Crews are now peeling back the corrugated metal paneling that covers over the original façade of the Sears building on the corner of Main and Wheeler, exposing some of the 1930s art deco details underneath. The plain skin was added onto the 4-story structure in the 1960s. It remained in place after the company that manages Rice University’s endowment bought out Sears’ lease on the property 6 months ago and the department store closed in January.
Yesterday, Mayor Turner announced that an extensive redo of the building — overseen by Hines and designed by Gensler along with New York-firm James Carpenter — would transform it into a startup incubation center, the anchor of a 4-mile “innovation corridor” planned between Downtown and the med center. The vertical mosaic pattern pictured above on the south side of the building is one of the first hidden touches to see the light of day as part of the work that’s now beginning to restore the exterior.
Also uncovered is the row of metal beams used to mount the outer shell:
Inside the 190,000-sq.-ft. building, further restorations are planned on some of its covered-up original murals, which show scenes from Houston history. Added light wells and windows are planned as well. When the transformation is done, co-working spaces, classrooms, offices, restaurants, cafes, and retailers will be among the former department store’s tenants.
Rice owns 3 more acres adjacent to the building, including the Sears Automotive Center on Eagle St. and the Fiesta Mart on San Jacinto.
- Rice, partners envision innovative future for retired Sears building in Midtown [Houston Chronicle]
- Previously on Swamplot: Midtown Sears Closure Nets Rice 9 Acres Near the Wheeler Transit Center
Photos: Adam Brackman (renovations); City of Houston (roof)