03/27/17 1:00pm

Centerfield, Minute Maid Park, Houston

Astros historian Mike Acosta, among others, has posted pics of the new Tacolandia beyond the newly reshaped centerfield wall of Minute Maid Park. Tal’s Hill, the former outfield bump that ramped up the wall, has been gone for months now, but reconstruction of other areas around the wall appears to be still ongoing. Serving burgers and tacos on the pictured mezzanine level in homerunville will be a new Shake Shack and Torchy’s, respectively. The wall, 2 additional food-service options, 3 more bars, and a new Astros-memorabilia store in the rehabbed outfield are expected to be ready for opening day next Monday.

Fans attending weigh-ins for the Geico Bassmaster Classic at the Astros’ stadium over the weekend got peeks at the final stages of construction; photos posted to Twitter this morning indicate progress overnight, as well as the new 409-ft. sign (discounted by 27 ft. from the former centerfield distance) and a plastic-ivy Astros insignia above it serving as a batter’s eye, in all its topiary-like glory:

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Torchy’s, Shake Shack, Home Runs
03/24/17 10:45am

The Hamilton apartments, Downtown, Houston, 77002

Say, how’d those midrise apartments nestling delicately into the northernmost armpit of the 45-59 exchange turn out, anyway? An accessory to a Midtown drive-by past the scene sends a fresh shot of the finished product and its The Hamilton nametag, taken from the ramp that sends northbound 45-ers onto the potentially doomed Pierce Elevated. Construction started in 2014 and just wrapped in the fall as leasing started up.

Only the top 2 and a half of the complex’s 5 residential stories (never mind the parking podium levels below that) can peek over the railing of the freeway on the southern side of the structure, providing scenic views both to and of any loiterers on the building’s uppermost southern balconies. Spencer Moore of FancyHoustonApartments.com even took the time to share the experience of staring down drivers on the closest ramp:

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Hamilton Now Showing
03/22/17 4:30pm

Crane at under-construction Capitol Tower, Capitol St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Another shot of that crane that took to the air this weekend by the economy-stalled stub of Skanska’s Capitol Tower comes from a reader peering over the site’s parking structure from Rusk St. yesterday. (That’s the neighboring Chase Tower looming over the scene in the background.) Bank of America was outed as being in talks with Skanska about leasing space in the tower (which might add the bank’s current home in Bank of America Center to the list of recent abandonments of Downtown office towers by their namesake tenants). The other sign of life on the site this year was the addition of a street-level mural to the parking garage’s corner, which was dry in time for the Super Bowl last month:

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Sprouting Downtown
03/08/17 11:00am

Closed restaurants in 811 Louisiana tunnels, 811 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Closed restaurants in 811 Louisiana tunnels, 811 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002The latest report from Swamplot’s anonymous tunnel correspondent indicates that neighboring Asian fast casual and counter spots Thai Spice and Sidewalk Cafe appear to have both closed in the tunnel beneath 811 Louisiana (also previously and variously known as Two Shell Plaza or 777 Walker. Signage from the building’s management folks went up by the end of February, and the Thai Spice branch’s phone number is now out of service as well. An outdated leasing flier still up on the 811 Louisiana LoopNet page shows the layout of the spaces amid the rest of the tunnel stretch, between the Esperson building and the tower at 611 Walker:

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Out and About Downtown
02/27/17 5:00pm

TXDOT TO PIERCE ELEVATED: YOUR YEARS ARE NUMBERED, PROBABLY pierce-street-45-downtownPending a vote next month by the Texas Transportation Committee, some early-stage projects connected to TxDOT’s plan to reroute I-45 and the whole downtown freeway exchange system could be getting started a few years sooner than TxDOT officials initially thought they would, Dug Begley writes in the Chronicle. (Those early stages include the reworking of the bottleneck on northbound US-59 where Spur 527 now peels off 2 of the freeway’s lanes just before SH 288 merges into the mix.) The first few projects “are incremental compared to the overall plan,” writes Begley, but “officials say [the projects] are important and send the clear message: The I-45 freeway is relocating and the elevated portion along Pierce will be abandoned and maybe demolished within the next dozen years. . . .Work on revamping the freeway intersections is slated for late 2020 or early 2021.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Pierce Elevated: Russell Hancock

02/23/17 4:00pm

Demo of Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002
Rendering of One Market Square Parking Garage

First on Linbeck’s docket for the block across Prairie St. from the slowly dissolving former Chronicle building: the 11-story parking garage rendered above. The structure is planned for the southern half of the block between Prairie St. and Market Square, which means the restaurant space depicted in the rendering will face Travis St. (presuming the retail spot is not just part of a clever disguise). The garage is being branded as One Market Square until such time as something a little taller goes up next to it and takes the name, joining Market Square Tower and Aris Market Square along Preston St. to either side.

Back across Prairie St., the wrapped-together collection of buildings formerly housing the Houston Chronicle‘s operations has been getting slowly disassembled since a judge ruled over the summer that Hines could carefully demo the structures. A couple of high-up shot from this morning (above, and below) shows the current state of affairs inside the rubble-in-progress:

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Rising and Falling on Prairie St.
02/21/17 5:15pm

Americana Building, 811 Dallas St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

The 10-story tower segment of the Americana building at 811 Dallas St. is now undergoing disassembly, Nancy Sarnoff confirms this afternoon. A few folks caught sight of the tell-tale orange barricades and fencing around the base of the tower over the weekend; the view above was captured from Milam St. and shows the defunct former Subway on the Dallas corner of the block. Hilcorp, which owns the site (and also wrapped up its new tower across Travis St. on the site of the Foley’s blowup early last year), hasn’t yet announced further-down-the-line plans for the block. No explosives are part of the plan for this demo, however — the tower will be taken apart piece by piece, leaving the parking garage intact.

Photo: ThaChadwick

Laid Low Downtown
02/14/17 5:30pm

Beaver traces by Buffalo Bayou, Allen's Landing, Houston, 77002

More splinters and shredded bark are the latest clues turned up by Allen’s Landing beaver scrutinizer Christine Wilson. The most recent denudation (shown above) occurred off the park’s walking trail, not far from the aftermath of the last rodent-related incident Wilson documented, just east of the Travis and Milam street bridges over Buffalo Bayou. Another shot from over the weekend provides a wider view of the increasingly sparsely-forested bank:
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Mammals of Allen’s Landing
02/08/17 12:30pm

Beaver traces by Buffalo Bayou, Allen's Landing, Houston, 77002Beaver traces by Buffalo Bayou, Allen's Landing, Houston, 77002

Downtown cellphone naturalist Christine Wilson sends some shots this morning of unauthorized tree remodeling on the banks of Buffalo Bayou east of Travis St. by Spaghetti Warehouse (across from the University of Houston Downtown building shown up top). Wilson says a chat with some Buffalo Bayou Park rangers confirmed the identity of the anonymous tree hackers as likely beavers. That aligns with a report from earlier this month from the folks at Save Buffalo Bayou of other activity in the same area by rodents of unusual size. More closeup shots of denuded trees below:

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Stumping Downtown
02/08/17 11:00am

HOW MANY DOWNTOWNS DOES HOUSTON HAVE? Williams Tower, 2800 Post Oak Blvd., Galleria Area, Houston, 77056The list of Houston neighborhoods with potential to be mistaken for Downtown by outsiders, Blake Mathews of KHOU writes this week, is long, and includes at least “Uptown (Galleria), the Texas Medical Center, Greenspoint, Greenway Plaza, The Woodlands and perhaps even Westchase.” So what makes a Downtown? Mathews runs through some factors for consideration, ranging from the city’s population density center (which falls somewhere west of Downtown) to total office space (Uptown has less than downtown Houston, but more than downtown Denver) to building height (with a specific shoutout to the Williams Tower, pictured here.) [KHOU] Photo of Williams Tower: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

02/03/17 9:30am

Super Bowl LI Road Closures, Downtown

An essential addition to the growing list of guides for Houstonians on where not to go this weekend: the above map of road closures around the George R. Brown Convention Center district. Both red shading and cross-hatching mark the temporary carless zones, while a dashed black line shows the location of the perimeter fence for area events. Meanwhile, miles away at actual Super Bowl location NRG Stadium, other street closures were planned to go into effect yesterday evening (and are scheduled to last through Monday morning):

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Lines of Scrimmage
01/25/17 5:30pm

Metro Red Line, University of Houston Downtown, Downtown, 77002

On the growing list of things getting dressed up for the Super Bowl: this Red Line light-rail train, caught above at the corner of Main and Franklin streets this afternoon wearing a shiny new red-and-stadium-colored suit. Buildings around the Discovery Green and George R. Brown Convention Center complex have also been getting advertising wraps draped in place in the past week or 2, as have a few other buildings around town (including the BBVA Compass building near the Galleria). Across the intersection, a reader also noted the installation of new security cameras at the Islamic Da’wah Center, founded after former Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon bought the 1928 former Houston National Bank building in 1994:

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Downtown Prep
01/19/17 1:00pm

WHERE YESTERDAY’S SEWAGE OVERFLOWS FLOWED 69th St. Wastewater Treatment Plant, Magnolia Park, Houston, 77011Yesterday’s floodwater caused diluted sewage releases from the 69th St. Wastewater Treatment Plant, located near the crossing of 69th St. over Buffalo Bayou (just upstream from the new Buffalo Bend Nature Park and the Port of Houston Turning Basin). Houston Public Media notes the city’s rundown on where and how much: “The estimated volume of released wastewater as of 6 p.m. Wednesday was approximately 500,000 gallons at Halls Bayou at US 59 at Parker Rd.; approximately 160,000 gallons at White Oak Bayou Near Interstate 45 N. at Wrightwood St.; and approximately 500,000 gallons at Buffalo Bayou near the University of Houston Downtown, officials said.” The city also says anybody using their own private water wells in those areas should get them checked out (and boil water in the meanwhile). The 69th St. plant is the city’s largest wastewater facility, as well as a production site of Hou-Actinite fertilizer. [Houston Public Media; previously on SwamplotPhoto of 69th St. Wastewater Treatment Plant: Webber

01/18/17 3:30pm

TONIGHT’S AREA FLOODING SYMPOSIUM CANCELLED BY AREA FLOODING January 18th Flooding at Main St. and Buffalo BayouThe free public Flooding and Storm Surge Symposium previously planned for this evening at the George R. Brown Convention Center is being postponed, on account of it’s flooding right now. The event would have included 2 panel discussions with flood-minded folks from a variety of public and private sectors and institutions, gathering to talk about the city’s flooding and storm surge issues and possible solutions; the Urban Design Committee of the Houston chapter of the AIA says the event will be rescheduled. [Houston AIA] Photo of this morning’s high water at Allen’s Landing: Christine Wilson

01/18/17 2:30pm

Spire Houston in former First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1720 Main St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1720 Main St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002

Spire Houston in former First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1720 Main St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002Steeple-themed nightclub and Swampies also-ran Spire is now up and running in Downtown’s converted First Church of Christ, Scientist at 1720 Main St., following last winter’s covert purchase by the group running Clé bar. The remodeled Mod space officially opened last weekend and is currently advertising upcoming events on a marquee along Jefferson St., including a Playboy-sponsored pre-Super Bowl party (scheduled against the Taylor Swift concert at temporary 3-story nightclub Club Nomadic, among other goings-on).  Other upcoming Spire events include this weekend’s Waka Flocka Flame concert and the VS vs Fredericks Lingerie Contest scheduled for next Wednesday.

Some promotional photos from the club provide a few views of the former altar (above, with a view of the original for comparison), as well as the added balconies and new seating arrangement possibilities in the main sanctuary:

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Downtown Conversions