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
01/18/17 11:30am

January 18th Flooding at Main St. and Buffalo Bayou

Most of the grassy banks and walking paths usually visible east of Main St. are obscured in this morning’s footage from semi-regular Allen’s Landing correspondent Christine Wilson, who captured some shots of high water (and a few street lamps shakin’ it in the current). This morning’s heavy rain has overtopped roads in some of the usual spots (check out Transtar’s list of water-related road closures here) west and north of Downtown, and the National Weather service has just issued a flood warning for parts of the city through 4:15 this afternoon (with more rain expected later today). The confluence of White Oak and Buffalo bayous, receiving much of that water as it runs toward the bay, appears to have been swept clean of trash and baby ducks for the time being, though some larger waterfowl were still spotted hanging around upslope on the southern shore:

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Flood Season Now Open
01/06/17 1:45pm

Urban wildlife cellphone videographer Christine Wilson sends some footage captured from Allen’s Landing documenting the eons-old nature vs. civilization struggle, which played out earlier this week in the form of tiny ducks dodging their way through the floating trash field where White Oak and Buffalo bayous join up. Wilson caught sight (and sound) of a duck and 4 ducklings struggling across the White Oak outflow toward the Buffalo side of the confluence, which she notes is significantly less debris-spangled. That’s the Harris County Jail in the background for most of the shot, across White Oak from the main building of the University of Houston Downtown. (The footage cuts out mid-scene, but Wilson says the ducks did eventually make it across.)

Video: Christine Wilson

Buffalo Vs. White Oak
01/04/17 3:00pm

Former Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002

El Big Bad’s corner at Travis and Prairie streets now provides a view straight into (and even through) some long-hidden interior sections of the former Houston Chronicle headquarters at 801 Texas Ave. The building — or, rather, group of buildings bundled together behind in a single mid-1960’s skin — has been coming down gently since the judge for the Hines-Hearst-Linbeck tunnel lawsuit gave the okay over the summer. Most of the 10-story original section of the relocated paper’s former headquarters, on the south side of the block facing Texas Ave. at the Travis corner, has already been removed; a reader snapped the shot above yesterday, as what’s left of the complex was being draped in black again for the next phase of the pull-apart.

Photo: Christine Wilson

Shrunken Headquarters
12/16/16 1:45pm

Post HTX Day for Night Layout
Former Barbara Jordan Post Office, 401 Franklin St., Downtown, Houston, 77002Here’s the site plan from the folks running the Day for Night festival, showing how the art installations and music stages will be laid out in the decommissioned post office at 401 Franklin St. this weekend. The Downtown building was sold last year to Lovett Commercial, which will be redeveloping the building over the next 8-ish years into a mixed-use complex called Post HTX. The circle sketched onto the gray-shaded area marked above as The Courtyard appears to match up with the circular garden feature visible in this aerial shot (looking northwest across Franklin St.) — here’s a closer view:

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Post-Post Office Downtown