The new 235,000-sq.-ft. job training center Alief ISD started building 2-years ago on the corner of W. Houston Center Blvd. and Richmond Ave is almost a done deal. Now that the building — dubbed the Center for Advanced Careers — is up, the photo at top looks across W. Houston Center from outside Walmart to show what will be the entry to its culinary arts wing at the far end of the blocked-off driveway. A view facing north back when the 19-acre site was still flat and home to the Golf Range on Richmond shows where visitors used to tee off on it.

The new building is wrapped by parking lots:

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Training Grounds