From the Annals of Shipping News – In 1956, the SS Ideal X left Port Newark, New Jersey bound for the Port of Houston. The Ideal X was the world’s first modern container cargo ship. The IX was a converted World War II T-2 oil tanker Potrero Hills. She was later purchased by the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company, modified to carry shipping containers and rechristened Ideal X. She carried 58 containers on her first voyage to Houston where she was met by 58 trucks who hauled away the containers launching a new paradigm for shipping.
The powers that be at University of Houston, Our Poor Idiot Governor and whining Sen. John Whitmire got their way. Instead of another academic flagship coming to the drastically underserved higher education market in Houston, The University of Texas system has put the 300 acres it bought near the South Loop on the market. Red can’t decide who he is more disappointed in – the Houston powers that were so interested in protecting their little fiefdom of higher ed that they could not see the incredible benefits (jobs, opportunity, research, further real estate development and educational symbiosis) that another major university would bring to Houston – or The UT System for caving in and abandoning the State’s largest city because of some poorly-based opposition. Whatever. It is done for a generation and it is doubtful that an opportunity to build a campus so close in to the city center will ever arise again. This is an incredible loss to Houston and to the state.
And Whining John – not satisfied with having screwed up the opportunity of a lifetime has to then kick UT in the nuts on the way out the door. Whitmire now gloats as he claims that UT overpaid for the parcel and will have trouble getting its money back.
Red is officially endorsing both Damian Lacroix and Hank Segelke in the Democratic Primary to unseat Whitmire from his Senate seat that he has obviously held for way too long at this point. Whitmire needs to go!
Texas Central Partners – the outfit that is attempting to bring high-speed rail to Texas – has identified the site Northwest Mall in Houston as the likely location for its Houston station. Northwest Mall is about eight miles from downtown Houston and sits near the intersection of the 610 West Loop and US 290. That location is one of three sites that TCP was considering for its Houston terminus. One major problem is that Houston Metro Rail has no plans for lines in that area and it would seem that a hook up to the local rail system would be an essential ingredient for success.
TCP plans to run high-speed trains (up to 205 mph) between Dallas and Houston with an average travel time of about 90 minutes. The project is expected to cost about $15 billion and is to be completed without state or federal funding.
Red can’t really imagine how the economics of this work but he sure would love to take the train instead of heading to the airport to spend 3 plus hours for a 40 minute flight.
From the Annals of the Bluesmen – In 1982, Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins passed. Hopkins was born in Centerville and began his music career at age 8 playing with a homemade cigar-box guitar with chicken-wire strings. He was soon playing with his cousin, Alger (Texas) Alexander and Blind Lemon Jefferson who were both mentors to the young musician. By the time he was 20 Hopkins was playing the blues on the road. Like all good bluesmen, Hopkins served time in jail in the 1930s for an unknown offense. He continued with music after his release with mixed success living for a while in Houston. At one point he returned to Centerville to work as a farm hand. By 1946 he was back in Houston where he met Lola Anne Cullum of Aladdin Records from Los Angeles. She convinced Hopkins to travel to Los Angeles, where he accompanied the pianist Wilson Smith. The duo recorded twelve tracks in their first sessions in 1946. An Aladdin executive decided the pair needed more dynamism in their names and dubbed Hopkins “Lightnin'” and Wilson “Thunder”. He returned to Houston and continued recording with Gold Star records playing mostly in Texas blues clubs. In 1959, Hopkins was contacted by music researcher Mack McCormick who managed to get Hopkins’ music in front of white audiences in Houston and California just in time to catch the folk-blues revival of the 1960s. He switched to an acoustic guitar to capitalize on the trend and later began getting gigs as an opening act for such rock bands. The documentary, The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins captures much of his on-stage brilliance and behind the scenes life. Over his career, Hopkins recorded a total of more than eighty-five albums.
Bar owner Adam Kleinbart is selling his Bar Bleu location after an almost decade long fight with his high-rise Robinhood Condominium neighbors in the Rice Village area of Houston. The ongoing feud over noise emanating from the bar and allegations that condo owners threw eggs and garbage on bar patrons will end after Kleinbart sells the property to a developer who intends to put a high-rise on the property. As a parting, F#(k You, the always mature Kleinbart painted KARMA on the parking lot and HA HA HA on the roof of the bar indicating his pleasure at ruining residents’ views of downtown Houston. News 2 Houston has the full story.
Kleinbart misunderstands the nature of Karma. Karma is the force generated by a person’s actions to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence. But whatever, enjoy your childishness while you can.
Sports Illustrated has name two Houston legends – Jose Altuve and J.J. Watt as its Co-Sportspersons of the Year for 2017. They were bestowed the award for entirely different reasons.
Altuve had one of the most magical seasons imaginable winning the American League batting title, MVP and Silver Slugger awards. Oh, and yeah – winning the World Series for the first time in Astros history after the city was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Altuve carried the team at times during the post-season recording a record 17 hits, 6 home runs and batting .472 at Minute Maid. Other than Mike Trout he is probably the best baseball player alive right now. And by all signs a credit to his community for charitable works and tremendous attitude.
Watt on the other hand, had a miserable 2017 on the field. He played in 4 games with zero sacks and was lost for the season early in the Chiefs game . All of this coming after losing most of the 2016 season to injury as well. Whether he ever returns to the greatness he showed during his first 5 years in the league is questionable at this point. But in the face of Harvey, Watt determined to raise some money for relief. He set his goal at $200,000 and ended up raising $37 million and it appears that almost all of that money has gone or will go to actual relief efforts.
So two Houston athletes get well-deserved kudos from SI.
Over the past 30-40 years, real estate developers in Houston have planned and built entire neighborhoods that were destined to flood. There are two giant reservoirs located on what used to be the far western edge of the Houston metropolitan area. These are the Addicks and Barker reservoirs which were built in the 1940’s after severe floods almost wiped out central Houston in 1929 and 1935. Two miles-long earthen dams on the eastern edge of the reservoirs contain rain water that would otherwise flow into Buffalo Bayou which snakes through some of the priciest real estate in Houston and its suburbs before dumping into the Houston Ship Channel. The HSC itself was once the easternmost part of the Bayou until it was dredged and channelized to allow massive cargo ships to dock close to downtown Houston – almost 40 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. The map below shows a much smaller Houston and the plan for the Addicks and Barker reservoirs as well as a White Oak reservoir and two canals that were never built.
Most of the time the Addicks and Barker reservoirs are empty and house golf courses, soccer and baseball fields, shooting ranges, hiking trails, model aircraft runways, dog parks and host of other wonderful recreational uses. Major streets even run through them. But they are designed to flood in a big storm. When the Army Corps of Engineers designed and built them, the government only bought land behind the dams up to the then-existing 100 year flood plain. However, if water ever reached the spillway elevation on the dams, it would flood areas far beyond the government owned land. So, probably because it was cheap and relatively close-in, several developers snapped up the land outside the 100 year flood plain and built neighborhoods, shopping centers and commercial buildings in an area that would flood if water in the reservoirs went above the 100 year flood plain. These neighborhoods include parts of such high-profile areas as Cinco (make that Sinko) Ranch and Kelliwood. The map below shows areas that were built in the basin of the Addicks reservoir that will flood at various elevations. The purple area is government-owned land. But every area that is colored will flood if the water reaches the spillway.
Red doesn’t know what kjnd of disclosures were given to purchasers, but plenty of homeowners have come forward claiming that they never knew that their homes would flood if the reservoirs filled up. Red does kind of suspect that might just be the case. He also suspects that if a prospective home buyer had been told, “By the way, if that there reservoir ever fills up, you’re gonna be under 6 feet of water. Just thought you’d like to know”, many buyers might just have considered other options.
Then along comes a Hurricane Harvey and the worst possible scenario plays out. The masters of the dam are faced with a dilemma. Do we flood more houses and businesses behind the dam – where stuff never should have been built anyway – or do we flood homes and businesses along Buffalo Bayou – where stuff probably should not have been built either? Hands were tied to some degree as the reservoirs filled up. Uncontrolled releases downstream were unacceptable and the prospect of the dams failing was just too dire. The folks below the dams were flooded – but so were the homes built where they never should have been in the first place.
And that folks, is the real estate crime of the century.