Stone Panel Leaps to Montrose Blvd. Sidewalk from Former Skybar Balcony

A stone panel from the 9th floor of the vacant 10-story 3400 Montrose office building crashed to the sidewalk over the weekend, according to a reader report. “Was at Starbucks [Saturday] morning and all was good. An hour later things had fallen apart,” Swamplot’s informant writes. One of the submitted photos shows a policeman looking up at the jumping-off point: a now blank dark space where a panel had been mounted, in the top left corner of the building’s Montrose Blvd. facade.


3400 Montrose’s top floor is the former location of Scott Gertner’s Skybar, which bailed out last summer over complaints about the building’s safety and deferred maintenance. By this past January, stickers declaring the building unsafe had been posted on the front door. According to county tax records, the building’s ownership changed on September 15th.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

36 Comment

  • Last I heard, the building is going to be demolished and the site redeveloped as mixed-use.

  • hey this is free advertising for my friend Tony’s website. haha. He was one of the artists kicked out of the building. Good thing that panel didn’t fall on anyone!

  • Jason, where did you hear this?
    Perfect example of the city *trying* to make things safe by hpyer regulating, causing a building like this to sit and rot for years when it could be bought, fixed up, and put to use.
    Sadly no group in their right mind wants to buy it because the city would shit on their face before the ink was dry.
    The city should do something to work with people that want to buy up empty buildings like this. Either help them to do what’s needed (doesn’t have to be financial) or just get out of their way and let it get fixed.
    More and more buildings are starting to just sit, because the alternative (fixing them) has become very very hard with the Prius Patrol hard at work to make sure nothing gets done.

  • Perhaps somebody could explain why it is more economical to demolish and rebuild on a site that already has a ten-story building on it – surely the base concrete-and-steel of the building has not decayed? And even if you only can use the bottom three floors – is that bad?

    As you know if you’ve read my comments I am a huge proponent of owners doing what they desire with their property, I just don’t understand why that would be more desirable.

  • Spoonman: GREAT question…
    The answer (IMO) is either the building “needs” so much work that it’s easier to knock it down, or (and the reason I used quotes around the word ‘needs’) is the city will see to it that this is the case.

  • @Cody: But obviously creating a new building from scratch, you’d have to install new plumbing, sprinklers, etc. – this is more expensive in an existing building than during construction due to pipes in poured concrete walls, hard-to-access wiring, and so forth?

  • Cody –

    I have a good source. And as for the rest of your post trashing on the city – you’re wrong.

  • Perhaps the building heard about the Alabama Theatre con job and is committing suicide brick by brick….

  • Jason–

    But it’s just so much fun to trash on the city. Maybe someone might actually listen.

  • The building is full of asbestos, so you can’t just tear it down OR remodel it without great expense.

    Lightening struck the building on the corner (behind the stage) a while back and blew off some chunks, which fell to the ground.

  • A little ironic to be busting on the City for overzealous code enforcement in response to a story where a building defect could have killed someone.

  • that building has been ghetto for a long, long time.

  • @Cody – You have absolutely no idea what is going on with that building. There has been no major T.I. done on this project since the 1980’s. The elevators, plumbing, electrical and restrooms are out of code by decades. The owner three owners ago filed an insurance claim for major structural damage and then split with the money. The last two owners have both considered redevelopment and both found out that it would be cheaper to build a new structure. This building has no historic or architectural value. This idea that the city is secretly plotting against some crap asbestos filled building is laughable to anyone that has stepped foot in that huge steaming pile of crap.

  • Jason, I don’t disagree with what might happen. I just heard differently so I was curious
    And in regards to the city, I deal with this every day. They make attempts to fix bad properties very difficult. It’s sad. I’ve been through it more than once and won’t do it again. I’m sure others feel the same.

  • Eh. I personally like the building and would love to see it bought and fixed up. But I don’t see that happening. And due to the land cost and demo/clean up/construction costs, I don’t see anything new coming anytime soon.
    Old school: it was built to code (granted: back in the day) but a chunk still fell off. It happens. If the city made it easier to buy and renovate then it wouldn’t be sitting there and (literally) falling apart. Rather someone or a group would be investing their own hard earned money to make it better.
    But sadly it sits there. Rotting. With several of the lights on. When I sit in Berryhill I always take note of a spinning ceilling fan on one of the higher levels.

  • Ortiz, cool. Thanks for the link. I live very close to that building, so I’m always very interested what’s going on with it.

  • Cody, that property has changed hands twice in the last two years. What are you talking about saying the city makes it hard to buy these properties?

    The price that was paid for that building took into consideration that you would have to either completely gut it or that you would have to take it down after remediation. The floor plates are horrible and are not conducive to any current use. That is prime land and IMHO they got a great deal on this building as a land play even with the additional cost of demolition and remediation.

  • Stupid city, trying to keep buildings from falling on people & not letting you just knock it over & send a cloud of asbestos across the neighboring properties. Pansy ass Prius-driving socialists, that’s what I say. Now let’s go home & lick some lead paint.

  • Cody, please read Dave’s posts, which contain actual information about this building’s problems, and stop whining about how the City is responsible for facts on the ground that you lack any knowledge of whatsoever.

  • Heyzeus: You’ll notice that my comment was before his. But regardless, you seem to be a pretty upset guy. Lighten up, life is good.
    But I stand by the general thesis of my comment, even if it’s not applicable to this building (which I think it is, but it would involve a longer conversation).
    My primary point is many buildings are left to rot when they may otherwise be fixed up. I *know* this to be true because I have bought properties that were left to rot (vacant, boarded up, and in high demand areas like Montrose), only to be crapped on by the city to the point where I’ve learned my lesson. Now when I see a rotting building I don’t think “this would be a good place to fix up”, I think “I feel sorry for the sucker that gets involved with that place”. Not because the actual work is hard, but because the city doesn’t seem (IMO, for my perspective) to be on your side.
    I look at 3400 every day and it’s sad to see it falling apart. It’s not a stretch to think that maybe others that could tackle a project of that size are passing due to similar experiences.
    Maybe the quote “Perfect is the enemy of good” applies here.

  • If you actually read some of the older posts on this topic, you will realize that the city really doesn’t have anything to do with this building being empty and rotting away, the current owners do.

  • Renovating an old project is harder (and often more expensive) than building a new one, ask anybody in real estate. The guts of the building are in terrible shape, plus way out of code, would have to be replaced fully, and there is probably not room for modern systems in the existing conduits. Major asbestos problems, and the parking garage has deteriorated to the point where it will have to be torn down without question.
    The main reason that this particular building will not be re-used is the floorplates are obsolete … too small, too low. It wouldn’t work for a modern office, and reconstructed loft type of space that is the obvious choice for these types of redevelopment generally need higher ceilings. Sometimes all of these reasons can be trumped by an architecturally interesting building or a specific location, but this was a cheap building when it was built. Location is obviously pretty good, but without question it will be easier to start from scratch on this property.
    As for the City, yes they have major code issues that prevent many buildings from being renovated, but I don’t think that is the main driver here, at least not to the extent of the picky codes that are in question for some of the comments above. The City could facilitate replacement on the site if they grandfather the setback and parking ratios since this is in the urban core of town.

  • Rhino, thanks for all the info. I guess there is no hope for that building unless the city allows for a lot of grandfathering
    I’ll be sad to see it go.
    From what I heard, another issue with the garage is it’s super low.

  • What would Houston do if some ingredient in synthetic stucco turns out to be as bad as asbestos?

  • I agree that it’s a lot of work to renovate it. But it’s good location.
    I don’t know how much demand it will enjoy if someone would turn most of it to residential

  • @ Hellsing – Plastic stucco isn’t quite as bad as asbestos, but it has been the reason for a ton of toxic mold claims.

  • Don’t I know it, mollusk! Around the office, EFIS and related words are almost as dirty as “hurricane”.

  • For those wondering why this building can’t be easily renovated and converted to another use, please refer this previous Swamplot post:

  • I lived in the apartments across the street in what is now the Chinese consulate building in the late 1960’s. That building wasn’t in really great shape back then.

  • Cody, people don’t board up buildings if there is a profitable use for them. The city did you a favor by not allowing you to take on more than you could chew.

  • That building is a perfect example of the series Life after People, abandoned and left not wanting.

  • Maybe mysterious powers will intervene and the building disappears !!!

  • Cody is a slumlord… does the minimal to fix up a building (or what the city forces him to do) and then leaves the neighbors around his building with eyesores… example, properties at 1842 & 1846 W Main…

  • Mark, there is no need to retype my whole reply to your last comment, but I’ll say again that I’m sorry you feel that way.
    With respects to the two fourplexes you’ve brought up. Those buildings are over 70 years old. I’ve owned them about a year. So what’s taken place in that year I’ve owned them?
    The one on the corner had it’s roof replaced, EVERY window replaced, it’s staircase fixed/painted, the whole building completely repainted, and continues has my lawn guy coming weekly. What else do you want me to do there? I should note that NONE of this was done as a “requirement” from the city. The city was called out once (by you I assume) because they were told the tenants were not bringing their trash cans from the side walk after trash day back onto the property.
    The other fourplex was a boarded up cesspool with squatters, illegal dumping, graffiti, etc before I bought it. After closing I gutted the place, spending more money to upgrade on that little fourplex than I’ve spent on even my largest building. On the exterior I also rebuilt the back staircase, painted the whole building, trimmed back the overgrown trees, replaced every window, added central air, and more.
    What more do you want done? If you were hoping for a developer to buy them and knock them down, I’m sorry to disappointing. But give me a break with the ‘minimum’ being done. That’s damn insulting considering the effort my team put into those buildings and it’s insulting to the great tenants that live there now.
    Again, are they perfect? No. But they’re a hell of a lot better than they were before I bought them. I don’t want to sink to your level by attacking you, but let me ask, what have *YOU* done to improve the neighborhood? And wearing out the ‘3’ and the ‘1’ button on your phone doesn’t count.