11/17/17 4:45pm

The doors aren’t open yet, but the windows are in at Beaver’s’s 10-year-old bar and barbecue joint on the corner of Sawyer and Decatur St., closed since early July. The photo at top shows 3 of the 4 new holes in the wall, including one cut straight through the building’s name tag, preserved in the image above from before the bar closed. The 2,500-sq.-ft. den was originally scheduled to reopen in September. A second location on Westheimer just east of Fountain View Dr., larger than the original, has been in business since January 2.

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Old Sixth Ward
11/17/17 2:00pm

MOSAIC SOUTH TOWER ONLY NOW GOING BY HANOVER HERMANN PARK The 29-story, 394-unit glass apartment building at 5927 Almeda Rd. known as the Mosaic South Tower, and before that the Montage, and before that the south tower of the Mosaic, shall henceforth (or until it sells again, probably) be known as the Hanover Hermann Park. (It’s pictured at right in the above photo.) Last week PGIM, the real estate division of Prudential Financial, bought the building, which fronts Hermann Park and backs up to 288 — along with the retail portion of the building’s gone-condo identical twin immediately to the north, still known not-at-all-confusingly as the Mosaic on Hermann Park. The seller was Winthrop Realty Liquidating Trust, which (in case it’s not obvious from that company’s name) is in the process of selling off every property it owns. In case the name change wouldn’t be enough of a clue, a note sent last week to residents by the seller indicates that the building will now be managed by the Hanover Company. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: elnina, via Swamplot Flickr pool

11/17/17 11:30am

Previously visible only to airplanes, drones, satellite-image sleuths, and Phillips 66 employees on sufficiently high floors of their adjacent offices: the soccer field with encircling track and enclosing fence pictured here atop the energy company’s parking garage, with Beltway 8 in the background. An additional artificial-turf practice area exists off camera to the left.

Phillips 66’s campus was completed last year at 2331 CityWest Blvd., along the Beltway at Westheimer, and includes 2 office towers as well as the parking center. The main office buildings sport their own recreational facilities: a yoga studio, spin workout hall, basketball court, and outdoor putting green.

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Pitch Roof
11/16/17 2:45pm

Teevee station KHOU is giving up on its 3.2-acre bayou-side home on Allen Pkwy. after repeated flooding and will soon be listing it for sale, according to a staff member’s Facebook post. The organization did file a permit for $594,740 worth of restoration work after Harvey between August and October, and hired 2 services to help with the clean-up — including Lewisville-based MrRestore, pictured above outside the building on August 30. Before Harvey, the studio enjoyed a 16-year dry run bookended by waters from Tropical Storm Allison back in 2001.

The 52,000-sq.-ft. studio, home to Channel 11 for 57 years, took on 5 ft. of water during the recent storm, forcing its staff to relocate broadcasting activity 3 times within the same day: first to a second floor conference room, then 2 blocks east on Allen Pkwy. to the Federal Reserve Bank, and finally to Houston Public Media’s office on Elgin St. just off I-45, where the news operation has now been headquartered for just over 2 months. That co-location wouldn’t be permanent, KHOU meteorologist Brooks Garner reported last month, although he indicated at that time that the station had not as yet decided whether to return home or seek a new venue.

Photos tweeted out by KHOU reporters of their original home showed the building at 1945 Allen Pkwy. taking on water during the storm. Here’s what the lobby looked like:

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Anchors Away
11/16/17 11:30am

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s animated video (above) on the explosions at the Arkema Chemical Plant in Crosby recounts the steps taken by the brave workers stuck in charge of the facility in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. But a few angles less charitable to the company’s emergency planning effort aren’t included — possibly because they’d be a little more involved to animate. For example, the noxious fumes that emanated from the first fire, on the night of August 31, which according to a lawsuit filed later Arkema gave no warning about — and sent 23 people to the hospital, many of them vomiting and gasping for cleaner air.

And another detail: The remote detonations of 6 trailers containing unrefrigerated organic peroxides were carried out by the Houston Police Department’s bomb squad. “The entire police operation was conducted without warning the public,” write the Houston Chronicle‘s Matt Dempsey and Jacob Carpenter. “Until the documents were released earlier this month by the EPA, the public didn’t know who performed the controlled burn, or how it was done.”

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Reefer Madness
11/15/17 3:00pm

It’s official: the 255-ft.-long drive-thru car wash at Buc-ee’s’s new Katy location off I-10 at Cane Island Pkwy. now qualifies as the longest in the world, according to Guinness World Records. Traversing the tunnel takes cars about 5 minutes, during which time in-wash light effects entertain. Don’t have a dirty car of your own in Katy? There are videos.

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Buc-ee’s World Record
11/15/17 10:15am

Construction is almost complete on a missing link between the bike paths lining Buffalo Bayou Park and the Heights Hike and Bike Trail, according to passer-by Christopher Andrews — who snapped the above photo from the southern span of the Main St. bridge, looking towards the back of the UH–Downtown campus. The purple curve just north of Allen’s Landing marked on the map below is the segment of the bayou trail that’s in the works. You can see where that portion will intersect the Heights trail, marked below in gray, after it crosses White Oak Bayou’s southerly meander to the east of UHD:

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Downtown Link
11/14/17 2:45pm

Site work has begun on the block of Birdsall St. just north of Memorial Dr., where demolition of the 2-story buildings comprising the former 57 Off Memorial apartments was finished up a couple of weeks ago. The photo above, sent to Swamplot by photographer Sonya Cuellar, shows a view of 160 Birdsall St. looking east in its current naked condition; Birdsall in the foreground and Venice St. on the right. The vacated portion of the Malone St. block beyond is also part of the project.

Going up in place of the 120 apartment units knocked out by the excavators: Jonathan Farb’s new City Place Memorial Park apartments, which renderings show would follow the pattern of Farb’s City Place Midtown apartments, only taller because the garages will be underneath and with more prominent cornices and balconies: 4 wood-framed stories will sit on top of 2-level concrete parking garages fitted with courtyard swimming pools on their decks. It’ll have 264 units in 2 separate buildings.

Photo: Sonya Cuellar. Rendering: Farb Homes/Wallace Garcia Wilson Architects

Farb Homes
11/14/17 11:45am

More new features are imagined for the center of Houston than just the new Green Loop highlighted in the just-released Plan Downtown proposal. There’s also a mysterious new Downtown island. Where did it come from?

It’s the result of digging the long-whispered North Canal Channel Bypass, a re-linking of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous north of Downtown. Existing bends and narrow banks along the 2 bayous just east of Main St. restrict the flow of stormwater during flooding events. According to reports, engineering studies have estimated that cutting a straighter diversion channel to bypass the oxbow could reduce flooding Downtown by 3.5 ft.

But digging a new canal while maintaining the existing path of the bayou would create an island out of the area just north of Commerce St. An imagined map of the area in Plan Downtown’s report (rotated so North is aimed down and to the right) shows what car and pedestrian bridges might link it to the mainland:

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Plan Downtown
11/13/17 4:00pm

Here’s what’s expected to park in the garage at Montalbano Tire and Auto Service after the business shuts down next week: a restaurant or 2, retailers, and office tenants. Kaldis Development Interests purchased the .81-acre property at 1302 Houston Ave in mid-October and plans to renovate it before reopening it as a 15,000-sq.-ft. retail-and-office center.

On the Houston Ave front (see top drawing), windows would be fitted into the building’s current garage bays, with a restaurant patio facing the street at the northern end. On the south side, the metal structure facing Dart St. would be punctured with new window bays as well as doors for individual storefronts.

According to the site plan for the proposed new development (below) 7 head-in parking spaces off of Houston Ave would remain after the redo:

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First Ward Redo
11/13/17 1:30pm

WALK THIS WAY Only 17 percent of projects eligible for incentives included in the city’s 8-year-old Transit Corridor ordinance have taken advantage of them, reports Hilary Ybarra. So the next city initiative aimed at walkability will take a different approach: “The recently established Walkable Places Committee has been tasked with reevaluating the city code to dive deeper into the issue of walkability in Houston. The committee is currently focused on creating an application-based process to establish specific ‘walkable place’ areas,” she writes. “Under this new system, any neighborhood could voluntarily apply to become a ‘walkable place’ and in doing so establish their own set of self-defined unique rules for development to encourage walkability. These rules would include specific regulations covering the building setback, design of the pedestrian realm, landscaping, pedestrian friendly building design, and parking (a separate subcommittee has been formed exclusively to deal with parking). But once adopted, unlike the Transit Corridor Ordinance, neighborhood- and site-specific building rules would be required, not optional, for all new development. Though still in the early planning stages — adoption of a new ordinance is targeted for 2019 — the proposal certainly faces challenges. How will a neighborhood come to consensus on new guidelines? What are the incentives to apply to become a ‘walkable place?’ What will trigger the application of the new guidelines to existing development? Are historic structures exempt? And perhaps most importantly, what about the spaces between and connecting to the specific neighborhoods?” [The Urban Edge] Photo of Gray St., Midtown: Mark Taylor Cunningham (license)

11/13/17 1:00pm

The retirement sale sign up now in front of Montalbano Tire and Auto Service at 1302 Houston Ave isn’t just advertising tire replacement: Owner Tony Montalbano sent out a letter last week to customers informing them that the 76-year-old business would close on November 17, though a source tells Swamplot that date has since been pushed back about a week. The 13,915 sq.-ft. car care building on the corner of Houston Ave and Dart St. went up in 1960 and sits on just over three-quarters of an acre. The first photo above shows the store’s front entrance on the corner looking north up Houston Ave.

Across Houston Ave, Montalbano’s much larger neighbor of the same surname — Montalbano Lumber — remains open for business.

Photos: Marc Longoria

First Ward
11/09/17 3:30pm

Is Houston ready for yet another loop road? Here’s the proposed Green Loop, a 5-mile network of parks, trails, and other public spaces that the neighborhood supergroups behind Plan Downtown imagine ringing in Houston’s bicentennial — if it’s completed by 2036. One of 10 separate proposals in the plan, the city’s littlest loop is meant to take advantage of TxDOT’s proposed rerouting of I-45 to the east side of Downtown — by wrapping the district tightly with a transportation and recreation circuit that could attract adjacent development and help link the city center to adjacent neighborhoods.

Plan Houston’s new report flags ideas and renderings for 3 spots along Downtown’s proposed Emerald Choker: At Buffalo Bayou, on top of I-69 and I-45 once they’re sunk behind the George R. Brown, and on Pierce St. at the Midtown border.

New buildings at the northwest corner of Downtown would face Buffalo Bayou as well as the surrounding streets, lining the waterfront with flood-worthy attractions:

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It’s a Wrap!
11/08/17 3:15pm

Coming soon to the complex of light-colored industrial buildings across 34th St. from the Pat H. Foley funeral home and its accompanying embalming services facility, the Hare Krishna Temple and Cultural Center, and the Foster Family YMCA between them just south of Oak Forest: a 17,831 sq.-ft. retail and restaurant center redo. Revive Development’s Stomping Grounds, which will also include 5,000 sq. ft. of upstairs office space, is to be carved out of 4 buildings on a 3-acre site formerly occupied by vehicle-repair and service companies and the Bank Shot pool hall.

Drawings from Cisneros Design Studio show the 2-story metal building at 1229 W. 34th St. (pictured above) formerly occupied by a succession of electrical companies cleaned up, reconfigured, and outfitted with cantilevered balconies and glass curtain walls. A new building modeled after it is shown to the east, with an 8,000 sq.-ft. lawn bordered by patios fitted between.

224 parking spaces will surround the center’s main buildings and garden. Here’s a plan of the entire site:

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Garden Oaks, Oak Forest, or Thereabouts
11/08/17 1:30pm

THE KATY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WITH A FLOOD POOL SECRET Some documents related to the Katy ISD’s 1998 purchase of the 15-acre site now occupied by Creech Elementary School at 4242 S. Mason Rd. have been frozen — in an attempt to preserve them, after they got flooded when Barker Reservoir got backed up after Hurricane Harvey. What those records might show, once thawed: some explanation for why school officials at the time signed a notice indicating they did not review a map filed with the county by Westbrook Cinco East LP (the developer from whom the property was purchased) that disclosed in a note that the land came with the risk of “extended controlled inundation.” Though several Katy schools sit on land near or in the Barker reservoir flood pool — the area expected to fill up with water when the dam is closed for a major flooding event — only Creech suffered major damage. All 800 Creech students are now attending classes at the University of Houston’s nearby Cinco Ranch campus while the school undergoes an estimated $5 million worth of repairs. The school district’s superintendent tells the Chronicle‘s Lise Olsen that he and other school officials were unaware that the school was built in the flood pool until they were contacted for her story. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of flooding at Creech Elementary School, 4242 S. Mason Rd., Katy: Breta Gatlin