01/04/18 4:45pm

With the completion of the once-missing link shown above, the paths lining Buffalo Bayou are now fully connected to the Heights Hike and Bike Trail. Making use of the new route, you can now ride all the way from Shepherd to Heights Mercantile — provided rising floodwaters have not blocked the path. The photo at top, snapped from the southern section of the Main St. bridge, shows a new railing along the path in place of the temporary fencing that lined the edge last year. Travis and Milam streets are visible in the distance in the second photo. The elevated building to the right of the path is part of UHD’s campus.

The purple curve on the map below marks the location of the new connection, while the gray line running northwest indicates the Heights Hike and Bike Trail:

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Watershed Moment
01/03/18 2:15pm

New renderings released by Sydness Architects show the street-level changes planned for the Bank of America Center, which sits across the street from Jones Plaza on one side and Philip Johnson’s other notable downtown office tower, Pennzoil Place, on the other. Last fall, building owner M-M Properties announced plans to remove the mummified 2-story Western Union building that had been encapsulated within the Bank of America Center’s northeast quadrant since 1983 (see photo above).

Windows and doors are shown added to the skyscraper along Capitol and Louisiana streets — in 2 of the walls that once entombed the telegram building. The rendering at top shows the reconfigured view from outside Jones Hall, with new 2-story openings facing Capitol St.

Only one new street-level entrance is clearly shown in that rendering, however: the awninged door to a new restaurant along Louisiana St. That restaurant is planned for a portion of the former Western Union building’s ground floor in the northeast corner of the Bank of America Center:

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Philip Johnson’s Ghosts
01/02/18 12:30pm

Quick, what’s the most vaulted bank in all of Houston? Easy: the lofty Bank of America branch on the ground floor of the Bank of America Center at 700 Louisiana St. Downtown (pictured at top) — so grand, so postmodern, so . . . unleasable. Philip Johnson designed the 12-story high banking hall to resemble “a sixteenth-century Dutch guild hall, albeit one scaled to be seen from the freeway at sixty miles per hour,” writes Joel Warren Barna in a history of the project included in The See-Through Years. But now big changes are planned for that empty space:

“We’re just going to kind of slip in these two floor slabs,” Jeff Sydness of Sydness Architects tells the Chronicle’s Katherine Feser. Sydness was hired by M-M Properties to reconfigure the lower levels of the 56-floor tower, which was built in 1983. So: Lower ceilings ahoy! New mezzanines are now being planned to colonize the banking hall’s towering overhead emptiness. The new structures, edged with glass walls, will fill much of that air-conditioned but unused airspace with workstation- and cubicle-ready office platforms:

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Loft Office
12/21/17 3:15pm

Renderings now up on Lyric Market’s new website reveal more of what’s planned for the parking-garage food hall. The image at top shows David Adickes’s self-playing cello sculpture ascended atop a new pedestal at the corner of Smith and Preston streets. Behind the artwork, outdoor seating and what the website describes as a private terrace back up to the food hall’s main entrance. The new structure, currently under construction, is shown on the left of that rendering — adjacent to the existing Lyric Centre office tower.

Here’s a full view of the completed parking garage from across the intersection of Preston and Louisiana:

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Downtown Food Hall No. 4
12/14/17 4:30pm

KHOU is showing a rendering of the new Downtown satellite studio it plans to open in a storefront space that’s part of Avenida Houston, the collection of restaurants and entertainment venues Houston First has been corralling into the George R. Brown convention center’s expanded frontage along Avenida de Las Americas. The 780-sq.-ft. studio will be KHOU’s first venture out into the city since its mid-Harvey retreat to UH. It’s expected to open next March at 1001 Avenida de Las Americas and will be used for portions of the station’s programming.

The rendering shows tables and chairs placed in a cordoned-off area outside the studio’s storefront. According to the organization’s press release, the teevee station’s new pied-à-terre “will have the flexibility to open on to the plaza, enabling reporters to directly engage with the public.

Image: Houston First

Downtown News Desk
12/08/17 4:45pm

Number 4 on the list of Downtown food halls, one of which has actually been built: Lyric Market, a 31,000-sq.-ft. multi-restaurant space that plans to move in just north of the Lyric Centre on Louisiana St. Houston’s first food hall, Conservatory, opened 5 blocks east on Prairie St. last year. Both Bravery Chef Hall and Finn Hall are expected to open within the same 7-block sector of downtown as Lyric Market.

Work to build the blocky white parking garage shown above began on the site of a surface parking lot last October. The structure’s street level, allocated to retail, will now be occupied entirely by Lyric Market. The food hall will span Preston St. between Smith and Louisiana and connect directly to the adjacent Lyric Centre, shown looking ghostly in the rendering above. A new plaza with outdoor seating will go between the end of the food hall and David Adickes’s self-playing-cello sculpture at the corner of Smith and Prairie streets.

The floor plan below shows how the restaurants will lay out:

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Lyric Market
11/15/17 10:15am

Construction is almost complete on a missing link between the bike paths lining Buffalo Bayou Park and the Heights Hike and Bike Trail, according to passer-by Christopher Andrews — who snapped the above photo from the southern span of the Main St. bridge, looking towards the back of the UH–Downtown campus. The purple curve just north of Allen’s Landing marked on the map below is the segment of the bayou trail that’s in the works. You can see where that portion will intersect the Heights trail, marked below in gray, after it crosses White Oak Bayou’s southerly meander to the east of UHD:

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Downtown Link
11/14/17 11:45am

More new features are imagined for the center of Houston than just the new Green Loop highlighted in the just-released Plan Downtown proposal. There’s also a mysterious new Downtown island. Where did it come from?

It’s the result of digging the long-whispered North Canal Channel Bypass, a re-linking of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous north of Downtown. Existing bends and narrow banks along the 2 bayous just east of Main St. restrict the flow of stormwater during flooding events. According to reports, engineering studies have estimated that cutting a straighter diversion channel to bypass the oxbow could reduce flooding Downtown by 3.5 ft.

But digging a new canal while maintaining the existing path of the bayou would create an island out of the area just north of Commerce St. An imagined map of the area in Plan Downtown’s report (rotated so North is aimed down and to the right) shows what car and pedestrian bridges might link it to the mainland:

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Plan Downtown
11/09/17 3:30pm

Is Houston ready for yet another loop road? Here’s the proposed Green Loop, a 5-mile network of parks, trails, and other public spaces that the neighborhood supergroups behind Plan Downtown imagine ringing in Houston’s bicentennial — if it’s completed by 2036. One of 10 separate proposals in the plan, the city’s littlest loop is meant to take advantage of TxDOT’s proposed rerouting of I-45 to the east side of Downtown — by wrapping the district tightly with a transportation and recreation circuit that could attract adjacent development and help link the city center to adjacent neighborhoods.

Plan Houston’s new report flags ideas and renderings for 3 spots along Downtown’s proposed Emerald Choker: At Buffalo Bayou, on top of I-69 and I-45 once they’re sunk behind the George R. Brown, and on Pierce St. at the Midtown border.

New buildings at the northwest corner of Downtown would face Buffalo Bayou as well as the surrounding streets, lining the waterfront with flood-worthy attractions:

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It’s a Wrap!
11/01/17 12:45pm

Here’s a view from 2 Houston Center onto the construction site where a new 13-story precast-concrete parking garage is in the early stages of assembly. The site is the west half of the block bounded by Rusk, Fannin, and Walker streets Downtown. On the eastern half: The newly opened Le Meridien hotel (partly visible in the right foreground), built in the renovated former Melrose Building; and (hidden) behind that, the 11-level 1110 Rusk parking garage. On the opposite side of Fannin St. is another recent Downtown hotel: The Aloft, at 820 Fannin (in the left foreground of the image), with BG Group Place directly behind it.

The new parking garage going up on Downtown’s Block 94 appears to be an accessory to another development not visible in the photo, however: It’s a project of developers Lionstone and Midway, to go with the companies’ Jones at Main redo of the former Gulf Building and the adjacent Great Jones building at 712 and 708 Main St. respectively, both 2 blocks away to the northwest.

The parking garage site has been a surface parking lot since not long after Memorial Day 1986, when the retail building on the site was decimated by a natural gas explosion. The replacement structure is expected to be complete by the end of next year.

Photo: Eric Ramon

Block 94
10/20/17 10:30am

Here we are in the newly revamped courtyard between Three Allen Center, Two Allen Center, and the building just renamed from One Allen Center to Motiva Plaza. (The new courtyard plaza itself has been given a new name as well: The Acre.) And what have we here? It appears to be a Swamplot reader, snapping a photo, probably to send to the site. Our report: automatically altered course to pass by and avert collision; continued crime detection through infrared and video feed, facial scans; added new license plates to database.

But in that photo, of course, now published above: the same scene, as viewed from the opposite side, with a little less data to accompany. Just showing the new 5-ft.-3-in.-tall Knightscope K5 Autonomous Data Machine, out on security patrol, Downtown.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

The Bots of Allen Center
10/16/17 3:30pm

There’s a lockout notice posted to the front door of the ground-floor retail space of the 1100 Smith Garage Downtown on the corner of Dallas St. and Brazos St. Droubi Brothers Mediterranean Grill, at 507A Dallas St. — shown open in the older photo above — is now closed; the restaurant’s website has been taken down.

Here’s the notice:

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Shawarma Gone
10/10/17 2:00pm

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:

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Green Roofs Downtown
10/05/17 1:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE LAST MESSAGE OF DOWNTOWN’S ENTOMBED WESTERN UNION BUILDING “. . . Soon after I moved to Houston, I had money wired to me at this Western Union building (this would have been November of ’81). Didn’t make much of an impression on me. I think the façade had been stripped off, and the office itself was shabby. I started work at HL&P in February of ’82, and our offices looked directly across the street to the construction site. The ‘big pour’ for the concrete foundation slab was quite an event. Starting very early on a Sunday morning, a seemingly endless parade of mixer trucks crept down Louisiana Street. Obviously, most of the block had been excavated, and the lot where Western Union sat (well, sits) was supported by a series of diagonal beams. After seeing the engineering required to save that lot, the lower ‘banking hall’ design for that side of the building makes sense. While construction continued, the south side of the WU was given a fresh coat of paint with a large graphic proclaiming ‘A Gerald R. Hines Project‘ (or some such thing), which doubtlessly is still there, virtually unseen for 35 years.” [BigTex, commenting on Comment of the Day: Inside the Western Union Building Buried Inside the Bank of America Center Downtown] Photo of banking hall interior, looking toward the Western Union building’s south wall: Bank of America Center

10/04/17 2:30pm

Update, 6 pm: At the request of Lovett Commercial, the company’s renderings of this project originally included in this story have been removed.

Hadn’t heard that Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture have been designing the massive redo planned for the 16-acre campus around Houston’s shuttered Barbara Jordan Post Office at 401 Franklin St. Downtown? Or that the project’s owner and developer, Lovett Commercial, is boasting that the 530,000-sq.-ft. redevelopment, on a site along Buffalo Bayou, will include the world’s largest urban rooftop farming operation, supplying a 40,000-sq.-ft. festival food market below? Maybe that’s because none of this has been officially announced yet.

There’s more to the plans being waved about: apartments, live-work studios, coworking and maker spaces, parks, events venues, a combined 100,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor markets and even a digital library honoring Barbara Jordan. More than just that library is being named after the former post office facility, however: As of last year, the entire venue has been dubbed Post Houston (or Post HTX for sorta-short.) Also, because it’s what comes next for the city — get it?

“Post Houston aims to be a world class creative campus for technology, the arts, culture, and dining,” announces a Lovett Commercial leasing brochure. Here’s a walkthrough of some of the ambitious project’s proposed main features, using images that appear to date from earlier this year:

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Post HTX