UNIDENTIFIED CHEMICAL STENCH, HAZE DRIFTING ACROSS TOWN OFFICIALLY NO CAUSE FOR CONCERN Suggested and mandatory restrictions on hanging around outside were issued by the Memorial Village area’s fire department and by Katy ISD respectively for a while this morning, in response to the acrid odor and haze blowing in some 40 miles across the city from somewhere near the Ship Channel. The Houston emergency response folks say that their monitoring has turned up no air quality red flags, but that anyone who can avoid the stink should probably do so just in case. The particular origin and composition of the odor also still seems to still be up for debate this afternoon: The Albemarle facility at 13000 Bay Park Rd. (shown above) called into the CAER hotline this morning to report that they might be releasing natural gas odorizer throughout the day as their gas facilities got worked on, and LyondellBasell’s Sheldon Rd. facility also sent a message to the CAER line that they would be conducting flaring today in response to a “unit upset,” but no official suspects have been named by the city. The extent of the odor’s inland spread is notably broader than last month’s quickie Valero tank overfill stench incident in Manchester: KHOU reports that some of its viewers on the southeast side of town started calling in about the smell around 10 am, and that “by 11 a.m. the smell and an apparent haze covered most of downtown Houston and the west side, with some reports from as far north as Bush Airport.” [KHOU; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Albemarle facility at 13000 Bay Park Rd.: April R.
The 5th link in Ricky Craig’s Hubcap Grill chain is opening next week to travelers through Terminal A at IAH. The former food truck expanded from its first permanent Downtown spot to a Shady Acres location in 2011, and a Kemah spot in 2014. Craig also recently converted Harborside Mercantile — which Craig opened in January in a renovated Galveston Strand spot, with Modular chicken rancher Joshua Martinez — into a cocktail bar version of Hubcap as well; following the seafood restaurant’s August shutdown, the remodeled joint reopened as a burger place in late October.
Photos: Ricky Craig
Food Truck Links
LOCAL RESTAURANTS YOU’VE HEARD OF MAKE IT TO THE IAH RUNWAY The Breakfast Klub, Hubcap Grill, El Real Tex-Mex Café, Ray’s Real Pit BBQ Shack, Hugo’s Cocina, Pink’s Pizza, Cadillac Mexican Kitchen and Bar, Café Adobe, and Landry’s Seafood — where might you be able to go to sample them all? Anywhere — as long as your travel takes you through Bush Intercontinental Airport. Amid a bunch of protests from other bidders who lost out, a vote from city council last month approved $1.6 billion worth of airport concession contracts that will land the group of local restaurants and locally based chains a 10-year deal. [Food Chronicles; more details] Photo of Hubcap Grill, 1111 Prairie St., Downtown: 2 Dine For
Humble-area news website HKA Texas has a few exterior pics of the new Amazon.com fulfillment center that opened last week at 8120 Humble-Westfield Dr. between Kenswick Dr. and Lee Rd. in Houston — a good mile west of the Humble city limits, according to the story, but good enough to rate a Humble address. The author of the story was restricted to exterior photos of the 250,000-sq.-ft. facility a couple miles northeast of Bush Intercontinental Airport, which is officially labeled a “sortation center” by Amazon. (The company typically reserves interior access to carefully controlled media visits such as the one described in this month’s profile of a Phoenix center in Wired magazine.)
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They’ve Got Your Package Here
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE TRAIN WILL GET YOU TO THE AIRPORTS — SOMEDAY “Rail to Hobby and IAH is still in the long term plan, though, given the uncertainties of funding, there’s no way anyone can give a date. Hobby is likely first in line, since it’s closer and there’s a lot more population nearby that would also benefit from the connection. And the first step is there — get on Harrisburg at the end of the east end line and just stay on the same lane and you’ll end up at the Hobby Airport parking garage.” [Christof Spieler, commenting on What Southwest Wants To Make Hobby Airport Look Like]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: TOO EASY “I was really interested in buying . . . when it wasn’t for sale.” [northside girl, commenting on On Second Thought: Yeah, It’s Available]
A few amendments appear to have been made to that giant “Property Not for Sale” sign on JFK Blvd. near Greens Rd. just south of IAH featured on Swamplot last month, notes reader Brett Jensen. Plastered over that simpler earlier sign (shown at right) are now indications of the property’s size, a revised phone number, a real-estate company name and contact, and what appears to be a complete reversal of the previous marketing strategy. An indication that that “don’t even ask” strategy was a flop? Or that it worked too well, and now a new owner of sign and land is simply trying a more practiced strategy to flip it?
Photos: Brett Jensen (for sale) and Katie Pearson (not for sale)
“I’ve often thought about calling the owner of the lot and asking how much the property is selling for,” writes Swamplot reader Katie Pearson of this not-for-sale sign on JFK Blvd. near Greens Rd., just south of IAH. “The five foot tall digits of the phone number are just so irresistible!”
Photo: Katie Pearson
3-year-old 11-building condo complex at the intersection of Beltway 8 and Hwy. 59; great feeder-road-U-turn access to IAH. Swimming pool — okay, it’s a retention pond — at the center. And bank-owned. Well, not anymore. Interra Capital Group bought 112 of the 128 flex-space industrial condo units at the High Ridge Business Park from the lender last month, and for the 60-some units still available, it’ll be lease only.
THERE GOES YOUR POPULAR LOW-COST AIRPORT SHUTTLE SERVICE, HOUSTON Saturday, August 20th will be the last day for Metro bus 500, the half-hourly Airport Direct route from Downtown to IAH. Metro’s board voted to end the service last month because of low ridership and continuing revenue losses. A reduction in fare from $15 to $4.50 and the addition of several hotels to the route this past January increased the number of riders but “did not reach a level where the service could be sustained,” according to a Metro statement. The service had been in operation for 3 years. Committed Metro airport passengers will still be able to ride the 102 bus, which costs just $1.25 — but it’s not an express route. [more info; previously on Swamplot]
THE AIRPORT DIRECT SHUTTLE’S LONG GOODBYE After a ride on Metro’s newly discounted but still cold-as-a-meat-locker Downtown-to-IAH shuttle, Texas Watchdog reporter Steve Miller hears from an Airport Direct staffer just how last-ditch an effort last month’s price cut was. The new $4.50 one-way fare has increased revenue only slightly, the staffer reports, “but it will have to do more or the plug will be pulled in June.” In less-direct language, a Metro spokesperson backs up that statement. [Texas Watchdog; previously on Swamplot]
The New York sculptor behind those new splashy welcome signs on JFK Blvd. outside IAH passed away over the weekend after a short bout with liver cancer. Dennis Oppenheim explained the inspiration behind the Radiant Fountains sculpture and light show to the Chronicle‘s Douglas Britt last August: It was a sign he had seen as a child from the Bayshore Freeway in Oakland, California, which featured an animated version of the famous Sherwin-Williams “Cover the Earth” logo.
It was the world globe and then a bucket of paint dripping on top of it, and this captivated me. I told them [the Houston Arts Alliance] quite frankly that I would be extremely satisfied if I accomplished something like that, because it really did capture the ongoing traffic. I also said that it would be nice if these works were so … whatever … that people would turn around and come back to see them again.
Video: Andrew Vrana
$4.50 FROM DOWNTOWN TO THE AIRPORT That shuttle service Metro’s been running from Downtown to IAH just got a whole lot cheaper — and added a few stops on the way. The Airport Direct service used to leave from the transit center at 815 Pierce St. with maybe one or 2 passengers a trip and cost $15 one-way ($10 if you could show a valid plane ticket). As of yesterday, the ride now costs $4.50, but stops also at the Main St. Square station and the Four Seasons, Hyatt, and Hilton Americas hotels before heading up the freeway. The transit agency has been losing $1.5 million a year on the every-30-minute service since it was introduced more than 2 years ago. [Houston Chronicle]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WOULD MAKE A MORE PROPER HOUSTON WELCOME “All that said, I still regret that we didn’t put up two enormous inflatable gorillas, standing on either side of JFK Blvd., like the statues of [Isildur] and Anárion flanked the river Anduin in The Lord of the Rings.” [RWBoyd, commenting on Here’s Your Splashy New Welcome Sign, Houston]