Narrowing in on the corner of Fannin St. and Cambridge St. which will soon go by the name The Commons at Hermann Park, landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh and his associates have sketched out a few potentially transformative ideas for the area, such as the rocket-ship-shaped children’s play structure depicted at top with a mock jetway linking it to the hill on the right. And above, a handful of other new outdoor features that seem to be a hit with the faceless crowd of park-goers shown engaging with them in various forms of recreation.
To find out what real people think about the proposals, part of the 20-year Hermann Park master plan, the Hermann Park Conservancy is asking folks to weigh in on them during a public meeting to be held in the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion at McGovern Centennial Gardens off Hermann Dr. on Thursday, February 7 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Speaking of pavilions, there’s one included in Van Valkenburgh’s plan, too, as a complement to the existing one off Fannin St.
Without any formal backyard practice facilities, students make their own fun behind JamesHogg Middle School’s Woodland Heights building. But a set of plans the school calls Outside Hogg now aims to tame things at the north end of the property along E. 11th St.
The idea is to redo it as a proper sports field, complete with a scoreboard and bleachers:
Vanished from the Midtown benches along Main St. are the potted plants that recently sat on them. The 3 sets of 3 plants each — at Holman St. and on both sides of Main at Winbern — appear to have all been yanked off by force.
Their adhesive residue shows just how attached they were in the first place, with 4 points of contact leaving their marks in place of each pot.
A Swamplot reader sends a photo (top) of the trees that appear to have grown up outside the former McGowen Cleaners real fast since plant life was first added to the bed (above) earlier this year. That’s because the crew now converting the place into a restaurant called Vibrant tore out the bushier trees just over a week ago and replaced them with a row of taller new cedars.
The swap-out left the bed short on plant life last Wednesday and Thursday:
What’s going on at Greenway Plaza besides the coming Lifetime Fitness and the patio addition west of Edloe? A new covered walkway now traverses the complex’s Fountain Green — linking buildings9 and 11 to each other at ground level. The path divides the quadrant into 2 separate lawns: one to the north where the fountain pictured at top bubbles up behind the row of flags that line Richmond. The other, to the south, is a smaller strip along City Club Dr.
A rendering of the renovated plaza from its then-owner Parkway (which was bought by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board last year) shows the full partition:
Workers last week removed a few trees in the way of a new partition of Fountain Green, the plaza that stretches between Buildings 9 and 11 in Greenway Plaza just west of Edloe. Included in the scheme: A new separate lawn space on the green’s southern end, separated from the fountain by a covered walkway stretching between the 2 buildings; a separate canopy structure on the new lawn’s east side; and a new patio just behind that and in front of Building 9 — where a new restaurant designed by Austin architect Michael Hsu is planned. The aerial and ground-level views above shows the path being cleared for the walkway. Looking onto the green from the south across City Club Dr. is the former Houston City Club building, currently on its way to being refurbished for its new life as a location of Lifetime Fitness.
Renderings of the space shown by Greenway Plaza owner Parkway in March of this year, before it was announced that the Houston REIT was being bought by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, show the general contours of the plan:
Skanska is touting the green roof it’s planning atop the 11-story parking-garage portion of the Capitol Tower as a “Sky Park”: It’ll be the “first and largest green roof in Downtown Houston to be open to all building tenants,” the development company says. The 24,000-sq.-ft. roofscape will feature pathways surrounded by plants, grasses, and a few decorative trees; arbors with roofs modeled after the pipe-assembly structure seen at Rice’s Brochstein Pavilion, and “an infinity edge that makes it appear as though the park is floating in the sky.” Plus: an automated irrigation system that’ll pull water from the building’s 50,000-gallon rainwater cistern. Looming neighbors will include the Esperson Building, 712 Main, and Pennzoil Place.
Access to the roofscape, which was designed by OJB Landscape Architecture, will be through west-facing doors on the building’s 12th floor, the 35-story building’s lowest office level:
Here’s a timelapse video showing workers creating a plaza in front of the lone extant office building in Generation Park’s Redemption Square development just inside the northeast corner of Beltway 8. The pavers were laid a little more carefully than shown here late last month in front of the brand-new 5-story, 86,523-sq.-ft. building at 250 Assay St.
Other than the 5-level parking garage structure now behind it — and the landscape improvements now going in — there’s not a whole lot crowding the building so far, as the earlier aerial photo above shows. The Beltway is in the foreground of that image; here’s a closer-in view of the east side of 250 Assay St. shortly before the trees and pavers went in:
ALL THE DAMS AND MAGIC WETLANDS CAN DO Big, fat, cleared floodplains are the best way to handle a very large storm, explains wetlands scientist John Jacob — because nothing else is going to: “An average rainfall of 35 inches over all of Harris County (Harvey) is just over 1 trillion gallons. At most, there are about 50 billion gallons of stormwater detention capacity in Harris County wetlands (no one has measured this — I had to make some very broad assumptions). So that means that the wetlands at best could handle about 5% of the total volume of Harvey rainfall. In the large scheme of things, it’s not much. And the scheme of things in Harvey is indeed very large.
So much for the magic wetlands. But what about our engineered drainage system? I calculate a somewhat larger detention capacity — between our large US Army Corps of Engineers Katy Prairie reservoirs (~400,000 acre-ft) and Harris County Flood Control District detention (about 34,000 acre-feet), we have about 130 billion gallons of detention volume. More than what we have for wetlands, but still only about 14% of Harvey. As we painfully saw, also overwhelmed.
And what of green stormwater infrastructure — rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, etc.? We don’t have any good numbers here, but you can be sure that even if these practices were widespread, the volume would be very small relative to wetlands and detention basins. These practices are designed to capture at best a 2 inch storm.” [Watershed Texas] Photo of Willow Waterhole Greenspace: Luz (license)
The retreat of floodwaters has revealed the extent of the silt that Harvey-triggered flooding deposited along Buffalo Bayou. A beachgoing reader sends Swamplot these pics of the new dust-colored landscapes that have taken shape along Buffalo Bayou Park and adjacent former green spaces.
The silt-covered bench shown above sits across Buffalo Bayou from the Houston Police Officers Memorial, near Glenwood Cemetery. Here’s a view from further back:
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 new mini-docWe Are the Fire (above) describes the rationale behind recent efforts to rip out the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center’s invasive understory of non-native plants. Like watching short films like this about Houston-area wildlife and semi-wildlife?Here’s another one, from the Texas Parks and Wildlife department, on urban pocket parks. 13 more movies — on topics ranging from red-cockaded woodpeckers and sea turtles to area tidal wetlands — will be included in the first annual Wild About Houston mini film festival, being put on by a collection of local wildlife and conservation organizations for 2 hours on the evening of August 23rd, at the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion at the McGovern Gardens at Hermann Park.
The current state of the Lockwood Business Park, just inside the northeast corner of Beltway 8, is made evident in the photo above, which was just tweeted out this morning by McCord Development. The Lockwood in the name comes from Lockwood Rd. (not to be confused with another north-south street with industrial cred, Lockwood Dr., which is further to the south and west), visible in the background of the photo. The complex on the other side of that road is the TechnicFMC campus.
Four big buildings are planned for the site at 13300 Lockwood Rd., which was previously covered by trees and other foliage. Three will line Lockwood Rd. and one will sit behind: a 143,500-sq.-ft. warehouse, shop, and office structure that’s already been leased to gasket-and-hose-maker GHX Industrial. Two of the tilt-up structures fronting Lockwood will be flex-warehouse space, and the third (labeled Building C in the illustration below) is intended to be an office building. An expanse of concrete for truck turnarounds will link the other 3 buildings, according to drawings McCord is showing of the site: