06/27/16 11:30am

Marlowe Condo Tower site, 1311 Polk St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Marlowe Condo Tower site, 1311 Polk St., Downtown, Houston, 77002An elevated reader sends a snapshot this morning of an excavator rooting around by 1311 Polk St., where Randall Davis is laying the groundwork for his 20-story tower of actor-themed condominiums named Marlowe. The development’s sales center and 5-sided billboard (formerly a 713-TICKETS.com kiosk) is still in place across Caroline St. from the House-of-Blues-containing GreenStreet development (visible in the top frame, in the bottom right corner) and Dirt Bar (bottom left).

The marketing for the tower (another Davis project to seek funding from the EB-5 invest-your-way-to-citizenship program) appears to be a little less insult-forward these days than was previously the case. The tower’s website now also includes the drone footage collage and Stairway to Heaven remix below, showing off the surrounding downtown area with the would-be tower sketched into place in white lines:
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Looking Down Around Downtown
06/23/16 2:45pm

Allen Center Skybridge Remodeling, 500 Dallas St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Currently underway: the partial disassembly of 1 of the 2 skybridges connecting One and Two Allen Center at the corner of Dallas and Smith streets downtown. The bridge pictured above is expected to survive the planned 3-tower redevelopment — a permit to remodel it was issued on Monday with some other OKs on the work, which includes turning the rubble-filled space to the east into a Smith-St.-facing events lawn and concert space. Renderings previously released by Brookfield suggest that the other skybridge, from which the above photo was taken, won’t be so lucky:

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Last Days Downtown
06/23/16 9:15am

UH READY FOR LEGAL ACTION OVER SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE OF LAW’S HOUSTON REBRANDING University of Houston Law Center, Third Ward, Houston, 77004“It has come to the University of Houston’s attention that South Texas College of Law has announced that it is changing its name to Houston College of Law. . . . The University of Houston is concerned about the significant confusion this creates in the marketplace and will take any and all appropriate legal actions to protect the interests of our institution, our brand, and our standing in the communities we serve.” [University of Houston; previously on SwamplotPhoto of University of Houston Law Center: Douglas R.

06/22/16 2:30pm

DID SOUTH TEXAS LAW JUST BECOME HOUSTON’S FIRST “COLLEGE”? 1303 San Jacinto St., Downtown, Houston, 77002 Downtown’s South Texas College of Law just announced that the 93-year-old school is changing its name to Houston College of Law. A press release issued by the school this morning calls the name swap part of the institution’s ongoing effort to “distinguish itself regionally and nationally” — and indeed, the name is distinct from those of both law-school-containing University of Houston (located 2 miles southeast) and same-chancellor-separate-institution University of Houston Downtown (a mile to the north), though all 3 schools employ a red and white color scheme. Unlike other recent Houston school renamings,  today’s announced change appears to be effective immediately; the law school’s logos have already been updated, though its website address has not. [Houston College of Law] Photo of Houston College of Law at 1303 San Jacinto St.: Houston College of Law

06/21/16 4:45pm

Sky Lobby, 600 Travis St., Downtown, Houston, 77002sky-lobbyYou’ve missed your last chance to catch a view like these from the Chase Tower at 600 Travis St., unless you’re there on business. Craig Hlavaty reports that Hines has permanently closed the downtown skyscraper’s 60th floor Sky Lobby to the public, just 3 years after that 2013 redo by Gensler, to cut down on tenant-bothering “extra non-business-related traffic” on the floor (which is also an elevator swapout zone.) Time to update that list.

Photos: Bill Barfield (top) and Russell Hancock (bottom) via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Grounded Downtown
06/10/16 11:00am

Spirit of the Confederacy Statue, 1000 Bagby St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002

Spirit of the Confederacy Statue, 1000 Bagby St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002Chronicle reporter Gabrielle Banks snaps a fresh photo of the Spirit of the Confederacy, the well-labeled century-old statue standing around by the lake on the west side of Sam Houston Park (near the split of Allen Pkwy. into Lamar and Walker streets downtown).  The statue’s placement was funded in 1908 by Houston’s still-active Robert E. Lee chapter of the national United Daughters of the Confederacy and is inscribed to “all heroes of the South who fought for the principles of states rights.” Despite the statue’s unambiguous Confederate sympathies and nearness to City Hall, the bronze statue has largely flown beneath the radar of the past year’s scrutiny of Houston school and street names.

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Sam Houston Park
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.

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Downtown Downtime
05/26/16 5:15pm

1301 Leeland St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

1301 Leeland St., Downtown, Houston, 77002From a largely-barren expanse of surface lot west of Toyota Center, a reader sends a few fresh images snapped during a street-level fly-by of the 1930s office building at the corner of Leeland and Caroline streets, where Texas Direct Auto has recently taken up both residence and a new advertising tack. Following in the wake of a previous foray into Downtown real-estate-billboard crossover, the company’s newest mural encompasses 3 of the 4 sides of the building (including the dog in an astronaut suit on the side opposite Leeland). Painting started in January, and a we’re-done-now party was thrown in early April. 

As was the case for the company’s red-tagged Main St. doggie-in-the-window signage, the newer mural incorporates some of the structure’s actual windows into the design — this time as a set of questionable-utility solar panel arrays on an artificial astronaut habitat:

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Leeland at Caroline
05/24/16 4:15pm

UH Downtown STEM Building Purchase

Outlined in red is the next addition to University of Houston Downtown’s campus, per last Thursday’s meeting by the UH system’s board of regents. The image above comes from a marketing flier included in the board’s agenda notes (as presented by board member and real estate reality TV star Tilman Fertitta). The 17-acre parcel on the north side of I-10 runs along the Daly St. student parking lot by the Burnett Transit Center light-rail station, and includes several areas west of N. Main St. already in use by UHD as faculty and student parking.

The land, bounded on the southwest by White Oak Bayou,  will likely house a new science and engineering building — though it may have to cozy up with some additions to the downtown freeway system still in the planning phase. UHD VP David Bradley tells Nancy Sarnoff that the parts of the tract that may end up inside the expanded right-of-way will hang around as green space until TxDOT’s map lines are firmed up.

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Rail Yard Revival
05/13/16 11:30am

WAXING POETIC OVER THE DEMOLITION OF AN ALLEN CENTER SKYBRIDGE Planned Remodel of One Allen Center, 1200 Smith St., Downtown, Houston, 77002“The age of confinement is over,” pens Realty News Report editor Ralph Bivins this week in his first foray into real estate poetry. Bivins was moved to verse by the details released last week on the upcoming redo of the 3 Allen Center towers at Smith and Dallas streets — more specifically, by the fact that Brookfield’s plans for the site includes the removal of one of the skybridges between One and Two Allen Center, as well as the earthen berm beneath it. The demo will turn the long-sequestered landscaped green space between the buildings into a street-accessible events lawn. The rest of the poem, entitled A quick verse by R. Bivins for Kenneth Schnitzer, Texas Eastern and the prior generation of downtown development, can be read here. [Realty News Report; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of planned Allen Center redo:  Studio AMD

05/13/16 10:15am

This week’s video release from hometown country singer Robert Ellis takes viewers on a forlorn wandering tour of Houston’s downtown and surrounding thoroughfares, sans all of those pesky people and cars. Iconic cameos include the AIA’s future headquarters on the corner of Franklin and Commerce streets, the WALD warehouse sign at Live Oak and Rusk streets, and Bad News Bar on Main St.; the video also includes a hike down a dead-empty I-45 and associated entrance ramps, several frantic light-rail stops, and a dramatic reunion on the pedestrian bridge over Memorial Dr. at Sabine St. 

Video: Robert Ellis

Musical Background
05/10/16 2:30pm

Amanda Parer's Intrude installation, 1600 Smith St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Joining the lunchtime crowd in front of the 1600 Smith St. tower today: the towering inflatable rabbits of Australian artist Amanda Parer. Brookfield Properties, which owns the downtown office tower complex where the rabbits are loitering, is sponsoring the leporine art installation’s 4-stop North American tour of other Brookfield commercial properties. The bunnies spent some time in New York City before getting transplanted downtown for a week; they’ll be hopping off to LA and then Denver after the tour’s Houston leg wraps up this Saturday the 14th.

The installation is called Intrude, an allusion to the rabbit’s time-honored place in modern Australian lore as an ecological disaster. Here are a few more daytime angles on the critters, which are also getting lit during their nights downtown:

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Downtown From Down Under
05/06/16 12:30pm

allen-center-remodel-2

One Allen Center, 1200 Smith St., Downtown, Houston, 77002Brookfield released a few renderings this morning of the plans to make over One, Two, and Three Allen Centers at the corner of Smith and Dallas streets downtown. The rendering above depicts the new plan for the greenspace between One and Two: to subtract 1 of the 2 second-story skybridges currently running parallel to Smith and add an events venue. The redo plans also include a major street-level change for One Allen Center, depicted above with a 2-story glass lobby running around corner in place of the current largely-bricked-over podium facade.

That tiny neon sign on the left edge of the turn-of-the-decade photo above once marked the location of Don Patron; the quarter-centenarian Tex-Mex lunch spot started to close in February and finished the job in March. The remodel plans swap it out for a higher-end restaurant, which will get some patio space along Smith St:

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1, 2, 3 Remodel
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.

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Fight For The Right To Tunnel
04/27/16 10:30am

1836 Polk St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

A sign zip-tied onto the fence around the parking lot at 1836 Polk St. is currently announcing an application by FreeRange Concepts to sell mixed drinks at the spot.  Up in Dallas, the company operates bar-slash-bowling alley Bowl & Barrel, bar-slash-dogpark Mutts Canine Cantina, restaurant-slash-music-venue The Rustic, and slashless restaurant The General Public. Houston locations of Bowl & Barrel and The General Public are currently under construction in CityCentre.

It’s unclear whether FreeRange has cast the Polk location for a sequel to one of its existing brands, or for something new. The TABC notice is posted on the full-block parking lot bounded by Jackson, Hamilton, and Bell streets just east of 59 and just south of the George R. Brown Convention Center. That block has previously appeared in the convention center’s 2025 Master Plan, as a site of possible future expansion:

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Liquoring Up by GRB