07/10/17 3:30pm

There appears to be some uh . . . work being done to a few of the (long-time-since-they’ve-been-rented) rooms at the former Downtown Days Inn building at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy., also known as Houston’s last remaining (for now) abandoned skyscraper. Look at the lowest level of windows above the parking garage in the top photo. See how the windows appear to be busted out —in a way that’s maybe somewhat different from how many of the other windows are busted out? A somewhat systematic regime of glass removal appears to be working its way up the building’s southern façade, according to a quick comparison of the shot at top, taken today, and this one, from a slightly different angle, taken almost exactly a month earlier:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Windows Ate
06/26/17 12:00pm

What wonders wait in the secret rooftop garden that appears to be peeking over the edge of the highrise at 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy.? Reader and city sleuth Rachel Dvoretzky spotted a handful of leafy protrusions from the former hotel, Vedic school, and ambiguous combination thereof, most recently converted to a Days Inn prior to its slide into further dilapidation. The ever-changing graffiti veneer presented to passing Pierce Elevated drivers has seen some changes since April, too:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Between Heaven and Heaven on Earth
06/20/17 2:00pm

Here’s a shot from a recent hard-hat tour of the Hotel Alessandra, under construction on a corner of the GreenStreet don’t-call-it-a-mall Downtown. The view hints at what a poolside scene might look like when the hotel opens in October, though not exactly: Marlowe, the 20-story Randall Davis Company condo seen rising in the left background (in front of the Hilton Americas), should look a bit less stubbly stubby by then.

Next, a few pics from the Alessandra lobby, highlighting the swervy ceiling:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

And Other Sneak Peeks
06/16/17 11:30am

If you’re just coming up to speed on the whole food hall thing, remember this: It’s not a food court, it’s a food hall. And in the case of Bravery Chef Hall, planned for a 9,000-sq.-ft. space in the ground floor of the Aris Market Square tower Hines is completing at the corner of Preston and Travis Downtown, it’s not just a food hall but “the world’s first chef hall.” Or, as the founders explain, “a curated food hall where all vendors are operated and owned by chefs, employing only cooks, and where a large percentage of the seats are chef counter seating.” So maybe think of it as a huddle of 5 independently operated chef’s tables, each surrounding an open kitchen, in one streetfront retail space. (Plus additional adjacent seating — and outside, a patio garden and sidewalk café dining space totaling 3,000 sq. ft.)

How real is this thing? Well, it’s coming from the team behind the Conservatory, Downtown’s only other currently operating food hall (as well as Prohibition Supperclub and its accompanying Oyster Bar) — and yesterday the Downtown Management District approved a $140,000 “catalytic retail grant” towards the estimated $1.8 million buildout.

Here’s a peek at the construction currently going on in the space:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Bravery Chef Hall
06/08/17 11:30am

THE PIERCE ELEVATED SKYPARK PLAN ISN’T DEAD YET “You can’t just wait until the day that TxDOT asks you what to do with it,” Tami Merrick tells Stephen Paulsen in the Houston Press this morning, in reference to her involvement with the small group working toward publishing an economic study some time next year of those speculative plans to turn the Pierce Elevated into the Pierce Skypark. The segment of I-45 may ultimately be torn down so the right-of-way can be sold, once the planned spaghetti-riffic Downtown freeway reroute wraps up in a decade or so. But Paulsen writes that the planning group is nonetheless optimistic about getting a foot in the door when the moment is right: “At some point, the Pierce Elevated will stop serving cars. And when it does, the group argues, why wouldn’t the city want an innovative, prearranged plan for the abandoned stretch of freeway?” [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of Pierce Elevated as a park: Page/Marcus Martinez via Pierce Skypark

05/19/17 5:15pm

 
It’s not clear yet whether there’s much more planned in the way of cosmetic changes for the Travis- and Commerce-facing sides of the new parking garage being wrapped up now at the corner of Franklin and Milam streets. (That’d be the 2 sides, shown above, that didn’t get the skirt of fake windows and storefronts along the sidewalk level, meant to help the building “blend in” with its surrounding Main Street Market Square Historical District companions.)  A reader checking up on the structure from a nook in the nearby Bayou Lofts building tells Swamplot that the crane used to construct the garage was removed in the last few weeks; the photo up top was snapped before that happened.

Okay — so the 2 flat concrete sides may blow the garage’s cover for building sleuths peering over from Main St. or Buffalo Bayou. But the lack of disguise does leave very little standing in the way of some kind of later jazzing up, whether that’s commissioned or not.

Images: Michael Partney (photo); Powers & Brown (rendering)

Straight Up Downtown
05/19/17 10:30am

ELYSIAN VIADUCT WORK UNEARTHS HISTORIC HOUSTON HERITAGE TRASH PILE The real value of the long-buried dump uncovered by the ongoing replacement of the Elysian St. bridge over I-10 and Buffalo Bayou, write Doug Boyd and Jason Barrett this week in the Chronicle, is in the opportunity it provides “to document the often-unwritten parts of our industrial heritage.” The dump, apparently built up over the early half of the 1900s in a former gully, serves as a springboard for the authors to talk trashHouston, they write, was one of the first cities to adopt widespread municipal garbage incineration, and lagged decades behind as most cities chose to stop doing it out of concern for public healthSpots like the one under Elysian St., they add, help fill in the gaps of knowledge of what happened to all the other trash that didn’t end up in a city incinerator or landfill — and who tended to live nearby. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]  Photos: Adam J Williams

05/15/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: LAY OFF THOSE FLOODED UNDERGROUND FREEWAYS, THEY’RE JUST DOING THEIR JOB “Trenched roads include sumps that are capable of keeping the roadways from flooding from ordinary rain events, but are designed to become flooded in an emergency, acting as additional stormwater detention. Every cubic foot of stormwater that goes in there is a cubic foot that isn’t at the same elevation as city streets, businesses, and houses. It is a feature, not a bug.” [TheNiche, commenting on Watch as Unfunded Parks Appear on Top of Houston Freeways Before Your Very Eyes!]

05/15/17 10:15am

DOWNTOWN TO GET A SECOND FOOD HALL, THIS TIME ABOVE GROUND The former Gulf Oil building at 712 Main St. (now the JPMorgan Chase bulding, currently getting made over along with its nextdoor companion-in-rebranding as The Jones on Main) will get a new food hall, a rep from Lionstone announced last week. Greg Morago reports in the Chronicle that Midway and Lionstone are still seeking vendors for the space (and that the current name, The Food Hall on Main, will probably change). The hall will take up about 20,000 sq. ft. of the Chase building’s lobby, making it about 3 times larger than the leafy Conservatory that opened last spring some 2 blocks away — one of the few parts of Downtown’s underground food scene open after daytime business hours. The revamp to the pair of buildings will also include an art deco cocktail lounge. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 712 Main St.: elnina via Swamplot Flickr pool

04/27/17 11:30am

Beheaded Trees at Lyric Center garage site, 440 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002
 
A weekend wanderer sends a few photos of the new sprouts now poking out of some recently beheaded trees alongside the Lyric Centre parking garage construction site on Smith St. It’s unclear exactly when the shortening occurred, though a shot taken of the site back in late October seems to show at least a few of the trees still tall enough to peek over the construction fencing:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Stumped Downtown
04/24/17 11:00am

Demolition of Houston Chronicle Building 801 Texas Ave., Downtown Houston

That’s pretty much it for the surface-dwelling sections of the Houston Chronicle‘s former bundle of headquarters structures at 801 Texas Ave. — a reader captured the minor dustup above on Friday, and activity on the site is now mostly at or below ground level. Work to shore up the section of basement the district court ordered Hines’s Block 58 to leave behind (for tunnel use by Linbeck-controlled neighbor and plaintiff Theater Square) was mostly wrapped up last fall, according to some December court filings.

Other documents filed as part of the case show that the legal compromise set up last summer (which allowed the demo of the Chronicle building to go forward after all) has hit a few bumps since then: Theater Square filed a motion to find Block 58 in contempt of court late last year, and a trial appears to be scheduled for June.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Texas Ave. Tunnel Tussle
04/21/17 2:00pm

Former Holiday Inn, Days Inn, and Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel, 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St., Downtown Houston

Artist and regular neck craner Bob Russell took a moment this week to capture the various works currently on display to Pierce Elevated drivers on the south side of the 30-story highrise at 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy. (former host of a variety of hotels and Vedic teaching initiatives before the building entered its more recent era of abandonment and creeping decrepitude). The uptick in broken windows in the last few months doesn’t appear to have much of a connection to the most recent plans for the stripping and remodeling of the building back into some flavor of hotel, as proposed this time around by SFK Development. As far as other signs of change, the name scrawled across the facade’s central panels has been edited since another tipster’s drive-by back in February:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

04/18/17 11:30am

Demo of Elysian St. Viaduct, Near Northside/Downtown, Houston, 77002

The rapidly disappearing elevated segment of Elysian St. pointing north out of Downtown is the latest aging roadway structure to be crumbled apart, though it won’t be the last. But death is a natural part of the Houston roadway cycle! And a healthier, brawnier replacement viaduct is planned to take its place along roughly the same right-of-way — this one with broad shoulders and a sidewalk. TxDOT spokesman Danny Perez told Houston Public Media‘s Gail DeLaughter last month that work on the new structure, which connects Downtown to Near Northside by funneling drivers over Buffalo Bayou and I-10, should start before the demo of the mile-and-a-half-long original wraps up.

hunched excavator was spotted helping to bring the aging bridge down from above:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Traffic Cycles in Near Northside
04/10/17 4:30pm

TACOS A GO GO IS A GO BENEATH DOWNTOWN Tacos a Go Go at 910 Louisiana Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002Tacos A Go Go’s latest location is currently being set up in the tunnel spot beneath soon-to-be-Shell-free One Shell Plaza at 910 Louisiana St. The permitting process for the remodel of the space (centered roughly between branches of Murphy’s Deli, Starbucks, and the People’s Trust Co-op) kicked off late last year, around the time Tacos a Go Go’s third location opened in the now-thoroughly disguised former Roznovsky’s Hamburgers spot in Garden Oaks. The company’s website currently says the fourth spot’ll open Downtown later this month, operating on breakfast and lunch taco hours (from 7 to 3). [Previously on Swamplot; tunnel coverage] Image of One Shell Plaza leasing flier: LoopNet

04/06/17 3:15pm

THE TUNNEL BENEATH THE DEAD CHRONICLE BUILDING IS NOW OPEN AGAIN Capitol Tower Tunnel MapManagement for 717 Texas (or Calpine Center, if you’re less of a fan of numerically-forward tower vernacular) just sent out word that the tunnel from that building to Chase Tower at 600 Travis St. is now open again. The route takes a turn beneath the pretty-much-done demo of the newly former Houston Chronicle headquarters, evidently still slated by Hines for surface-lotdom for now — plus whatever work the folks next door have planned below ground to tie their own development into the tunnel network. Meanwhile, another block southwest down the same tunnel system (as visible in the 90-degrees-or-so rotated schematic above), Skanska has just signaled the go-ahead on the above-ground section of its Capitol Tower; no word yet on whether that construction will have another round of tunnel closure associated with it. [Previously on Swamplot] Map of Downtown tunnel connections: Skanska