09/13/18 1:00pm

A FINAL FAREWELL TO THE FORMER HOUSTON PRESS BUILDING The former alternative newspaper HQ at 1621 Milam St. that’s also done stints as an auto dealership will be demolished, reports the Chronicle’s Craig Hlavaty.  Back when the Houston Press moved into it 15 years ago, the structure’s parking-lot sides were unadorned; artist Suzanne E. Sellers slapped her trompe-l’œil mural onto the north and east facades in 1994. Along Milam, however, things haven’t changed as much since the building’s first tenant Shelor Motor Company opened up in the ’20s — according to former Press staffer Abrahán Garza. Even its original 1920s glass windows — he reported — stayed put on the second and third floors through 2010. Now construction barriers are up around the whole block, and the property owner Chevron tells Hlavaty that a demolition permit is under review by the city. The oil company bought the 38,000-sq.-ft. structure in 2013, the same year Houston Press staff left it for a new spot on the corner of La Branch and McGowen. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Capital Realty  

08/24/18 1:45pm

The brick Western Union building shown in black and white on the corner of Louisiana and Capitol streets vanished from the downtown landscape in 1983 — although it didn’t go anywhere. Because the longtime regional switching center was too expensive to move, architect Philip Johnson simply designed his much larger landmark — then-called RepublicBank Center Center — around it, sealing the telecom structure off from public view. Inside the skyscraper’s lobby, the dead building takes up nearly a quarter of the floor space, with its west corner wedged into the Bank of America Center’s own, catty-corner to Jones Hall.

Last year, renovations were announced to add a new restaurant and cafe in the doorless and windowless portion of the Bank of America Center’s ground floor where the building is entombed. Crews began stripping away portions of the office building’s exterior earlier this year in order to make room for new openings to access the eateries. They’ve now busted all the way through the red granite, revealing the decades-older facade that lies behind it.

It’s still mostly obscured by the scaffolding that looms over the Capitol St. sidewalk :

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Seeing the Light
08/20/18 2:30pm

The title of artist Joan Dodd’s new composition 88 Keys undersells it — it’s actually 275 keys, more than 3 times the amount found on a piano. Installation artists laid them down along the rounded east west side of Jones Hall over the weekend. Constructed from 900 pounds worth of temporary marking tape  — the kind commonly used on highways — they now span the entire block of Louisiana between Texas Ave. and Capitol St.

That material choice means they can really take a pounding from anyone who feels like stomping out a silent melody with their feet while heading south to check out the Bank of America Center’s ongoing renovations. Or those lured in by the glow of the Lyric Center parking garage’s new lighting, pictured off in the distance below:

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Sidewalk Chromaticism
08/15/18 10:15am

A CURTAIN CALL FOR THE HIDDEN WESTERN UNION BUILDING BEFORE BANK OF AMERICA CENTER DIGESTS IT? With workers now punching holes in the facade where the Bank of America Center wraps the dead Western Union building it swallowed in 1983, city planner David Welch asks the question: “Will we be able to see the hidden building during construction?” It should be hard to miss; according to one Swamplot reader: “It is completely intact, tar and gravel roof included.” Size-wise, it takes up nearly a quarter of the B of A building’s ground floor, its northeast corner wrapped by the skyscraper’s own at Lousiana and Capitol streets — where the new openings are taking shape now. But its emergence may be brief: Once the planned new restaurant and cafe get situated inside it, the structure’s time-capsule mystique will be gone. And after new interior entrances open its innards to the tower’s own central lobby corridor, the telegram building will be completely metabolized. [David Welch; previously on Swamplot] Photo: David Welch

08/14/18 10:00am

Crews are now coating the garage on the corner of Travis and Rusk with strips of glass curtain wall similar to those seen on its much taller neighbor to the north, the Capitol Tower. While the 35-story office building got its exterior finish soon after topping out in April, the garage — built 2 years earlier — was left naked. It took over from the former Houston Club garage Skanska expanded and then demolished on the block in 2015.

Even after construction wrapped up, the new parking structure viewed below from Milam still looked mostly like this:

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First Come Last Serve
08/03/18 12:45pm

A new brewery is now in the works for the industrial building that sits across the Downtown 59 on-ramp from the Houston Center for Sobriety. Just like the adjacent drunk tank which opened in 2013, the new business at 100 N. Jackson will be housed in a repurposed warehouse. Its lawn includes several signs pointing drivers to the neighboring sobering center — like the one shown above fronting the exit ramp off the Eastex, on the west side of the soon-to-be beer venue dubbed Industry Brewery. (Also in the frame: signage for the building’s most recent tenant the American Engine & Grinding Company.)

At that corner, a left on Ruiz St. followed by another quick one on Chenevert gets you outside the recovery facility:

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Downtown Wet and Dry Spots
08/01/18 4:30pm

Dump trucks are now filing onto the barricaded block once home to the Houston Chronicle building — and more recently a parking lot — at Texas and Travis to start laying the foundation for Hines’s new 47-floor tower and soon-to-be new global headquarters. The photo above views the traffic from way up on the 31st floor of the site’s catty-corner northeast neighbor Aris Market Square — which the new building will overtop along with pretty much everything else nearby except the Chase Tower directly south of it. Law firm Vinson & Elkins will occupy the building’s top 7 floors.

A series of glassed-in atria shown in the rendering above from architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli hang out along the structure’s edge facing Milam St. Viewed from closer up, you can even see some people and trees inside them looking out on what’s below:

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Dump Truck Parade
08/01/18 1:00pm

After and before views show off the dramatic change of face that’s transformed 311 Travis St. as part of the prep-work for its new Tiki-themed bar occupant Kanaloa. The monochrome makeover began on the lower façade a few weeks ago before proceeding upstairs where it wrapped up last week. “We want this to be a hidden oasis in downtown,” the venue’s owner told Eater in March, hinting at plans to renovate the 126-year-old Alltmont Building. Its canopies, window arches, and pediment are pretty well-hidden now — though the building does seem to stand out a bit as a whole amid the row of adjacent lighter brick structures fronting Market Square Park.

When Kanaloa opens, it will pick up where Market Square Bar & Grill — pictured below — left off last year:

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Tiki Torched
07/31/18 10:00am

The owner of 306 Main St. is now marketing the building for lease, which means Moving Sidewalk‘s days are numbered inside. The bar took over from ramen restaurant Goro & Gun, which took over from Mediterranean spot Molto, which took over from Grum Bar & Grill, which took over from Hic-Cups Bar & Grill.

The biggest cosmetic change to the building over that roughly-10-year time span: the reddening of the church-like, windowed tympanum up above the front doors. Prior to Goro & Gun’s arrival, it’d been brown along with the entryway below it — both of which look out on the southbound Preston St. platform of METRO’s Red Line.

Photos: LoopNet

Rail Drinks
07/27/18 4:00pm

Here’s one of Houston’s latest walkable undertakings: converting the former railroad bridge beneath 59 to a pedestrian bridge that’ll link the trail along the bayou’s north bank to planned pedestrian segments south of waterway. It’s now overshadowed by the tangle of overpasses directly above it, but might not be once TxDOT starts straightening out 59 by nudging it east (and pairing it with a parallel segment of I-45) as part of its grand plan for north Houston highway improvement.

No southern trail segments are in place yet to greet the bridge upon its landfall just east of Downtown, but they will be soon: TxDOT’s already broken ground on a trail that’ll skirt the bayou as it crosses through the Houston Housing Authority’s Clayton Homes Neighborhood east of 59.

It’ll link up with the southern trail segment that does exist and runs east toward Lockwood Dr., as indicated by the gray line in the map below:

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Bayou Trailwork
07/26/18 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A BLANK CANVAS ON TRAVIS AND COMMERCE “In the meantime, can someone please put a mural on that god-awful concrete wall on the parking garage behind it? It really ruins taking shots of downtown from that angle now.” [Triton, commenting on Injury Lawyers Give Up Waterlogged Abraham Watkins Building’s Ground Floor for Good, Parking Garage Filler Now Slated To Replace Them] Illustration: Lulu

07/26/18 2:00pm

Catty-corner to the soon-to-be aerated Spaghetti Warehouse building on Commerce St., its 2-story brick neighbor between Travis and Milam has a similar plan for dealing with its own floody first floor: get rid of all downstairs law offices and replace them with parking. Currently, the decades-old Abraham Watkins Building is bookended by 2 surface parking lots to the east and the west (pictured above). By filling in the gap between them with 14 more spots, the owner hopes it’ll no longer have to keep repairing the decades-old place like its done at least once yearly for the past 4 years, according to an application it filed this month. (Personal injury firm Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz has managed to stay safe in the building throughout that time, though staff retreated to the top floor after Harvey.)

Houston’s historic commission approved that application yesterday, clearing the way for this new garage door to crop up on Commerce in place of the center storefront panel as shown below:

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800 Commerce
07/25/18 3:00pm

The parking garage at the Lyric Centre has begun glowing as part of its transformation into Lyric Market, one in the trio of planned Houston food halls. Though the venue on the corner of Smith and Preston streets isn’t open yet, its exterior has been all over the light spectrum lately, radiating both the rainbow and patriotic displays shown above.

Solid color schemes have been in the mix too:

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Bright Food Hall Future
07/20/18 10:00am

BRASA’S STEAKHOUSE WILL DEBUT IN ABANDONED KALEIDOSCOPE THEATER ON CAPITOL Recent permit filings show that the abandoned Kaleidoscope Theater on the Capitol-St.-side of the St. Germain Lofts at 705 Main St. is about to be reborn as a steakhouse. Founded by 2008 American Idol contestant Colton Berry 6 years ago, the theater played host to cabaret-style productions during its time in the space. But in the summer of 2016, Berry told the audience at a production of “PEOPLE” that the theater company was shutting down and splitting from the building, reported the Chronicle. That left a roughly 8,000 sq.-ft. hole in the north side of the residential structure — pictured above from the corner of Main and Capitol where the theater is survived by another, once-neighboring ground-floor tenant, Flying Saucer Draught Emporium. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Realtor.com

07/17/18 3:00pm

HINES SIGNS UP FOR 48-STORY HIGHRISE ON FORMER HOUSTON CHRONICLE DIGS DOWNTOWN Building permits filed last week for a concrete foundation in place of the HoustonChronicle-building-turned-parking-lot at 801 Texas Ave. reveal the vertical extent of what Hines has planned for the site: 48 stories. They’ll soon rise up above the fought-over tunnel system where a judge buried the hatchet 5 months ago, awarding Hines’ neighbor Theater Square $200,000, reported Nancy Sarnoff. Theater Square owns the property across Prairie St. from 801 Texas and claimed it had the right to access tunnels beneath the former newspaper building that it needed to connect its own subterranean sprawl to Houston’s broader downtown tunnel system. That hookup is now complete — writes Sarnoff — though the neighboring developer has yet to break ground on its own planned tower. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Brie Kelman