The first illustrations of what Rice University wants to do with the Midtown Sears building it bought 2 years ago and has since stripped down emerged yesterday, casting a glance across Fannin St. to show what the northeast corner of the building — to be renamed The Ion — could look like once it’s been reworked into a nexus for tech entrepreneurs and students of various academic institutions who want to be like them. Among the Art-Deco-era bells and whistles shown intact are the sets of vertical mosaic tilework that flank the building’s corner entrance; they’ve got some new shine going on courtesy of light fixtures that appear to be installed directly above and below them. Up above the original late 1930s structure, the 4 architecture firms at work on the building (Gensler, James Carpenter Design Associates, James Corner Field Operations, and SHoP Architects) propose adding a 2-story glass-curtain-walled topping that’d help funnel sunlight into a whole bunch of empty space they’re calling a “central light well.” It would run vertically through the building’s interior, from the roof down to the lobby.
Work and meeting areas would go along the perimeter of the abyss:
Work on the building is expected to start in May, according to a spokesperson for Rice. Along with Rice, the University of Houston, UH-Downtown, the University of St. Thomas, Houston Community College, Texas Southern University, Houston Baptist University, San Jacinto College and the South Texas College of Law are all teaming up to decide what kind of academic events will take place inside the building. Meanwhile Station Houston, a tech startup incubator currently headquartered in the Netrality office building at the corner of Fannin and Clay streets, will be responsible for coming up with public programs for The Ion, such as lectures, job training workshops, and networking events.
- Transformation of Sears building into The Ion begins in May [Rice University]
- Previously on Swamplot: How the Marriage of Richmond and Wheeler Came Too Late to the Midtown Sears Building’s South Side; Mapping the Midtown Innovation District That Doesn’t Exist Yet But Keeps Getting Bigger; Rice Picks Up 1.75 More Acres Near Wheeler Transit Center, Stripped-Down Sears; What the Midtown Sears Looks Like Almost Entirely Unwrapped; Shuttered Midtown Sears Now Shedding Its Full Metal Jacket; Midtown Sears Closure Nets Rice 9 Acres Near the Wheeler Transit Center
Renderings: Rice University. Photo: Swamplot inbox