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
10/06/14 5:15pm

Georgia's Market Downtown, 420 Main St. at Rusk St., Downtown Houston

The number of grocery-store-type places open Downtown is down by one: Georgia’s Market, the cafe-and-bar-with-staples at the corner of Rusk and Main St., shut down at the end of last month. A note on the door at 420 Main St. informs customers that the 3-year-old establishment has closed for some sort of “revamp,” and refers patrons to the company’s website for “days open and future plans.” But the website isn’t much more helpful. “Thank you all for your past patronage and healthy intentions. Please stay tuned to further development at the Downtown location,” it notes dryly. The Georgia’s Market Memorial Village (now at 9201 Katy Fwy. at Piney Point; the one at Dairy Ashford closed) remains open.

Photo: EaDo Life

09/25/14 11:00am

Traffic Signal on Rusk St. Outside Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Parking Garage, 800 Bagby St., Downtown Houston

hobby-garage-signalOccasional downtown parker Monica Savino notes the recent traffic signal now operating outside the north exit of the Hobby Center parking garage facing Rusk St. just west of Bagby (pictured above and at left), and wonders how other midblock parking garages with difficult exits might be able to get in on this kind of automated car-stopping action: “I’m sure it’ll be very helpful for that mass exodus after an event but was wondering about a couple things. How does a parking garage get its own traffic signal? Also, who funds this infrastructure? Is this a private initiative or a CoH move? I imagine that there are several other downtown parking garages that would like a signal of their own especially if the City’s providing them.”

Photos: M. Kusey

Please Wait
09/23/14 1:00pm

How long has it been since you’ve run along, rowed along, or flown over Buffalo Bayou? Guy-out-with-his-Phantom-quadcopter Marco Luzuriaga filmed this scene earlier this month above a short section of the city’s most prominent drainage canal beginning near the Rosemont Bridge, then turning around and heading a ways toward Downtown. He gives up on the waterway and substitutes a bit of downtown-tangling freeway spaghetti near the end, but if you look into the distance around the 1:30 mark, you can catch a quick progress report on reconstruction of Buffalo Bayou Park.

Video: Marco Luzuriaga, via Brittanie Shey

 

Tour by Drone
09/22/14 10:30am

Proposed SkyHouse Main Apartment Tower, Main St. at Pease St., Downtown Houston

Atlanta’s Novare Group, known for planting glassy crowned apartment towers in Sunbelt cities, is about to build its third in Houston. If the SkyHouse Main the company is planning for the block surrounded by Main, Fannin, Pease and Jefferson (across the light-rail line from the Beaconsfield) looks familiar, that’s because the new 24-story, 335-unit project appears identical to the SkyHouse Houston building it just completed a block to the north. That means a multi-level parking garage on the east side of the block, and retail space on the ground floor, fronting the rail line.

SkyHouse Main would be the company’s third SkyHouse in Houston: SkyHouse River Oaks is currently under construction southwest of River Oaks, on the site of one of the former Westcreek Apartments just east of the West Loop.

Rendering: Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart

SkyHouse Main
09/19/14 11:30am

Building Details at Block Surrounded by Preston, Prairie, Milam, and Travis, Downtown Houston

What tales of real-estate scandal are buried beneath the blocks surrounding Market Square? In 1988, the Bethje-Lang building at 316 Milam St., better known as the site of the Warren’s Inn bar, was torn down without so much as a permit by its new owner, Guardian Savings. According to an account enshrined on the Downtown District website, the soon-to-be-defunct S&L was able to wrest the building from its previous owner, Warren Trousdale, only after a multi-year campaign of harassment that included mysteriously cemented-up sewer lines. (Trousdale’s sister established the current Warren’s Inn, across Market Square on Travis St., in his — and the building’s — memory.) Guardian Savings was never able to build the development it planned for that site, but the parking lot it left behind was ripped out this past summer for construction of the 40-story Market Square Tower.

The block likely held the remnants of other storied escapades, but a Swamplot reader says it’s all gone now: “The entire site [was] bulldozed, excavated and historically sanitized in a matter of a few days. During the excavations red brick foundations were exposed to a depth of about 15 feet and destroyed. There was no sign of any archeological due diligence by the developer before or during the demolition.”

But if you like digging in Houston real estate dirt, there’s still plenty left to explore beneath an adjacent parking lot:

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Unearth, or Let them Lie?
09/16/14 12:30pm

PENNZOIL PLACE’S STICKY DAMAGE CONTROL PLAN Yellow Stickers on Pennzoil Place, 711 Louisiana St., Downtown HoustonChronicle real-estate reporter Nancy Sarnoff has answers to a couple of questions Pennzoil Place tenants, visitors, and passers-by might be asking right about now: 1) Why is this iconic double-towered downtown office building at 711 Louisiana St. downtown now covered with small, round yellow stickers? and 2) If the building gets scuffed up during the implosion of the remaining hulk of the Houston Club Building across the street, how will property managers be able to distinguish new nicks and scrapes from all the old ones? [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photos: Nancy Sarnoff