02/21/18 11:30am

La Calle Tacos & Tortas has opened a hole in the wall to allow customers to get to its new space: Cantina La Calle, shown to the right of the original restaurant on Franklin St. in the photo at top. Interior renovations on the new cantina at 911 Franklin began late last year in the spot that PI Lounge once occupied and a planned English-themed bar dubbed The Brit eyed but never landed in. The photo above looks into the taco shop — opened in 2016 — from the new cantina next door to it.

Photos: La Calle Tacos

Bayou Lofts Eats
02/20/18 3:45pm

2 new signs are now up on the Main St. side of the Mid Main Lofts across from MATCH: one for Kura Revolving Sushi Bar, and the other for kickboxing gym 9Round. The photo at top looks across the platform of Metro’s Ensemble Theatre stop to show Kura’s new name tag affixed near the corner of Main and Holman. Identical markings appear on the Holman St. side of the new raw fish restaurant, which uses touch screens and an automatic conveyor belt to deliver your food. The 3510 Main location is Houston’s second Kura; one opened in the Westchase Shopping Center last year. Another debuted in Sugar Land last month.

9Round — shown in the photo above — sits further south down the block on Main, near Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails’s spot at Winbern. All 18 of the workout venue’s current locations are in west South Carolina. The new gym follows 4 others the chain already operates inside the 610 Loop.

Photos: Natalie W

And in This Corner
01/30/18 12:37pm

A show-stopping announcement posted on the Walter’s Downtown Facebook page yesterday brings sad news for thrashers, metal-heads, punks, and indie fans: the 18-year-old live music venue on the corner of Naylor and Vine streets plans to close down on February 4. Walter’s moved to its current location — the former classic car showroom, video production studio, car parts distribution center, and cabinet warehouse pictured above — in 2011. Before that, the club was located on Washington Ave, in a building just east of Thompson St. that’s since been transformed into the office of Carnegie Custom Homes.

The photo below views the venue from its north side on Naylor back in 2014:

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The Last Set
01/03/18 2:15pm

New renderings released by Sydness Architects show the street-level changes planned for the Bank of America Center, which sits across the street from Jones Plaza on one side and Philip Johnson’s other notable downtown office tower, Pennzoil Place, on the other. Last fall, building owner M-M Properties announced plans to remove the mummified 2-story Western Union building that had been encapsulated within the Bank of America Center’s northeast quadrant since 1983 (see photo above).

Windows and doors are shown added to the skyscraper along Capitol and Louisiana streets — in 2 of the walls that once entombed the telegram building. The rendering at top shows the reconfigured view from outside Jones Hall, with new 2-story openings facing Capitol St.

Only one new street-level entrance is clearly shown in that rendering, however: the awninged door to a new restaurant along Louisiana St. That restaurant is planned for a portion of the former Western Union building’s ground floor in the northeast corner of the Bank of America Center:

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Philip Johnson’s Ghosts
01/02/18 12:30pm

Quick, what’s the most vaulted bank in all of Houston? Easy: the lofty Bank of America branch on the ground floor of the Bank of America Center at 700 Louisiana St. Downtown (pictured at top) — so grand, so postmodern, so . . . unleasable. Philip Johnson designed the 12-story high banking hall to resemble “a sixteenth-century Dutch guild hall, albeit one scaled to be seen from the freeway at sixty miles per hour,” writes Joel Warren Barna in a history of the project included in The See-Through Years. But now big changes are planned for that empty space:

“We’re just going to kind of slip in these two floor slabs,” Jeff Sydness of Sydness Architects tells the Chronicle’s Katherine Feser. Sydness was hired by M-M Properties to reconfigure the lower levels of the 56-floor tower, which was built in 1983. So: Lower ceilings ahoy! New mezzanines are now being planned to colonize the banking hall’s towering overhead emptiness. The new structures, edged with glass walls, will fill much of that air-conditioned but unused airspace with workstation- and cubicle-ready office platforms:

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Loft Office
12/21/17 3:15pm

Renderings now up on Lyric Market’s new website reveal more of what’s planned for the parking-garage food hall. The image at top shows David Adickes’s self-playing cello sculpture ascended atop a new pedestal at the corner of Smith and Preston streets. Behind the artwork, outdoor seating and what the website describes as a private terrace back up to the food hall’s main entrance. The new structure, currently under construction, is shown on the left of that rendering — adjacent to the existing Lyric Centre office tower.

Here’s a full view of the completed parking garage from across the intersection of Preston and Louisiana:

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Downtown Food Hall No. 4
12/08/17 4:45pm

Number 4 on the list of Downtown food halls, one of which has actually been built: Lyric Market, a 31,000-sq.-ft. multi-restaurant space that plans to move in just north of the Lyric Centre on Louisiana St. Houston’s first food hall, Conservatory, opened 5 blocks east on Prairie St. last year. Both Bravery Chef Hall and Finn Hall are expected to open within the same 7-block sector of downtown as Lyric Market.

Work to build the blocky white parking garage shown above began on the site of a surface parking lot last October. The structure’s street level, allocated to retail, will now be occupied entirely by Lyric Market. The food hall will span Preston St. between Smith and Louisiana and connect directly to the adjacent Lyric Centre, shown looking ghostly in the rendering above. A new plaza with outdoor seating will go between the end of the food hall and David Adickes’s self-playing-cello sculpture at the corner of Smith and Prairie streets.

The floor plan below shows how the restaurants will lay out:

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Lyric Market
12/06/17 3:15pm

A Swamplot reader sends photos of the partial demolition now underway along Commerce St. just off Colby in the Second Ward just north of East Downtown. Ancorian bought 3 warehouses between Commerce and Canal St. last November and plans to redevelop the site into a single dock-front building with a parking lot along its west side. The new development, dubbed The Block, would consist of 44,000 sq. ft. of “creative workspace and retail.

Here’s an aerial view looking west along Commerce St taken from before the demolition.:

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Second Ward Redo
11/15/17 10:15am

Construction is almost complete on a missing link between the bike paths lining Buffalo Bayou Park and the Heights Hike and Bike Trail, according to passer-by Christopher Andrews — who snapped the above photo from the southern span of the Main St. bridge, looking towards the back of the UH–Downtown campus. The purple curve just north of Allen’s Landing marked on the map below is the segment of the bayou trail that’s in the works. You can see where that portion will intersect the Heights trail, marked below in gray, after it crosses White Oak Bayou’s southerly meander to the east of UHD:

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Downtown Link
11/14/17 11:45am

More new features are imagined for the center of Houston than just the new Green Loop highlighted in the just-released Plan Downtown proposal. There’s also a mysterious new Downtown island. Where did it come from?

It’s the result of digging the long-whispered North Canal Channel Bypass, a re-linking of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous north of Downtown. Existing bends and narrow banks along the 2 bayous just east of Main St. restrict the flow of stormwater during flooding events. According to reports, engineering studies have estimated that cutting a straighter diversion channel to bypass the oxbow could reduce flooding Downtown by 3.5 ft.

But digging a new canal while maintaining the existing path of the bayou would create an island out of the area just north of Commerce St. An imagined map of the area in Plan Downtown’s report (rotated so North is aimed down and to the right) shows what car and pedestrian bridges might link it to the mainland:

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Plan Downtown
11/09/17 3:30pm

Is Houston ready for yet another loop road? Here’s the proposed Green Loop, a 5-mile network of parks, trails, and other public spaces that the neighborhood supergroups behind Plan Downtown imagine ringing in Houston’s bicentennial — if it’s completed by 2036. One of 10 separate proposals in the plan, the city’s littlest loop is meant to take advantage of TxDOT’s proposed rerouting of I-45 to the east side of Downtown — by wrapping the district tightly with a transportation and recreation circuit that could attract adjacent development and help link the city center to adjacent neighborhoods.

Plan Houston’s new report flags ideas and renderings for 3 spots along Downtown’s proposed Emerald Choker: At Buffalo Bayou, on top of I-69 and I-45 once they’re sunk behind the George R. Brown, and on Pierce St. at the Midtown border.

New buildings at the northwest corner of Downtown would face Buffalo Bayou as well as the surrounding streets, lining the waterfront with flood-worthy attractions:

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It’s a Wrap!
11/01/17 12:45pm

Here’s a view from 2 Houston Center onto the construction site where a new 13-story precast-concrete parking garage is in the early stages of assembly. The site is the west half of the block bounded by Rusk, Fannin, and Walker streets Downtown. On the eastern half: The newly opened Le Meridien hotel (partly visible in the right foreground), built in the renovated former Melrose Building; and (hidden) behind that, the 11-level 1110 Rusk parking garage. On the opposite side of Fannin St. is another recent Downtown hotel: The Aloft, at 820 Fannin (in the left foreground of the image), with BG Group Place directly behind it.

The new parking garage going up on Downtown’s Block 94 appears to be an accessory to another development not visible in the photo, however: It’s a project of developers Lionstone and Midway, to go with the companies’ Jones at Main redo of the former Gulf Building and the adjacent Great Jones building at 712 and 708 Main St. respectively, both 2 blocks away to the northwest.

The parking garage site has been a surface parking lot since not long after Memorial Day 1986, when the retail building on the site was decimated by a natural gas explosion. The replacement structure is expected to be complete by the end of next year.

Photo: Eric Ramon

Block 94
10/20/17 10:30am

Here we are in the newly revamped courtyard between Three Allen Center, Two Allen Center, and the building just renamed from One Allen Center to Motiva Plaza. (The new courtyard plaza itself has been given a new name as well: The Acre.) And what have we here? It appears to be a Swamplot reader, snapping a photo, probably to send to the site. Our report: automatically altered course to pass by and avert collision; continued crime detection through infrared and video feed, facial scans; added new license plates to database.

But in that photo, of course, now published above: the same scene, as viewed from the opposite side, with a little less data to accompany. Just showing the new 5-ft.-3-in.-tall Knightscope K5 Autonomous Data Machine, out on security patrol, Downtown.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

The Bots of Allen Center
10/17/17 12:45pm

SURVEYING THE SOGGY AFTERMATH OF HOUSTON’S ULTIMATE HOME-TOUR TEST Talk about timing: The Rice Design Alliance’s annual home tour this past March opened to inspection 6 structures built in Houston floodplains with some sort of strategy to make it through a major water event. How’d these properties survive the cataclysm that followed only 5 months later? A 1965 Meyerland home on the tour by Houston architects Brooks and Brooks one block north of Brays Bayou was damaged, Jack Murphy reports. And his follow-up story on the RDA’s H2Ouston tour includes no word on the Harvey experiences of François de Menil’s 5-story Temple Terrace townhome or the 3-story butterfly-roof home on Logan Ln. backing up to Buffalo Bayou Taft Architects built in 1996. But 2 more recently built homes on the tour — 2-story structures by architects Brett Zamore in Linkwood and Nonya Grenader in Shirkmere survived without much more than messes in their garages (and a flooded-out car), according to Murphy. Then there’s the Sunset Coffee Building fronting Buffalo Bayou Downtown, which serves as the offices of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, and which in its recent redo by Lake Flato and BNIM (pictured), was designed to take on water: “All sources indicate that the design performed as anticipated. . . . The staff moved exhibit materials to the second floor and secured the elevator on an upper floor. But there are always issues. The grease trap filled with water, thermostats need to be replaced, and the elevator shaft had five feet of standing water at the bottom, causing electrical issues. Security cameras mounted on the building filled with water and malfunctioned. The fire alarm went off for four days, making the area sound like a war zone, even catching the attention of a CNN reporter. Still, water didn’t crest into the offices on the second floor. (It was almost this high during Allison.) Shortly after the waters receded, the building was habitable again.” But this sort of resilience wasn’t just added to the building by its renovators: “The BBP’s Rebecca Leija and Anne Olson told me their insurance adjuster said the Sunset Building, built in 1910, was well-suited to handle floods due to its height and angle relative to the bayou. Sure enough, in plan the building is set at an angle to the bayou’s flow, presenting a corner to floodwaters rather than a flat face. And, its east façade breaks slightly, perhaps to further reduce the surface area ‘seen’ by floodwaters and therefore reduce their force on the walls and foundation.” [OffCite] Photo of Sunset Coffee Building renovation: Adam Williams  

10/16/17 3:30pm

There’s a lockout notice posted to the front door of the ground-floor retail space of the 1100 Smith Garage Downtown on the corner of Dallas St. and Brazos St. Droubi Brothers Mediterranean Grill, at 507A Dallas St. — shown open in the older photo above — is now closed; the restaurant’s website has been taken down.

Here’s the notice:

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Shawarma Gone