Hines and Hearst Get Sued Over Planned Demo of Former Houston Chronicle Building

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

The company developing the block across Prairie St. from the Houston Chronicle‘s downtown ex-headquarters filed a lawsuit last week over the impending demolition of the paper’s former haunt at 801 Texas Ave. Theater Square, an entity connected to Linbeck, claimed in a Wednesday night filing that the upcoming demo interferes with its plans to build a tunnel through the former newspaper building’s basement to connect its across-the-street property into the broader downtown tunnel network.

The ex-Chronicle building (actually a collection of buildings later wrapped together behind a single facade) currently sits above a tunnel segment connecting the 717 Texas Ave. building (the office building formerly known as Calpine Center) sharing a block with the Lancaster Hotel and its new parking lots) to the Chase tower (south across Texas Ave., between Milam and Travis). Theater Square’s filing alleges that news corporation Hearst agreed back in 2007 to give the company permanent access to some underground easements for the purpose of building a new tunnel segment leading to the property across Prairie (currently a surface parking lot previously slated for the International Tower project). Theater Square also claims that the easement access agreements transferred to the next owner when Hines bought up the property last year.


Theater Square claims in its court filings that both Hines and Hearst have violated those agreements by trying to keep it from entering the existing basement structures at various times since the sale of the building started to firm up. The group says it has nonetheless continued to apply for and obtain some of the necessary permits for the tunnel, with building plans it claims Hearst approved as recently as February 2015.

A building permit for a utility tunnel extension at 801 Texas Ave. was issued to Linbeck back on December 9th.  Meanwhile, a pre-demolition sewer disconnect permit was issued for the same building earlier this month on April 8th, around the time construction barricades appeared around the property. As of April 11th, the tunnel segment between 717 Texas and the Chase Tower was planned for closure between last Monday and the end of June. Theater Square’s suit asks for a permanent injunction on demolition of the basement structures incorporated into its tunnel plans.

As for what’s coming up next for either block: the lawsuit filing says that a parking structure with ground floor retail are planned for Theater Square’s property as phase 1 of a larger development. The former Chronicle building is slated for surface parking-lot-dom for the time being.

Photo of 801 Texas Ave.: ThaChadwick

Downtown Tunnel Tussle

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