COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE NORTH AND SOUTH BLVD. PHOTOSHOOT BATTLE IS JUST WARMING UP “As a close relative of a Broadacres resident I will report what I know. Yes, the esplanades are privately owned and maintained by the homeowners and the signs are legal. The reason for the signs was the volume of people taking pictures. I have lived there for 15+ years and it has never been this bad. In the evenings you will have 2, 3, or 4 groups of people on each block taking pictures and it’s not just people that are the problem, it’s all of the props (sofa, chairs, tables, GLITTER, lighting) that they bring with them too. As some commenters have pointed out, some homeowners have approached those taking pictures and gotten back a lot of attitude and some form of “This is public property.” Err, well, no it isn’t actually. The signs were a compromise to discourage further pictures and serve as an initial educational campaign. If it backfires or the signs are ignored there will most likely be some sort of security enforced permitting in place or, the nuclear option, buying out the streets from the city and gating the neighborhood.” [BroadAcres Brat, commenting on New Signs Declare Photo Shoots Will No Longer Be Allowed on North and South Boulevards] Photo: Swamplot inbox
Without providing too much detail on the scope of the accompanying construction (“a remodel the owner wants to do”), KHOU’s Marcelino Benito yesterday interviewed one of the proprietors of Oak Forest coffee house and occasional goat-yoga venue Slowpokes, who along with several customers and neighbors has been protesting landlord Naushad Momin’s apparent plans to chop down 2 large oak trees on site — to add more paving and parking spaces.
The oak trees sit at the southern end of the strip center at 1203 W. 34th St., which faces Alba St., and shade a lawn (pictured at top) adjacent to the Slowpokes patio deck. Chopping down trees to add more parking might appear to be a landlord’s prerogative, despite tenant opposition. Except possibly not in this case:
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:
The broker representing the new and prospective owners of the shuttered Macy’s and Dillard’s buildings at Greenspoint Mall gives just a hint of the rancor between the groups who now appear to be negotiating the mall’s future: Maddox Properties’ Jim Maddox tells Bisnow’s Kyle Hagerty that any supposed redevelopment planshinted at by the investment group led by Chinese developer Feng Gao that now has the mall itself under contract are “full of sh*t.” [Hagerty’s punctuation.] Maddox says he hung up the phone on area Chamber of Commerce prez and mall redevelopment partner Reggie Gray after Gray complained to him that plans in place by the owners of the retired department store buildings would ruin redevelopment plans for the area.
About those plans: Spring Real Estate Investment’s Zulfiqar Karedia, Hagerty reports, is seeking to develop a truck stop on a 4-acre portion of its newly purchased Macy’s property fronting I-45. Maddox says a restaurant distribution business is slated to take over the Dillard’s property in the mall’s southwest corner — after a sale he brokered last week closes in September.
Give the lawsuit filed by 7 residents of the costumed Gotham and Renoir Lofts buildings along the Shepherd Curve just south of West Dallas St. some credit. News of the legal action has spurred the defendant to do something it previously hadn’t: release to the public an actual rendering of the 8-story senior living facility it’s about to construct between the 2 Randall Davis condos, once it finishes clearing away the remains of the RR Donnelley printing company building at 1015 S. Shepherd Dr. And here it is, showing almost exactly how Bridgewood Property’s Village of River Oaks will look a few years from now — when you view it from Google Street View, that is.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW REAL ESTATE TRAILBLAZERS REALLY CAN BURN UP THE TRAIL “There are very real consequences for having a NIMBY-smashing attitude for developers. Yes, the developers usually get their way, but they often end up ruining it for the next guy. Ashby developers will get to build, but the next guy might not because of the high-rise buffering ordinance that passed in the wake of the Ashby uproar. 380 agreements flowed like a river to Walmart and Kroger, but community uproar has meant that only Costco has since been able to get a similar deal despite some healthy opposition in city council. And there has only been one 380 agreement in 2014 outside of the downtown urban living initiative (which does require first floor space to be retail ready). There are a whole host of development regulations that have their root in NIMBY activism: drainage detention, tree ordinance, and parking minimums, to name a few.” [Old School, commenting on Comment of the Day: Don’t Let the Locals Get in the Way of Your Project] Illustration: Lulu
Here’s the sign that a reader says went up earlier this week along the south side of the Heights hike-and-bike trail just south of the Freeland Historic District, at the ends of Frasier St. and E. 5th 1/2 St. Does the promise of “future development” mean that another developer is taking a turn trying to develop the 1.4-acre parcel of land where a proposed 80-plus-unit condo project known variously as Emes Place or Viewpoint at the Heights stirred up a fair amount of neighborhood opposition when it was last in the news a couple of years ago?
“Never would a game of strip Twister be so badly regretted,” writes Lucrece Borrego in announcing the sudden closure of her innovative Downtown food-business incubator turned brewery-incubator business on the ground floor of the Bayou Lofts building at 907 Franklin St. An eviction notice the two-time startup-startup starter was handed by an attorney representing her landlord as Borrego was cooking for a steak-night “bottle share” event last Friday cited several reasons for the termination of her lease, most of them focusing on items encountered in a common-area hallway outside the business: empty beer kegs and boxes (Borrego says they were left after deliveries), “personal items” (likely including a motorcycle, a source tells Swamplot) — and a live game of naked Twister.
“Indeed,” Borrego writes, “I had agreed to host a naked game night: a completely private event that takes place at bars all over Houston regularly. We covered all the windows and had someone working the door. Only one thing went wrong.”
A new lawsuit filed last week against the developers of the 2229 San Felipe office tower currently under construction between Shepherd and Kirby is a bit different from the one that a group of neighbors initiated against the same party back in February, a reader notes. The plaintiffs in the new lawsuit are the owners of a River Oaks home directly across the street from the construction site, and they appear to have studied the ruling issued in the Ashby Highrise lawsuit carefully. (Back in May, Judge Randy Wilson ordered the developers of that building to pay neighbors $1.2 million to compensate them for “lost market damages,” but denied their request to halt the building’s construction)
Unlike their neighbors who sued before them, the residents of 2237 Stanmore Dr. are not seeking to prevent or delay the construction of Hines’s neighborhood office tower. Instead, it appears they are only seeking compensation for both public and private “nuisances” created by the 17-story building, including pollution, noise, and ground vibration during its construction and the resulting loss of sunlight and rain on their property. The building’s vaunted peepage opportunities don’t please them either:
Did the tiny bench-and-planters installation now parked in front of a Heights mattress store strike a nerve for some Swamplot readers? Judging from the comments section for some of Swamplot’s coverage of the project, that certainly does appear to be the case. But it looks like the PR firm charged with promoting the city of Houston’s first officially permitted parklet is set on tapping that nerve as if it were a gold mine. The video above, just posted to YouTube by the Black Sheep Agency, shows purported actual Heights residents performing dramatic readings of Swamplot readers’ more entertaining comments about the parklet, which now blocks access to what was formerly a single angled, head-in parking space in front of the firm’s client, the New Living Bedroom store at 321 W. 19th St. (New Living paid for construction of the parklet and is responsible for maintaining it, according to an agreement with the city, which considers the effort a pilot program.)
From a top-floor perch in their tiny, handcrafted, award-winning live-work compound at 5910 Grace Ln. (featured a while back in Dwell magazine), architect Mark Schatz and designer Anne Eamon had front-row seats to the ongoing smelly, toxic, and deadly shitshow that marked the over-the-back-fence tenure of CES Environmental Services, in its facility at 4904 Griggs Rd., just a mile and a half south of the UH campus. Among the joys they were able to plug their noses and record was this tableau from July 2009: “In the first photograph [Schatz] took of the scene unfolding below him, shot like all the rest with the eye of an architect, perfectly framing the site, the tank farm is to the left, and a worker races from the right to the warehouse, which has a smoking hole blown through the roof. In a subsequent photo, oxygen tanks are wheeled in. Then the oxygen tanks fall over. Then a forklift shows up, and a crew starts setting the oxygen tanks upright. All this time, while they go through this Three Stooges routine, their co-worker is lying inside the warehouse covered in burns. You can see the back of a metal cylindrical tanker truck in the photos. [Schatz and Eamon] learn later that the fatally burned worker had opened the hatch on the tanker and switched on his flashlight to peer in. A spark from the flashlight set off a flash fire.”
“Since there are no TVs at the new fancy permitting center that show the soap operas while you wait, this will have to do,” a tipster quips. And yes! There does appear to be a bit of excitement today at the Houston Permitting Center at 1002 Washington Ave. on the west side of Downtown. The tipster tells us that the pictured protestors shown outside the building are “upset about an inspector and their garage in their backyard.” According to one of the protestors, Channel 11 is “supposed to cover it,” the tipster says.
Rice U. math Ph.D. student, Boulevard Oaks resident, and poet Kenan Ince has been making the rounds of local open-mic nights with his brief ode to the as-yet-invisible but still-ominous spectre looming over 1717 Bissonnet St. known as the Ashby Highrise. The poem, entitled Rise, Ashby, begins with an epigraph clipped from a Swamplot story about the lawsuit that was filed by a few of the 21-story apartment tower’s Southampton and Boulevard Oaks neighbors last year. A video of Ince’s recent performance at Montrose’s Cafe Brasil (seen at left) has been posted on Youtube; you can read the poem — with its original, towering typography intact — below: