REVEALING THE FULL PLAN FOR SKANSKA’S DOWNTOWN BLOCK WILL TAKE SOME TIME The 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
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.
The bar taking over for Downtown’s shuttered State Bar and Loungeopened 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:
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:
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.
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.)
“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.
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:
If 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.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: JUST A SUGGESTION FOR NAU “There is a solution to this situation and it’s a little ironic.
The sisters of incarnate word want to stay downtown, but they say there’s no room.
John Nau and his group own the block right next door to the campus. They just announced that they were canceling their fund raising efforts and giving all of the money donated back to the donors for a Houston history museum.
It seems to me if John Nau wants to save some of Houston history, he could donate the block adjacent to the school so that that the historically important Nicholas Clayton building could be saved. That way his efforts to preserve history could still be accomplished, the nuns could stay downtown and the Nicholas Clayton building could be saved. Now that’s a lot easier than trying to figure out what to do with the dome!” [Bob R, commenting on Tearing Down Downtown’s Historic Incarnate Word Academy Building; A ‘Central Park’ for the Energy Corridor] Photo of Incarnate Word Academy, 600 Crawford St.: elnina