In 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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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.
Wow. Wow. Wow.
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
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
Occasional 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
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
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
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?
PENNZOIL PLACE’S STICKY DAMAGE CONTROL PLAN Chronicle 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
WITH ACTORS AND COMPANY GONE, THE ALLEY THEATRE CATCHES FIRE Fire broke out late this morning at the Alley Theatre at 615 Texas Ave. fronting Jones Plaza downtown. The acting ensemble is performing at UH this season, to allow workers to complete a $46.5 million renovation of the brutalist concrete building and its parking-lot-tower appendages. Fire department officials are reporting that construction workers spotted smoke streaming from the building’s duct work, apparently from an electrical fire. Shortly before the fire started, construction photos of the roof being opened up above the main theater space were posted to the organization’s Facebook page [Click2Houston; Alley Theatre] Photo: Emma Q
COMMENT OF THE DAY: MORE THAN READY FOR THE NEXT BIG BOOM DOWNTOWN “I cannot wait until they implode the Houston Club Building. Everyone who works in Pennzoil Place is currently on the verge of losing their minds because of the constant jackhammering on the building to prepare it for demolition. We’re happy the end appears to be in sight, but another six weeks of this is going to be tough to handle. I hope the construction workers are well-protected from the noise and dust this project is creating. If we’re going nuts, then I can’t imagine how they must feel.” [Courtney, commenting on Blowing Up the Houston Club; Dismantling a Radioactive Barge in Galveston] Illustration: Lulu
Will all the gawkable dark mystery disappear from Downtown once the last few long-abandoned towers standing get cleaned up or knocked down? Maybe, but in the meantime we have these latest events to consider, around and about the former Heaven on Earth Plaza Inn at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. (at Travis), which was operated by an organization affiliated with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for most of the nineties (before the city shut it down, in 1998).
A couple of readers have reported seeing some recent activity in and around the 31-story building, which was built as a Holiday Inn in 1971 and later converted to a Days Inn — before taking a different spiritual path:
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Falling to Earth from Heaven on Earth
Update, 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
“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