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:
“If you don’t know that’s a big dip,” reports a reader who scouted the scene of the impromptu lake formed over the weekend on the lawn of the Near Northside’s Hollywood Cemetery, “you don’t appreciate just how much water that is.” The cemetery lies between Little White Oak Bayou and I-45, along the northeast edge of N. Main St. The water level has lowered a bit since these photos were taken on Sunday. Do note the bouquet, presumably perched above one of the completely submerged gravestones, in the right foreground of the view above.
The new Holiday Inn Express about to begin construction at 3401 N. Main St. in the Near Northside will have some consistently quiet neighbors and some occasionally very loud ones — with the steady drone of the adjacent North Fwy. available to somehow bridge the gap. The 1.44-acre site, where the Casa Grande Mexican Restaurant stood until it was torn down 2 years ago (and Stuarts Drive-In before it), sits across N. Main St. from the Hollywood Cemetery (yes, the same cemetery featured in Wes Anderson movie Rushmore). And it’s just a bit more than a quarter-mile up N. Main from the White Oak Music Hall complex, whose outdoor concert habit spurred nearby residents kept up late at night by the noise to file suit against the venue — and later, the city of Houston — for failing to follow (and enforce) local sound ordinances.
Late last month, crews removed the concrete paving left behind after the Casa Grande demolition (see photos above). Just this week, a city permit was granted for a 58,929-sq.-ft., 95-room Holiday Inn Express on the site — up 10 rooms from the 85 promised a couple of years ago, when the developers submitted these drawings as part of an application for a variance that would allow them not to have to extend or widen Norma St., on the north end of the lot:
Currently listed for an undisclosed amount on CBRE’s website: a 10.69-acre chunk of the former Union Pacific railyard brownfield property previously sketched up for future conversion to the Hardy Yards mixed-use development. The section up for grabs appears to snuggle up to the west against a piece of land owned by Metro, whose Burnett Transit Center and light-rail Red Line are elevated above that semi-catching segment of N. Main St. tunnel; the parcel extends east to the new-ish segments of Fulton and Leona St., likely not too far from the spot where that rail car full of lithium batteriesblew up back in April.
On the other side of the site, meanwhile, the Residences at Hardy Yardsapartments are under construction, per photos from the Zieben Group published back in May:
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:
The light at the end of the N. Main St. tunnel beneath the Union Pacific Line was obscured for a bit this morning where the northbound side of the road re-emerges into tossed-coffee-cup range of the Burnett Transit Center light-rail stop (atop the topmost overpass in the shot above.) The semi that briefly plugged the hole looks to have scraped its way through the entire length of the tunnel before getting stuck at the northern exit. Transtar pinned the stopup to about 10:38 this morning; not much had changed as of 40 minutes ago (see below), but the road is now marked by professional traffic-watchers as cleared.
The rapidly disappearing elevated segment of Elysian St. pointing north out of Downtown is the latest aging roadway structure to be crumbled apart, though it won’t be the last. But death is a natural part of the Houston roadway cycle! And a healthier, brawnier replacement viaduct is planned to take its place along roughly the same right-of-way — this one with broad shoulders and a sidewalk. TxDOT spokesman Danny Perez told Houston Public Media‘s Gail DeLaughter last month that work on the new structure, which connects Downtown to Near Northside by funneling drivers over Buffalo Bayou and I-10, should start before the demo of the mile-and-a-half-long original wraps up.
A hunched excavator was spotted helping to bring the aging bridge down from above:
Showing up on the market this month, just in time for Easter: a couple of buildings and lots belonging to Bible Days Revival Church, formally located at or around 501 Quitman St. in Near Northside. The church gives 1935 as the construction date for at least one of the included structures up for grabs, which sit on a block along the northern light-rail line next to a formerly Exxon-branded gas station. Along with the sanctuary, the new listings include a few multifamily structures and empty lots:
A fresh batch of renderings from the Office of James Burnett have been filed with the city planning commission this month as part of Saint Arnold Brewing Company’s request for a setback variance for that previously mentioned beer garden next door. Early permits have been trickling in since last fall for the ex-tow lot at 2104 Lyons Ave., across Semmes St. from the brewery’s new-ish downtown headquarters in the former HISD Food Service building (even more formerly the home of the Bemis Bag Company).
The new designs show what might be the site’s intended layout, including a restaurant structure which dissolves into an outdoor patio and garden space, a set of bocce courts, and more parking, including an area set aside for display of art cars (as shown up top featuring the company’s own tie-dye vehicles). Here’s the full tentative layout:
A lawsuit filed yesterday by a group of 9 residents of the area around White Oak Music Hall asks for both a temporary and permanent stop on the construction and permitting of the permanent outdoor stage planned for the venue, as well as its required entourage of new bathrooms. The suit also asks for a stop on all other amplified outdoor events at the complex (including those on the other smaller outdoor stages by bar-on-a-stick Raven Tower), and for damages related to noise nuisance issues — allegedly including sleep deprivation and bass-fueled vibrations strong enough to rattle windows and picture frames. (There’s also an affidavit from a schoolteacher in support of the plaintiffs’ contention that a neighborhood child diagnosed with a specific condition has been suffering panic attacks directly related to the noise.)
The map above of the area around Little White Oak Bayou‘s I-45 crossunder was included with the group’s filing. The map shows the 2-part venue’s stages in red and Raven Tower in its signature blue, along with some quarter-mile radius circles drawn over the sea of orange residential land; pink is for parking lots, and yellow shows the venue’s Lawn area.
The glossed-up scene above, which shows a pushing-its-limits White Oak Bayou flirting with the lower edge of the Height Hike and Bike Trail bridge, made an appearance in this month’s edition of Kia Ora, Air New Zealand’s in-flight magazine. A sky-high peruser on Reddit noticed the article, which is currently employing the flood photo to promote Houston and several other Texas cities as tourist destinations. The original source looks to be a Getty Images contributor who captioned the shot (along with another expansively aquatic view from 2015) as stock images of Downtown Houston in the rain. For comparison with the normal scenic view of Downtown’s northernmost freeway tangle, below is a recent shot of that trail construction near the Leonel Castillo Community Center, which caught the same angle and foliage (minus the high water, but plus some heavy equipment):
Not many signs of the buildings yet — but Chris Andrews notes the new benches, sidewalks, and railyard-themed signage recently installed in the formerly-a-railyard Hardy Yards site, along some initial roadways laid out for that planned mixed-use redevelopment complex. The signage above, complete with what appear to be segments of decorative rail track, is at the corner of now-extended Chapman and Leona streets. Here’s a look at a new industrial-chic bike rack installed nearby, with a bonus glimpse of a few of the warehouses along parallel-ishBurnett St. visible to the north: