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:

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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.)

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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)

Headquarters
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:

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Stylized
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.

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Tree Chopping for Street Shopping
03/18/15 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: JUST A SUGGESTION FOR NAU Incarnate Word Academy, 600 Crawford St., Downtown Houston“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

03/06/15 1:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: THE BEST VIEWS IN EVERY SKYHOUSE Plan Detail, SkyHouse Houston, Downtown Houston“I love how the big picture windows in some of the units allow residents to actually sit on the toilet and look out onto the street. I can’t say I want to SEE a resident doing this but it does make this tower unique.” [Daphne Graham, commenting on Have a Look Where Crews Have Begun Digging for the Second Downtown SkyHouse] Plan detail: SkyHouse Houston

03/05/15 12:00pm

Chopped Trees on Dallas St. Near Milam St., Downtown Houston

A Downtown reader sends in pics of a row of street trees on 6 blocks of Dallas St. that were chopped down over the weekend. The trees are distinctive because most of them were planted in the actual street, not on the adjacent sidewalk. They were planted in the street between parking spaces about 6 years ago, around the same time a single-lane-wide section of sidewalk that now serves a bus stop was installed in front of the HPD headquarters building at the corner of Travis and Dallas.

Here’s a view from above of a row of stumps that sits in front of the McDonald’s at 808 Dallas St.:

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Right of Way
03/05/15 11:00am

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

A reader who maintains a post office box at the Barbara Jordan Post Office at 401 Franklin St. Downtown has forwarded Swamplot a notice that showed up with the mail earlier this week, inviting box renters to a “town hall” meeting about the upcoming move of post office services at the facility. “Our projected move date is fast approaching,” the flyer reads — though it doesn’t identify when it will be.

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Barbara Jordan P.O.
03/05/15 10:00am

Construction of SkyHouse Main, 1725 Main St., Downtown Houston

Work has begun on Houston’s third SkyHouse apartment tower — the second one Downtown. To distinguish it from the similar building just topping out across the West Loop from the Galleria on the former site of one the Westcreek Apartments (the SkyHouse River Oaks), and its twin, the SkyHouse Houston, which also lines Main St., the developers from Atlanta’s Novare Group are calling the new building the SkyHouse Main. The new building and parking garage, at 1725 Main St., will be a block to the south, on the former surface parking lot shown here, on the block also bounded by Pease, Jefferson, and Fannin. Like the SkyHouse Houston, which opened last year, the 24-story SkyHouse Main will have 7,200 sq. ft. of retail space on the ground floor.

The 336-unit highrise is expected to be complete in the first half of 2016.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Twin Tower
03/03/15 12:00pm

Architecture Center Houston, 315 Capitol St. Suite 120, Downtown Houston

With 2 years to go on its current lease in a Bayou Place II space at 315 Capitol St. downtown, the Architecture Center Houston has begun searching for a new home. Buy and renovate or build? Sure — as long as it’s a “long term solution,” the center’s director tells Swamplot. A new HQ should have more space than its current 5,000 sq. ft. spot (through the main doors under the canopy in the photo above), plus “more visible street presence and a better parking situation than we have now,” writes Rusty Bienvenue.

The new digs don’t have to be downtown: “Our membership doesn’t mind being pioneers and we believe we bring a cool factor to an area that few other organizations can match.” But it’s now or . . . back to plain ol’ office space, he adds. If the center, which combines gallery and meeting space with the Houston offices of the American Institute of Architecture and the Houston Architecture Foundation, can’t find something to buy in the next couple of months, it’ll go back to looking at lease space.

This flyer detailing the options went out to members last week:

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Pioneers?
02/13/15 10:45am

Houston Skyline Photo by Visual Contrabrand

Alice Barr and her KHOU camera crew spend an authorized-by-building-management evening on top of an unnamed Downtown hotel to feature the photography and highrise hijinx of the “rooftopper” who goes by the name of Visual Contrabrand. The photographer (pictured above) tells Barr he’s afraid of heights, and that even after climbing down, glances at some of the images he’s taken “still make my palms sweaty.” But that doesn’t stop him from finding a way to access various tall structures around town (“without destroying any property,” he says) and snapping daredevil pix with his Canon 70D.

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Night Pix