Does New Hines Highrise Mean Old Texas Tower’s a Goner?

Hines has confirmed that it will be putting up something new — maybe this glow stick of an office building, maybe not — at 609 Main, just north of the former MainPlace, now BG Group Pipe Wrench. Pickard Chilton, says Hines, will design a 41-story, 815,000-sq.-ft. office tower just as soon as an anchor tenant is signed. This view of the rendering released this week seems to look south toward the Hines-owned downtown block bound by Main, Texas, Fannin, and Capitol. Now, half that block is an $8 a day parking lot. If you look closely at the rendering, you’ll see an Apple logo just to the left of that entrance teepee. Whether that will actually be a new Apple store is not confirmed — and anyway, before anything new can come in, Hines will have to tear down what’s already there: The unoccupied Texas Tower, the former Sterling Building, at 608 Fannin:


Conveniently wiped from the rendering, the 21-story, 134,000-sq.-ft. Sterling Building, shown here, dates to 1925. Below: The surface parking lot at the corner of Main and Texas where the tower’s planned.

Images: Swamplot inbox (rendering); Allyn West (others)

23 Comment

  • As much as I enjoy historic conservation. New>Old in this case. Implode it and build the glowstick. We’ll have a killer techno rave on its rubble filled grave.

  • Before anybody knocks this, just remember that all this square footages could have been built as an office park on the edge of the city.

  • as long as something replaces is, i’m fine with tearing down old buildings.

    i just have an issue with tearing down old buildings and replacing them with a parking lot, instead of renovating them.

  • We have been lucky so far in that the old buildings torn down in recent years for new skyscrapers have been mainly mediocre or worse (including this one). We are headed for a catastrophe though when a developer decides to tear down a quality historic building for a new tower. The emergence of Main St. as the go-to place for shiny highrises is setting up a collision course.

  • I am not opposed to seeing this building demo-ed as it has already been destroyed. This was originally a grand deco building, but it had the architectural elements removed and the lobby turned into a cement box.

    It is worth it to put all the money and energy into saving a building that still has its architectural elements. But, with this building, you would essentially have to rebuild all the great architectural elements in addition to doing the extensive work to bring it up to today’s standards and make it marketable.

  • Has anyone confirmed that Hines owns the land the Texas Commerce Tower is on? I don’t think they do, only the surface lot where the McDonalds used to be.

  • Actually, I think that view is looking east on Capitol – with what used to be called the Chase Center (601 Travis) sprinkled with magic invisibility powder.

  • I agree with Old School. This thing looks pretty ugly today, and no one is using it. Good-bye.

  • Hines incorporated The Stowers (?) building into what is now the BG Place building, what is to say this new high rise won’t do the same? Or like buildings in other cities where there are tight lot lines (NYC, Chicago etc) why can’t both inhabit this lot?

    As to the actual architectural design – not impressed. Time for Hines to dump Pickard/Chilton as design architects for its highrises. I think the 52 floor building being proposed in Midland (yes Midland!) is better architecturally than what we’re getting here.

  • I’m normally not in favor of demolishing old structures in favor of new ones, but this one is empty, ugly, and taking up space. Apart from being a constant reminder that we as a city are terrible at caring for any old buildings that do happen to survive, the thing serves no purpose.

  • Agree with mollusk. The swamplot version of the rendering crops what is clearly supposed to be the Rice on the left side of the picture (see, e.g., the Culturemap article). So the tower looks to be situated on the SW portion of the block, across Capitol from the Gingerman, and across Main from the invisible Chase garage/Cafe Express. I’m sure they can hook around the Sterling building ala Stowers if, in fact, Hines doesn’t have rights to it.

  • I am not holding my breath, but man.. I think if they did put an Apple store downtown, it could possibly spark the downtown retail scene.

  • Hines used to build real signature buildings, like Bank of America and Tranco (or Williams or whatever they’re calling it now) it’s medium size sterial buildings with zero impact of the skyline..Houston has had the strongest ecomomy in the nation the last 10 years and looks at the pathetic medium size buildings we have to show for it..the skyline has not changed in my lifetime!..look at all the buildings Chicago and NYC had built in the last 10 years and they dont have half the economy Houston has’s annoying the we have nothing to show for all the prosperity..just the same skyline from 1982..come on Mr Hines you can do better!!!! for your hometown

  • it looks like a squat Devon less than impressed..why does OKC, a backwater, get a huge tower designed by Pickard/Chilton and we get this after thought..we’re HOUSTON for F’s sake! give me a break..really disappointing’ve become Trammell Crow

  • Seems like the big developers in Houston are risk-averse to committing to supertall buildings. What’s safe sadly also makes smarter business sense to build only enough sq. footage that the downtown market can conservatively absorb. Thus, 40-50 stories might be the ongoing cap for any new structure. Unlike chicago/NY, there aren’t any topographic restrictions (lakes, mountains, rivers) or zoning requirements that force commercial towers in a dense core.

    If Hines/Skanska/Brookfield and the like could be more ambitious, though, I believe they could indeed garner the pre-leasing demand and put up a real skyline-changer. Conceptually successful in Chicago, LA, NY have been combinations of residential/hotel and commercial that bring towers towards the 80-90 story realm. Furthermore, a ten floor hotel stacked upon 20-30 stories of condos in a tall tower could simultaneously help the downtown call for residential & retail life.

    Whatever the case, skyline changing for downtown demands visionary risk taking, instead of play-it-safe development of generic structures.

  • And yet Hines is building the Transbay project in San Francisco – SOM is the architect I believe? That project is far more ambitious than anything they’ve done in Houston in years (actually more ambitious than anything they’ve ever done in Houston .)

    My hope is that Skanska will push the development of their building upward a touch by adding a hotel component to it.

    I’ve also heard rumblings that Chevron is working on a new building that will solidify their campus downtown…

  • i agree with the core arguement in relation to Chicago and NYC, but Houston has the demand for a supertall..i mean Hines could have built one supertall building instead of these two medium size buildings..i just feel like Houston is getting the leftovers..we are getting the second rate skyscraper from’s really disappointing, considering we made Gerald Hines..he’s in his 90’s now, you’d think he’d like one last building in his hometown to really make a statement..these two lastest offers do little, one looks like a small rip off of the Devon Tower, the over a zipo lighter, whose height is as underwelming as it’s architecture..our economy is the envy of the world, come on Hines, build a building that makes a statement!..go big or go home

  • The main problem with downtown is developers seem to perceive it as purely as a business district filled with office towers and only enough retail to support the daytime workforce. Add that with the 1980’s bust and all they think is viable is 600-900k sq ft towers. Besides Marvy Finger, very few developers are building residential or hotels, and for the most part they are subsidized. As long as Houston keeps exceeding everyone’s expectations though maybe we’ll get something good in the next few years. Also hoping Chevron does a really good job with their tower and causes other companies to build signature towers downtown.

  • Haven’t heard anything concrete about Chevron’s plans. If it happens, that’ll likely be the least dramatic, utilitarian structure built to suit an oil company’s near-term needs. The 80s bust might still be memorable, but the local economy’s much more diverse than back then. Ironically, if Hines and other American firms don’t have the gumption to build a supertall here, perhaps one or two foreign firms who’ve had eyes on Houston could lead the way.

    Downtown residential life is inevitable. Even after the second convention center hotel is complete, there’s still room for more hotel rooms especially on the eastern edge. As demonstrated in Chicago, NY, LA (and virtually any of the most populous global urban cores), a combination hotel/condo/office building would be a natural, organic aspect of increasing residential/retail footprint. City officials could prove helpful in urging such project(s) especailly if they can envision that more office-only buildings actually end up damaging momentum for downtown civic life.

  • It’s not what a developer might want to do, or might think would provide the best return, it’s what a LENDER (or priv investor(s)) will do.
    While the loans these guys get are apples and oranges from what ‘we’ get when buying a home, what remains the same is an overall tightening of real amounts and LTVs.
    So while some commercial lending is opening back up (in our space, we’re able to finance multifamily properties in a traditional way again), people are having to put up a much higher % now. In our space what might have been 10% or 20% is often 25% or 30% or more.
    So they might want to “go big!”. That doesn’t mean they can.

  • If Hines did something like their Transbay project at 609 Main that would really invigorate downtown. That would also require a huge regional transport terminal with rail lines leading throughout the city and there’s no way those in the suburbs would pay for that.

  • My window looks over this parking lot from st Germain and by the looks of the green fence they have around it it’s going to be coming down soon. If anyone finds out the date please let me know so I can schedule my implosion party