07/06/17 4:15pm

ADDING NEEDED FAST-FOOD DIVERSITY TO THE NRG PARK—SOUTH MAIN DONUT NEXUS “At least, an Arby’s will add a different fast-food chain to the area. Another donut shop would have been useless with the Shipley’s (Murworth/Main: SW corner), Dawn Donut (Murworth/Main: NW corner), and Glazed (Old Spanish Trail near Kirby) giving them a run for their money.” [Major Market, commenting on A Peek Inside the Half-Baked Krispy Kreme near NRG Stadium] Illustration: Lulu

06/08/17 1:45pm

What’s going on with the Astrodome, after state senator John Whitmire’s plan to require a vote on a planned reconfiguration of the long-vacant former stadium was blocked last month? The project is still in a “design phase” that continued through the legislative session and is expected to last through the end of this year, and which includes some rather unglamorous tasks — such as verifying existing drawings and digging up the facility’s drainage pipe to see what condition it’s in. But officials won’t wait until the design phase is complete before getting estimates from construction managers. “After we get all the estimates, we’ll go back to commissioners court for approval to proceed,” county engineer John Blount tells Community Impact reporter Shawn Arrajj.


Offices and Restaurants and Retail Too
05/30/17 2:15pm

The state bill proposed by Houston-area senator John Whitmire (to require a vote on major county-funded upgrades to certain Texas stadiums that happen to be the Astrodome) was killed in the Texas House by a different Houston-area legislator, Robert Arnold reports this week for KHOU. (That likely means the work on Harris County’s plan to fill in the bottom of the Dome with an underground parking garage can go ahead without a special election on the spending.) The bill actually passed the Senate at the end of March, but died in the House’s County Affairs committee chaired by representative Garnet Coleman (whose own legislative district ever-so-slightly overlaps Whitmire’s around Fourth Ward: From there, Coleman’s District 147 stretches down through Third Ward toward the Beltway along the Gulf Freeway, while Whitmire’s Senate District 15 horseshoes up 290 to FM 1960 and Humble before looping back down to the Ship Channel). Arnold says the bill made an unsuccessful comeback attempt as an amendment to another measure, and looks to be dead for now as of yesterday’s end of the normal legislative calendar. (Then again — who knows what might pop up during a special session?)

Schematic of county Astrodome parking garage plan: Harris County Engineering Dept.

Parking Plan Stop-and-Go
02/28/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO BUILD ON THE EIGHTH WONDER’S EMERGENCY HOUSING LEGACY Astrodome“We’ve already got a built structure that has housed people in distress before. We are already paying millions of dollars a year in upkeep for a useless building. Showers, bathrooms, food prep, these services all already exist in this space. We’ve got a round peg, let’s just fit it into the round hole: The Astrodome is the perfect building to house our homeless!” [toasty, commenting on Mansion Flats Reincarnated; What a Homeless Campground Might Cost; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Astrodome: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

02/01/17 1:45pm

STEERING CLEAR OF THE SUPER BOWL CROWDS, WHETHER THEY SHOW UP OR NOT convention-center-super-bowlSteve Jansen of the Houston Press runs through some numbers this week for the impending Super Bowl LI — many of which depend on the wide range of visitor estimates put forth by booster groups and analysts. The Super Bowl Host Committee claimed to expect over a million visitors back in 2014 (though that number appears to include local folks stopping by all of the week’s lead-up events); more recently, a consulting firm hired by the committee offered an estimate of 138,000 non-local visitors. Jansen writes that “there will certainly be fewer football fans in town since the Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys aren’t playing in the grand finale. But it doesn’t matter a heck of a lot, because the phenomenon of ‘the Super Bowl is awful, I’m getting the hell out of here’ — called the crowding-out effect in economic parlance — is going to happen no matter what . . .” [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Photo of George R. Brown Convention Center remodeling and Super Bowl signage: Jesus Jimenez via Swamplot Flickr Pool

01/25/17 4:00pm

Astrodome Super Bowl Lighting Rendering

Judge Emmett’s office passes along the rendering above today, showing plans for the Astrodome’s Super Bowl vestment — namely, a new swath of blue-green lighting around the stadium’s exterior wall. That proposed projected light show on the roof got shot down in the fall, along with the possibility of holding any events in the building; Brent Schrotenboer of USAtoday notes the Dome currently holds the distinction of “biggest and most famous storage facility in Texas,” however, and as such will be carrying out its related stuff-holding duties for a variety of Super Bowl lead-up events. 

Rendering of Astrodome Super Bowl lighting: Super Bowl Host Committee

Local Color
09/02/16 12:45pm

NRG stadium, NRG Park, Houston, 77054

METRO is currently seeking some public input on replacing the Reliant Park light-rail stop’s outdated moniker. The agency’s preface to the poll notes that the naming rights to the station itself were never a part of Reliant’s $300-million park-branding deal back in 2002, and  says any new name “needs to be reflective of the area, but should not include any reference to a corporate entity which might require another change in years to come.”

Setting aside any potential consideration of that plan from a reader to go ahead and get nearly 30 potential future name changes over with at once, the nominated names currently in the running are (drumroll):


Saving NRG
07/22/16 4:30pm

METRORail Light-rail Map

In response to word from the Chronicle‘s Dug Begley this week that the Red Line’s Reliant Park light-rail stop might get its station name updated to an even older name, a Swamplot reader jumps on the case with a system-wide list of potential station name changes that might remain unaffected by the sale, rebranding, or demise of any nearby venues or landmarks. Begley notes it could cost Metro around $486,000 to change the Reliant Park stop’s signage. The agency says it would prefer to make the switch at the same time as 2 other station name changes currently under consideration (if they’re approved) — but not until after the Super Bowl, for which a set of cheaper temporary stickers will be deployed to help visitors find NRG Stadium.

The reader, in the spirit of Houston’s budding redesign-it-yourself urban planning scene, suggests that paying up now to swap out all the names that might become a problem later might actually be a long-term cost-saver. The proposed scheme makes sure every station name mentions a cross-street (or maybe a bayou), and keeps some references to existing transit centers, parks, or neighborhoods.

Here’s the full list of suggested switch-outs, separated by rail line, with the current names on the left:


What’s In a Name
07/13/16 1:00pm

9330 Main St., NRG, Houston, 77025

9330 Main St., NRG, Houston, 77025Here’s a recent view from the Buffalo Spdwy. side of the long-vacant 12 acre property at 9330 Main St., now listed as under contract by broker HFF.  The land — a set of parcels outlined in the above aerial photo from HFF listing flier — appears to have never held much in the way of built structures, save for the section at 9403 Buffalo Spdwy. (which sported a branch of Oklahoma-rooted Lebanese steakhouse Jamil’s in the 1970s).

A reader notes that someone has been at work on what appears to be soil testing for the site, which faces Main between the new Holiday Inn Express & Suites and the Public Storage facility, with Prime Storage across the street. The Buffalo Spdwy. frontage is flanked by  some David Weekley homes to the south, and the Pemberton Park townhomes to the north (visible on the left below:)


Stirrings on S. Main
07/01/16 1:30pm

Proposed Astrodome Parking Garage Plans

Here are some of the plans the Harris County commissioners looked over this week as they reviewed the engineering study for the proposal to raise the Astrodome’s below-grade floor and stick a parking garage beneath it. The view above shows an entrance ramp for cars from the east, with a service ramp running up from the southwest; NRG Stadium is shown peeking in on the scene from the left.

Got questions about the plan, or about anything else Dome-related? Someone claiming to be involved with the project is now taking inquiries from all comers over on Reddit. The thread started up yesterday and was still active this morning; topics addressed so far have included how the latest proposal would be funded, the feasibility of that spiral-ey skeletonized park idea, and the surprising number of people who have suggested turning the Dome into an indoor skiing venue.

The poster says they’ll try to keep checking back to answer new questions. While you wait, have a look at more views of the proposed changes to the structure — here’s what the ground-level park on Level 3 might look like, with pedestrian entrances on all 4 sides:


Park and Parking Plans
06/15/16 3:30pm

Proposed Astrodome modifications (A-Dome Park)

Proposed Astrodome modifications (A-Dome Park)Architects James Richards and Ben Olschner, dissatisfied with the current talk of turning the Astrodome into the world’s largest air-conditioned park, have started drumming up support (and selling t-shirts) for their own idea for overhauling the long-empty structure: stripping the building of all but its core steel structure (“like the Eiffel Tower in Paris”, the duo’s website reads) and adding a spiraling hike and bike trail up to the center of the roof. The duo estimates the project would cost $180 million to execute ($62 million less than what the indoor park plan is estimated to cost); they expect the work could be paid for as a public-private effort like the one that funded Discovery Green (and branded all of its features).

The plan (which also removes all nonessential letters, redubbing the place A-Dome Park) calls for  the replacement of some 13 acres of existing Dome-side parking lot with live oaks, planted in alignment with the building’s steel columns (as seen here from above). Below are a bunch of renderings showing the trees and walkways in place, and some zoomy depictions of the stripped-down ‘Dome back in action:


Dome Dreams
05/24/16 12:30pm

9000 Main St., Reliant, Houston, 77025

That’s 5 stories of sticks now stacked up at 9000 Main St., the triangular former site of the Medical Inn & Suites complex that met its unmaker late last year. The property was bought in 2013 by an entity named Shree Shriji LLC, which shares an address with the Days Inn & Suites near Hobby Airport at 9114 Airport Blvd. The land sits a half block north of Broadmead Dr., directly across Main from Superbowl-prepping NRG Park’s parking lot (the one spanning between Murworth Dr. and McNee Rd.).

The land wasn’t empty for long following deconstructive operations — but another reader did manage to snap a view of the property back in January, when the freshly emptied spot provided a clear view all the way to the since-sold land 2 parcels north, where Regency Car Wash holds soapy court:


More Rooms on Main St.
12/10/15 3:45pm

Sol Lynn/Industrial Transformers Superfund Site, Knight Rd. at 610 South, Houston, 77054

On your way home from checking out the new UT campus site, you might pass by 1 of the 6 Superfund sites located within Beltway 8 — but you almost certainly won’t notice. Just across the Sam’s Club parking lot from the former home of Astroworld, the Sol Lynn/Industrial Transformers site (tucked behind the brush-covered chainlink fence on the right, in the photo above) has no signage identifying it as a project on the EPA’s National Priorities List for cleanup. The little site at Knight Rd. and the 610 feeder is surrounded on two sides by an innocuous grassy lot:


Fun With Superfund
04/09/15 2:15pm

THE ASTRODOME’S FIRST SOLUTION TO ITS CAN’T-SEE-THE-BALL PROBLEM Reliant Astrodome, Houston (6)Before players had that problem losing fly balls in the glare, before a portion of the skylights were painted over, before anyone in Houston had ever considered replacing the outfield grass with something called AstroTurf, there was another system installed in the Astrodome meant to help baseball players keep their eyes on the ball. The Houston Chronicle‘s special section on the Harris County Domed Stadium — on the occasion of its 50th anniversary (today) and birthday party open house (tonight) — includes a reprint (PDF) of the same newspaper’s Astrodome extra from April 8, 1965, the day before opening day. And featured on page 62 is a short preview of the stadium’s space-age air-cleaning technology: “An unusual Honeywell-engineered ultraviolet sensor will run a continual check on the transparency of the air. If it gets murky — from dust or tobacco smoke — the system will signal stadium engineers to open a battery of cupola exhaust dampers. Because air cleaners continuously scrub the air electronically, then pass it through special charcoal filters to sieve out any odors, air inside the stadium normally will be fresher and cleaner than the air outside. ‘In fact, it should be the cleanest air in all Texas,‘ says Lamar Bordelon, Honeywell project engineer on the stadium job. The Honeywell system has an ultraviolet lamp underneath the seats along the third-base line, focused on an ultraviolet sensor in similar position along the first-base line, 700 feet across the stadium. These continuously indicate the transparency of the air between them on a meter located on the control center. Any time the transparency of the air drops to the point where a player would have a hard time seeing a baseball in play 350 feet away, a warning light flashes on.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Russell Hancock

03/23/15 10:00am

JUST A BUNCH OF GUYS HANGING OUT ON THE ASTRODOME ROOF Visitors to Astrodome Roof, HoustonAstrodome security wasn’t the tightest during the Rodeo of 2012, it appears. That’s when builder Russell Hancock snuck inside the unused stadium and sent photos of some of the sorry scenes he found there to Swamplot — sparking a spate of media interest in the long-ignored venue. But Hancock wasn’t the Astrodome’s only unauthorized visitor that year. Brewskies in hand, 4 dudes with cameraphones also snuck into the structure, though it appears they spent much of their time exploring the structure’s peripheral spaces. Over this past weekend, one of the 4 posted an album of pix from their years-ago nighttime venture, the stars of which are the explorers themselves; with blanked-out faces, they’re seen hanging out in locker rooms, hiding in ice machines, operating the scoreboard controls, and pretending to tend bar in an upper-level suite. The highlight, though, is clearly the roofwalk: “After walking around on the top floor,” the anonymous poster writes, “I decided we should try to find our way onto the roof. Not kidding at all — the first door I opened, what looked like a closet door, had a ladder in it. So of course we climbed that shit. It went up about 15 ft. to a hatch that wasn’t locked. So we popped our head out and there was the roof. To the Astrodome. It was surreal. We started to climb up the sky lights to try to get to the top, but about 20—30 ft. up we realized that was probably not the best idea.” [imgur] Photos: Astrodome713