08/15/18 10:15am

A CURTAIN CALL FOR THE HIDDEN WESTERN UNION BUILDING BEFORE BANK OF AMERICA CENTER DIGESTS IT? With workers now punching holes in the facade where the Bank of America Center wraps the dead Western Union building it swallowed in 1983, city planner David Welch asks the question: “Will we be able to see the hidden building during construction?” It should be hard to miss; according to one Swamplot reader: “It is completely intact, tar and gravel roof included.” Size-wise, it takes up nearly a quarter of the B of A building’s ground floor, its northeast corner wrapped by the skyscraper’s own at Lousiana and Capitol streets — where the new openings are taking shape now. But its emergence may be brief: Once the planned new restaurant and cafe get situated inside it, the structure’s time-capsule mystique will be gone. And after new interior entrances open its innards to the tower’s own central lobby corridor, the telegram building will be completely metabolized. [David Welch; previously on Swamplot] Photo: David Welch

08/14/18 10:00am

Crews are now coating the garage on the corner of Travis and Rusk with strips of glass curtain wall similar to those seen on its much taller neighbor to the north, the Capitol Tower. While the 35-story office building got its exterior finish soon after topping out in April, the garage — built 2 years earlier — was left naked. It took over from the former Houston Club garage Skanska expanded and then demolished on the block in 2015.

Even after construction wrapped up, the new parking structure viewed below from Milam still looked mostly like this:

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First Come Last Serve
08/03/18 12:45pm

A new brewery is now in the works for the industrial building that sits across the Downtown 59 on-ramp from the Houston Center for Sobriety. Just like the adjacent drunk tank which opened in 2013, the new business at 100 N. Jackson will be housed in a repurposed warehouse. Its lawn includes several signs pointing drivers to the neighboring sobering center — like the one shown above fronting the exit ramp off the Eastex, on the west side of the soon-to-be beer venue dubbed Industry Brewery. (Also in the frame: signage for the building’s most recent tenant the American Engine & Grinding Company.)

At that corner, a left on Ruiz St. followed by another quick one on Chenevert gets you outside the recovery facility:

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Downtown Wet and Dry Spots
08/01/18 4:30pm

Dump trucks are now filing onto the barricaded block once home to the Houston Chronicle building — and more recently a parking lot — at Texas and Travis to start laying the foundation for Hines’s new 47-floor tower and soon-to-be new global headquarters. The photo above views the traffic from way up on the 31st floor of the site’s catty-corner northeast neighbor Aris Market Square — which the new building will overtop along with pretty much everything else nearby except the Chase Tower directly south of it. Law firm Vinson & Elkins will occupy the building’s top 7 floors.

A series of glassed-in atria shown in the rendering above from architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli hang out along the structure’s edge facing Milam St. Viewed from closer up, you can even see some people and trees inside them looking out on what’s below:

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Dump Truck Parade
08/01/18 1:00pm

After and before views show off the dramatic change of face that’s transformed 311 Travis St. as part of the prep-work for its new Tiki-themed bar occupant Kanaloa. The monochrome makeover began on the lower façade a few weeks ago before proceeding upstairs where it wrapped up last week. “We want this to be a hidden oasis in downtown,” the venue’s owner told Eater in March, hinting at plans to renovate the 126-year-old Alltmont Building. Its canopies, window arches, and pediment are pretty well-hidden now — though the building does seem to stand out a bit as a whole amid the row of adjacent lighter brick structures fronting Market Square Park.

When Kanaloa opens, it will pick up where Market Square Bar & Grill — pictured below — left off last year:

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Tiki Torched
07/31/18 10:00am

The owner of 306 Main St. is now marketing the building for lease, which means Moving Sidewalk‘s days are numbered inside. The bar took over from ramen restaurant Goro & Gun, which took over from Mediterranean spot Molto, which took over from Grum Bar & Grill, which took over from Hic-Cups Bar & Grill.

The biggest cosmetic change to the building over that roughly-10-year time span: the reddening of the church-like, windowed tympanum up above the front doors. Prior to Goro & Gun’s arrival, it’d been brown along with the entryway below it — both of which look out on the southbound Preston St. platform of METRO’s Red Line.

Photos: LoopNet

Rail Drinks
07/27/18 4:00pm

Here’s one of Houston’s latest walkable undertakings: converting the former railroad bridge beneath 59 to a pedestrian bridge that’ll link the trail along the bayou’s north bank to planned pedestrian segments south of waterway. It’s now overshadowed by the tangle of overpasses directly above it, but might not be once TxDOT starts straightening out 59 by nudging it east (and pairing it with a parallel segment of I-45) as part of its grand plan for north Houston highway improvement.

No southern trail segments are in place yet to greet the bridge upon its landfall just east of Downtown, but they will be soon: TxDOT’s already broken ground on a trail that’ll skirt the bayou as it crosses through the Houston Housing Authority’s Clayton Homes Neighborhood east of 59.

It’ll link up with the southern trail segment that does exist and runs east toward Lockwood Dr., as indicated by the gray line in the map below:

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Bayou Trailwork
07/26/18 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A BLANK CANVAS ON TRAVIS AND COMMERCE “In the meantime, can someone please put a mural on that god-awful concrete wall on the parking garage behind it? It really ruins taking shots of downtown from that angle now.” [Triton, commenting on Injury Lawyers Give Up Waterlogged Abraham Watkins Building’s Ground Floor for Good, Parking Garage Filler Now Slated To Replace Them] Illustration: Lulu

07/26/18 2:00pm

Catty-corner to the soon-to-be aerated Spaghetti Warehouse building on Commerce St., its 2-story brick neighbor between Travis and Milam has a similar plan for dealing with its own floody first floor: get rid of all downstairs law offices and replace them with parking. Currently, the decades-old Abraham Watkins Building is bookended by 2 surface parking lots to the east and the west (pictured above). By filling in the gap between them with 14 more spots, the owner hopes it’ll no longer have to keep repairing the decades-old place like its done at least once yearly for the past 4 years, according to an application it filed this month. (Personal injury firm Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz has managed to stay safe in the building throughout that time, though staff retreated to the top floor after Harvey.)

Houston’s historic commission approved that application yesterday, clearing the way for this new garage door to crop up on Commerce in place of the center storefront panel as shown below:

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800 Commerce
07/25/18 3:00pm

The parking garage at the Lyric Centre has begun glowing as part of its transformation into Lyric Market, one in the trio of planned Houston food halls. Though the venue on the corner of Smith and Preston streets isn’t open yet, its exterior has been all over the light spectrum lately, radiating both the rainbow and patriotic displays shown above.

Solid color schemes have been in the mix too:

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Bright Food Hall Future
07/20/18 10:00am

BRASA’S STEAKHOUSE WILL DEBUT IN ABANDONED KALEIDOSCOPE THEATER ON CAPITOL Recent permit filings show that the abandoned Kaleidoscope Theater on the Capitol-St.-side of the St. Germain Lofts at 705 Main St. is about to be reborn as a steakhouse. Founded by 2008 American Idol contestant Colton Berry 6 years ago, the theater played host to cabaret-style productions during its time in the space. But in the summer of 2016, Berry told the audience at a production of “PEOPLE” that the theater company was shutting down and splitting from the building, reported the Chronicle. That left a roughly 8,000 sq.-ft. hole in the north side of the residential structure — pictured above from the corner of Main and Capitol where the theater is survived by another, once-neighboring ground-floor tenant, Flying Saucer Draught Emporium. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Realtor.com

07/17/18 3:00pm

HINES SIGNS UP FOR 48-STORY HIGHRISE ON FORMER HOUSTON CHRONICLE DIGS DOWNTOWN Building permits filed last week for a concrete foundation in place of the HoustonChronicle-building-turned-parking-lot at 801 Texas Ave. reveal the vertical extent of what Hines has planned for the site: 48 stories. They’ll soon rise up above the fought-over tunnel system where a judge buried the hatchet 5 months ago, awarding Hines’ neighbor Theater Square $200,000, reported Nancy Sarnoff. Theater Square owns the property across Prairie St. from 801 Texas and claimed it had the right to access tunnels beneath the former newspaper building that it needed to connect its own subterranean sprawl to Houston’s broader downtown tunnel system. That hookup is now complete — writes Sarnoff — though the neighboring developer has yet to break ground on its own planned tower. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Brie Kelman

07/17/18 12:45pm

The new owner of the floody Spaghetti Warehouse building downtown has cooked up a novel idea for how to deal with its proximity to Buffalo Bayou: crack open its lower stories and fill them with a floodable dining area that sits below an upper-story bar. Renderings from Diamond Development show how they’re hoping to pull it all off by removing several doors and windows from the back of the 15,000-sq.-ft. building (which an application to Houston’s historic commission notes will be stored away for potential future use) and adding louvers to the building’s east side.

The slats would go in place of the parking-lot-fronting wall shown missing part of its face during Harvey:

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Floodable Food Court
07/13/18 5:00pm

Harris County and the trailblazing Buffalo Bayou Partnership will soon clear the way for a new trail segment on the south side of the bayou by demolishing the vacant 1119 Commerce Building warehouse along with portions of the inmate processing center to its east. Pictured above, 1119 Commerce St. spans the width between San Jacinto St. and the Fannin St. bridge at which the existing trail terminates. Harris County Flood Control district bought the building in 2010 as part of its efforts to smooth out that sharp oxbow where White Oak and Buffalo bayous meet and allow more water to flow through Downtown.

But a lot of that water ended up flowing through the building itself, dampening its below-street levels on at least 4 occasions since the county’s purchase. The year after a 2015 checkup found that the structure’s lower-level steel columns were “95 percent rusted,” the flood control district axed its lease with former tenant Quiznos in preparation to bring down the 94-year-old house, originally built for the Texas Packing Company.

After the trail takes over the lot occupied by the not-yet-demolished building, it’ll butt up next against the adjacent Harris County Inmate Processing Center at 1201 Commerce:

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Jailbreak
07/11/18 3:00pm

A new downtown hole-in-the-wall is making its debut at the foot of the city’s longstanding famous buildings. Among all the openings in the house now standing in the middle of Sam Houston Park, the most accessible one (ADA-certified) is at the end of the ramp pictured above. Cherry Moving was the first to add holes to the building: it inserted the more conventional windows after scooping up the 80-year old, 16-by-24-ft. single-story from the East End in order to resell it. The buyers: serial house tweakers Dan Havel and Dean Ruck, who perforated its façades and lined the bubbles with PVC piping to make them watertight.

You can see the piping’s light blue tint from the angle below:

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