07/26/11 4:05pm

Harrisburg Blvd. and the East End light-rail line Metro is building along it will dip under the Union Pacific East Belt freight rail line between the future Altic and Cesar Chavez stations, Mayor Parker announced today. The city has committed $20.6 million of “existing money” to the build the underpass — in part by delaying other area improvement projects. The alternative, a longer freeway-style overpass, was opposed by many area residents and businesses.

Drawing: City of Houston

07/22/11 12:51pm

If you can’t wait just those few more years to hop on the new light-rail line serving the East End, this automotive video approximation might tide you over. HAIF poster ricco67’s tracing of the drivable portions of the route from the new Smith St. station on the western edge of Downtown (shared with the new Southeast Line) to the Magnolia Transit Center provides snapshots of construction progress and a steady diet of orange construction barrels. Also available: these shorter tours showing progress on the Southeast Line and the coming extension to the existing North Line:


05/06/11 12:13pm

See that map up there, showing all the stations on Metro’s planned light-rail lines? Metro is asking the public for help naming those stations. But not the stations that don’t have any names indicated next to them — the transit agency isn’t quite yet ready to get to those. No, Metro wants your help choosing names for the stations that are already marked with names. Like, the “Burnett Transit Center.” What should that station be named? Anyone? Anyone? And how about the one marked “Boundary”? Any suggestions? Spicoli?

This is, of course, the best kind of call for submissions. If you can do better than what they’ve already got, go ahead! If you can’t beat what’s there already, why bother? And you can get an idea what the fallback is gonna be, if all the suggestions suck. Just think what we might have ended up calling East Downtown if that naming “contest” had been pitched like this: Yeah, we’re threatening to name this area EaDo — unless you stop us, with something better. How well would that have worked?

You can get a sense of where the stations are planned for the new North, East End, and Southeast Lines from these maps:


10/21/10 2:58pm

METRO LIGHT RAIL CONSTRUCTION SLOWS TO A CRAWL More repercussions from Metro’s Spanish-train procurement fiasco and the transit agency’s ensuing budget crisis: This morning CEO George Greanias announced dramatic cutbacks on all new light-rail construction until the future of the project’s federal funding becomes clearer. This year’s expansion budget is being cut by almost 70 percent, but the project is not shutting down completely — because doing so would cost an additional $200 million, Greanias and board chairman Gilbert Garcia said. Left to lope along until the end of the year: Utility work on the North and Southeast Lines, and utility and road work in “select areas” of the East End Line [Hair Balls; previously on Swamplot]

09/10/10 1:12pm

92 EMINENT DOMAIN CASES ON 3 LINES: METRO’S LIGHT RAIL LAND ACQUISITION SCORECARD Nick Boulos’s former Shell station on the corner of MLK and Old Spanish Trail “is among 133 pieces of property [Metro] has acquired along the Southeast Corridor, including 27 in which Metro invoked eminent domain. Of those, 21 (including Boulos’) were settled by negotiation. Another 7 remain to be mediated or possibly settled in court. In the East End, METRO has obtained 135 parcels, filed 47 eminent domain cases, and settled 33 by negotiation, leaving 14 for mediation or the courtroom. On the Northside, METRO has acquired 113 total pieces of property, filed 18 eminent domain cases, and settled 16 by negotiation, leaving 2 for mediation or the courtroom.” [Fox 26] Rendering of Southeast Line on MLK between Griggs Rd. and OST: Metro

09/09/10 5:32pm

Those trains from Spain that gave the feds cause to complain yesterday are gonna delay the completion of all three light-rail lines now under construction, Metro announced today. The transit agency backed off its earlier ETA for the North, Southeast, and East End lines, saying that meeting the previously announced October 2013 completion date is no longer feasible. The problem: getting at $900 million in grant money from the Federal Transit Administration, which Metro had been expecting to arrive soon. The FTA is now requiring a promise from the transit agency to rebid the railcar contract before it’ll continue considering the application for the bulk of those funds. Sez Metro: “A delay of up to one year is anticipated.”

Drawing of future Southeast Corridor light rail line on MLK near Madalyn Ln.: Metro

11/18/09 2:18pm

HISTORY IN THE MAKING A whole lotta railroad action next to the site of the planned Crawford Stations on the East End line, between Minute Maid Park and Discovery Green — but will this train be rolling?: “If a series of deals go through, the city would be able to create a ‘super block’ previously eyed for a new hotel, redevelop Avenida De Las Americas and move two historic houses and a railroad engine to create a small historic area on the eastern side of downtown. The train would complement the homes and proposed heritage center — which would be paid for with privately raised funds — and underscore the importance of locomotives in Houston’s history in facilities across the street from the former Union Station. . . . But the plans also call for an unusual process to sell land to a wealthy, well-connected real estate investor and former council member, and force the city to move the historic homes.. . . Several City Council members raised questions about the initial step in the process, which the council will consider today, to appoint an independent appraiser to name a price for the land on Avenida De Las Americas, between Capitol and Rusk. If the city sees the price as favorable and decides to sell, it would then be up to Louis Macey, who owns a far larger piece of land that abuts the area, to buy. . . . Andy Icken, deputy director of the city’s Department of Public Works and Engineering, said the city needs to relocate the homes before the Metropolitan Transit Authority begins building light rail lines along Capitol and Rusk. . . . The city has chosen to sell the houses through a process normally used with abandonments because it is likely to get more money that way, he said. By itself the land’s potential may be limited, but if an appraiser can consider its value in the context of other downtown land — which is possible in this case because Macey is the adjacent landowner — it is almost certain to fetch a higher price, he said.” [Houston Chronicle]

11/17/09 4:14pm

WHAT ABOUT BOB? Dana Jennings reports from Eastwood, 2 blocks west of Lockwood, “where the light rail project is in high jackhammer mode.”: “Bob Street would be a good place to live. It’s short, like the name. Starts at Harrisburg and dead-ends into Garrow Street near the meandering, tree-lined Harrisburg hike and bike trail. Bob St. is just two short blocks lined with single story bungalows and front porches. Most need love and repair. . . . Talked to a young man, drinking coffee on his front steps, enjoying the morning mist. He was making sure I wasn’t up to no good. . . . Quiet little street with its own version of neighborhood watch, and with artists in the night, spraypainting dragons at the corner. Curiously, all homes face the street at a slight 15? degree angle. Lining up the porches to salute the rising sun? Wonder what the trendmaker builder of the time was thinking, back in 1910?” [The Next San Miguel de Allende]

10/01/09 9:36pm

Eastwood clock-watcher Spencer Howard documents the end of the line for the 1935 Sterling Laundry & Cleaning Company building on Harrisburg. Metro doesn’t have any use for the bulk of the Streamline Moderne building in the way of the new light-rail East End Line. But how about grabbing that right-twice-a-day timepiece the building is wearing? The bulky fashion accessory might go with any of several new get-ups envisioned for Eastwood Park across the street.

METRO began the disassembly of the building last week. After several days of careful planning, joints were sawed into the steel frame, stucco clad facade. By the end of the week, a large crane was delivered to the site to assist with the removal of the facade.


09/02/09 2:48pm

All that uproar over the impending demolition of a favorite Streamline Moderne structure in Eastwood seems to have had an effect: Houston architect Sol R. Slaughter’s 1935 Sterling Laundry & Cleaning Company building at 4819 Harrisburg will be preserved!

Sort of. Metro has committed to saving the façade.

Well . . . maybe at least the center part of it.

Okay really, just the top part, above the door. The part with the clock.

Hey, at least it’s not going to go away!

. . . ?

Uh, well . . . architectural antique fan Spencer Howard, who helped sound the alarm about Metro’s demolition plans for the building a few weeks ago, writes in with the latest:

Deconstruction will begin in two weeks, at which point the façade will be placed in storage (yet to be located) until the permanent home is designed (yet to be funded).

But the face-saving fun doesn’t stop there. After a short but brilliant week of investigations, brainstorming, and Photoshop work, Metro has produced a series of proposals for the rescued stretch of stucco that’s likely to be studied and appreciated by historic preservation experts, redevelopment advocates, and postmodern philosophers for some time to come.

Monday’s presentation at the offices of the Greater East End Management District was simply titled “4819 Harrisburg,” but that’s just Metro being modest. Maybe when this thing is resurrected for academic conferences it can be called something like “Representations of Time: Practical Opportunities in Deconstruction and Preservation.”