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

08/12/16 12:45pm

VACANT DOWNTOWN DAYS INN TO GET A TOTAL FACELIFT, BECOME WHATEVER HOTEL IT’S BECOMING 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy., Downtown, Houston, 77002SFK Development’s Nadeem Nasir tells Craig Hlavaty that the owners of the long-vacant hotel highrise at 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy. are, in fact, currently “in the process of rehabbing the building,” though they’re still “waiting to get on the same page as a hotel franchise.” Hlavaty writes this morning that the group won’t answer questions about which hotel franchise that might be, but that the structure will be getting a full strip-down and facial reconstruction as part of the process (in the face of a minimum $25-million cost to tear the structure down and build new). Swamplot’s reader on the scene sends fresh word from a worker earlier this week that the site may become a Sheraton — a story which matches up with a few previous rumors — but no official nods or confirmation have come from either the owners or the hotel chain. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy.: Garrett Robles

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:
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Underground Cheese Storage
08/10/16 1:30pm

801 Saint Joseph Pkwy., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Is this time the charm for the long-vacant all-but-freeway-side former hotel at 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy., on at least its 3rd round of intended redevelopers since it was vacated in 1998? The building began its career in the early 1970s as a Holiday Inn, later becoming a Days Inn before being turned into Heaven on Earth hotel by a group founded by embraced-then-renounced Beatles spiritual advisor Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. That group eventually shut down their increasingly dilapidated hotel and turned the place into a Vedic school before code violations forced the structure’s not-just-for-summer vacation; the spot has been courted by fickle would-be-remodelers on and off ever since.

But some work permits have been issued this year to the most recent owner, SFK Development, which bought the site in late 2012 per county records, and Catie Dixon reported last fall that the building will be turned into a Sheraton (an assertion backed up by some more recent tidbits from the structural scrutinizers over at HAIF). Meanwhile, reader Garrett Robles reports that the site is now the most active he’s seen it in 5 years of wandering around the area. Robles sends this set of recent photos peering at, around, and into the ground floor of the structure:

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Rebuilding Heaven on Earth
08/08/16 3:45pm

Empty 706 Main St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Once again, 706 Main St. is clearing out — here’s a shot of the freshly unwrapped restaurant space in the base of the Great Jones Building. The light-rail-side storefront just south of Capitol St. was taken over in 2014 by Bombay Indian Grill (not to be confused with the nearby Bombay Pizza Co. 2 blocks to the south) in the wake of a string of restaurant turnovers averaging less than 2 years apiece of tenure.

A reader spotted someone boxing up the leftovers early last week, and sent the photo above this afternoon showing the space sans signage. The restaurant was previously marked in place in April floor plans from Midway, which is currently remodeling and repackaging the Great Jones Building together with the former Gulf Oil building as The Jones on Main:

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Still Jonesing Downtown
08/04/16 4:30pm

THE ODDS ON A PIERCE ELEVATED COMEDOWN Map of Proposed I-45 Rerouting, Downtown HoustonWriting in the latest issue of Texas Architect magazine — which is now debuting a redone website with a new web address and a new all-articles-are-now free policy — Ben Koush surveys the prospects for the raised section of I-45 now dividing Midtown from Downtown: “While there have been some plans floated around to convert the decommissioned section of the Pierce Elevated into Houston’s version of the Highline, most people I spoke with didn’t think that was going to happen, simply because TxDOT needs the money it could get from selling that right of way to private developers. Some still hold out hope that at least some of the land or maybe even a small section of the elevated roadway could be made into a public green space.” [Texas Architect; previously on SwamplotPlan of “currently approved scheme” for I-45 rerouting around downtown, showing possible green space: SWA Group

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.

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Coming Apart At The Seams
07/27/16 4:30pm

Market Square Tower construction, 777 Preston St., Downtown, Houston, 77002Market Square Tower construction, 777 Preston St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

The spindly yellow crane that has been dangling over the top of Woodbranch Investment’s Market Square Tower is coming down in pieces this afternoon, notes a downtown reader. The shot above shows the scene from the corner of Prairie and Travis streets, with the top edge of the still-standing-by-court-order former Houston Chronicle building sticking in from the left.

The 463-unit tower has been leasing spaces since April, with plans to open this fall. There’s still work to do on the building before then, though the support for the glass-bottom cantilevered rooftop pool that will hang some 500 feet above Preston looks to be in place. Here’s Jackson & Ryan’s rendering of what the space will look like once the water has been added:

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Coming Down Downtown
07/26/16 1:00pm

Former Barbara Jordan Post Office, 401 Franklin St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Barbara Jordan Post Office, 401 Franklin St., Downtown HoustonThe former Barbara Jordan Post Office campus at 401 Franklin St. is on its way toward a new career (as highlighted by yesterday’s news that trippy music and art festival Day for Night will be hosted on the property this year). The new stage name for the 16-acre planned mixed-use space near Buffalo Bayou isn’t quite set yet — PaperCity says that Lovett has been calling the property Central Post, but an active Facebook account using the name Post HTX (and staking claim to the 401 Franklin address) has been posting photos of the inside and promising updates on progress at the site.

Demo permits for some interior walls were issued back in October after the property’s summertime sale last year. Those concrete fins on the outside of the post office’s Franklin-facing midrise section are creating the stripy light pattern visible in the interior shot up top; here’s more of Post HTX’s photos of the building, pre-redo:

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Franklin St. Remake
07/25/16 5:15pm

FREE PRESS HOUSTON TO SHIP DAY FOR NIGHT TO THE FORMER DOWNTOWN POST OFFICE Barbara Jordan Post Office, 401 Franklin St., Downtown Houston The former Barbara Jordan Post Office at 401 Franklin St. will be the new host of Free Press Houston’s Day for Night music festival, Matthew Ramirez reports today. The 16-acre campus (including anything left of its train station ruins) sits on the north bank of Buffalo Bayou (across from Sesquicentennial Park and east of the University of Houston Downtown). The property was bought last year by an entity connected to Lovett Commercial; by mid-December the site will have to be ready to hold 3 music stages and the festival’s associated experimental art installations. [PaperCity; previously on Swamplot] Photo of former post office at 401 Franklin: CRBE

07/21/16 5:00pm

downtown-tour-1

A set of skeletal construction updates are the product of Bob Russell’s downtown photo hunt earlier this week. The view above is a Hines 2-fer: Behind James Surl’s spiky Point of View sculpture is the 32-floor apartment building on its way up at the corner of Travis and Preston (now going by Aris Market Square), with a sliver of all-business 609 Main visible on the right. The office tower has been getting its last few bits of steel stuck into place this week — check out a more centered portrait of the rooftop action (plus more covert snaps of bare beams from around the area) below:

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All On The Way
07/19/16 11:30am

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1720 Main St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002
First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1720 Main St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002A dumpster was spotted last week loitering around the Travis St. entrance of the Mod-ish Brutal-ish teal-ish former Christian Science church downtown, which, per the language on a building permit issued this month, is now being converted into a nightclub. The name listed on the permit (Club Spire) marks something of a shift in the tone previously set by the new owners this spring, when the group connected to Clé bar sought a TABC permit for the building under the name 1720 Main Reception Hall.

A curious reader sends the Friday afternoon shot above, along with an inquiry as to the fate of any interior furnishings and materials to be stripped away (the outside being fairly naked already, save for the gold-and-blue soon-to-be-eponymous spire). Here’s a last look from inside, around, and on top of the church’s sanctuary and courtyard as it was just prior to the finalization of the sale this spring — the elongated diamond-slash-triangle motif that covers the area behind the altar is carried through much of the rest of the building, from the stained-glass windows to the furniture: 

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Born Again on Main St.
07/14/16 1:00pm

Time for Thai, 930 Main St., Downtown Tunnels, Houston, 77002

Swamplot’s anonymous tunnel correspondent sends the following deep-Downtown restaurant updates (and a few other subterranean readers send along photos to illustrate):

The location formerly occupied by Prince’s at 930 Main St., [beneath the] McKinney Place Garage (unoccupied since early March) will soon be home to Time for Thai, whose sign says that they are an offshoot of Thai Cottage:

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Coming Up Downtown
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:

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Under Downtown
07/05/16 4:45pm

Site of Nosh in Tunnel beneath 919 Milam, Downtown, Houston, 77002

The subterranean snapshot above comes from a reader roaming the Downtown tunnels, where a curved privacy-please construction barrier for a coffee-snacks-and-breakfast operation labeled Nosh now arcs around the spot formerly occupied by the ATM beneath 919 Milam. The change comes in the wake of other food-related shuffling beneath the 24-story tower this year; Genesis Energy also spread out onto another of the tower’s floors back in February.

Photo: ThaChadwick

Downtown Down Low