02/01/17 1:45pm

STEERING CLEAR OF THE SUPER BOWL CROWDS, WHETHER THEY SHOW UP OR NOT convention-center-super-bowlSteve Jansen of the Houston Press runs through some numbers this week for the impending Super Bowl LI — many of which depend on the wide range of visitor estimates put forth by booster groups and analysts. The Super Bowl Host Committee claimed to expect over a million visitors back in 2014 (though that number appears to include local folks stopping by all of the week’s lead-up events); more recently, a consulting firm hired by the committee offered an estimate of 138,000 non-local visitors. Jansen writes that “there will certainly be fewer football fans in town since the Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys aren’t playing in the grand finale. But it doesn’t matter a heck of a lot, because the phenomenon of ‘the Super Bowl is awful, I’m getting the hell out of here’ — called the crowding-out effect in economic parlance — is going to happen no matter what . . .” [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Photo of George R. Brown Convention Center remodeling and Super Bowl signage: Jesus Jimenez via Swamplot Flickr Pool

01/20/17 12:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW 2-SYLLABLE NEIGHBORHOOD NICKNAMES ARE BORN October 2016 look around Discovery Green and George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas,  Downtown, Houston, 77010“I’m with WR: who are these supposed ‘Houston residents’ who call it ADLA? I’ll bet those ‘residents’ are people who got here 6 months ago (and/or are the writer and his buddy). As far as the headline question: I think it may be too early for us to claim ‘World’s Best Super Bowl Host City‘ — or as a Houston resident, I call it WBSBHC, which rolls off the tongue.” [Wolf Brand Chili, commenting on Houston Rents Slide; Post-Flood Calls for Action] Photo of redone George R. Brown Convention Center on Avenida de las Americas: Bob Russell

01/18/17 3:30pm

TONIGHT’S AREA FLOODING SYMPOSIUM CANCELLED BY AREA FLOODING January 18th Flooding at Main St. and Buffalo BayouThe free public Flooding and Storm Surge Symposium previously planned for this evening at the George R. Brown Convention Center is being postponed, on account of it’s flooding right now. The event would have included 2 panel discussions with flood-minded folks from a variety of public and private sectors and institutions, gathering to talk about the city’s flooding and storm surge issues and possible solutions; the Urban Design Committee of the Houston chapter of the AIA says the event will be rescheduled. [Houston AIA] Photo of this morning’s high water at Allen’s Landing: Christine Wilson

11/07/16 12:30pm

NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATIONISTS TO GATHER IN HOUSTON, GAWK AT ASTRODOME AstrodomeThe National Trust for Historic Preservation — that’d be the folks that coined the ‘orgy of irrational destruction’ line picked up by Save the Bungalows a few years back — is holding its annual conference in Houston for the first time, starting next Tuesday. Current president Stephanie Meeks cites the city’s “compelling preservation story,” amid a regional lack of preservation-minded rules and regulations, as a reason for picking the city. Planned field trip locales include the Astrodome (currently getting ready for that basement parking garage remodel), as well as Mission Control, the artsifying warehouses and industrial facilities around Washington Ave., and a handful of Galveston historic districts. Also on the docket: the debut of the organization’s Atlas of ReUrbanism (a digital collection of built environment data aimed public officials, reporters, and other city data scavengers), for which Houston is one of 5 starter cities. Would-be attendees can catch some conference sessions next Tuesday through Friday in the neighborhood of the newly-game-faced George R. Brown Convention Center; those who don’t want to make the trip downtown can watch some sessions at home. [Previously on SwamplotPhoto of Astrodome: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

11/03/16 4:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: SUPER BOWL HOSTING JUST KICKS OFF THE LONG GAME October 2016 look around Discovery Green and George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas,  Downtown, Houston, 77010“Conventions. That is the (hoped for, at least) lasting effect of a Super Bowl. People who organize and bring these events to a city don’t care about the game, they don’t care about the players, the fans, any of that. They care about the large corporations that will attend the Super Bowl, for whatever reasons. . . . Just look at all the flurry of activity in Houston leading up to [it]: it hasn’t been on updating the areas around the stadium, it has barely been on updating the stadium. (They put in new wifi and updated some seats?) Where millions (and not even hundreds of millions) have been spent on the stadium, billions have been spent updating the convention area. A new facade on the convention center, a new world class hotel, dozens of restaurants in the convention district — this was done in a huge push to show that Houston is capable of hosting any event.” [toasty, commenting on Rebranding the Greenspoint District; Texas’s $25M Super Bowl Assist] Photo of updated George R. Brown Convention Center: Bob Russell

10/11/16 12:45pm

October 2016 look around Discovery Green and George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas, Downtown, Houston, 77010

Supercolumn Going Up on George R. Brown Convention Center, Downtown HoustonBob Russell sends a fresh slew of downtown updates, this time checking up on the state of the George R. Brown Convention Center area’s ongoing redo. The structure’s main entrance on Avenida De Las Americas has been getting a major facelift — the supercolumns installed last summer have since turned white, and the glassy  facade has stepped outward and dropped a few stripes, in line with the plans released previously by semi-public city branding organization Houston First:

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Super Bowl Conditioning
04/27/16 10:30am

1836 Polk St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

A sign zip-tied onto the fence around the parking lot at 1836 Polk St. is currently announcing an application by FreeRange Concepts to sell mixed drinks at the spot.  Up in Dallas, the company operates bar-slash-bowling alley Bowl & Barrel, bar-slash-dogpark Mutts Canine Cantina, restaurant-slash-music-venue The Rustic, and slashless restaurant The General Public. Houston locations of Bowl & Barrel and The General Public are currently under construction in CityCentre.

It’s unclear whether FreeRange has cast the Polk location for a sequel to one of its existing brands, or for something new. The TABC notice is posted on the full-block parking lot bounded by Jackson, Hamilton, and Bell streets just east of 59 and just south of the George R. Brown Convention Center. That block has previously appeared in the convention center’s 2025 Master Plan, as a site of possible future expansion:

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Liquoring Up by GRB
04/15/16 10:15am

If you missed the free Fallout Boy and Kendrick Lamar concerts during Final Four weekend, here’s your chance to catch both, condensed down to less than 5 minutes (no sound, though). This week photographer Geoffrey Lyon posted his time-lapse capture (from the upper levels of One Park Place) of Discovery Green filling up during the Friday and Saturday events held in conjunction with the college basketball championship finals; the park reached its maximum capacity on both that Saturday and the following Sunday and stopped admitting visitors. [KTRK; previously on Swamplot] Video: Geoffrey Lyon

Turned Up and Down Downtown
02/25/16 10:00am

CITY WILL PAY UP FOR OFF-BRAND BIRDS AT GRB George R. Brown Convention Center, Downtown, Houston, 77002After delaying the vote for 2 weeks, Houston’s city council has approved the reimbursement of Houston First for a bird-themed hanging sculpture that will come to roost in the updated George R. Brown Convention Center as its pre-Super Bowl renovations wrap up. The birds sparked an unanticipated funding debate earlier this month during which several councilmembers took issue with the already-partially-paid-for sculpture’s natural theme as not representative of Houston’s branding, which they asserted should revolve around NASA and global trade. “People come here, they don’t talk about the migration of birds,” said councilwoman Brenda Stardig. Others disagreed, pointing out that the city lies along the Central Flyway (one of the continent’s major bird migration routes) and draws flocks of birdwatchers annually. Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle reports that Stardig is now “comfortable with the project because Houston First has committed to explain the artwork’s meaning and to promote the Port of Houston, NASA and other items elsewhere in the renovated convention center. ‘I need to understand that we are telling the full story so someone that does visit understands that that does represent a migration of birds,’ Stardig said, ‘and not just [that] it was a beautiful thing they happened to see while they were in Houston.'” Meanwhile, artist Ed Wilson was caught off-guard when debate sprang up around assertions about his work’s meaning that he says came entirely from Houston First — Wilson says that the sculpture “is not a political statement, it’s not a branding statement, it’s just about the aesthetics, making something beautiful, activating the space, responding to the space and responding to the people coming through there.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

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:

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On Discovery Green
04/09/13 3:45pm

NEW CONVENTION CENTER HOTEL SEEMS A DONE DEAL Today, reports Prime Property’s Nancy Sarnoff, the city and developer Rida announced that an agreement has been reached and construction will begin soon on the 1000-room Downtown Marriott Marquis — the one with that Texas-shaped lazy river on the roof. A batch of renderings that Morris Architects released last year suggest that the hotel will replace what’s now a surface parking lot at Walker St. and Avenida de las Americas near Minute Maid Park, Discovery Green, and the George R. Brown Convention Center. Additionally, the Houston Business Journal’s Olivia Pusinelli Pulsinelli reports that much of the initial funding oomph for the development will come from Houston First, which will pay to acquire the property and to add a parking garage before transferring the holding to Rida. [Prime Property; Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Morris Architects

12/17/12 5:04pm

These renderings of the Marriott Marquis show the shapes of things coming — by 2016, according to current plans — to Downtown. Planned for the corner of Walker St. and Avenidas de las Americas, the hotel will stand facade-to-facade across Discovery Green with its older brother, the Hilton-Americas, doubling the number of rooms that serve the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Morris Architects, teamed up with Rida Development, is responsible for the design of this 30-story tower, which will have more than 1,000 guest rooms and exactly one 40,000-sq.-ft. grand ballroom. On the deck atop that ballroom appears to be some fully realized Texas mythology: the state as an island, surrounded by a chlorinated “lazy river.” Guests will tube around it, enjoying what’s more typically considered a Hill Country pastime.

And this is what the hotel is supposed to look like around dusk:

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10/10/11 8:42am

FREE CNG BUSES WILL CRISSCROSS DOWNTOWN Beginning next spring, a new free shuttle service called Greenlink will connect the George R. Brown Convention Center to City Hall — and about 20 stops along the way. The fleet of seven 30-ft.-long buses running on compressed natural gas is being paid for by the Downtown Management District, Houston First (the new corporation that now operates the convention center), and British gas company (and new Downtown tenants) the BG Group, with help from a grant from the Federal Transit Administration. Buses will run every 20 minutes along the 2.5-mile route from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm on weekdays only, and every 7 minutes at lunchtime and other peak traffic times. Update: Stops haven’t been chosen yet, but here’s a route map. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: George R. Brown Convention Center

02/11/11 3:44pm

An effort led by former Houston mayor Lee P. Brown to recruit wealthy Chinese investors for a proposed 1000-room East Downtown hotel project on the opposite side of the 59 freeway from the George R. Brown convention center appears to be picking up steam. Brown is listed as chairman of the managing general partner of the project, a company named Global Century Development. Brown and Global Century’s president, Dan Nip, hope to raise money for the $225 million project from investors who want to immigrate to the U.S. through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ EB-5 Visa program. That program, established as a result of the Immigration Act of 1990, allows foreign nationals to obtain a green card by investing a minimum of $500,000 — and thereby create 10 or more jobs — in qualified areas with high unemployment rates. An East Downtown investment zone identified by Global Century Development in the area bounded by Preston St., the 59 Freeway, I-45, and Dowling is the only area in Houston that qualifies as a “regional center” under the program.

A Powerpoint presentation prepared by Global Century Development that appears to date from last year sites the proposed hotel on three adjacent blocks near Saint Emanuel and Polk St. But a report in today’s Houston Business Journal by Jennifer Dawson indicates plans for the East Downtown hotel are focused on only 2 of those blocks, which Nip controls: They’re bounded by Polk, Saint Emanuel, Bell, and Chartres. Dawson reports that a pedestrian bridge connecting the hotel to the convention center across the freeway is being planned, but a schematic drawing of a bridge featured in the presentation appears to show it only crossing Chartres St., requiring pedestrians to cross under the freeway:

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