02/11/19 5:00pm

LEON COUNTY JUDGE RULES BULLET TRAIN COMPANY CAN’T USE EMINENT DOMAIN ON ACCOUNT OF IT’S NOT REALLY A ‘RAILROAD’ YET On Friday, the judge for Texas’s 87th District Court declared that Texas Central, the company planning a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas, cannot use eminent domain to snatch up land within Leon, Freestone, or Limestone counties — 3 of the 10 counties that the train’s proposed 240-mile route is set to traverse. Texas law does allow “railroads” to use eminent domain in seizing land for projects, it’s just that Texas Central doesn’t actually count as a one in the court’s view because it hasn’t actually laid any track yet and doesn’t currently operate any trains. “Texas Central is appealing the Leon County judge’s decision,” the company tells the Chronicle‘s Dug Begley, “and meanwhile, it is moving forward on all aspects of the train project.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Map of proposed bullet train route: Texas Central

01/28/19 4:00pm

TERMINAL B AT GEORGE BUSH AIRPORT WILL STAY CLOSED AFTER THE SHUTDOWN A spokesperson for George Bush International Airport tells the Chronicle that due to “staffing issues,the security checkpoint and ticketing counter at IAH’s Terminal B will remain closed indefinitely. The terminal’s entry area has been shut down since January 13, at which time the federal government shutdown was still in full swing. Flights will continue to depart from the terminal, but passengers scheduled to board them will check in at Terminals C and E before making their way to the gates. [Houston Chronicle]

01/25/19 3:15pm

TALLYING UP NEW HOUSTON HOME CONSTRUCTION IN 2018 The year-end numbers from Houston’s planning department are in: 5,483 new single-family home building permits were issued in 2018. At least 615 of them were issued for properties within the 100-year floodplain, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis published by Matt Dempsey and Mike Morris back in October, a month after the city’s new rules for development in floodplains took effect. And at least 600 were issued for homes in the 500-year floodplain. Since September, new homes in both of the 100- and 500-year zones have been required to go up at least 2 ft. above the 500-year floodplain elevation. [Houston Planning Department] Photo of 1505 and 1503 Everett St.: HAR

01/25/19 12:30pm

ASTRODOME RENOVATION BUDGET ISN’T ENOUGH FOR AIR CONDITIONING, SAYS COUNTY JUDGE LINA HIDALGO While looking into those Astrodome renovation plans to raise the floor and slip 2 levels of parking underneath it that the previous commissioners court set aside money for last April, new Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo appears to have had a revelation: “What I’m discovering,” she tells Houston Matters’s Craig Cohen on air yesterday, “is that the 105 [million dollars] that was allocated is not enough to air condition the building.” And so she asks: “Is the current design enough for folks to actually want to rent it out? I don’t want this to be a white elephant,” she says. “So that’s what I’m trying to figure out.” [Houston Public Media] Photo of Astrodome: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

01/24/19 12:30pm

NEWLY-PROPOSED STATEWIDE FLOODING FUND WOULD BE SPRINKLED WITH $1.2B FROM TEXAS’S RAINY DAY RESERVES State Senator Charles Perry filed a trio of bills on Tuesday that aim to create a state-level plan for flood mitigation, to be funded by $1.2 billion drawn from Texas’s $11 billion rainy day fund, reports the Texas Tribune’s Carlos Anchondo. If the House and Senate agree to tap the state’s nest egg by a two-thirds vote — a level of consensus that’s proven difficult to reach in the past, notes Anchondo — the legislation would then divide Texas into regional flood planning groups that trace the outlines not of municipalities, but rather of the state’s watersheds in order to “ensure one community’s plans do not inadvertently negatively impact a neighboring community,says Perry. (The Texas Water Development Board would oversee the mapping and could choose to deviate from watershed boundaries in exceptional cases.) Within every watershed group, a representative from each county would receive a single vote, which they’d use to hash out a regional flood plan including both physical projects (such as reservoir improvements) and strategies (such as strengthening building codes). Taking a look at each region’s plan, the state would then compile a ranked list of flood mitigation approaches across Texas and kick in portions of the $1.2 billion for them accordingly starting sometime in 2024 . . . at the earliest. [Texas Tribune; press release] Photo of the Texas Senate chamber: Arthur LeBon [license]

01/22/19 10:00am

BUC-EE’S HAS OPENED ITS FIRST BRANCH OUTSIDE OF TEXAS, AND MORE ARE TO COME Buc-ee’s opened its fourth location along I-10 yesterday morning at 6 a.m. . . . in Robertsdale, Alabama. With 124 gas pumps, the new 50,000-sq.-ft. store, writes the Chronicle’s Julian Gill, “is almost identical to the one that recently opened in Katy,” except it doesn’t have a car wash. Next up: another out-of-state Buc-ee’s in Daytona Beach, Florida according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, whose reporter Clayton Park notes that it too will have a 120-pump setup. “Plans also show a 125-foot-tall sign pole for Buc-ee’s,” he adds, “featuring the head of a cartoon beaver above the word ‘Daytona.’” [Houston Chronicle] Photo of Lake Jackson Buc-ee’s: Judy Baxter [license]

01/14/19 1:15pm

NEW TEXAS SENATE BILL: IF HOME LIES IN ANY FLOOD ZONE, SELLER MUST SAY SO State Senator Joan Huffman filed a bill last Friday that, if passed, would require sellers to tell buyers if their homes are located in a 100- or 500-year floodplain, a reservoir, or a flood pool — the area next to a reservoir that’s expected to fill up with water during major flooding events (but that most were unaware of until reporters blew the lid on their existence in late 2017). The bill, S.B. 339, would also force owners to disclose whether the home they’re listing has flooded before, whether it might flood under “catastrophic circumstances,” and if it’s located less than 5 miles downstream from a reservoir. “If a seller doesn’t disclose the information,” reports the Texas Tribune’s Kiah Collier, “the law would allow buyers to terminate the contract — or sue.” [Texas Tribune] Photo of flooding at Creech Elementary School, Katy, near Barker Reservoir: Breta Gatlin

01/10/19 9:30am

ALDI IS MAKING ITS MOVE AT THE CROWDED CROSSROADS OF WESTHEIMER AND S. GESSNER Aldi punched its ticket for entry into the Tanglewilde Center yesterday by filing a building permit to convert the closed 21,300-sq.-ft. Batie’s Ace Hardware at 9525 Westhimer into a supermarket. It’ll be the third grocery store within a 2,000-ft. radius of the intersection of Westheimer and S. Gessner Rd. Randall’s sits at the northeast corner, and Kroger is just west of the crossroads. The hardware store being converted closed down late last year. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

01/08/19 2:15pm

OTHER LOCAL RECIPIENTS OF THE UAE’S HARVEY FOREIGN AID CHECK: LIBRARY, HOMELESS SHELTER, KIDS HEALTH SQUAD Also receiving a chunk of that $6.5 million check that the United Arab Emerites announced its cutting Houston: the city’s Flores Neighborhood Library branch at 110 N. Milby St. It’s been closed since Harvey, but the books and equipment inside the building at Milby and Canal are mostly in decent shape, a spokesperson for Councilwoman Karla Cisneros told the Chronicle‘s Alyson Ward last summer. (The floor and drywall, she says, are another story.) $800,000 will go toward repairs as well as “upgrades to the library’s programming and computer lab and the purchase of new furniture,” according to the city’s press release. Beyond the library, a new homeless shelter to be built in an unspecified location will also get in on the UAE aid money: $2 million of it. Dubbed The Navigation Center, it’ll provide temporary housing for folks waiting on somewhere else more permanent and will also function as a disaster recovery shelter during storms. And last but not least, Houston’s health department is getting $1.1 million, which it’ll use to fight environmentally-induced illnesses in children. How so? By bringing its asthma education program into 3 more ISD schools, testing kdis for blood lead poisoning, and creating a new illness screening team its calling the Children’s Environmental Health Mobile Unit. [City of Houston] Photo: Houston Public Library

01/08/19 11:45am

TIMBERGROVE H-E-B TO CLOSE JUST AHEAD OF SHEPHERD H-E-B’S END-OF-MONTH OPENING January 29 will be the last day of service at the 1511 W. 18th St. H-E-B, reports The Leader’s Landan Kuhlman. And the next day, he writes, H-E-B’s new double-decker location at 2300 N. Shepherd Dr. will open just under a mile away (with legally-offered beer and wine on the shelves). It’s the second 2-story store the grocer has opened in Houston — the first was in Bellaire — and has been in the making between 23rd and 24th streets since late 2017, by which time the block had been devoid of its former Fiesta tenant for over a year. A third H-E-B of the same breed is currently on the rise in Meyerland Plaza. [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Photo of new H-E-B at 2300 N. Shepherd Dr.: Brandon DuBois

01/07/19 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THERE’S A BIG ORANGE ARROW OF DEMOLITIONS POINTING TOWARD DOWNTOWN “Play around with the zoom level on the map while centered roughly on the Galleria. What you find will shock you (or probably not if you’re a regular here).” [TimP, commenting on Every Houston Demolition of 2018, Mapped; previously on Swamplot]

01/02/19 10:30am

LEAGUE CITY’S LONGHORN CATTLE MUSEUM REOPENS All bovine exhibits at the house-turned-museum-and-events-venue at 1220 Coryell St. are now back on view following months of renovations to address flood damage, reports the Chronicle’s Jennifer Bolton. Opened in 2009, The Butler Longhorn Museum, focuses specifically on the iconic cattle breed and the 19th century efforts of the Butler family, members of which helped save the animals from extinction through work on their land in what’s now League City, Kemah, Friendswood, and a few mainland portions of Galveston County. “While most of the exhibits could be — and were — redone, there were murals painted on the downstairs walls of the museum that had to be torn apart,” reports Bolton. Also out of commission: a separate education building that sits on the same 10 acres as the museum itself. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Butler Longhorn Museum

12/28/18 4:00pm

HOW TIKI ISLAND CAME TO BE, AND TO BE CALLED TIKI ISLAND “I wanted to call it” — wait for it — “Buccaneer Bay,” says the peninsula’s developer Welcome Wilson Sr. in a recent interview with the Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff. For all its alliterative charm, however, Wilson’s business partner Bill Sherrill vetoed the suggestion, and Wilson dropped it because he owed Sherrill one. Indeed, it was Sherrill, Wilson tells Sarnoff, who “noticed that when we drove to Jamaica Beach” — the duo’s first project together — “he would see this land over on the right that was about 6 in. above sea level, at the causeway. So he began to wonder: Is that privately owned?” It was, by about 5 different entities, says Wilson. “So he came to me and said, ‘You know, this is 25 minutes closer to Houston than Jamaica Beach,'” adding that if they dug canals as part of the development, the resultant dirt would be enough to elevate the surrounding land. Wilson gave his sign-off and Sherrill bought the land. “Then, just as we got going,” in the late ’60s, says Wilson, “the President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, appointed [Sherrill] to the Federal Reserve Board in Washington and he left town, sold it out to me.” But the name stuck — and was formalized when the area incorporated as The Village of Tiki Island in 1982. “It was all Bill’s idea,” says Wilson. “No question about it.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo of Tiki Island: HAR

12/28/18 10:30am

CANINO PRODUCE WILL CLOSE ON MLK DAY After 60 years in business, Canino Produce is shutting its doors,” reports KTRK. The Houston Farmer’s Market mainstay plans to stick around until January 21 and then vacate its 20,000-plus-sq.-ft. space on Airline Dr., according to its 2 owners. After that, it’ll be MLB Partners’ call what to do with the hole and how to integrate it into the touristy farmer’s market redo it’s had underway since shortly after buying the whole collection of vendors last year. [abc13; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Chris S.

12/27/18 2:30pm

ANDERSON TODD, 1921-2018 Tucked back on a corner lot a block north of Rice is one of the courtyard houses Anderson Todd designed and lived in during his nearly 70 years in Houston. It’s shown above in all its flat-roofed glory. Like many of the buildings Todd dreamed up around town, the house rests on principles he took from German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, his teacher at Princeton and mentor thereafter. Upon joining Rice’s then-not-so-modern architecture department in 1949, Todd set about implanting Miesian concepts in his students’ brains for the next 4 decades. He also found time to convince Mies himself to design 2 successive additions to the MFAH: Cullinan Hall and the Brown Pavilion, notes the Chronicle‘s Jasper Scherer. Todd retired from his professorial duties in 1992, and, last Friday, passed away at the age of 97. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Swamplox inbox