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:
Quick, what’s the mostvaulted 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:
Work is almost complete on Pipeline Realty’s conversion of the 2-story office building at 2617 Bissonnet (seen at top in a recent photo) into a new second-story coworking space called Local Office. The 13,500-sq.-ft. building, pictured above before the 2 trees standing in front were removed and larger windows were poked into its north and west facades, previously served as the offices of Industrial Audio/Video.
Local Office, due to open sometime next month, will be joined early next year by a ground-floor coffee shop, labeled “Local Coffee” on the rendering below but more likely to be a third outlet of the growing local Cavo Coffee chain:
Previously visible only to airplanes, drones, satellite-image sleuths, and Phillips 66 employees on sufficiently high floors of their adjacent offices: the soccer field with encircling track and enclosing fence pictured here atop the energy company’s parking garage, with Beltway 8 in the background. An additional artificial-turf practice area exists off camera to the left.
Phillips 66’s campus was completed last year at 2331 CityWest Blvd.,along the Beltway at Westheimer, and includes 2 office towers as well as the parking center. The main office buildings sport their own recreational facilities: a yoga studio, spin workout hall, basketball court, and outdoor putting green.
The lights have been changed again in the vacant office building at the center of Midway’s newly renamed East River site on Buffalo Bayou in the Fifth Ward. The 12-story former Building 3 on the KBR campus the development firm bought last year has progressed from referencing Amazon minus a couple of vowels to spelling out our city’s well-accomplished hometown baseball team minus its initial A. The view above was captured by a Swamplot reader from Clinton Dr. last night
The AMZN lettering lives on, though, at the end of a promo video Midway produced to rep Houston — and its mostly vacant 150-acre former industrial site:
A reader shows us a few through-the-fence glimpses of the massive demolition project that now appears to be taking place on the Shell Oil Company’s Woodcreek campus, just south of the Addicks Dam: 7 connected triangular 5-story office buildings and a separate cafeteria structure on the west side of the campus at 200 N. Dairy Ashford are all on the crushing block, according to a demo permit filed a couple of weeks after Harvey hit.
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:
Here’s a timelapse video showing workers creating a plaza in front of the lone extant office building in Generation Park’s Redemption Square development just inside the northeast corner of Beltway 8. The pavers were laid a little more carefully than shown here late last month in front of the brand-new 5-story, 86,523-sq.-ft. building at 250 Assay St.
Other than the 5-level parking garage structure now behind it — and the landscape improvements now going in — there’s not a whole lot crowding the building so far, as the earlier aerial photo above shows. The Beltway is in the foreground of that image; here’s a closer-in view of the east side of 250 Assay St. shortly before the trees and pavers went in:
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
Something you might not have noticed about Houston’s iconic Bank of America Center (top) at 700 Louisiana St. Downtown: There’s an entire unused building hidden inside. The thrice-renamed spiky Dutch-ish PoMo tower complex, designed by architect Philip Johnson in 1982, sits across the street from his other famous Downtown Houston office building, Pennzoil Place. It’s not obvious from the exterior or interior, but the 2-story former Western Union building on the corner of Louisiana and Capitol streets (pictured above in a photo from 1957) takes up almost a quarter of the block Bank of America Center sits on. This was Western Union’s longtime regional switching center; Johnson was asked to design his building around it because the cable and electrical connections maintained within it were deemed cost-prohibitive to relocate.
Thirty-five years later, it’s the building’s anchor tenant that’s relocating: Bank of America, which now occupies 165,000 sq. ft., will move to Skanska’s Capitol Tower in a couple years. As part of a new set of renovations to the structure the bank is leaving behind, owner M-M Properties plans to completely dismantle what remains of the Western Union building, recapturing 35,000 sq. ft. of space without expanding the building’s footprint. Among the plans for the resulting space: A “reconfiguration” of the lobby and the addition of a “white tablecloth restaurant.”
The secret Western Union void is well disguised. It isn’t in the lobby of the 56-story tower but in the 12-story adjacent bank-lobby building fronting Louisiana St., more formally known as the the Banking Hall when the building first opened in 1983 as RepublicBank Center. It takes up the entire northern half of that structure: It’s beyond the colonnaded-but-blank wall on your right as you enter the lobby from Louisiana (on the left in this photo):
The multi-level steel antenna-support tower that’s long stood on top of the window-deficient AT&T building at 3303 Weslayan St. just north of Greenway Plaza was removed by crane over the last week, a reader reports. At least, that’s what appears to be the case from the ground: The Beck Group construction firm received permits for a partial demolition of the building’s cell tower in June. Also permitted by the city that same month: a Beck Group office remodel of the structure, which is referred to in the permit as the AT&T Weslayan Toll Building.
Here’s a view of the now-dismantled tower from a couple of years ago, as it loomed poolside at the neighboring 3333 Weslayan apartments:
The final portion of the 6-story former Town & Country V office building at 908 Town & Country Blvd., including its elevator shaft, came down in an awkward curtsy yesterday, leaving workers in the lower floors of the neighboring 15-story CityCentre Five with nothing left to block their views of the Katy Fwy. Demolitions of the adjacent Town & Country III and Town & Country IV office buildings preceded it.
The unobstructed freeway view won’t last forever: Developer Midway is planning 2 new office buildings — as well as a residential highrise — for the cleared site.