08/22/14 4:30pm

Construction Site at 609 Main St., Downtown Houston

Rendering of Pickard Chilton Design for 609 Main St., Downtown HoustonUpdate, 8/26: The headline has been corrected.

If you’re wondering what the late-night traffic holdup is in and around Main St. and Texas Ave. over the weekend, here’s your explainer: 180 mixing trucks are going to be lining up to pour a continuous stream of concrete onto this site surrounded by Main, Texas, Fannin, and Capitol streets downtown, where D.E. Harvey builders is putting together a little office building — now slated to rise 48 stories — for the Hines CalPERS Green development fund. The action starts at 7 pm on Saturday and should finish up around 3 in the afternoon the next day.

In all, about 14,000 cubic yards of concrete will go into the mat foundation of the 609 Main St. building during those 17 hours. The Texas Tower, formerly known as the Sterling Building, was dismantled on a portion of the site earlier this year.

Photo: Hines. Rendering: Pickard Chilton

609 Main
08/22/14 1:30pm

Brewery Incubator and League of Extraordinary Brewers Brewpub, 907 Franklin St., Suite 150, Downtown Houston

“Never would a game of strip Twister be so badly regretted,” writes Lucrece Borrego in announcing the sudden closure of her innovative Downtown food-business incubator turned brewery-incubator business on the ground floor of the Bayou Lofts building at 907 Franklin St. An eviction notice the two-time startup-startup starter was handed by an attorney representing her landlord as Borrego was cooking for a steak-night “bottle share” event last Friday cited several reasons for the termination of her lease, most of them focusing on items encountered in a common-area hallway outside the business: empty beer kegs and boxes (Borrego says they were left after deliveries), “personal items” (likely including a motorcycle, a source tells Swamplot) — and a live game of naked Twister.

“Indeed,” Borrego writes, “I had agreed to host a naked game night: a completely private event that takes place at bars all over Houston regularly. We covered all the windows and had someone working the door. Only one thing went wrong.

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Downtown Brewery Startup Space Evicted
08/21/14 12:00pm

ACTING ON HER OWN, MAYOR WILL ALLOW FOOD TRUCKS DOWNTOWN Coreanos Food Truck at GreenStreet, Downtown HoustonNote: Story updated below. Hopes there wouldn’t be much opposition this time to changing the city’s fire and health codes to allow food trucks a few niceties such as the ability to park near seating for their customers (if not actually provide it) may have been dashed by objections aired by restaurant owners and the Greater Houston Restaurant Association at yesterday’s city council committee meeting, but Mayor Parker said she plans to go ahead and let propane-fueled mobile food units operate downtown anyway, by acting on her own — an administrative change that doesn’t require council approval: “Parker said she has received an opinion from the fire marshal’s office deeming propane tanks of up to 60 pounds safe for mobile food units in the downtown area. It was not clear Wednesday when that rule change would go into effect, though it is likely to be coupled with smaller, more technical regulatory changes to the food truck policy that the City Council could vote on as soon as this fall.” Update, 1:30 pm: A spokesperson for Mayor Parker tells Swamplot the fire department expects to implement the propane rule change, which would allow trucks in the Texas Medical Center as well as Downtown, sometime in September. Changing the rules to allow a food truck to park closer than 60 ft. to another food truck — another administrative change not requiring a vote from city council — “isn’t likely to be considered until the end of the year or early next year when other changes to the fire code are proposed.” [Houston Chronicle; more infopreviously on Swamplot] Photo: Coreanos food truck

08/15/14 3:00pm

WHEN HOUSTON HAD A PLAN, AND FUNDING, FOR A DOWNTOWN PEOPLE MOVER Rendering of Proposed Downtown People Mover, Main St., HoustonDigging into 40-some-year-old documents resting comfortably in the Houston Metropolitan Research Center at the Julia Ideson Library, Christopher Andrews pieces together the story behind the Downtown People Mover once planned for Houston. Houston was approved to receive $33 million in federal funding for the project in the mid-seventies, along with 4 other cities, but withdrew its application shortly after Harris County voters approved the creation of Metropolitan Transit Authority in 1978. After Houston dropped out (along with Cleveland and St. Paul), actual downtown people movers ended up getting built in Detroit and Miami. “The City of Houston’s 1976 proposal to the UMTA,” writes Andrews, “called for a 1.09 mile system, composed of 2.25 lane miles of track bisecting the ‘heart of the downtown core,’ stretching from the Cullen Center to the Harris County complex. It was intended to be fully owned, operated, planned and financed by the City of Houston, and was said to garner ‘strong and wide local support.’” A later report commissioned by the city showed alternatives to that north-south route along Milam St., including an elevated line running down Main St. past (and into) the (recently demolished) Foley’s building. [Not of It] Renderings: Sperry Systems Management/Houston Metropolitan Research Center

08/15/14 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: RAILROADED Drawing of Southern Pacific Train Station, Houston“Southern Pacific (not Union Pacific, as one writer claimed), demolished this station in 1959. Critics may blame Houstonians for failing to rally and save the building, but the fact is that the modern architectural preservation movement didn’t start until the early 1970s, and even my architecturally hip home town of Chicago let some classic beauties like Louis Sullivan’s Stock Exchange slip away before public sentiment for preservation began to build. The first downtown railroad-station preservation-restoration project did not take place until 1973, when the Southern Railway’s vacant Terminal Station in Chattanooga was transformed into a restaurant and hotel complex. If anybody has any photos of the interior of the SP station in Houston I would like to examine them for a book I’m writing about what happened to each of the big downtown stations in North America. SP’s Houston Station was designed by Texas’s most celebrated architect, Wyatt C. Hedrick, who also designed the Shamrock Hotel, the T&P station in Fort Worth, and dozens of admired hotels, factories and commercial buildings. Photos of his T&P station are all over the Internet but SP demolished his Houston station before anyone had a chance to make any good photos.” [F.K. Plous, commenting on The Secret Train Station Hidden Downtown] Illustration: Lulu

08/13/14 12:30pm

Proposed Office Building and Parking Garage for Greater Houston Partnership, Avenida de las Americas at Capitol St., Downtown Houston

Proposed Office Building, Hotel, and Parking Garage for Greater Houston Partnership, Avenida de las Americas at Capitol St., Downtown Houston

Earlier this month, Houston First showed off renderings of the office building it’s planning to build for itself and 3 other Houston-boosting organizations (top), headlined by the Greater Houston Partnership, one block north of and linking to the George R. Brown Convention Center. (A massive attached 1,900-car parking garage would share the skybridge to the George R. Brown and fit between the building and the Hwy. 59 overpass.) Yesterday, the operator of the city’s performing arts and convention facilities pulled out an additional pic (above), highlighting another aspect of its plan, and showing how the same building would look with a 15-story add-on perched on top of it. The rendering of the tower portion by WHR Architects, the same firm that’s designing the office building and parking garage, is meant to be “conceptual”; Houston First announced it will begin taking proposals for the hotel from developers, who might choose a different design team.

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Launch Pad
08/11/14 1:45pm

913 Franklin St., Downtown Houston

The space at 913 Franklin St. downtown (pictured to the left of the red awning in the photo above), which has been vacant since the Franklin Street Coffee House shut down there in the late aughts, is due to open again later this year as a bar named the Drawing Room. The 2-story “saloon-style” space between Travis and Main St. will have seating areas on the second floor that overlook the bar and the first floor. The lobby of the Bayou Lofts is next door; before its incarnation as a coffee shop, the space was used as a jewelry store.

Photo: The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room
08/06/14 11:00am

Proposed Greater Houston Partnership Building, Downtown Houston

The 10-story office building announced earlier this week for a site across the street from the George R. Brown Convention Center won’t just house the Greater Houston Partnership, for which the project is being named; it’ll also be home to a swell crowd of quasi-governmental city-boosting organizations, whose members will gladly walk you out onto the 2-story 2,000-sq.-ft. upper terrace at the corner of Rusk and Avenida de las Americas, slap you on the back, and point out all the new buildings and visitors and conventions swarming around Discovery Green.

If it isn’t too late in the afternoon (the deck faces west), a city scout needing a little convincing or glad-handling will have an eye-opening view of Houston to behold: A slice of Houston’s central, quasi-public park with its suggestively undeveloped surface parking lots and the rest of downtown beyond, bookended by the city’s 2 remaining non-acronymed sports facilities, Minute Maid Park and the Toyota Center. Kinda stepping in front of the center portion of that view will be the new Marriott Marquis currently under construction along the combined Walker and McKinney streets on Discovery Green’s eastern flank, but the hotel’s tower portion will be shifted a bit to leave room for a park overlook. In a nod to the marketing world’s recent fashion of mildly gritty cité-vérité, the new office building’s deck won’t be air-conditioned, but the nearby towers should generate a fair amount of breeze, and its height should put it safely above Houston’s 8-story mosquito line.

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Someday Near the Park and the George
08/01/14 3:00pm

Metro Light Rail Train on Capitol St., Downtown HoustonNo, no one’s expecting Metro’s 2 new light-rail lines to open any sooner than late December (as Swamplot reported last week), but some progress toward that goal is now visible on portions of the East End and Southeast lines: “Live wire” or powered testing of the downtown tracks began this week. The photo at right, sent in by a reader, shows a Metro train moving unescorted along the tracks on Capitol St. for the first time.

Photo: Nathan Juett

Power Up
07/29/14 1:00pm

Interior of GreenStreet, Downtown Houston

Swamplot reader Marc Longoria has pics of some of the greenery added recently to the revamped interior of the former Houston Pavilions mall downtown, now known as GreenStreet. The rebranding of the mixed-use complex, which extends 3 blocks east from the Main St. rail line in a Discovery Green-ish direction, signifies more than just the infusion of cash from the new owners who are rescuing the project from bankruptcy, the Midway Companies (the folks behind CityCentre) and Magic Johnson’s Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds: There’s the notable addition of striped-green roofs over the escalators (above), for one thing. And more new plant-ish color has been added nearby:

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Artificial Turf, Salads, and More
07/28/14 1:45pm

Future Home of Bovine and Barley, 416 Main St., Downtown Houston

bovine-barley-noticeA TABC mixed-beverage notice for a new eating and drinking establishment has been posted to the storefront at 416 Main St. next to Georgia’s Market downtown, fronting the 3,600-sq.-ft. space last occupied by Mexican restaurant El Centro Comida y Copas, reports the RDA’s Allyn West. The new venture, named Bovine and Barley, appears to be connected to the owners of The Refinery, the burgers-and-whiskey joint just west of the downtown at 702 W. Dallas St.

Photos: Allyn West

Ingredients for a New Bar
07/28/14 12:30pm

View of Downtown from TDECU Stadium University of Houston

From the Twitter feed of Brandon Blue comes this across-the-endzone pic of the University of Houston’s newly minted TDECU Stadium, highlighting the view of downtown Houston the structure’s designers felt made it worth twisting the scrapped-and-rebuilt house of Cougar football. Robertson Stadium was aligned in a more even-handed northish-southish direction. TDECU Stadium (officially, ), constructed on the demolished remains of that structure, is rotated to match the eastish-westish orientation of neighboring Scott St. and Cullen Blvd., a decision that a few momentarily blinded quarterbacks or receivers may come to bemoan during afternoon games. But the benefit of those bleacher cutouts separating the upper decks of stadium’s endzones from the bleachers at the sides is clear: A gleaming glimpse of Houston’s homegrown mountain range opens up through the concrete canyon.

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Giving TDECU Credit
07/25/14 10:45am

Texas A&M Flag Flying on Crane, Skyhouse Houston, Downtown HoustonJust last week Swamplot ran an item about the ironworker who got canned for draping a University of Alabama flag at the Kyle Field construction site in College Station. But after spotting a Texas A&M banner hoisted onto the crane for the SkyHouse Houston apartment tower Alliance Residential’s Block 334 apartment building going up at the corner of Main St. and Leeland yesterday, Twitterer-about-town PoppyPetalled wonders if flying college colors on construction sites has become “a thing.” Here’s a longer view:

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Marooned
07/22/14 3:45pm

LOCAL DESIGN MAG WANTS YOU TO REINVENT HOUSTON’S POLICE HQ COMPLEX — IN MINECRAFT Minecraft Model of Houston Police Headquarters, 61 Riesner St., HoustonThe online and offline publications of the Rice Design Alliance have announced a design competition to “reimagine” the area surrounding the city’s 21-acre police, courthouse, and jail complex centered around 61 Riesner St. between the Sixth Ward and Downtown — within the virtual world of Minecraft. Models of a number of existing buildings in the area bounded roughly by Houston Ave., Washington Ave, Preston St., I-45, and Memorial Dr. have already been crafted in the video game’s distinctive blocky style for the venture (try this server address: 108.60.220.190:25565), including Kenneth Franzheim’s 1950 Streamline Moderne HPD HQ itself (above); the publication is still seeking help to model other existing structures, including the Ferris Wheel and Aquarium on the opposite side of I-45. But simply blockifying existing structures isn’t the focus of the competition; instead, the editors of Cite magazine and the Offcite blog hope beginning or experienced users of the gaming environment will be inspired to inflict their visions of the larger area’s possible future on the design jury of one — New York design critic Alexandra Lange. [Offcite; map of site] Rendering: JP Dowling

07/22/14 1:15pm

Former Houston Post Building, 4747 Southwest Fwy., Houston

Yesterday afternoon’s news came couched in pillowy fluff: Houston’s largest news-gathering organization will be moving to an exciting new state-of-the-art facility in the Galleria area! No, the Houston Chronicle isn’t leaving the heart of the city it covers: Key reporters will remain downtown!

But here’s a rougher-edged reading of the newspaper’s apparent retreat: The Hearst Corporation is getting ready to sell off one of its most valuable Houston assets — a block and a half of prime Downtown real estate — so it’s telling Chron editorial staffers to find room for themselves somewhere in or around the austere 440,000-sq.-ft. concrete fort where the company’s distribution, circulation, local sales, and press operations have been camping out, on 21 acres in the lower right armpit formed by the intersection of Hwy. 59 and Loop 610.

The former Houston Post compound at 4747 Southwest Fwy. (above), designed by Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson in 1970 as a stark Brutalist follow-up to their work on the Astrodome, was part of the booty obtained by the Chronicle when it bought out its rival paper in 1995. The announcement calls the complex its “future campus,” but the extent of renovations or any new construction planned on the site is unclear.

What about that downtown foothold the paper is promising?

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A Newspaper Retreat