COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHITE OAK’S WOULD-BE TALLEST BUILDING “So the robo-garage on White Oak will be ‘no taller than 75 ft.‘ ?” That’s about 5 or 6 stories, which is exceedingly tall in that particular location. It will certainly stick out, when no other building in the immediate area is even half that height.” [Donald (not that one), commenting on How Houston’s 2 Planned Robo-Parking Garages Compare in Size] Map showing proposed automated parking garage on White Oak Dr.: Centric Commercial
HOW HOUSTON’S 2 PLANNED ROBO-PARKING GARAGES COMPARE IN SIZE
The one that’d go next to the proposed Railway Heights food hall will be bigger: 89-ft. tall with a roughly 18,000-sq.-ft. footprint, reports Nancy Sarnoff. A site plan for the development at Wash Ave and Hempstead previously indicated it’d hold 600 cars. The other high-tech garage — planned in place of the existing analog facility on White Oak Dr. next to Tacos A Go Go — is being designed for a third of that capacity: 200 vehicles, reports Sarnoff, would fit there in a structure “no taller than 75 ft.,” with a 6,500-sq.-ft. footprint. The same tech company — New Jersey-based U-tron — is behind both buildings, in cooperation with Chicago developer Easy Park. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Image: Centric Commercial
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE HOUSTON’S PARKING MATH DOESN’T QUITE ADD UP
“Is it typical for a municipality to use GFA (Gross Floor Area) to calculate parking requirements for businesses? Would Net Floor Area be more accurate and eliminate this debate? Gross Floor Area calculations includes things like mechanical rooms, bathrooms, hallways, storage areas, and refrigeration while Net Floor Area excludes those areas and could be considered the actual space where a business actually accommodates customers and staff. In Houston a business owner must provide a parking space for its water heater, toilets, air handler, and inventory. A little dramatic yes, but I’m not oversimplifying.” [Steskal, commenting on Here’s Everywhere Off-Street Parking Requirements Will No Longer Apply If City Council Says So] Illustration: Lulu
The city’s latest proposal to eliminate off-street parking requirements in Midtown and East Downtown got a vote of confidence from the management districts of both neighborhoods when staff members presented it to them last Monday. Shown above are the new areas (in blue and green) that’d supplement Downtown’s existing Central Business District (red) where developers are free to build without leaving room — like the rest of Houston must — for on-site parking spots. To the east, the designation extends out to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and then down to I-45. And to the south, it follows the 527 spur, ending at 59. (If put in place, the whole contiguous zone would fall under a new term the city’s invented for it: Market Based Parking.)
There’s still a ways to go before the map becomes more than a pretty picture: A 30-day public comment period will culminate in a recap next month. Then city council gets its final say on things at a meeting proponents hope will take place before the end of the year.
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The newest work showing at Hiram Butler Gallery occupies a special position on the grounds: It’s right outside along Blossom St., facing the townhouse that River Pointe Church owns and uses for events. (Its main religious campus is in Richmond between Ransom Rd. and 59.) Artist Robert Rosenberg designed the sign for that spot specifically, and Melissa Eason put it together. It now fronts the row of 4 parking spots at the edge of gallery’s property.
Since the church moved in across the street at 4513 Blossom in 2015, those parking spots — along with the rest of the block — have been seeing a lot more car traffic than they used to:
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Crews are now coating the garage on the corner of Travis and Rusk with strips of glass curtain wall similar to those seen on its much taller neighbor to the north, the Capitol Tower. While the 35-story office building got its exterior finish soon after topping out in April, the garage — built 2 years earlier — was left naked. It took over from the former Houston Club garage Skanska expanded and then demolished on the block in 2015.
Even after construction wrapped up, the new parking structure viewed below from Milam still looked mostly like this:
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First Come Last Serve
Construction is almost a wrap on the 13-story parking garage bounded by Fannin, Rusk, and Walker streets — and neighbored by the Le Meridien hotel shown above to the east. Looking from the southwest, you can see the 2 structures shouldering up close to each other. But aside from their proximity on the block, there’s not much else they have in common: The garage serves the Jones on Main complex, a WeWork-inclusive renovation of the Gulf Building and adjacent Great Jones building, both 2 blocks away.
Another shot taken from 1001 McKinney’s 12-story garage — catty corner to the new structure — looks north up Fannin to show more of the concrete exterior:
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Surface Lot, All Grown Up
Among the many changes now slated for Memorial Park: parking meters. The $70 million gift the Kinder Foundation pledged in April to expedite park renovations came with a few spend-it-wisely stipulations, including one that the city won’t blow any of it on maintenance costs — which could rise as the redo adds new trails, drainage improvements, a running complex, and a land bridge (depicted in the rendering above) across Memorial Dr. to the green space over the next 10 years. Although the $1-per-3-hour-block meters will only crop up in certain sections of the park, the change they collect will help offset upkeep across the whole 1,500-acre area.
A consolation: the new trail system proposed for the park will be vast, according to a handout from the city’s Quality of Life Committee, “thereby reducing the need for car access” in the first place. But that workaround only helps if you’re arriving empty-handed, unlike golfers who’ll have top pay $1 per hour to park in the course and driving range lot — Mike Bailey notes in Golf Advisor — beginning sometime before the fall.
Rendering of planned Memorial Dr. tunnels beneath park: Memorial Park Conservancy
Upping the Ante
Workers are now applying paint to the 5-level garage stump of the former Americana building at 811 Dallas St. Over the last year, the 10-story office tower that sat atop the southern half of the garage was removed.
9-in. aluminum louvers were added to the portion of the parking podium pictured above on the corner of Dallas and Travis streets during a renovation in 2000. That exterior layer was stripped off as part of the recent work on the building, however, exposing the original clay block surface underneath.
30,000-or-so-sq.-ft. of ground-floor retail are also receiving touch-ups as part of the current work on the property.
Photos: Drew (parking garage); Boxer Property (Americana)
Clay Tile Refresh
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO MAKE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD’S NEW STRIP CENTER MORE PEDESTRIAN-FRIENDLY
“Just walk around to the other side and pretend that’s the front. Then the parking lot will be in the back! A walkable solution!” [Memebag, commenting on The Strip Center with Offices Above Planned for the Corner of Chimney Rock and San Felipe] Site plan of Shops at Tanglewood proposed for San Felipe St. at Chimney Rock Rd.: Edge Realty
Last December a demolition permit was filed on the car hangar parked between Tacos A Go Go and Christian’s Tailgate on the north side of White Oak Dr. Now, a leasing flyer for a neighboring development indicates a new 244-car garage is proposed in place of the existing structure. But that lot measures only 100 by 140 ft. How could 244 parking spaces fit on a lot where fewer than 20 spots exist now?
Well, what if the owner of the property was connected to Easy Park, a developer specializing in automated parking garages? An entity associated with the developer bought the garage at 2912 White Oak in 2016 along with the strip of 3 buildings around it — that includes Tacos A Go Go, Pho Binh Heights, and Lucky Food Mart to the west, and Barnaby’s Cafe and Public House Heights to the east. The Chicago-based company manufactures parts for automated parking developments, finances them, and operates them. It’s been involved in past projects in New York, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Washington D.C., and Mexico City.
Here’s what a robo-valet with parts produced by Easy Park looks like inside The Lift at Juniper St., an 8-story, 228-car garage in Philadelphia:
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Number 4 on the list of Downtown food halls, one of which has actually been built: Lyric Market, a 31,000-sq.-ft. multi-restaurant space that plans to move in just north of the Lyric Centre on Louisiana St. Houston’s first food hall, Conservatory, opened 5 blocks east on Prairie St. last year. Both Bravery Chef Hall and Finn Hall are expected to open within the same 7-block sector of downtown as Lyric Market.
Work to build the blocky white parking garage shown above began on the site of a surface parking lot last October. The structure’s street level, allocated to retail, will now be occupied entirely by Lyric Market. The food hall will span Preston St. between Smith and Louisiana and connect directly to the adjacent Lyric Centre, shown looking ghostly in the rendering above. A new plaza with outdoor seating will go between the end of the food hall and David Adickes’s self-playing-cello sculpture at the corner of Smith and Prairie streets.
The floor plan below shows how the restaurants will lay out:
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Here’s a view from 2 Houston Center onto the construction site where a new 13-story precast-concrete parking garage is in the early stages of assembly. The site is the west half of the block bounded by Rusk, Fannin, and Walker streets Downtown. On the eastern half: The newly opened Le Meridien hotel (partly visible in the right foreground), built in the renovated former Melrose Building; and (hidden) behind that, the 11-level 1110 Rusk parking garage. On the opposite side of Fannin St. is another recent Downtown hotel: The Aloft, at 820 Fannin (in the left foreground of the image), with BG Group Place directly behind it.
The new parking garage going up on Downtown’s Block 94 appears to be an accessory to another development not visible in the photo, however: It’s a project of developers Lionstone and Midway, to go with the companies’ Jones at Main redo of the former Gulf Building and the adjacent Great Jones building at 712 and 708 Main St. respectively, both 2 blocks away to the northwest.
The parking garage site has been a surface parking lot since not long after Memorial Day 1986, when the retail building on the site was decimated by a natural gas explosion. The replacement structure is expected to be complete by the end of next year.
Photo: Eric Ramon
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WE TRIED THAT NO PARKING REQUIREMENTS THING BEFORE, IN AVONDALE “The urban fantasists who don’t believe in minimum parking should school themselves on the economic concept of the free rider and the common law concept of nuisance. They should also research a little of the history behind Houston minimum parking requirements. These regs did not emerge in a vacuum.
I lived in Avondale, in Montrose, during the nineties, when it was home to no less than nine bars, multiple restaurants, and other adult businesses, all without parking and no parking requirements. Houston minimum parking requirements arose because of what was going on in Avondale and a few other neighborhoods inside the Loop.
The patrons of these bars and restaurants did not and still do not live within Avondale. They all drove to Avondale because there was and is still no other way to get there. The bar owners did not provide parking, choosing instead to impose the costs of their patron parking on the city and the residents of Avondale (free rider). The patrons parked, imbibed, and then proceeded to be drunken asses all night disturbing the peace of the neighborhood (nuisance).
Forcing the business owner to bear the costs of patron parking shifts the costs back to the business which benefits from the patronage. It is a reasonable requirement. It also alleviates the nuisance issue by keeping the drunks off the property of other businesses and residences.” [Jardinero1, commenting on Comment of the Day: What Parking Requirements for Bars Really Encourage] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT PARKING REQUIREMENTS FOR BARS REALLY ENCOURAGE “Uggh . . . Every thread on here, or nextdoor, etc., about a new bar or restaurant attracts an inevitable ‘where will all these people park?‘ comment.
Why do people feel the need to drive to this bar, and the others in the vicinity? Because our obsession with parking requires every bar or restaurant to dedicate 3/4 of their land area to machinery storage, making everything so far apart you can’t walk anywhere.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to PROHIBIT bars from having parking lots, instead? Why does our city REQUIRE bar operators to subsidize one of the most dangerous and reckless activities people regularly engage in — drinking and driving — by forcing bars to provide parking for their patrons? Wouldn’t you rather the bars in your neighborhood made it as difficult as possible for people to drive there, and take an Uber instead?
Let’s keep the drunks off our streets: Zero out the parking minimum on any establishment with an on-premise liquor license.” [Angostura, commenting on The Up-Scaled Bungalow Bar Now Puffing Up in Shady Acres Across from Cedar Creek] Illustration: Lulu