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
02/09/15 12:45pm

Construction of Lamar St. Bike Lane, Downtown Houston

Construction of Lamar St. Bike Lane, Downtown HoustonOver the weekend construction began on the new bikeway meant to connect the heavily used trails along Buffalo Bayou west of Downtown with the Columbia Tap trail on Downtown’s east side — and from there to the trails along Brays Bayou and the Medical Center. The 2 blocks of Lamar St. between Smith and Bagby now have this green zone installed along their southern side, replacing curbside parking spaces on the one-way street. Additional construction is scheduled for every weekend between now and March 8, when the steadily growing green bike path will reach Discovery Green.

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Bayou Bike Connector
01/20/15 3:30pm

Construction of Hines Market Square Tower, Travis and Preston Streets, Downtown Houston

Construction of Hines Market Square Tower, Travis and Preston Streets, Downtown Houston

Proposed Hines Market Square Tower, Travis and Preston Streets, Downtown HoustonA week later than promised, trucks and equipment have been moved onto the southeast corner of Preston and Travis streets downtown, ready to carve a 32-story highrise apartment building out of this surface parking lot, a reader reports (sending the above pics).

Meanwhile, Ziegler Cooper’s design for the tower has grown more brick-y and a bit less sleek and Mod than renderings featured a year ago on Swamplot appeared to show. The building has contracted since then as well: It’s now 1 floor shorter, and — at 274 units — 15 apartments lighter than indicated previously.

The building will still feature street-facing retail space on the ground level of its (now) 8-floor garage podium, and a pool deck above, according to the architects:

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One Market Square
01/16/15 11:00am

Proposed Hotel Alessandra, Dallas and Fannin Streets, GreenStreet, Downtown Houston

If the giant 25-story-tall question mark built into the profile of the Hotel Alessandra — the Modern tower pictured above, planned for a spot directly behind the XXI Forever store along Fannin — spurred any of you to wonder when or whether construction of the promised residential expansion of GreenStreet (formerly Houston Pavilions) might begin, here’s an answer: Next Monday, MLK Day, workers will begin blocking access to the urban mall’s center court at 1201 Fannin St. and other areas to begin demolition work. Their target: The much shorter structure that once housed the Houston Pavilions’ Yao’s restaurant, owned by family members of Houston Rockets star Yao Ming, which stands in the way.

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Clearing Yao’s Away
12/08/14 4:28pm

peacock-apartments-mosaic-1414-austinpeacock-plaza-courtyard

According to Harris County Clerk documents, the Peacock & Plaza apartments at 1414-1416 Austin St. downtown across the street from Root Memorial Square were sold late last month to a Colorado-based development company.

The two Spanish-tinged, red-brick pre-war buildings — one of which is adorned with an eye-catching tile mosaic of a proud peacock, both of which are studded with dark green and white awnings — hold a total of 32 studio apartments.

There’s no off-street parking, but that’s offset in part by “crazy low rents in a prime location,” according to a reader. Prime it is indeed, just across Root Memorial Square from the Toyota Center and blocks from Discovery Green and the convention center. And cheap it is indeed too, at least as of last year, when units were being advertised for $520 a month.

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History For Sale
11/25/14 11:30am

002HOUSTON MAGAZINE GETTING RID OF ITS DOWNTOWN ZIP Cover of 002houston MagazineFor its seventeenth birthday, sleek-stuff-about-downtown glossy 002houston magazine is stripping away the Zip Code part of its name to indicate its (longstanding) willingness to venture into Discovery Green (010), East Downtown (003), Bellaire (401), Montrose (swinging both ways: 006 and 019), the Energy Corridor (079), The Heights (007, 008, and 009), Pearland (584), Sugar Land (478 and 479), The Woodlands (380, 381, and 389), or wherever a nearby polo match is to be found. Starting with the January issue, the free publication’s new name will be Local Houston Magazine. “Local will continue to provide relevant news targeting those who live and work downtown, but with increased coverage throughout Greater Houston,” reads a notice sent out yesterday from 002houston magazine’s Spring St. editorial offices (in 007), “with editors covering food, culture, art and style for Houstonians who make Houston one of the coolest cities in America.”

11/24/14 10:30am

HOUSTON CHRONICLE COMPLEX DOWNTOWN GOING ON SALE — A YEAR OR 2 TOO LATE? Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown HoustonThe Houston Chronicle‘s former real estate reporter says Hearst is putting the Chronicle complex at 801 Texas Ave. up for sale at a less-than-ideal time. Ralph Bivins reports that the newspaper’s parent company has just selected brokerage firm HFF to market the building, on the block surrounded by Milam, Travis, Texas, and Prairie, and its separate parking garage. But “Hearst would have met stronger demand by putting the Chronicle property on the market a year or two ago,” Bivins writes. “Hearst moved too late to catch the crest of the wave. The price for the Chronicle property is expected to be less than $50 million.” In July, the company announced the newspaper’s offices would be moved to revamped facilities in the former Houston Post complex at 4747 Southwest Fwy. [Realty News Report; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Ralph Bivins

11/14/14 10:00am

Rendering of the Marlowe, Proposed Condo Tower at 1211 Caroline St., Downtown HoustonYesterday the Downtown Management District approved funding under the city’s downtown living initiative for Randall Davis’s planned downtown condo tower. But before Swamplot could receive any additional entries in the impromptu design competition for the project initiated by a reader, the developer appears to have gone ahead and dropped a view of his own proposal. Here, in all it’s blanc-et-noir-ish splendor, is an actual rendering of the Marlowe as its developer intends it. The 100-unit building is shown hovering over a Photoshop-white blanket atop an aerial map of the block bounded by Polk, Caroline, Austin, and Dallas streets, across the street from the House of Blues at the eastern end of GreenStreet, the renamed Houston Pavilions.

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The Marlowe
10/30/14 3:15pm

View of Downtown Houston from Space, October 30, 2014

Sure, these days with Google Maps and other available sources, we’re all pretty accustomed to seeing recent satellite images of our city. Does that make seeing a moments-ago fresh-from-the-camera view of Houston sent directly to you (and maybe 354,400 or so other Twitter followers) by an astronaut hanging out on the International Space Station less of a thrill? If not (or even if so), behold: Here’s an overhead view of downtown Houston taken just “a little bit ago,” sent by low-earth-orbiting astronaut Reid Wiseman this afternoon.

Photo: NASA/Reid Wiseman

Someone Was Watching Over You
10/27/14 12:00pm

THE NEWEST PLACE TO GO DOWNTOWN Public Restroom, Tranquillity Park, Rusk and Smith Streets, Downtown HoustonA reader writes: “Until this morning I had never noticed this public restroom (really just a port-o-john with a thoughtfully labeled enclosure around it) downtown next to Tranquility Park at the corner of Rusk and Smith. Everybody knows that Swamplot is Houston’s most trusted source for breaking news about the city’s top cat 5 dump hotspots, so I figured I’d send y’all this update. I definitely feel sorry for whoever has to maintain this facility, but if the city has decided to provide a refuge for the park’s inhabitants in an attempt to discourage the use of secluded downtown doorways or parking garage stairwells, then I think it’s a great idea.” Photo: Swamplot inbox

10/22/14 1:15pm

Proposal for New Randall Davis Condo Tower, 1211 Caroline St. at Polk St., Downtown Houston

There is always excitement surrounding an announcement of a new Randall Davis condo tower — before the design is revealed. Everyone wants to know: What mixture of far-away buildings and long-ago eras will the architecture reference? And what affordable materials will it be constructed from? From atop what garage launch platform will it point toward the sky? And even more simply: How grandiose will it be? Late yesterday, only a few hours after posting news that the developer had announced the impending arrival of a condo highrise adjacent to GreenStreet downtown, Swamplot received the humble design submission pictured above from reader Bill Barfield. He claims to have created the rendering “after much research.”

Rendering: Bill Barfield (bill_b)

Vision Statement
10/21/14 4:30pm

1311 Polk St., Downtown Houston

Sign at 1201 Caroline St., Downtown HoustonIn announcing earlier today the new condominium tower he and Astoria partner Roberto Contreras are planning to build downtown, Randall Davis wasn’t so specific about the location he has in mind for the highrise building. But sources tell Swamplot it’s planned for a portion of the block bounded by Polk, Caroline, Austin, and Dallas pictured above. That would put it on what’s now a surface parking lot adjacent to the Dirt Bar (tag line: “We Play Rock n’ Roll”) and across the street from the House of Blues, at the eastern end of GreenStreet (formerly Houston Pavilions). Noodle fans will remember the Dirt Bar spot at 1209 Caroline St. as the former home of Josephine’s Italian Restaurant. The Reserve 101 bar is on the corner at 1201 Caroline St., next door.

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Where’s Marlowe?
10/20/14 10:45am

Ground-level view corridors were limited by extensive street closures early Sunday morning, which meant that the best views of the controlled demolition of the denuded Houston Club Building at 811 Rusk St. were to be had from inside neighboring office towers. The video above and its entertaining soundtrack was posted to YouTube by Culturemap yesterday (and have already inspired its first quasi-parody video), though it’s almost identical to the (longer) raw video feed posted by KHOU. Once cleanup is complete, Skanska will begin construction of the 35-story Capitol Tower on that site.

Video: Culturemap/KHOU

Wow. Wow. Wow.
10/16/14 2:15pm

New High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Caroline St. and Rusk St., Downtown, Houston

Here’s a cutaway view looking into what’s being called the final design of the new Downtown campus for Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Escalating construction costs have spurred HISD to accelerate the 2012 bond program that’s paying for the new HSPVA campus along with rebuilding programs at approximately 40 schools. So construction on the 5-story, 168,000-sq.-ft. building designed by the Houston office of Gensler is expected to begin within a few weeks, and end shortly after the 2017 school year begins.

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Show and Tell