04/11/14 1:45pm

Proposed Marriott Marquis Hotel, Downtown Houston

A groundbreaking ceremony today is marking the construction start of the new $335 million Marriott Marquis hotel on Walker St. and Crawford next to the George R. Brown Convention Center downtown, which will face the existing Hilton Americas hotel across Discovery Green. The newly updated rendering shown below confirms that the hotel will be the first institution anywhere to sport an island shaped like Texas in one of its lower rooftop pools:


On Discovery Green
04/09/14 2:15pm

Proposed Block 365 Apartments, Austin at Pease St., Downtown Houston

Here’s a drawing of the new apartment block Dallas architecture firm Hensley Lamkin Rachel is designing for a Dallas developer on the block surrounded by Caroline, Austin, Pease, and Jefferson streets downtown, a few blocks southwest of the Toyota Center. There’s a surface parking lot with a few shade structures on the lot now. Leon Capital Group is hoping to get a piece of the city’s $15,000-per-unit tax rebate program for the 220 units in the 6-story structure. A note on the company’s website says the project “is planned to begin” at the end of this year.

Rendering: Hensley Lamkin Rachel

Block 365
03/31/14 12:30pm

Stowers Building, 820 Fannin St., Downtown Houston

A website entry noted by eagle-eyed HAIF commenter Urbannizer indicates that Starwood Hotels and Resorts plans to convert the Stowers Building on the corner of Fannin and Walker downtown (pictured above) into an Aloft Hotel. Aloft Houston Downtown will open at 820 Fannin St. in June 2016, according to the company’s listing of upcoming Starwood properties. The 10-story former headquarters of the G.A. Stowers Furniture Company was built in 1913 and renovated for office condos in 2005 by Spire Realty. It’s the only building left on the block now dominated by the BG Group Place tower fronting Main St.— the previously neighboring buildings were torn down in 2008.

Photo: Mike Bloom Jr.

Starwood on Fannin
03/26/14 3:30pm

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

The lobby for the new 25-story luxury Downtown hotel announced yesterday — an add-on for the GreenStreet conversion of the former Houston Pavilions — will be on its top floor. A pool and bar will sit above it on the roof level. Its highlighted contours tracing a giant question mark, the sleek modern 225-room tower will be planted on top of the remains of former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming‘s flopped restaurant. It’ll sit back from Main St., behind XXI Forever, hugging Fannin on the block also bounded by Polk and Dallas. But the Hotel Alessandra isn’t meant to spike the retail flow in the failed-mixed-use redo project — instead, it’ll include 7,000 sq. ft. of retail and restaurant space on its bottom floors, and connect to the project’s Main St. shops and Fannin skybridge.

Here’s a view from Main St., looking southeast along Dallas:


25 Stories
03/25/14 10:15am

Storefront, 711 Main St. Unit 1, Downtown Houston

springbok-tabc-noticeThere’s been a “slight change in plans,” a post on the Facebook page of a new South African restaurant headed for Main St. downtown announced earlier this month. The owners of the Springbok had earlier posted renderings of their planned redo of the space at 723 Main St. But the target has been shifted somehow, and they now plan to open 2 doors north, in a space that’s more than double the size and includes 2 patios — at 711 Main St. Unit 1, directly below the Capitol Lofts in the block between Capitol and Rusk. Late last week, a reader spotted the TABC notice pictured at left posted to the door.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

03/17/14 3:45pm

Surface Parking Lot at Travis St. and Preston, Market Square, Downtown Houston

Surface Parking Lot at Travis St. and Preston, Market Square, Downtown HoustonHere’s some evidence that Hines Residential is ready to go ahead with construction of its 33-story apartment tower at the corner of Travis and Preston, catty-corner from Market Square: The surface parking lot on that site closed down over the weekend. “The lot’s money machine and parking lot signage are gone,” reports the reader who snapped these views. “I’m sure better fencing and gates will soon arrive.” In the meantime, newly installed curbstops are blocking the driveways.


Unpaving Paradise, Putting Down a Parking Lot
03/04/14 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOUSTON, THE CITY OF LITTLE DOWNTOWN SUBURBIAS Little Suburbias“Why not have a ‘little suburbia’ in the area? I mean, let’s stop fighting it and sail [with] the wind. Now I know I’m being a little tongue and cheek, but is there nothing more ‘Houston’ than to have a completely market driven transplant of the suburbs right next to downtown? We can even market it w/ such features as ‘the sidewalk to nowhere’ and the ‘stripmall, strip.’ Maybe even use it to advertise Houston to the rest of the country: “Close to work with suburban sprawl; yes, you CAN have it all!” Heck, we’ll just reboot the Virginia Slims campaign w/ big box stores and the skyline in the background!” [DNAguy, commenting on Texas City Buc-ee’s Opening Sooner Than Expected; The Rush To Destroy Rice’s Menil Legacy] Illustration: Lulu

02/27/14 11:00am

Proposed Design for 6 Houston Center Office Tower, on Block Surrounded by Walker, Caroline, Rusk, and San Jacinto Streets, Downtown Houston

Mimicking the pipe-wrench-jaw-like multistory balcony near the top of BG Group Place (seen in blocky form at right in the rendering above), there’ll a tree-toothed notch carved into the eastern edge of the top floors of the just-unveiled design for 6 Houston Center. But this new $250 million spec office tower won’t just be a little more roughly cut than its neighbor — it’ll be a bit shorter, too. The 30-story structure is planned for the block surrounded by Rusk, Walker, Caroline, and San Jacinto streets, directly north of the LyondellBasell Tower at 1 Houston Center, on what’s currently a surface parking lot.


Tree-Lined Sky Views
02/20/14 4:00pm


919 Prairie St., Downtown HoustonLimestone-paneled Byrd’s Department Store, designed by architect Joseph Finger in an early modern style back in 1934, was turned into an awning-skirted mixed-use structure in 2005. The conversion was planned by Ray + Hollington for builder Robert Fretz, grandson of the original builder, and left the upper portions of the building rebranded as Byrds (no apostrophe) Lofts. In the retail space downstairs is Georgia’s Market. Upstairs, one of the second-story condos was put up for sale last week, with an asking price of $484,000. But the listing’s interior peeks still leave some rooms up to the online condo-shopper’s imagination.


Cornering the Market
02/19/14 10:45am

Metro Bridge over Buffalo Bayou, West Downtown, Houston

A reader who’s been watching construction of the new bridge that’s gone up over Buffalo Bayou and fitted neatly under I-45 at the far western end of the new under-construction Southeast and East End light-rail lines wonders what its purpose is. The bridge is beyond the planned Theater District stations, the last shared rail stops for the 2 lines. Is it a bridge to nowhere, or the starting point for some later western expansion along Washington Ave?


Heading West from Downtown
02/12/14 12:30pm

Houston Municipal Court Building, 1400 Lubbock St., HoustonSurprise! The spot in Houston where the most parking tickets have been issued over the last 2 years is . . . the place where people go to pay for their parking tickets. That would be at the surface parking lot for the city’s municipal courthouse at 1400 Lubbock St. (pictured at right), where a couple advantages accrue for illegal parkers: If you’ve got money with you when you return to find that bright green envelope tucked under your windshield wiper, paying up will be extremely convenient, and the parking while you go back in should be . . . uh, no extra charge!

Working from public data, Click2Houston reporter Jace Larson compiled the top 19 addresses cited in the 415,000 parking citations the city issued in 2012 and 2013, and highlighted 6 of them in his TV report. Of the top 19, only 6 are not directly adjacent to government or public-institution-related buildings; the vast majority of them are Downtown. Among the non-central parking-enforcement hotspots: an IRS service center and a couple of residential blocks near Montrose nightclubs. Here’s a list and map of the parking-enforcement hotspots, along with a few details from Larson’s report and observations of the map:


Hint: They’re Mostly Downtown
02/12/14 10:15am

BROWN BOOK SHOP PLANS TO STAY DOWNTOWN FOR A WHILE Brown Book Shop, 1517 San Jacinto St. at Leeland, Downtown HoustonSales declines at downtown mainstay Brown Book Shop had the owner within weeks of shutting down the oil-and-gas industry technical bookstore, the shop’s new owners tell the Chronicle‘s Erin Mulvaney. But a turnaround sparked by increased online sales have changed the outlook. Stephen Plumb and Noah Davis, hired last July as consultants by the previous owner, now plan to renew the lease at 1517 San Jacinto for another 5 years for their new acquisition, double the staff to 10 employees, and change the store’s focus to its website. They’re remodeling the building’s interior as well. [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo: Brown Book Shop

02/05/14 10:00am

View of Construction Site at 1311 Louisiana St. with Wedge International Parking Garage in Background, Downtown Houston

777 Clay St. Garage, Wedge International Tower, Downtown HoustonHere’s a view of the Wedge International parking garage at 777 Clay St. from across Polk St. taken yesterday. It’s not particularly notable — until you realize what’s no longer visible. For years, while a surface parking lot stood on the lot in the foreground, this was the scene of Houston’s most spectacular grid of auto headlights and taillights — changing daily, and screened from their cliff-like views at each level only by low, light-looking barriers of steel cables. (A closeup side view of the scene from last week, with a few levels already partially masked by new chain-link fencing, is shown at right.)


That’s a Wrap
02/03/14 1:15pm

Door at 917 Franklin St., Downtown HoustonGoing into the spot at 917 Franklin St. downtown where the Red Lantern Vietnamese restaurant shut down last year: a new restaurant from Arena Theater chef Mark Latigue, featuring “Creole, Cuban and Caribbean” Cuisine. Courtesy of another Skyhawk aerial camera-wielding quadcopter hovering above the Islamic Da’wah Center across the street, here’s a spy video of the Commercial National Bank building it’ll be in — on the ground floor.


Downtown Restaurant Spycam
01/31/14 12:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A DEALCHASER’S GUIDE TO MONTHLY GARAGE PARKING DOWNTOWN Wedge International Tower Parking Garage, Downtown Houston“Do we need more parking downtown? Um, yes. Corporations have bought up many garages and left nothing for everyone else. I work in the Wells Fargo building, where an unreserved spot costs $400/mo. I had a spot in the Travis Place garage for $150, but Kinder Morgan or El Paso bought all the spots. I got a spot at 919 Milam for $190-ish, and some tenant bought all those spots. Then I got a spot above Pappas BBQ at 1100 Smith, but they kicked out a bunch of parkers (including me) to open up spaces for new tenants at 1100 Louisiana. I tried to get a spot in the Theater District garages, but they have a wait list a mile long. So now I’ve moved to Two Shell, which is $215/mo. Renovations are about to begin there, so I’ll either get the boot again or it will become prohibitively expensive. (Again, all of these prices are for plain-jane unreserved spots. And I can’t take the bus because I am in and out of the car all day.) So, yes . . . We need more non-corporate parking downtown.” [Montrosian, commenting on Downtown’s New Highrise for Cars Is Going Up!] Photo of Wedge International Tower parking garage: Swamplot inbox