03/08/17 11:00am

Closed restaurants in 811 Louisiana tunnels, 811 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Closed restaurants in 811 Louisiana tunnels, 811 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002The latest report from Swamplot’s anonymous tunnel correspondent indicates that neighboring Asian fast casual and counter spots Thai Spice and Sidewalk Cafe appear to have both closed in the tunnel beneath 811 Louisiana (also previously and variously known as Two Shell Plaza or 777 Walker. Signage from the building’s management folks went up by the end of February, and the Thai Spice branch’s phone number is now out of service as well. An outdated leasing flier still up on the 811 Louisiana LoopNet page shows the layout of the spaces amid the rest of the tunnel stretch, between the Esperson building and the tower at 611 Walker:


Out and About Downtown
11/15/16 5:30pm

Hot Toppings Pizza, 919 Milan St., Downtown Tunnels, Houston, 77002 Hot Toppings Pizza, 919 Milan St., Downtown Tunnels, Houston, 77002

Fresh off the email from Swamplot’s anonymous tunnel correspondent: the latest dispatch from the downtown underground, including word (and photo) of a second Hot Toppings in the works:

The remainder of the space that used to be a Ninfa’s at 919 Milam is scheduled to become Hot Toppings Pizza. (The other portion of the space was taken over by Bullrito’s in March.) As part of the conversion to a pizza joint, it look’s like they’re modifying the wall where the Ninfa’s entrance used to be (that’s the plywood covering in the left of the photo).

Plus, bonus shot of the almost-ready Houston outpost of Argentinian-Chicagoan 5411 Empanadas, now moving in beneath nearby 811 Louisiana and reportedly planning to open on Monday:


Tales from the Tunnels
08/26/16 3:30pm

ESPERSON, PENNZOIL, 712 MAIN TUNNELS TO REOPEN NEXT THURSDAY AROUND STALLED SPROUT OF CAPITOL TOWER Capitol Tower Tunnel ReopeningFrom the depths of the Esperson building, a reader sends a fresh shot of a sign announcing that tunnel connections from the building to nearby 712 Main and Pennzoil Place will be open again late next week. The phrasing implies that the connections beneath the site of Skanska’s planned-for-maybe-later Capitol Tower may not all be open by that time, but the Chase Tower (which itself connects to the lawsuit-embroiled former Houston Chronicle spot) will at least be accessible via a 712 Main detour. The tunnels beneath the former home of the previously-blown-away Houston Club building have been closed since 2014 as Skanska poured a tower foundation and built a parking garage; the company said earlier this year that it won’t be moving forward with the rest of the Capitol Tower until the market looks perkier. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: ThaChadwick

08/11/16 1:45pm

The Cheese Course, 1001 McKinney St., Downtown Tunnel System, Houston, 77002 The Cheese Course, 1001 McKinney St., Downtown Tunnel System, Houston, 77002Swamplot’s anonymous tunnel correspondent sends another dispatch from beneath the former City National Bank building at 1001 McKinney: chain cheesemonger The Cheese Course Bistro & Cheese Market is now open in the nook formerly employed as one of Subway’s more literal Houston locations. Following a spot in Boulder, CO, and another in The Woodlands, the Houston shop makes for chain’s 3rd foray beyond its native Florida.

The basement space doesn’t look to be offering wine pairings like many of the chain’s stores do, perhaps in connection to the shop’s pre-5-o’clock hours of operations; the store will open for breakfast at 7 am and close at 4. Here’s a look around the shop’s interior seating arrangements, allowing cheese-nibblers to see and be seen by the tunnel lobby set:

Underground Cheese Storage
07/28/16 11:15am

Former Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002

No wrecking balls are swinging this morning at 801 Texas, but a reader notes that some of the glass panels of the southern facade are being draped in long swaths of black material, while others have already been removed. What about that lawsuit over tunnel rights that forced developer Hines not to demolish the building back in April? Documents filed with the district clerk’s office show that plaintiff Theatre Square did get the court to issue a temporary stop on any work “demolishing, damaging, interfering with, filling in, impacting or otherwise physically impairing” that particular piece of the former Chronicle building’s basement (which Theater Square wants for the purpose of building a tunnel system connection to its own property across Prairie St.) The court chose to modify that order in mid July, however, to clarify that Hines can demolish, damage, interfere with, fill in, impact or impair the section in ways that are reasonably necessary to design and build a new building on the site.


Coming Apart At The Seams
07/08/16 12:45pm

Capitol Tower Tunnel Closures
The connections to the Downtown tunnel system beneath the planned future site of 35-story Capitol Tower at 811 Rusk St. should reopen by the end of the year, a Skanska representative tells Swamplot, though a hard date hasn’t been set yet.  The developer told Cara Smith of the HBJ last month that the bulk of the project wouldn’t go forward until leasing conditions look better, regardless of the explosive eviction of the former Houston Club building from the site, and last August’s foundation pour. The closures have cut off 601 Travis, the rebranding former Gulf Building, and all 3 of the buildings tangled up in that Hines-Linbeck-Houston-Chronicle tunnel lawsuit from the rest of the system since work on the spot first started in 2014. Take a look at the once-and-future underground crossroads in broader context:


Under Downtown
06/07/16 2:45pm

Proposed Prairie Tunnel Map, per Theater Square lawsuit filings

The management at 717 Louisiana St. has sent out word to tenants that the tunnel segment beneath the vacated downtown Houston Chronicle building is now open again, even though the newspaper’s former headquarters at 801 Texas Ave. are still standing on top of it. Documents filed with the Harris County district clerk’s office show that Hines agreed to hold off on the demo for a while, after Linbeck’s Theater Square group filed a lawsuit to stop them.


Downtown Downtime
04/28/16 4:15pm

Proposed Prairie Tunnel Map, per Theater Square lawsuit filings

What led up to the neighborly lawsuit filed last week over the former Houston Chronicle building’s planned demolition? A pair of letters filed with the county clerk’s office as part of the suit sheds a little light on the back-and-forth between the building’s new owners and their new neighbors. Plaintiff Theater Square, a partnership controlled by construction and development firm Linbeck, is developing the downtown block marked SITE in the map above, immediately across Prairie St. from the former Chronicle property (bought last year by Hines entity Block 58 Investors). Theater Square wants to link its own could-be-a-Class-A-contender block into the Downtown tunnel network (traced above in solid black).

The company sued both Hines and Chronicle owner Hearst News last week to stop the demo, claiming that Hearst gave it property rights to build a new tunnel through the newspaper building’s basement (via the route shown in stripes above along Travis St.) and that the demo (as currently intended) interferes with that plan. Theater Square sent a letter to Hines on April 15th citing news stories about the impending demo and requesting both access to inspect the basement and assurances that the demolition would be carried out in a way that doesn’t harm certain existing structures that the new tunnel’s already-semi-permitted building plans depend on.


Fight For The Right To Tunnel
02/26/16 11:00am

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FIGHTING TUNNEL VISION ON DOWNTOWN’S PEDESTRIAN EXPERIENCE Downtown Tunnels“Get rid of the downtown tunnels? It seems that the purpose of increasing walkability is to improve the quality of downtown life. Forcing people outside into hot and humid summers will do little to improve life quality. The author could have as nonsensically suggested the banning of cars in the downtown area to improve walkability.” [Neil, commenting on ‘One Bin For All’ All But Dead; Signs of the Oil Rout in Houston] Illustration: Lulu

12/18/15 9:45am

dgn Factory, 1001 Fannin St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Deep beneath First City Tower, something is lightly frying — Indian fast-casual joint DGN Factory, previously known by its less-coy former moniker The Dosa Factory, is now serving the no-longer-titular stuffed crepes and other South Indian vegetarian staples at its newly opened counter in the tunnel below 1001 Fannin St., 4 blocks west of Discovery Green.


11/12/13 11:45am

How about a public park that also serves as a multi-story entrance to Downtown’s extensive underground tunnel system? One that might even provide a little natural light or outdoor seating for below-the-deck diners? This pie-in-the-basement concept for the block-size surface parking lot between One and Two Shell Plaza made an appearance in the Chronicle‘s real estate blog last week — though the architecture firm Gensler had first posted it online this past spring. For the company’s own “Town Square Initiative,” designers were charged with envisioning a new type of town square for various cities around the globe. Tunnel Loop Square, for the block surrounded by Walker, McKinney, Louisiana, and Milam, was one of several proposals stemming from the firm’s Houston office.


05/15/13 10:00am

HOUSTON CLUB TUNNEL TENANTS MAKING THEIR ESCAPE The last 2 restaurants in the tunnels underneath the 18-story former Houston Club Building on Rusk St. are preparing to get up and out of there, reports Prime Property’s Nancy Sarnoff: The below-ground Skyline Deli and KoKoro Sushi will have sold their last lunches by the end of May, in advance of what a rep from new building owner Skanska says will be “selective interior demolition and abatement.” And that demolition is about to become much less selective, adds Sarnoff, since Skanska says it’s designing an office tower for this Downtown lot bound by Rusk, Capitol, Travis, and Milam. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Silberman Properties

04/30/13 11:45am

BRINGING THE STREETS DOWNTOWN RIGHT INTO THE LOBBIES Why isn’t there more street life Downtown? A recent architectural exhibition suggests that one cause might be the sealed world of a tunnel system that’s accessed mainly through closed-off corporate lobbies: “[Rice University’s Bryony Roberts] argues that these [sites] provide opportunities for a new type of public space that would more effectively integrate street activity and subterranean circulation,” explains OffCite’s Helen B. Bechtel. Using studies of One Allen Center, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Reliant Energy Plaza, and Wells Fargo Plaza — imagined here to include ramp-like pedestrian feeders — Roberts shows how “otherwise segregated interior and exterior public spaces” might be linked. The exhibition’s on view — where else? — in the One Allen Center lobby at 1200 Smith. [OffCite; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Bryony Roberts via OffCite

08/18/08 12:24pm

DOWNTOWN TUNNELS FOR WHEELCHAIRS “Eighteen years after the Americans With Disabilities Act became law, several spots along the 6.5-mile downtown tunnel-skywalk system, used by more than 150,000 downtown workers, remain blocked or altogether inaccessible to those in wheelchairs. These areas haven’t been made ADA-compliant because it would be difficult or impossible to put in ramps and still leave enough headroom for pedestrians, said Bob Eury, director of the Downtown District, a public-private association that promotes and manages downtown development.” [Houston Chronicle]

02/07/08 4:54pm

Drawing of Discovery Tower, Downtown HoustonHere’s a small discovery from today’s permit report: Work on the site and foundation of Discovery Tower — a 30-story office tower developed by Trammell Crow and designed by Gensler — has been approved by the city. The tower is planned for a block next to Discovery Green downtown, at 1501 McKinney St.

The tower will have retail space at street level and will reportedly tie into the tunnel system . . . by skybridge. A new parking garage will go up one block north.

The tiny image above shows the view from Discovery Green. Discovery Tower is at the far right. (The hazy image in the background to the left is the Finger Companies’ One Park Place, which is now under construction.)

Got any better images of Discovery Tower you’d like to share? Send them in!

Photo: CBRE, via HAIF user lockmat