The final portion of the 6-story former Town & Country V office building at 908 Town & Country Blvd., including its elevator shaft, came down in an awkward curtsy yesterday, leaving workers in the lower floors of the neighboring 15-story CityCentre Five with nothing left to block their views of the Katy Fwy. Demolitions of the adjacent Town & Country III and Town & Country IV office buildings preceded it.
The unobstructed freeway view won’t last forever: Developer Midway is planning 2 new office buildings — as well as a residential highrise — for the cleared site.
Wrecking balls may have gone out of style, but cable hookups still put on a good Houston show. A reader with a front-row view of the soon-to-be north end of CityCentre shows us how, in videos and a photo showing the continuing section-by-section disappearance of the 1977 office building at 908 Town & Country Blvd. known as Town & Country V.
First, demolition workers weaken some of the building’s steel support beams by heating them with torches and making a few strategic snips. Then they attach one end of a cable to the beam:
Following that recent gentle but firm excavator tipover of the last bits of the Town & Country III mod office midrise near CityCentre, demo work on the broader office complex has moved underground — apparently far enough underground to puncture a water main, a camera wielder on the scene speculates this afternoon. As of 2pm, word from the reader was that water was still flowing, “and has made a nice-sized pool,” filling up the footprint of a mid-demo former underground parking garage structure (and providing lakeside views to parts of Trammell Crow’s CityCentre branch of its Alexan apartment chain.)
A fuller sequence of garage take-apart and fill-up over the last few days is laid out below, starting with a rainy Tax Day shot facing the Alexan and the I-10-Beltway-8 tangle:
Friday’s knockout of the last walls standing of the Town & Country III office building by CityCentre can now be added to Swamplot’s small but smashing video collection of doomed structures taking a light swing at their demo crew on the way down. To be fair, the semi-controlled collapse of the midrise’s final walls looks to have been much less of a surprise than last fall’s award-winning Corporate Plaza parking garage acceleration incident: while footage of the Town & Country toppling does show the cloud of dust stirred up by the pullover, it captures no contemporaneous cloud of suspense regarding the fate of the operator and nearby construction workers. (The video above also captures commentary from some onlookers in CityCentre Five, who’ll likely have a similarly clear view of the next few teardowns on the docket.)
A perch in one of the upper floors of CityCentre Five affords views of the dramatic exits of Town & Country III, IV, and V, 3 seventies-era office buildings fronting I-10 at Beltway 8 — which began last Friday. First to go is the 4-story Town & Country III at 10565 Katy Fwy., shown disappearing above. Next on the list (and cordoned off by the perimeter fence that went up earlier this month): Town & Country V at 908 Town & Country Blvd. (the 6-story structure on the left) and Town & Country IV at 10575 Katy Fwy. (4 stories, and hiding behind it).
The duo of 1970s midrises and their parking garage companion on the I-10 block edged by Town and Country Way, Ln. and Blvd. has gotten the ol’ chain-link wraparound in the last few weeks, a reader notes. Midway bought the office park a few years ago to assimilate it into the northern side of the CityCentre complex; since the purchase, 15-story office highrise CityCentre Five has been completed, across Town and Country to the south (and visible on the left above).
Plans for the freshly barricaded block appear to include those 2 planned office towers Midway started trying to lease out last year; previous renderings of the spot also include a residential highrise:
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WEST HOUSTON’S PLAN FOR SUBURBAN DOMINATION “Houston does not have a centralized downtown district. After Gerry Hines built the Galleria, the city fractured into numerous regional shopping centers and has remained decentralized since. Perhaps Houston functions better this way.
Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and all the King’s men cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
MetroNational and Midway Cos. are determined to reconstruct Houston with a new centralized downtown district in CityCentre. They envision Memorial Drive and Gessner as commercial 8-lane thoroughfares. They envision the corridor of residential neighborhoods between the Katy Freeeway and Memorial Drive as one big mega shopping center, an expansion of Memorial City that stretches on for miles. They envision deed restricted neighborhoods of Walnut Bend and Briargrove Park as office parks. Don’t believe me? Just go to the West Houston Association website and click on 2050 map. They are serious about remapping Houston. And what are they going to do with all the storm water run-off from these commercial buildings? They are going to channel it into Buffalo Bayou, of course. To do this they have to deforest the bayou and widen and deepen and concrete it. They are determined to do it. And where are they going to get the money to do this? Out of TIRZ 17 and MetroNational Bank.” [Memorial Resident, commenting on Comment of the Day: Houston’s Westward Tilt] Illustration: Lulu
A PEEK INSIDE HOUSTON’S NEW J. CREW NO. 2 That topless mannequin will likely have a coverup before tomorrow’s grand opening of the J. Crew inside CityCentre. A Swamplot reader snapped this peekaboo photo of the store’s innards yesterday, through a gap in the window paper. The only other J. Crew store in Houston is in the Galleria (there’s also one in the Katy Mills Mall). Photo: Swamplot inbox
Early renderings are out for the next round of construction — promised for 2011 — at CityCentre, Midway Companies’ mixed-use assortment on the former site of the Town and Country Mall. The 3rd and 4th office buildings in the complex will together be called CityCentre 3, and they’ll go on the leftover patch of grass just west of the Hotel Sorella, sidling up to Beltway 8. Like the others, the two new 6-story buildings will feature retail space on their ground floors: more than 33,000 sq. ft. out of a total 250,000. The feeder-road view:
Scheduled to open a little later this month amidst the mixed-use toniness of CityCentre: Yet another bistro-patisserie-tearoom-bar-coffeeshop-library-flower shop and performance-space hybrid, this one called Flora & Muse. Financing for the new venue comes in part from Turkish television star Başak Köklükaya (you may know her as Findik from “Uy Basuma Gelenler”). The store promises a “whimsical, neo-Victorian interior” designed by Laura Umansky (her Laura U Collection is on Westheimer near Hazard). Chef David Luna, formerly of Shade and Canopy, at last steps out from beneath all those overhangs to develop the menu for the mini-mixed-use mashup, which will include a 1,200-sq.-ft. patio.
Closing in January: NASA hangout the Outpost Tavern, an army barracks building turned spacesuit-and-bikini-festooned party site, down NASA Rd. 1 from the Johnson Space Center at 18113 Kings Lynn St. Memorialized in the appropriately named Clint Eastwood “one last time for the has-been astronauts” flick Space Cowboys, the bar and burger joint had to be partially rebuilt in early 2005 after a short in a neon sign caused a small fire. Second-generation owner Stephanie Foster reports the property has been sold to new owners who “plan to build something new on the site, perhaps a service station or shopping center.” Fans of the Outpost Tavern’s many goodol’days will drown their sorrows on-site in a 3-day-long goodbye-party bash, January 8-10.
Closed, Just a Month After Opening: The new 7,000-sq.-ft. prototype Bailey Banks & Biddle store in CityCentre. The new owners of the former Zales mall mainstay declared bankruptcy in August, but went ahead with the store’s planned move from its old location across the street at Town & Country Village anyway. Other local Triple Bs didn’t get the grand-opening treatment before going dark: “The Galleria and Willowbrook Mall locations are in liquidation, while The Woodlands Mall store and the new CityCentre location are expected to go dark on Dec. 24 following liquidation sales, according to store employees.”
Open Only for One Last Big Sale: Brian Stringer Antiques, strung along West Alabama just east of Shepherd in a few separate buildings for the last 40 or so years. Stringer and his wife will retire to their turreted 14th century chateau — a former fortified hospital built by monks for victims of a mysterious skin disease — in the French countryside between Bordeaux and Gers. But lucky us, they’ll stick around Houston long enough to sell the majority of their stock of European antiques, reproductions, and fabrics at 40 percent off, Joni Webb reports: “The French house is so charming – you really feel like you’re in the South of France, except for Houston’s traffic out the front window!” When you’re done shopping there, Webb commands:
be sure to also stop in at Ginger Barber’s Sitting Room which is next door. Further up the street is Tara Shaw and Heather Bowen Antiques. Continue up W. Alabama to Antiques and Interiors on Dunlavy, Boxwood and The Country Gentleman, then hit up Foxglove and Alcon Lighting.
If you haven’t passed out from exhaustion yet, turn around and head back to Brian Stringer’s and go the other way on W. Alabama. Stop at Jane Moore’s, then at Ferndale, go to Brown, Bill Gardner, Made in France, and Objects Lost and Found. Back on W. Alabama, continue on to Thompson and Hansen, The Gray Door, Chateau Domingue, Indulge on Saint Street, and 2620 on Joanel.
New westside restaurant doesn’t face onto a parking lot. Chaos ensues:
The dining room of Straits, the swank new Malaysian restaurant at City Centre, looks chaste and serene in its Web site photos. So I was dumbstruck by the maelstrom that greeted me on a school night the week before Thanksgiving, when the restaurant felt more like a thunderous Vegas nightclub.
The bulk of the floor plan was given over to bar/lounge seating, and outdoors–looking upon the grassy City Centre mall plaza ringed with fire pits–tented pavilions held still more tables for the cocktail crowd. A live band on an outdoor stage blared R&B standards as ice-blue holiday lights swayed, wind whipped the fire-pot flames high and merrymakers clustered on the chilly lawn.
“It looks like the Devil’s Playground out there,” murmured my dinner guest as he found me at a table beside the sleek open kitchen. We were both a little shellshocked. Judging by the avid crowds, far west Houston, out by I-10 and the Beltway, has been hungering for a capital-S-Scene, and the restaurant- and bar-heavy new City Centre development has provided one readymade.
Opening Soon: Lola, a diner-ish spot serving “American comfort foods” — in the restored and refashioned former Eckerd Drug across from the Heights Post Office on Yale and 11th. This’ll be the third Heights restaurant venture from Ken Bridge, who also runs Dragon Bowl and Pink’s Pizza.
Opened This Week: From famed New York, Las Vegas, and Dallas chef John Tesar, Tesar’s Modern Steak and Seafood, directly across from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands. You’ll certainly want to eat everything on your plate when you visit: “Tesar’s entire menu will be one hundred percent sustainable created with a zero-waste food ethics in mind,” declares the restaurant website. Whole fish will be a specialty. Outside: a burger bar.
Closed: The Texadelphia in the fast-food-friendly strip center on Memorial Dr. and Asbury, across from Otto’s — reportedly on account of the parking lot being too darn clogged. No worries: You can still get your cheesesteak fix at 3 other Houston locations, and it’s now a bit easier to find a spot in front of the Kolache Factory.
Hey, what happened to Monday? Swamplot spent most of it fighting off a few tech demons. But hey, here’s some news!
Opened: The new and expanded Children’s Museum had its grand opening this weekend. Now twice its original size, the 90,000 sq. ft. museum features exhibits of children in various states of play. Also inside: an expanded branch of the Houston Public Library.
Opening: Backe’s Bullpen, a fine drinking establishment in Dickinson, will open with the backing of Astros pitcher Brandon Backe, reports the Galveston Daily News‘s Laura Elder. Last October, Backe was arrested after a run-in with police at a Galveston bar.
Closed: Mike McGuff notices that the Meyer Park Chili’s, once “the big teen hangout in southwest Houston,” shut down in February.