WEST HOUSTON CAN NOW FLUSH IN GOOD CONSCIENCE When last we (and the aircraft supplying aerial images to NOAA) left the West District wastewater treatment plant along Buffalo Bayou just outside Beltway 8 at the flooded southeast corner of Memorial Glen, it looked like this: shut down and surrounded by muddy floodwaters sorely in need of its services. That was September 3rd. As of this morning, the city’s Office of Emergency Management reports, both this plant and the one on Turkey Creek off Eldridge between Briar Forest Dr. and Memorial have been restored to full operation. This means persons in ZIP Codes 77024, 77041, 77043, 77055, 77077, 77079, 77080 and 77094 who had been following guidelines to limit their water use are once more free to shower, flush, brush, and otherwise send wastewater down their drains without special consideration of the consequences. [Alert Houston; previously on Swamplot] Aerial image of West District plant from September 3: NOAA
Here’s the latest publicly available high-resolution aerial imagery of Houston-area flooding, in an interactive map you can use to zoom in and examine in detail and by address. The imagery in the map above comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and was taken this past Wednesday and Thursday, August 29th and 30th — as floodwaters subsided in many areas of the city but continued to build in a few parts west.
Included in the portions of the city photographed by NOAA: the sections of Memorial south of I-10, west of Gessner Rd., north of Briar Forest Dr. (that’s below Buffalo Bayou), and east of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. That’s the area where Mayor Turner earlier today said residents who already have water in their homes should probably leave their homes now if they haven’t already — because water is likely to remain in them for the next 10 to 15 days as releases from the dams continue.
To zoom in on the latest aerial imagery from that area, you can click on the search box in the map above and type “Memorial, Houston,” then click on the first option that appears below where you’re typing. Then zoom in further to see where the floodwaters are and aren’t. You can identify the date of the imagery and turn on and off various layers if you click on the lower of the 2 icons on the top right of the map. To view the map larger in your browser window, navigate directly to NOAA’s Harvey site.
The folks fighting a longstanding battle to prevent the reconfiguration of a section of Buffalo Bayou fronting the southeast corner of Memorial Park and the River Oaks Country Club have posted a remarkable series of images showing how a section of the bayou’s bank at the Hogg Bird Sanctuary responded on its own over the course of 2 years to a soil collapse suffered during the 2015 Memorial Day flood. The geologists behind Save Buffalo Bayou claim that the promoters of the Harris County Flood Control District’s proposed $12 million Memorial Park Demonstration Project they’re trying to stop have mistaken a natural bayou-bank process called vertical slumping (or sloughing) for erosion, and that attempting to stabilize the bayou banks to fix the supposed erosion will leave the area “a wasteland of denuded and weakened banks.”
But you don’t have to buy or even follow the riverine logic the organization steps through in a lengthy article posted to its website earlier this week to appreciate one of the examples of waterway-bank adaptation exhibited there. The first image (at top) shows the immediate aftermath of the Memorial Day storm or 2 years ago on the high bluff facing the bayou at the Hogg Bird Sanctuary in Memorial Park, which stands at the downstream end of the proposed project area. According to the organization, an HCFCD consultant claims that this is one of 4 spots within the bayou area that suffers from severe lateral erosion. But to Save Buffalo Bayou, this isn’t erosion; it’s just a slump, which is what bayous do naturally, and which on their own create the distinctive bluffs on the bayou’s banks. There’s no way to fix a slump, the organization’s geologists say — if left alone it’ll restore itself.
Here’s their photo evidence. The second photo, also from June 2015, shows the slumping — and downed trees:
Demolition has begun, a reader notes, on the Ripple Creek Townhomes at 1015 S. Ripple Creek Dr., a 3-building assembly of 2-story structures fitted onto a 2-plus-acre site directly east of the Second Baptist Church complex on Woodway Dr. The gently named Ripple Creek Dr. is the first north-south street east of Voss on the north side of Woodway; the townhome buildings, which were built in 1970, are wedged between it and the more workaday Bering Ditch, an actual waterway known to carry actual water north to Buffalo Bayou on its straightened, concrete-lined haunches.
The neon signage facing the I-10 feeder road at the former home of the Mason Jar has been stripped off, as the spot gets built out for a takeover by the Goode folks (as seen in this shot captured by a reader this week). After the ongoing expansion and patio-making wraps up, the spot will offer a menu at least somewhat reminiscent of the company’s Kirby Dr. taqueria, based on barbecue heir and current owner Levi Goode’s musings to Eric Sandler last month. The new brand’ll be called the Goode Company Kitchen & Cantina; Goode told Sandler there’s a second one planned for the Woodlands.
A few old Mason Jar labels are still visible to the east of the building:
A few readers have written in regarding the fate of the Baskin Robbins and its retail strip neighbors at 12740 Memorial Dr., just south of Town and Country Mall. The building which housed the now-closed scoop shop along with Katy defectorAnne’s Salon on Memorial and the local branch of More Hands Maid Service appears slated for a full tear-down and do-over (along with freestanding A-1 Cleaners next door), if plans from Streetwise Retail Advisor’s leasing flier are still on the mark:
The frame of the octagon-footed tower now rising at 10939 Katy Fwy. suggests that Carvana’s first Houston used vehicle vending machine may be a few stories taller than the 5-story Nashville machine that opened last year (the one featured dispensing a car in the mostly-online company’s noisy promotional video). Reader Tyler Battenfield sends the rainy day update above, showing the tower rising in place next to a more down-to-earth part of the structure, as shown in the construction plan preview that made its way to Swamplot back in early March:
Carvana has confirmed that the work going on now at the former Big Tex Tree Nursery lot at 10939 Katy Fwy. is setup for the giant car vending machine referenced in September bid documents labeled with the site’s address. Building permits issued in January were applied for under the name of largely-non-digital used-car chain DriveTime, an investor in the Phoenix-based startup that also allows Carvana to borrow facilities to prepare vehicles for sale.
The new vending machine could be the first in Texas; Carvana opened a vending machine in Nashville last November, and also has a pickup site in Atlanta for those who don’t want to deal with delivery service. A reader sends some fresh shots of the action at the site, as well as a glimpse at a building plan:
Update, 3/2: A Carvana spokesperson has confirmed to Swamplot that the company’s first Houston vending machine will be located at 10939 Katy Fwy. This story has been updated.
Online car dealership Carvana appears to have been planning to place a multi-story robotic car delivery system on the I-10-side lot that Big Tex Tree Nursery vacated after the December holidays wrapped up. A reader notes some construction bid documentation dating from September listing a project for the company at the 10939 Katy Fwy. address: The documents show a search for construction contractors for a ‘car vending machine’, scoped to involve multi-level car storage and an automated lift to bring vehicles down to the 1st floor on command.
But it looks like those plans fell through — at least as far as the location on the former Big Tex lot. Permits were issued last month to non-digital car dealer chain DriveTime for construction of a new sales building on the site. DriveTime currently has 4 locations around the Houston area, including one further west on the Katy Fwy. past Highway 6.
Carvana plugged in its first vending machine in Nashville last November, after jumping into the Houston market in October. The above video shows the Tennessee machine in action: cars are shuffled down from their glassy perch after users place a Carvana token into a coin slot.
The Memorial Branch of Big Tex Tree Nurseries at 10939 Katy Fwy. is closed for good, and its tree-dealings have moved south to the company’s Sugar Land locale for now. The Christmas trees disappeared after the holiday season, and everything else followed suit: “even the port-a-potty,” writes the reader who sent in photos of the now-bare freeway-side lot at Wycliffe and I-10, just outside Beltway 8. A Big Tex employee says the company is planning to open up anotherHouston location at some point, but for now the other spots in Sugar Land, Conroe, and Spring will have to do.
The lot is shown below post-faux-forest-departure; meanwhile, someone was out marking up the sidewalk with orange paint last week:
A last fleeting glimpse — a reader snapped this shot of the permanently closed Paradise Motel at 8405 Hempstead Rd., between the junctions with W. 11th St. and Washington Ave and just northeast of Hines’s Somerset Green development. A rent-a-fence is now up around the 6-building complex, which sits next door to Custom Duct and across the railroad tracks from Non-Ferrous Extrusions metal fabrication. The hotel opened in 1963, back in the pre-290 days when the Hempstead Hwy. was the primary route to Austin.