11/05/18 11:30am

Chevron made some strikingly real 3D changes to the fake 3D facade of the old Houston Press building last week, bringing it closer to total collapse. The photos above — shot over the weekend from the YMCA catty corner to the scene — show Suzanne E. Sellers’ 1994 trompe-l’œil additions to the building’s east face no longer fooling anyone, though a few sections of her work on that side and off Leeland St. remain intact.

Nothing’s crumbled yet on the unpainted, Pease-St. side:

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Illusions Shattered
10/29/18 2:00pm

This recent aerial survey of Australian developer Caydon’s 357-unit Fannin St. apartment tower between Drew and Tuam streets shows just how much it now sticks out from the rest of Midtown’s surrounding flatlands, the buffer between Downtown and the Med Center. Though the apartment’s planned 27 stories aren’t complete yet, it’s already one-upped everything in the nearby building-scape — most dramatically, the tiny park structures that occupy the superblock on the other side of Main St.

And there’s more where that came from: The developer still plans to get started on 2 more adjacent towers — in place of the departing Art Supply store and on the block that’s bounded by McGowen, Fannin, Dennis, and Main streets. Both will include all kinds of street-level retail (depicted in renderings that have now been scrubbed from the internet) and should begin rising after the apartments going up now are complete.

Video: Phillip White

First Stateside Development
10/26/18 5:15pm

 

Note: This story has been updated to indicate that City Council’s October 23 vote approved funding for previous work that was already completed on the plaza, not for future renovations.

This week Houston City Council voted to cut a check to workers that finished the first round of renovations on the plaza. The results of their work  — including new fencing, gates, and a terrace — clear the way for the second chapter of redos to begin. The video at top winds it way through round 2 of changes, showing off the new children’s reading area, stage, and outdoor seating bound for the 0.75-acre space between the Jesse H. Jones Building (AKA Central Library) and the Julia Ideson building directly east of it.

While 25-year naming rights are already locked down on the Phillips 66 Jumbo Video Screen (on the right in the rendering abvoe) and Janice and Robert C. McNair Performance Stage (left), the puppet theater depicted below is still in need of a namesake:

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Downtown Redo
10/26/18 10:30am

THE CASE AGAINST THE HOUSTON FORENSIC SCIENCE CENTER’S SHARED OFFICE SETUP Last month, leaders of the Center told Houston City Council their 200-plus person staff just isn’t fitting in at HPD’s downtown offices in 1200 Travis, pictured above. For one thing: “Technicians test guns by firing live ammunition on the 24th floor,” which neighbors offices above and below, reports the Chronicle‘s Zach Despart. They also “transport evidence upstairs in public elevators.Although “shortcomings in the Houston Police Department’s own crime lab” were what prompted the city to found the Center as an independent body in 2014, the agencies’ ongoing closeness tends to raise eyebrows: “You walk into HPD’s headquarters on the way to the laboratory,” says Center president Peter Stout. The good news: their proximity is only temporary. Earlier this month, City Council approved a new 30-year lease for the Center at 500 Jefferson — a privately-owned building 9 blocks away — where it’ll get 83,000 sq.-ft. for “toxicology, DNA testing, fingerprint analysis and narcotics storage,” as well as a 25-ft. firing range in the basement, reports Jasper Scherer. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of 1200 Travis St.: WhisperToMe

10/22/18 2:45pm

A SATURDAY NIGHT SWAN SONG AT SPRUCE GOOSE: SOCIAL FLYERS CLUB This past weekend was the last one ever for the concert venue known as Spruce Goose: Social Flyers Club on the second floor of 809 Congress, across from Market Square Park and directly above Henke and Pillot. The 100- to 300-person club only opened up earlier this year, but managed to stay booked through the summer and all the way up until its finale on Saturday, which featured — among others — self-described “Punkish?” band Branagan, shown sending things off in the photo above. [Spruce Goose: Social Flyers Club] Photo: Branagan

10/19/18 12:30pm

MONDAY’S TRUMP-CRUZ RALLY UPGRADING FROM HOUSTON RODEO TO B-BALL VENUE Citing “huge and unprecedented” audience registration numbers, the president’s campaign announced that his Monday rally to drum up support for Ted Cruz will no longer be held at NRG Arena (capacity: 8,000), but instead at the Toyota Center (capacity: 18,043). Trump said in August he planned to pick “the biggest stadium in Texas we can find” for the festivities, at which Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will also appear. But his schedulers seem strangely to have ruled out the state’s fifth biggest one, NRG Stadium (seats 71,500), which — as Houstonia’s Morgan Kinney noted — sits right across the parking lot from the Arena and remains unbooked on Monday. [Politico] Photo of the Toyota Center: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

10/16/18 11:15am

CHASE BANK CLOSING IN THE TOWER THAT BEARS ITS NAME December 13 is the last business day at Chase’s Chase Tower branch. The bank — which a portion of the lobby shown beyond Joan Miró’s Personage and Birds sculpture in the photo above — is following in the footsteps of the upstairs Chase employees who left in 2006 when the corporation moved its offices out of the building and lost the naming rights to it, reports the Chronicle’s John C. Roper. The nearest branch: in the former Gulf Building at 712 Main St., on the block catty-corner southeast of the Chase Tower. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: 42 Floors

10/10/18 4:00pm

Nancy Sarnoff has a few more details today on what the Downtown Redevelopment Authority will be paying the private owner of the area shown shaded at top — which wouldn’t give up its one-acre parcel there for a new park but will grant the Authority a 30-year lease for: “$355,992 in annual rent,” during the first 5 years, a spokeswoman says, with a 10 percent hike every 5 years thereafter. With that agreement in place — and the Goodyear Auto Service Center that currently occupies the block’s Fannin-St.-side slated for demo next April — the Authority is now seeking plans from landscape architects that’d be responsible for designing the space, though it notes that whatever the chosen firm comes up with “will have a potentially short life, between 30 and 50 years, per the lease agreement currently in place and options to extend.” (The parking lot shown without shading belongs to the South Texas College of Law and is there to stay.)

But that hasn’t stopped those involved from dreaming big while they can. A conceptual map of the park drawn up Project for Public Spaces — a New York planning firm hired to brainstormed some preliminary ideas for the Authority — shows it divvied up among a pair of buildings and a variety of different green spaces including a dog park:

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Block 333
10/03/18 5:00pm

WHO PUSHED THE BUTTON THAT BLEW UP THE DOWNTOWN MACY’S According to the Vice President of Demolition at Cherry Companies, which oversaw the demo: “the person who bought the building had his son do it.” His push triggered 1,500 pounds of explosives — the demo exec estimates on the Chronicle’s latest episode of LoopedInobliterating the structure and clearing the way for the 23-floor Hilcorp Energy Tower his dad would later commission Hines to build in its place at Dallas and Main St. Although technically a partnership connected to Doug Kelly, president of Hilcorp Ventures, “bought” the building around the time of the teardown in 2013, it was more of a shuffling-around than a hand-off. Hilcorp had already owned the former Foley’s since 2010; the later transaction just transferred it over to different entity under the same umbrella of corporate oversight. [Previously on Swamplot]

10/03/18 10:30am

Crews have begun tearing into the building 4 blocks north of the Pierce Elevated formally known as U-Haul Moving and Storage of Midtown at San Jacinto in order to replace it with a new storage building nearly 8 times larger. About half the existing structure is down now thanks to the excavator that foregrounds the SkyHouse Main apartment building in the photo at top. Still standing: the entrance ramp to U-Haul’s rooftop parking lot — from which a fleet of orange trucks took off sometime before construction fencing surrounded the 28,376-sq.-ft. building late last month.

The new, 220,160-sq.-ft. facility could extend partly into the adjacent surface parking lot along Leeland St. according to plans the developer filed with the county earlier this year. Whether or not it does, most of the extra space will show up vertically in the form of something much taller than the 2-story that’s now crumbling at 1617 San Jacinto.

Photos: Eric Ramon (demolition); U-Haul (building)

Be Right Back
09/13/18 1:00pm

A FINAL FAREWELL TO THE FORMER HOUSTON PRESS BUILDING The former alternative newspaper HQ at 1621 Milam St. that’s also done stints as an auto dealership will be demolished, reports the Chronicle’s Craig Hlavaty.  Back when the Houston Press moved into it 15 years ago, the structure’s parking-lot sides were unadorned; artist Suzanne E. Sellers slapped her trompe-l’œil mural onto the north and east facades in 1994. Along Milam, however, things haven’t changed as much since the building’s first tenant Shelor Motor Company opened up in the ’20s — according to former Press staffer Abrahán Garza. Even its original 1920s glass windows — he reported — stayed put on the second and third floors through 2010. Now construction barriers are up around the whole block, and the property owner Chevron tells Hlavaty that a demolition permit is under review by the city. The oil company bought the 38,000-sq.-ft. structure in 2013, the same year Houston Press staff left it for a new spot on the corner of La Branch and McGowen. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Capital Realty  

09/05/18 10:15am

EYE DOC GRABBING SPACE NEXT TO DENTIST IN MID MAIN LOFTS’ METRO SIDE The office of Dr. Benjamin Golik, DDS is getting a new optometrist neighbor along Main St. as heralded by a recently filed building permit for the Mid Main Lofts‘ ground level. The eye doctor’s move-in will leave the apartments’ east side more full than not — though a few of its rail-adjacent retail spaces remain empty according to the map above of the building’s first floor. [Previously on Swamplot] Map: LoopNet

08/24/18 1:45pm

The brick Western Union building shown in black and white on the corner of Louisiana and Capitol streets vanished from the downtown landscape in 1983 — although it didn’t go anywhere. Because the longtime regional switching center was too expensive to move, architect Philip Johnson simply designed his much larger landmark — then-called RepublicBank Center Center — around it, sealing the telecom structure off from public view. Inside the skyscraper’s lobby, the dead building takes up nearly a quarter of the floor space, with its west corner wedged into the Bank of America Center’s own, catty-corner to Jones Hall.

Last year, renovations were announced that’d add a new restaurant and cafe in the doorless and windowless portion of the Bank of America Center’s ground floor where the building is entombed. Crews began stripping away portions of the office building’s exterior earlier this year in order to make room for new openings to access the eateries. They’ve now busted all the way through the red granite, revealing the decades-older facade that lies behind it.

It’s still mostly obscured by the scaffolding that looms over the Capitol St. sidewalk :

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Western Union Sees the Light
08/20/18 5:30pm

The Tudor-revival mansion that sits along the bend in I-45 at 2000 Smith St. has been sold to the owner of several car dealerships, including Central Houston Nissan on the S. Loop off the S. Main/Buffalo Spdwy. exit and Central Houston Cadillac off McGowen St. between Travis and Main. Prior to the closing earlier this month, Preservation Houston reported that the buyer didn’t plan to keep the house standing.

Nine blocks away from it, the new owner Ricardo Weitz also has all 3 of the parking lots that surround his Cadillac dealership to the north, east, and west. He purchased the mansion through an entity he owns called Central Houston Auto Properties II.

Photo: Preservation Houston/The Heritage Society

The House off I-45
08/20/18 2:30pm

The title of artist Joan Dodd’s new composition 88 Keys undersells it — it’s actually 275 keys, more than 3 times the amount found on a piano. Installation artists laid them down along the rounded east west side of Jones Hall over the weekend. Constructed from 900 pounds worth of temporary marking tape  — the kind commonly used on highways — they now span the entire block of Louisiana between Texas Ave. and Capitol St.

That material choice means they can really take a pounding from anyone who feels like stomping out a silent melody with their feet while heading south to check out the Bank of America Center’s ongoing renovations. Or those lured in by the glow of the Lyric Center parking garage’s new lighting, pictured off in the distance below:

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Sidewalk Chromaticism