07/17/18 12:45pm

The new owner of the floody Spaghetti Warehouse building downtown has cooked up a novel idea for how to deal with its proximity to Buffalo Bayou: crack open its lower stories and fill them with a floodable dining area that sits below an upper-story bar. Renderings from Diamond Development show how they’re hoping to pull it all off by removing several doors and windows from the back of the 15,000-sq.-ft. building (which an application to Houston’s historic commission notes will be stored away for potential future use) and adding louvers to the building’s east side.

The slats would go in place of the parking-lot-fronting wall shown missing part of its face during Harvey:

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Floodable Food Court
07/13/18 5:00pm

Harris County and the trailblazing Buffalo Bayou Partnership will soon clear the way for a new trail segment on the south side of the bayou by demolishing the vacant 1119 Commerce Building warehouse along with portions of the inmate processing center to its east. Pictured above, 1119 Commerce St. spans the width between San Jacinto St. and the Fannin St. bridge at which the existing trail terminates. Harris County Flood Control district bought the building in 2010 as part of its efforts to smooth out that sharp oxbow where White Oak and Buffalo bayous meet and allow more water to flow through Downtown.

But a lot of that water ended up flowing through the building itself, dampening its below-street levels on at least 4 occasions since the county’s purchase. The year after a 2015 checkup found that the structure’s lower-level steel columns were “95 percent rusted,” the flood control district axed its lease with former tenant Quiznos in preparation to bring down the 94-year-old house, originally built for the Texas Packing Company.

After the trail takes over the lot occupied by the not-yet-demolished building, it’ll butt up next against the adjacent Harris County Inmate Processing Center at 1201 Commerce:

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Jailbreak
07/13/18 2:00pm

See that faint watermark in the aerial photo taken from up on the balcony? That’s the lap pool at the Parkside at Memorial Apartments just south of Memorial Dr., buried under more water than it’s designed to hold after the release of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs last August. Throughout the first floor of the surrounding buildings, the tide peaked at over 5-and-a-half ft. Workers spent the last 9 months helping the 4-year-old complex make a comeback; its leasing center officially reopened late last month — and on-site amenities now look less divey and more like the refurbished lap pool shown in the photo at top.

Other aquatic areas that took on more than they could handle include the complex’s other pool:

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The Deep End
07/05/18 4:00pm

On-the-ground footage from KHOU reporter David Gonzalez shows just how much water the Johnny Steele Dog Parkredone and reopened 3 weeks ago following its last flood — took on yesterday. By the end of the downpour, floodwaters had risen up a few steps from where the park begins at the foot of the staircase leading to Allen Pkwy., as shown in the photo above.

That left these 2 out of luck:

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Bayou Spillover
07/05/18 10:00am

Mayor Turner had already cancelled all Freedom Over Texas events yesterday — save for the fireworks — by the time the HOUSTON sign planted in Eleanor Tinsley Park got caught up in the flow of things and began drifting downstream, away from the Bud Light Beer Garden that it originally fronted. Despite the disorder, the letters managed to stay afloat during their time on the water, captured by Chronicle photographer Yi-Chin Lee.

They ended up making landfall in the middle of the lawn:

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Rainy Spell
06/20/18 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE SLEEPY STREETS HARRIS COUNTY FLOOD BUYOUTS LEFT BEHIND There is a community close to 290 and Windfern, on Cole Creek Dr. and another near Fairbanks and Hollister on Woodland West. Deep in the flood neighborhoods that were bought back by Harris County Flood [Control District] a while ago. All of the roads, utilities and everything are there. Just no homes or homeowners. Made a great place to take a post-lunch car nap when I worked close by. [bocepus, commenting on The Latest Wave of Harris County Home Buyouts, Mapped] Illustration: Lulu

06/15/18 3:45pm

THE ONGOING TRAVELS OF CITY HALL’S FLOODED-OUT BASEMENT EMPLOYEES Shell has been allowing the city’s procurement staff to stay for free in 74,000 sq. ft. at One Shell Plaza, across Smith St. from the City Hall basement they were forced out of by Harvey’s floodwaters. (They’re joined in the office tower by IT employees from the city’s 611 Walker facility, which suffered its own water damage when its sprinkler system malfunctioned in December). But the free ride is coming to an end this month, reports the Chronicle’s Mike Morris: Shell is charging $70,074 for June rent. Now, the city plans to move its refugee employees again — this time to Enterprise Plaza (pictured above) at 1100 Louisiana where they’ll stay from July 1 to the end of next year at a rate of $93,380 per month for 69,000 sq. ft. (about $1.7 million total). After that, they’ll head back to 611 Walker, which the city plans to have ready for permanent residents by then. As for the damaged City Hall basement and the tunnel connecting it to the adjacent annex across Bagby St., their interiors “remain stripped, the walls peeling or patched with plywood, the wood veneers in one stairwell warped to mark the water line just below the annex’s first floor.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo of 1100 Louisiana St.: Hines

06/14/18 3:30pm

HOW TO PICK OUT THE RIGHT BOAT AND ONBOARD GEAR FOR HOUSTON’S NEXT FLOOD A good, 16-to-22 foot aluminum boat, it can take a lot of abuse if you were to hit a mailbox or something like that without doing damage,” says the Premiere Boating Center’s Mark Kuchera, speaking to Houston Public Media’s Gail Delaughter. He’s one of many exhibitors at the 4-day Houston Summer Boat Show where in addition to normal window shopping, many folks are either looking to replace boats lost or damaged in Harvey — or hunting for something that’ll do well in the next storm. Fishing boats are a good bet for floods, too, says David Christian of the LMC Marine Center (next door to Kuchera’s shop on I-45 near E. Airtex Dr.). Because your typical model is designed for shallow water, it “also happens to be what you need to float down a street.” Then there’s the equipment you’ll want to have aboard: “a spotlight and GPS are helpful for night rescues,” says Christian, and “A hydraulic jack plate can protect your outboard motor in shallow water.” Lower-tech devices aren’t bad either: “a long rod or stick can help you determine the depth of the water in unfamiliar places.” [Houston Public Media] Photo of Houston Summer Boat Show 2018: Houston Summer Boat Show

06/07/18 9:45am

The final page of the Harris County Flood Control District’s final report on Hurricane Harvey includes the map above, with orange indicating where bayous, rivers, creeks, and gullies set new high water marks between August 25 and 29. Aside from Sims Bayou and a handful of smaller waterways, every other liquid landmark in the county outdid itself along some portion during the storm. Several — such as Cypress Creek and Carpenters Bayou (shown in detail above) — set new flood records along their entire lengths.

Less distinguished are White Oak and Little White Oak bayous, which broke records along only tiny stretches near Buffalo Bayou:

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Watery Award Tour
05/17/18 2:30pm

The Tree Tops at Post Oak apartment complex on Briar Hollow Pl. has been abandoned since August, “with many windows and doors open as well as no maintenance to the yards,” writes a reader. Also noted: survey markers, like the one stuck between the fence and the curb in the photo included. First floor units at the complex sit below street level, and had water “up to the ceilings,” during Harvey.

From the corner of Briar Hollow and Post Oak Park Dr., you can see wooden scaffolding fronting the lower-level units, behind the fence — and the overgrowth — that separates them from the street:

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Out of Order
05/16/18 4:00pm

Paperwork filed recently with the city’s Historical Commission reveals the extent of flood damage at the 1960 Frame-Harper house on Westminster Dr. and what Stern & Bucek has planned for the home’s second redo in 11 years. The Houston architecture firm’s first renovation of Harwood Taylor’s original design smoothed out the rough edges of its previous additions and restored its ’50s swagger. Floodwaters from Harvey filled the home’s Buffalo Bayou–facing living room, pictured above after the 2007 redo, to nearly half its height.

This interior view shows how the structure chaperones you down towards the living room and the bayou:

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Wash and Wear
05/11/18 1:30pm

HOW SOME BIG INVESTMENT FIRMS ARE READYING HOUSTON FOR THE NEXT FLOOD Whether homes flooded by Harvey are sold to investors or not makes a big difference, argue the Chronicle’s David Hunn and Matt Dempsey. For one thing, a sale closes the door to a county buyout — which often takes much longer to complete than a private purchase. Since Harvey, the reporters note, 88 houses Harris County had hoped to buy and demolish have already been snatched up by private parties, often for rehab and rental. Investment firms, by the writers’ count, have bought about 150 Harvey-flooded homes so far. Since about 2013, larger firms have been bundling rental homes in order to “sell the securities on Wall Street as a way to borrow money, fueling the purchase of even more homes.” But by maintaining the supply of floodable housing, Harris County Flood Control District’s Matt Zeve tells the writers, “All we’re doing is perpetuating a cycle of flooding.” At a national scale, according to university researchers quoted by Hunn and Dempsey, “rent-backed loans are already exhibiting characteristics of mortgage-backed securities” — the keynotes of the 2008 U.S. financial mess: “they’ve transferred the risk of default to taxpayers, stockholders and investors.” But investors seeking info about such rent bundles may be hard-pressed to get it: “While U.S. securities laws require funds to disclose significant risks about their investments, there are no specific requirements regarding flooded homes.” Hunn and Dempsey’s review of documents put out by public companies invested in flooded Houston houses shows that few of them, “if any,” have voluntarily told shareholders that they own such assets. [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo of Harvey cleanup in Bellaire: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

05/07/18 3:30pm

ORTHODOX SYNAGOGUE MULLS CROSSING THE LOOP TO SOMEWHAT HIGHER GROUND The roughly 820 homeowners in Willow Meadows are now voting on a deed restriction change that — if passed — would allow the United Orthodox Synagogue to build a new structure outside The Loop, in place of 5 houses that sit 3 quarters of a mile south down Greenwillow St. from the congregation’s previous home at the corner of S. Braeswood. Many congregants walk to the synagogue — which could soon be leaving the 100-year floodplain for the 500 after flooding 6 times in the last 25 years, including 3 in the last 3. “According to preliminary renderings,” reports the Jewish Herald Voice’s Michael C. Duke on Studio Red’s proposed design, “the synagogue would be a single-story structure, measuring an ultimate height of 30 feet. Based on new building codes, the finished floor of the building would be built some 3 feet above curb height, and the building itself would have the same 25-foot setback as homes in Willow Meadows.” Passage of the proposal “would prompt Houston’s largest Orthodox congregation to hold its own congregation-wide vote on whether to stay at its current location north of I-610 South and rebuild portions of its campus at a significantly higher elevation; or, to move.” Most of the congregation’s 57-year-old building was demolished last month, except for a few portions including its social hall and mikvah. [Jewish Herald Voice; previously on Swamplot] Photo of United Orthodox Synagogue’s demolition, 9001 Greenwillow St.: United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston

05/02/18 4:00pm

WHAT’S INCLUDED IN JOHNNY STEELE DOG PARK’S FLOOD-INDUCED REDO The caretakers of that oft-flooded pet park near Buffalo Bayou now say that “After careful consideration, we are making changes to the Johnny Steele Dog Park to improve maintenance operations and the park’s functionality.” Among those changes: getting rid of the pond in the large dog play area, rerouting the pond in the small dog area so that it flows through both sections, adding a “new seating wall” at the edge of the water, expanding the lawns throughout the park, enlarging the entrance to the large dog area, and creating a new entrance to the small dog area — all of which is expected to be done by early summer. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Buffalo Bayou Partnership

Releasing the Hounds
04/06/18 1:00pm

A LAWSUIT OVER RIVERSTONE’S VANISHED LEVEE More than 400 residents of Fort Bend County’s Riverstone development — between Hwy. 6 and the Brazos River — are suing the engineering firm that designed their stormwater systems, alleging that the design left one portion of the community flooded by the runoff from the other during Harvey. The roughly 3,700-acre area is divided into 2 Levee Improvement Districts — LID 19 (shaded blue on the map) and 15. “It became very clear when we passed into LID 15 that something was not right,” one LID 19 homeowner said in a press conference. “We were inundated with water in our neighborhood, and just on the other side of the street everything seemed to be perfectly fine.” Both LIDs were designed by Costello, Inc. the company founded by Houston’s flood czar Steve Costello. (He’s said he divested from it in 2015.) That firm’s failure to consider what would happen when a levee that ran between the 2 districts — along Hagerson Rd. — was removed is what downstreamers say is to blame for much of their soggy state. In total, reports the Chronicle’s Rebecca Elliott, about a third of the 1,760 homes in LID 19 flooded. [Houston Chronicle] Map of Riverstone LIDs 15 and 19: Riverstone LIDs