07/14/15 1:30pm

723 Main St., Downtown Houston

TABC Sign Posted at 723 Main St., Downtown HoustonWith a TABC notice taped to the window, a Sugar Land bar named Club Blaunsch has declared dibs on this space at the northeast corner of Main and Rusk streets Downtown, in the former site of the Reserve Lounge. The storefront at 723 Main St. in the ground floor of the Houston Bar Building had been eyed last year by Springbok — before the South African restaurant changed its plans and moved in 2 doors north on Main to the Capitol Lofts building instead. Club Blaunsch is currently located in the second story of a strip center next to the Target across I-69 from Sugar Land Town Center.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

Club Blaunsch
06/29/15 12:15pm

BUYER OF CHRONICLE COMPLEX DOWNTOWN NOT EXPECTED TO CRUSH IT JUST YET Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown HoustonThe deal could still fall through, cautions Ralph Bivins, but real estate development firm Hines is in the middle of negotiating a purchase of the Houston Chronicle’s complex and parking garage at 801 Texas Ave. downtown. Expected sale price: “more than $50 million, perhaps as much as $55 million.” But Bivins doesn’t think Hines is ready to knock down the structures and build another of its downtown office developments on the 99,184 sq. ft. of land on 2 blocks right away. Instead, he writes, the company “appears to be seeking to lock up a prime skyscraper development site for future years.” [Realty News Report; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Walter P Moore

06/23/15 1:45pm

REVEALING THE FULL PLAN FOR SKANSKA’S DOWNTOWN BLOCK WILL TAKE SOME TIME Construction of Temporary Parking Garage, Houston Club Building, 811 Rusk St., Downtown HoustonThe Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff does her level best to decipher and explain the strange sequence of events at Skanska’s ongoing demolition-construction-demolition-construction project across the street from Pennzoil Place: “The developer planning Capitol Tower, the 35-story office building slated for downtown’s former Houston Club building site, is planning to pour the foundation for the structure next month, but as of now, there are no plans to construct the tower portion of the project. So what’s with all the construction on the property? The Houston Club building was imploded last year, but the garage on the site was to remain because of an existing parking contract. During the implosion, however, the garage was damaged and had to be demolished. Project developer Skanska USA Commercial Development is now building a new garage on the southern half of the block. ‘We’re still executing our project plans,’ said Michael Mair, executive vice president and regional manager for Skanska USA in Houston.” Left out of the explanation: The multi-story steel parking structure and ramps Skanska built for the garage before it was demolished — pictured here under construction in front of the then-still-standing Houston Club Building last March. The downtown block, surrounded by Rusk, Travis, Milam, and Capitol streets, is now empty. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

06/17/15 3:45pm

SHAKING AT THE TOP OF A HOUSTON SKYSCRAPER IN THE MIDDLE OF A HURRICANE Wells Fargo Plaza, Downtown HoustonHoustonians who were around for Hurricane Alicia in 1983 might remember that the Wells Fargo Plaza tower downtown — then known as the brand-new Allied Bank Plaza — ended up losing more than 3,000 glass panels in the storm. But did you know that the building that night became the site of one of the few live wiggling-skyscrapers-in-a-storm experiments ever conducted? Engineers Robert Halvorson and Michael Fletcher spent the night of the hurricane in the 71-story tower’s unfinished top floor, just to see how much the building would sway; more than 30 years later, they described their experiences to Washington Post reporter Emily Badger. The peak acceleration of 43 milli-g’s they recorded — enough back-and-forth and twisting to make it impossible for them to walk upright — turned out to be “give or take, exactly the same thing that had been predicted by the wind tunnel” before the structure was built. [Gizmodo] Photo of Wells Fargo Plaza: Jackson Myers

06/05/15 12:45pm

AND NOW A DOWNTOWN DANCE PERFORMANCE ABOUT FLOODING Invitations to the latest site-specific performance by the Karen Stokes Dance company went out on May 25th, the day before a good part of Houston woke up to find various areas in and around the city under water. But the company had already been rehearsing its latest work for some time by then. Coincidence, fortunate timing, or simply a local arts group’s demonstration of a level-headed understanding of the Houston landscape? From the team that brought you last year’s by-the-Ship-Channel performance of Channel/1836 now comes Drench, which — as shown in excerpts previewed in the trailer video above — reimagines Discovery Green’s Gateway Fountain as a flood zone. Shows, part of a performance that includes the work of Belgian art group Chanson d’Eau, begin at 8 pm tonight and tomorrow. [Discovery Green; more info] Video: Karen Stokes Dance

06/04/15 12:15pm

The second of 6 supercolumns being added to the west-facing façade of the George R. Brown Convention Center was lifted into place yesterday, with Pedro Velasquez of WHR Architects on hand to record this timelapse video of the effort. The columns — each 120 ft. tall and 48 in. in diameter — will support a roof-level trellis extending over the front of the building’s 3 center bays facing Discovery Green. The remainder of the columns will be installed over the next few days.

Video: Pedro Velasquez

Convention Center Face Lift
05/28/15 2:45pm

Lawless Kitchen and Spirits, Rice Hotel, 909 Texas Ave., Downtown Houston

The bar taking over for Downtown’s shuttered State Bar and Lounge opened quietly yesterday. That’s pretty good timing for a new establishment in an older haunt that’s a flight up from street level: Lawless Kitchen and Spirits is now serving food and drink on the second floor and over-the-sidewalk perch of the Rice Lofts building, carved from the former Rice Hotel at the corner of Texas Ave. and Travis St.

Here’s the streetside balcony, a suitable platform for viewing traffic, parades, flooding, or anything else of interest —from a safe distance above ground:


Lawless Kitchen and Spirits
05/06/15 4:17pm

Barbara Jordan Post Office, 401 Franklin St., Downtown Houston

The U.S. Postal Service plans to end all retail operations at its flagship Downtown Houston post office next Friday, May 15th. And that’ll be it for the Barbara Jordan Post Office in the 5-story 1962 building with concrete fins at 401 Franklin St. All P.O. box and caller services at that location have already ended; they stopped on May 1st. And the post office boxes themselves have been gently extricated as well, leaving this scene inside:


Get Your Stamps There While You Still Can
05/01/15 11:15am

If you were dazzled by the wide swaths of concrete laneage and complicated color-coded spaghetti interchange entanglements in the TxDOT renderings released last week — but had trouble comprehending the massive scale of the proposed reroute of I-45 around Downtown — you’ll want to try this second go at it. The state transportation agency has now produced a video version of its freeway-rewrapping proposal, complete with tiny little animated cars and trucks moving along 3-D representations of those new wide surfaces. It’s so mesmerizing, many viewers may not even notice what happened to the Pierce Elevated.

Video: TxDOT, via Houston Chronicle

North Freeway Downtown Rewrap
04/23/15 5:30pm

Proposed Changes to I-45, I-10, and I-69, Houston

There’s so much to say and gawk at in the latest “proposed recommended alternatives” for reshaping I-45 now being shopped around by TxDOT and a host of freeway-happy consultants — enough for a fourth round of public meetings scheduled for tonight and next week, plus hours of extra-curricular speculation. The plans encompass dramatic changes to the North Freeway all the way from Beltway 8 to a new split adjacent to the Third Ward, including eye-opening widenings, all sorts of exciting tunnels and high-flying overpasses, a slew of spaghetti-like interchanges, and — the pièce de résistance — the wholesale give-up of I-45’s current L-shaped wrap around Downtown, including the Pierce Elevated.

These 5 images from our highway overlords’ exciting imagined future sum it up best:

1. The X-ing-out of the Pierce Elevated (diagrammed above). If the elevated portion of I-45 along the path of Pierce St. goes away, how will anyone be able to tell where Downtown ends and Midtown begins? Don’t worry, a few proposals are being shopped around to turn a de-automobiled structure into a High Line—like public park or bikeway. (Though much bigger, ′cuz Houston.)


Freeway Frenzy!
04/09/15 3:45pm

SKYHOUSE MANAGEMENT: THAT’S FUNNY, NOBODY SAID ANYTHING ABOUT OUR PICTURE WINDOW TOILETS BEFORE Entrance and Toilets, SkyHouse Houston, 1625 Main St., Downtown HoustonSure, the SkyHouse Houston features from-the-street views of window-side toilets on the second and third floors of the new Downtown highrise. But a spokesperson for the management company in charge of the 24-story tower and 2 other largely identical SkyHouses still under construction in Houston tells the Chronicle‘s Craig Hlavaty that the prominent display of bathrooms was not part of any marketing strategy. Simpson Property Group’s Thornton Kennedy says he wasn’t aware that anybody had even noticed the toilet views before Swamplot readers began writing about them: “We have nearly 10 [SkyHouses] completed from Florida to the Carolinas and over to Texas and we’ve never gotten a call about this,” he says. “But we get it.” Kennedy’s explanation for the Pease St. display involves a reference to window coverings in the photo (above) published earlier this week on Swamplot. “Those units that were photographed are not yet occupied, and therefore those blinds are open all the time,” he explains. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Swamplot inbox

04/07/15 11:45am

Entrance and Toilets, SkyHouse Houston, 1625 Main St., Downtown Houston

SkyHouse Houston, 1625 Main St., Downtown Houston“Not sure if you can see from this picture,” writes the Swamplot correspondent who sent the image at the top of this story, looking into a few of the units in the new 24-story apartment tower at 1625 Main St. from Pease St., “but it appears the ‘view’ from the bathrooms at the new SkyHouse will be excellent.” Of course you already knew that.

Bonus: The design of the SkyHouse Main going up across the street will be identical.

Photos: Swamplot inbox (view); Simpson Property Group (tower)

04/06/15 3:45pm

HOUSTON CHRONICLE BUILDING GOES ON SALE TOMORROW, THE CHRONICLE REPORTS Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown HoustonThe Houston Chronicle’s 10-story downtown headquarters and neighboring parking garage will be listed for sale tomorrow — with the Hearst newspaper’s reporters and other employees still working away inside.Chronicle executives said prospective buyers have already expressed interest in the property and that more are expected once word spreads that the building at 801 Texas and an adjacent parking garage are up for sale,” writes real estate reporter Nancy Sarnoff from somewhere inside the complex. Indeed, company executives have already suggested to her the story’s conclusion: “’This building is likely to be torn down and replaced with a modern skyscraper that will generate more revenue for the city. It’s in a prime location,’ Paul Barbetta, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Houston Chronicle Media Group, said Monday.” Chronicle employees will be allowed to exit the building and take their belongings with them to a revamped, smaller, outside-the-Loop just-inside-the-Loop facility before that happens. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Walter P Moore

03/26/15 1:00pm

Marlowe Sales Office, 1311 Polk St., Downtown Houston

The dude with the squinchy eyes and razor-deprived face plastered along the side of the former ticket booth at 1311 Polk St. downtown is hawking highrise condos in Randall Davis and Roberto Contreras’s 20-story Marlowe building, meant to go up on that very site, across Caroline St. from the eastern end of GreenStreet. And Marlowe is his name, too. “Marlowe is smarter than you,” declares the accompanying website:


03/19/15 1:15pm

Dallas St. Streetscape Improvements, Downtown Houston

Chopped Trees on Dallas St. Near Milam St., Downtown HoustonIf you’ve been waiting to see what changes are coming to Dallas St. after the street-tree-chopping event earlier this month, here’s your scoop: the Downtown Redevelopment Authority is redoing the streetscape from Milam St. to Discovery Green with hopes of identifying Dallas St. as an actual shopping district. The plan was hatched back when one of the buildings facing Dallas was Downtown’s lone remaining department store, but it’s still going forward with the Macy’s out of the picture (actually, its former site is just behind and to the left of the view in the rendering above).

Instead, the repaving and re-treeing plan is intended to allow a bit more pedestrian activity and street parking for the remaining retail — including the entire northern flank of GreenStreet, the Houston Pavilions redo — and encouraging more to move in.

The changes will shrink the number of car lanes on the one-way street from 4 to 3, but add a parking lane to its north side.


Tree Chopping for Street Shopping