07/19/16 1:45pm

EVOLVING FORMS OF PANDERING TO POKEMON PLAYERS Pokemon Go Screenshot at Bohemeo's, 708 Telephone Rd., Eastwood, Houston 77023Looking for ways to lure the hordes of virtual gamers sent wandering through actual streets by the Pokemon Go app, which has surpassed Twitter in terms of daily users? You’re not the only one — last week the city promoter types at HoustonFirst Corporation published a guide to the Pokemon ecology of select Houston tourist destinations, from the Rothko Chapel to the Kemah Boardwalk and NASA. And Kyle Haggerty writes this week that while businesses around town can already pay small fees inside the game world to make extra Pokemon (and Pokemon players) show up near their brick-and-mortar locations, filling your store with phone-enraptured bodies could get easier: Niantic has announced plans to let businesses directly buy their way into the landscape with formal sponsorship deals. [Houston BisNow] Screenshot of Doduo at Bohemeo’s at 708 Telephone Rd.: Lauren Meyers

03/08/16 2:30pm

Renovation of Sunset Coffee Building at Allen's Landing, Downtown, Houston, 77002

A shiny new cistern is now in place at the former Sunset Coffee building at Allen’s Landing, which Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Houston First have been redeveloping into an office-topped boat-and-bike-rental spot.  The 1910 coffee roasting facility has once again donned walls after moving past a Summer 2014 minimalist phase, and is currently decked out in a muted Café du Monde orange.

The no-longer-see-through structure is back to limiting the view from the Harris County Jail across the bayou (visible on the far right, above). A set of stairs are in place alongside the new cistern, along with railings around what appears to be the planned rooftop terrace.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Nearing Launch at Allen’s Landing
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

01/19/16 4:30pm

Encampment removal at Louisiana St. and Congress Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002

The encampment under Louisiana St. (shown above) was dismantled earlier today; a reader sends both now-you-see-it and now-you-don’t shots. The camp was previously tucked above the south bank of Buffalo Bayou, about halfway between Sesquicentennial Park and Allen’s Landing.

The removal appears to have been carried out by workers for Houston First, responsible for maintenance of public venues such as Miller Outdoor Theater and the George R. Brown Convention Center, along with a list of downtown parks that includes Sesquicentennial and the Sabine Promenade. Houston First also works on marketing and branding for the venues (and more generally for “the Houston product”) in partnership with the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Here’s what the spot looked like after today’s clear-out:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Gone Downtown
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.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Launch Pad
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:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

On Discovery Green
11/15/12 2:31pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOUSTON FIRST SKIPS THE BULLY SALES BLOCK “Instead of ‘hoping’ to get residential/retail development on the site, why not REQUIRE such development on the site via deed restrictions or other contractual agreements with the buyer? This is how HISD screwed themselves on the sale of their old administration building. They sold to the highest bidder and ‘hoped’ they would build something like the fancy mixed use rendering they were passing around. Instead we got a Costco and an LA Fitness. When you consider that HISD pockets more than 50 percent of every tax dollar paid by the property, they might have made more money in the long run by GIVING AWAY their land to someone who would have developed it more intensely.” [Bernard, commenting on Headlines: Downtown Block for Sale; Accessing Remote Hermann Park]

10/04/12 3:23pm

The regional tourism building planned for the northern of the 2 blocks between Minute Maid Park and the GRB will be called the Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage, Mayor Parker announced today. It’ll be named after beer distributor and $8-million-donor John Nau; fundraisers hope waving the rendering pictured above will help drum up an additional $32 million to get the thing built. ($15 million more is coming from Houston First, the “government corporation” that runs the city’s convention center, the Hilton Americas Hotel, and several city performance venues.)

The design leaves room for 2 houses dating from 1904 and 1905 and moved to the site last year, the only surviving structures from the neighborhood on nearby blocks named Quality Hill that by the 1930s had vanished — along with its storied reputation for integrity and elevation. The rendering also shows (at far right) the saved-from-scrap 1919 Southern Pacific 982 steam engine parked on the curb across from the East End Light Rail Line along Capitol St. Between the houses and the locomotive will sit the Nau Center’s signature dome entrance, held aloft, the rendering from Bailey Architects shows, by a ring of dainty columns resting at sidewalk level and a circular wall of glass.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY