MORE SPACE: MAIN STREET PROGRAM AIMS TO BOOST BUSINESS, OUTDOOR DINING SPACE FOR DOWNTOWN RESTAURANTS

Nov 19, 2020
MORE SPACE: MAIN STREET PROGRAM AIMS TO BOOST BUSINESS, OUTDOOR DINING SPACE FOR DOWNTOWN RESTAURANTS


HOUSTON 
– On Nov. 18, Houston City Council approved More Space: Main Street, an economic revitalization initiative in Downtown Houston. A partnership between the City of Houston, Houston Downtown Management District (Downtown District) and Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO), the program will temporarily close select blocks on the north- and southbound lanes of Main Street between Commerce and Rusk to vehicular traffic to allow restaurants and bars to create expanded patios in the roadway. By creating more outdoor space for dining and drinking, More Space: Main Street will make it safer and more comfortable for patrons to return to Downtown establishments, helping the food and beverage industry recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is expected to launch this year and will continue through March 2022.
 
Earlier this summer, the City of Houston introduced the More Space program to ease parking regulations and allow restaurants to use 50 percent of their private parking spaces for expanded outdoor dining. “Houston has earned a reputation as a culinary and entertainment destination, and we want to support the businesses that enhance the unique flavor and diversity of our city, but many of those businesses are struggling to recover from financial losses endured during the pandemic,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.
 
“Downtown is one of our premiere destinations. Between multiple city departments, the Downtown District and METRO, we put our heads together and considered every possible safety concern so Main Street businesses can maximize their capacity while still protecting the health and safety of our residents and visitors,” Turner said. “We hope that this creative and collaborative effort will continue to strengthen Downtown and serve as a model for future projects that encourage the confluence of commerce, residential space, entertainment and walkable communities in Houston.”

To maximize the outdoor dining space along Main, restaurants and bars will be able to install outdoor patio seating in the roadway, in addition to their existing sidewalk cafés. A business may use the space equivalent to their frontage and may be able to extend it even further if a neighboring business chooses not to participate in the program. The street patios will be enclosed on all sides with wood and/or metal fencing, with an entrance from the sidewalk and one in the roadway for ADA accessibility; fencing or built elements like planter boxes will separate the roadway patios from METRORail that runs through the center of Main Street. Umbrellas, street furniture and other decorative elements will enhance the spaces. The pedestrian right-of-way will remain on the sidewalk as it is today, and cross-streets will remain open. 
 
“The timing for this program couldn’t be better,” said Bob Eury, Downtown District President. “With more than 160,000 office workers Downtown, small and mid-sized employers are returning with major employers expecting between 20 and 30 percent of their workforce back in the office come January. People want to support our local businesses, and even with a vaccine on the horizon, outdoor dining will continue to be a much needed and desired amenity for our food establishments.”
 
More than 75 percent of street-level restaurants are now serving customers, drawing an increasing number of pedestrians back to Downtown. In addition, events are beginning to start up again with safety precautions in place—from The Ice at Discovery Green to movies at Market Square Park—and although hotels have been hit hard, there has been an uptick in weekend traffic due to locals enjoying amenity-rich staycations. 

“Thanks to the influx of businesses, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues over the last decade, Downtown Houston has attracted more residents and visitors who want full access to the excitement and amenities Downtown has to offer,“ said District I Council Member Robert Gallegos. “Unfortunately, like so many other Downtowns across the country, much of that vibrancy has left our streets during the pandemic. There’s tremendous interest among the community to initiate the More Space: Main Street program now. As officials move to re-open more and more businesses, we want to allow for more open-air dining and make it easier for businesses to have the space that will allow customers to be socially distanced and follow all safety guidelines.”
 
Downtown District board of directors approved a Street Patio Grant Program that will help the Main Street small businesses offset expenses related to their patio expansions. After their street patios are installed, businesses can apply for a $2,500 grant.

The impetus for the More Space: Main Street program was Downtown business owner Scott Repass, who is also a Downtown District board member. “My wife and I helped open the OKRA Charity Saloon in 2012, then our bar, Little Dipper, with our partners in 2013. We were excited to be a part of that wave of the revitalization and loved being in the historic center of the city and being part of all the energy Downtown,” said Repass. “This project isn’t just necessary for businesses like ours to survive—which it definitely is—it’s also a really great thing for Main Street. This would be an exciting thing to do under normal circumstances. Now it has the double benefit of being a huge tool to help in our recovery and of being really fun.”
 
Virtual meetings with the businesses were conducted in October to review the More Space: Main Street program in detail. Program guidelines and the application portal are now open.
 
ABOUT DOWNTOWN DISTRICT
The Downtown District was formed in 1995 for the purpose of revitalizing the urban core of the country’s fourth largest city. Over the past decade, the Downtown District has used a combination of public funds and private resources to catalyze area improvements focusing on the city blocks bordered by Interstate 10, Highway 59 and Interstate 45.

The Downtown District operates under the leadership of a 30-person board of directors who oversee the implementation of the District’s strategic initiatives. Funding for the Downtown District comes from a special assessment on all downtown property owners.
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Mayor Turner celebrates Native American Heritage Month by announcing the launch of the virtual Southern Plains Museum and Cultural Center in Houston

Nov 19, 2020
HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner announced today the launch of The Southern Plains Museum and Cultural Center (SPMCC). The SPMCC is the first virtual Native American Indian museum and cultural center in Houston.

The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs awarded a $10,000 City of Houston initiative grant to the project.

“Earlier this year, City Council voted to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Houstonians can now celebrate Native American Heritage Month by learning about indigenous histories through the Southern Plains Museum and Cultural Center,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “With the coronavirus pandemic still spreading in our community, this virtual experience will allow families to learn about Indigenous Peoples from the comfort and safety of their own home.”



According to the 2010 Census, Houston and its surrounding area have about 68,000 Native Americans from all Nations. Founder, curator, and president of the Southern Apache Museum Chance L. Landry (Lipan Apache) opened the museum’s doors in 2012 to educate the general public. During its lifetime, the Southern Apache Museum became a community and cultural center and resided at the Northwest Mall until it closed its doors in 2017.  

The virtual cultural center includes a Southern Apache Museum, American Indian Genocide Museum, Library, Garden, Health Clinic, and Powwow Arena. Nations such as the Alabama Coushatta, Choctaw, Comanche, Cherokee, Lipan Apache, Navajo, Ponca, Tunica Biloxi, Muskogee Creek, and Aztec are represented. Visitors can learn about indigenous nations through renderings of art, artifacts, and videos of public ceremonies as they traverse a virtual space.
Ms. Landry hopes that this virtual space will shape the future of a physical indigenous cultural center in Houston.

“Mayor Sylvester Turner will go down in history as the Mayor who finally recognized the Indigenous community in Houston, and the Native American Indian community will always remain grateful for the recognition,” said Chance Landry, founder of the Southern Apache Museum. “Our Mayor will lead us out of the shadows into the scope of visibility in this great city of ours.”



Ms. Landry worked with INVI LLC, a Virtual Architecture firm established in March of 2020 that has been recognized for creating the renowned #ArtforJustice Virtual Museum. “We are very honored for the opportunity to participate in this amazing project,” said Giangtien Nguyen and Afreen Ali, co-founders of INVI. “We have learned so much about the stories and history of Native Americans since working with Chance Landry and the Native American community. We hope that through the virtual platform, their voices can reach many people globally.”

The public may access the virtual cultural center by visiting http://www.apachemuseum.org/southern-plains-museum-and-cultural-center.html. You can learn more about the Southern Apache Museum at apachemuseum.org
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Person of Interest Identified, Sought in Fatal Shooting of HPD Officer at 7900 block of North Freeway

Nov 19, 2020
Person of Interest Identified, Sought in Fatal Shooting of HPD Officer at 7900 block of North Freeway
Houston police have learned the identity of a person of interest sought for questioning in the fatal shooting of an HPD officer that occurred in the 7900 block of the North Freeway (Interstate Highway 45 North) service road about 1:30 p.m. on November 9.  

The person of interest has been identified as Jason Frank Vazquez, 24.  A prior booking photo of Vazquez, who has not been charged at this time, is attached to this news release.  Surveillance photos of Vazquez, previously released on November 10, are also attached to this news release. 

The suspect, Robert Soliz, Jr. (H/m, 24), is charged with murder in the 179th State District Court.  A booking photo of Soliz is attached to this news release.

The person of interest was seen driving a black Chevrolet pickup truck and speaking with Soliz after the shooting. 

The victim, Sergeant Sean Rios, 47, was pronounced deceased at the scene.  Sergeant Rios was sworn in as an HPD officer in February 1996 and assigned to the Airport Division.

HPD Special Investigations Unit Sergeant G. Rodgers and Officers I. Ulloa, R. Lujan, M. Resnick, J. Brown reported:

Patrol officers were dispatched to a shooting in-progress call to the northbound service road at the above address.  Officers arrived and found a Kia Forte abandoned on nearby Stuebner Airline and a male with a gunshot wound inside a nearby hotel.  Witnesses came forward and claimed two Hispanic males had a confrontation with the male in the Kia Forte.  Witnesses told officers the driver of the Kia and the driver of the Mercedes fired shots at each other and stated one of the Hispanic males fled the scene in a light blue Mercedes, the other male in a black Chevrolet truck.

It was determined the wounded male had walked to a nearby hotel at 7766 North Freeway where he was pronounced deceased.  Upon further investigation, it was discovered the deceased male was an off-duty Houston Police Department Sergeant, Sean Rios.  Officers canvassing the area located the blue Mercedes and developed a primary suspect, Robert Soliz.

Soliz was taken into custody during a traffic stop on November 10 and subsequently charged for his role in the shooting. 

Further investigation developed information that identified the person of interest as Jason Frank Vazquez.  Vazquez remains at-large.  

Investigators are asking anyone who may have seen or heard anything between the 3900 and 7900 blocks of the North Freeway, north of North Interstate Highway 610 and south of Gulf Bank Road, or know the whereabouts of the person of interest, Jason Frank Vazquez, to contact the HPD Special Investigations Unit at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

     Jason Frank Vazquez (2019)                   


                      Jason Frank Vazquez


               Robert Soliz, Jr.
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Sexual Assault Suspect Charged, More Victims Sought

Nov 19, 2020
Charges have been filed against a suspect arrested following a months-long child sexual assault investigation involving multiple victims.  

The suspect, Jose Luis Pena (H/m, 58), is charged with three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14 in the 338th State District Court. 

A booking photo of Pena is attached to this news release.  

Investigators believe the assaults occurred from June 1999 through 2003 in multiple areas of Texas, mostly in northwest area of Houston. However, it has also been reported Pena committed sexual assaults in the 1970s and 1980s.  The incidents occurred at the following dates and locations:  700 Villerreal Drive in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1970s or 1980s900 South Adams, Dallas, Texas in 1981 or 1982Near 3900 Ridge Canyon Road in Baytown, Texas, date unknown9600 Hannon Drive from June 20, 1999 to January 9, 2003
The age of the victims ranged from 3 years to 14 years of age.  Investigators made contact with numerous individuals who identified Pena as the suspect who sexually assaulted them or someone they knew.  

In November 2019, investigators in the HPD Special Victims Division opened an investigation into allegations made by two adult female victims of being sexually assaulted when they were children. An initial investigation developed information on the whereabouts of the victims and investigators took statements regarding the allegations.  In August 2020, further investigation and subsequent interviews with the victims and other witness statements positively identified Pena as the suspect in the sexual assaults.  In October, aggravated sexual assault charges were filed.  Pena was subsequently located and arrested on November 6, 2020.   

Anyone with additional information in these cases or who may have been in contact with Jose Luis Pena is urged to contact the HPD Crimes Against Children Unit at 713-830-3265 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.  


                           Jose Luis Pena
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Houston Health Department encourages limiting holiday gatherings to household members during COVID-19 pandemic

Nov 19, 2020
HOUSTON HEALTH DEPARTMENT ENCOURAGES LIMITING HOLIDAY GATHERINGS TO HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
HOUSTON – The Houston Health Department encourages everyone to limit in-person holiday gatherings to household members to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent another surge this winter. People who attend a holiday gathering with people who don’t live in their home need to consider avoiding non-household members for 14-days before and after the event.

“We should all be thankful for our health this holiday season and remember those affected by the virus. I encourage everyone to make a few more sacrifices to keep our families and friends safe from the spread of COVID-19,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “This virus thrives on gatherings and will take advantage of holiday festivities to sicken our loved ones and further spread in our community. Although the holidays will look and feel different this year, making smart choices could save the lives of the people you love.”

Video calls family offer the opportunity to interact with friends and family during holiday events without the risk associated with in-person gatherings.

Participating in outdoor gatherings is safer than indoor events but attendees still need to practice social distancing and mask-wearing is needed for interactions with non-household members.

“While there isn’t a way to completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19, we can significantly reduce it,” said Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for the City of Houston. “If you must gather, you and your group must plan ahead and commit to restricting contact with anyone outside your household for 14 days before and after the gathering.”

Shoppers should avoid crowded stores, including during busy Black Friday sales. Instead, consider online shopping, curbside pick-up, and home delivery. People can also plan shopping during less crowded times of day, and should wear a mask, social distance and bring hand sanitizer.

People who may have COVID-19, are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, new loss of taste or smell and diarrhea or were exposed to someone who tested positive must not spend any time with other people or leave their homes unless they need medical care.

The health department urges Houstonians to continue to mask up, social distance, wash hands and get tested to prevent the spread of COVID-19. People can visit houstonhealth.org or call 832-393-4220 to find a nearby free testing site.
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Suspect Vehicle Sought in Fatal Shooting at 6830 Cullen Boulevard

Nov 4, 2020
Houston police have released surveillance photos of a vehicle sought in connection to the fatal shooting of one man and the wounding of another at 6830 Cullen Boulevard about 11:05 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 31).

The suspect vehicle is described as a white pickup truck, possibly an extended cab Dodge Ram, with black rims.  Surveillance photos of the wanted vehicle are attached to this news release.  

The identity of the deceased man, 32, is pending notification to family members by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.  A second victim, 40, was transported to an area hospital in stable condition.

HPD Homicide Division Sergeant C. Cegielski and Detective W. Gilbert reported:

Witnesses were in front of the convenience store at the above address when they stated a white pickup truck drove by them and someone inside the truck fired multiple shots at them.  The truck then fled the scene.

Two men were struck.  One was pronounced deceased at the scene.  Paramedics transported the other man to the hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound to the shoulder.

Anyone with information on the wanted vehicle or suspect(s) in this case is urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.
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Mayor Turner announces winner of Mayor’s Early Vote College Challenge

Nov 4, 2020
Mayor Turner honors winning campus in the Mayor’s Early Vote College ChallengeMayor Sylvester Turner unveils the winner of the Mayor’s Early Vote College Challenge. HOUSTON – In an election year with record turnout, especially among young voters, Mayor Sylvester Turner joined student leaders from the University of Houston (UH), Texas Southern University (TSU), and Rice University this morning to announce the winner of the Mayor’s Early Vote College Challenge
 
The Mayor and student leaders were also joined by Rice University President David Leebron and Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, who was visiting different polling locations in Harris County today. 
 
At the beginning of early voting for the 2020 election, Mayor Turner challenged students to mobilize and encourage their classmates, family and friends to participate in early voting on their respective campuses. 
 
 A total of 21,431 people voted early on the university campuses. Rice University won the challenge with 13,080 people using that site. Mayor Turner presented the Rice student leaders with a plaque in the shape of Texas to acknowledge their hard work.
 
He also commended UH and TSU students who worked tirelessly to increase voter turnout. At the University of Houston, 4,639 people voted and 3,712 voters used the polling location at Texas Southern University.
 
The Mayor presented all students with gift bags filled with Houston-themed memorabilia including face masks, t-shirts and notepads. “This election is like none other, and this generation has responded like no other. This means if you make voting accessible, if you put polling locations where the voters are, people will respond,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We need good solid leaders to step forward like the student leaders at the University of Houston, Texas Southern, and Rice. They are not only the leaders of the future but the leaders of right now.”
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Houston Open Returns to Memorial Park for First Time Since 1963

Nov 4, 2020
CITY OF HOUSTON AND MEMORIAL PARK WELCOME THE RETURN OF THE HOUSTON OPEN GOLF TOURNAMENTInformation on Road Closures and Parking Information Available Online
Mayor Sylvester Turner, Astros Owner Jim Crane, and the Astros Golf Foundation kicked off the 2020 Vivint Houston Open Golf Tournament today at Memorial Park.  The tournament runs November 5-8.  To prepare for the event, the Memorial Park Golf Course underwent an 18-month, $34-million renovation, funded by the Astros Golf Foundation. This year’s tournament will feature an elite field of 132 golfers competing for a $7-million purse for the winner. The Houston Open last played at Memorial Park in 1963. 
 
“This is a momentous day in the City of Houston, and frankly for the entire region,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.  “Our City looks forward to hosting some of the best golfers in the world to play the newly renovated Memorial Park Golf Course.  I consider the international spotlight on Houston a hole-in-one.  It is incredible to think that for the first time in 57 years the Houston Open has returned to the Memorial Park Golf Course, and that could not have been accomplished without Astros Owner Jim Crane and Giles Kibbe with the Astros Golf Foundation.”
 
While the return of the Houston Open is warmly welcomed it will impact park visitors and surrounding neighborhoods.
 
“We worked with the neighborhood and residents to develop a parking and traffic plan to reduce the impact of traffic throughout the area,” said Steve Wright, Director, Houston Parks and Recreation Department. “We hope that runners and visitors to the park will understand and take this opportunity to visit one of our other parks in the system, including over 165 miles of trails.” 
 
For complete information about the impact of the 2020 Houston Open on Memorial Park and surrounding neighborhoods, including full parking information, please visit www.houstontx.gov/parks/pdfs/2020/2020HoustonOpenMemorialPark_ParkingPlan.pdf. Park visitors without a tournament pass are urged to:
 Access Memorial Loop Drive between 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.  Please do not use Memorial Loop Drive between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.Use Memorial Loop Drive after 11:00 p.m. to exit the park only.Park north of Memorial Drive between 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Please do not park overnight or between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.  Event security will be on patrol.Use the Seymour Lieberman Trail between 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.Visit the Clay Family Eastern Glades between 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.Park south of Memorial Drive during normal park hours.  There will be no tournament parking south of Memorial Drive.Visit any of the City Houston’s other parks and trails during normal park hours.  A list can be found on www.HoustonParks.org
The Houston Open will be aired on The Golf Channel.  For more information, visit www.HoustonOpenGolf.com.  To view today’s Press Conference, visit https://youtu.be/J2RCrY2ftA8
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The County Connection Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

Nov 4, 2020

Harris County, you never fail to impress. Across the country, people are buzzing about the incredible numbers of voters we have had during our early vote period. By the time early voting shut down last Friday after 18 days,1,435,221 (or 57.85% of registered voters) had cast their ballots. That is well beyond the total number of voters for each of the entire 2016 and 2018 elections! You have come through this election season by volunteering to help folks register, working the polls, and generally offering one another the support and encouragement we all need to believe that we can make a difference. We are a strong, resilient, and driven community and we are determined to have our voices heard, both within Texas and across the country. I have never been more proud of our residents and our tireless poll workers who are making this incredible movement of civic participation happen. 
And while you all are showing up for this election like never before, Harris County government has been working harder than ever before to make your voting experience what you need it to be. We are bending over backwards to make sure that our polls are safe for you to visit — by offering masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, and finger coverings, and ensuring social distancing. We tripled the number of early vote locations and worked with partners to open large accessible venues such as the Toyota Center, NRG, and BBVA Stadium. For the first time, we offered drive-thru voting and had a day in which polls were open 24 hours. We are doing everything we can to make the voting process what it should be — safe, secure, and accessible so that every eligible resident can confidently exercise their right to vote, and in the middle of a global pandemic, no less. 
Tomorrow, November 3rd, is election day, your final day to vote. So many of you have already cast your ballots in this election, but, for those who haven’t, please don’t miss this chance to make history. If you requested a mail-in ballot, please drop it off at the county’s mail ballot drop-off location at NRG Park. If you’re voting in person, I promise it will be as painless as possible. I know you won’t let your county or your country down. 
It’s never been easier or more important. Make a plan, make it happen, change our future — Vote!

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Altísimo riesgo de contagio celebraciones del 12 de de diciembre

Nov 2, 2020

(CDMX). El subsecretario de Salud Hugo López-Gatell reiteró su llamado a evitar las aglomeraciones, principalmente por las próximas celebraciones religiosas católicas del 12 de diciembre, que señaló el funcionario son de altísimo riesgo de contagio.

López-Gatell indicó que se mantienen conversaciones con el Episcopado Mexicano para que estas celebraciones se acoplen a los lineamientos sanitarios, sin embargo, llamó a la población a no realizar movilizaciones ni acudan a la Ciudad de México.

Asimismo, consideró que por la cantidad de personas que se concentran en dicha fecha, podría poner en riesgo los avances al combate al Covid-19 en por lo menos 20 estados del país.

Tan sólo el pasado 28 de octubre se celebró a San Judas Tadeo por insistencia de los feligreses, que lograron que las autoridades abrieran el templo de San Hipólito a pesar de la estricta orden para no realizar este tipo de eventos.

BM

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