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:


Tiki Torched
06/16/17 11:30am

If you’re just coming up to speed on the whole food hall thing, remember this: It’s not a food court, it’s a food hall. And in the case of Bravery Chef Hall, planned for a 9,000-sq.-ft. space in the ground floor of the Aris Market Square tower Hines is completing at the corner of Preston and Travis Downtown, it’s not just a food hall but “the world’s first chef hall.” Or, as the founders explain, “a curated food hall where all vendors are operated and owned by chefs, employing only cooks, and where a large percentage of the seats are chef counter seating.” So maybe think of it as a huddle of 5 independently operated chef’s tables, each surrounding an open kitchen, in one streetfront retail space. (Plus additional adjacent seating — and outside, a patio garden and sidewalk café dining space totaling 3,000 sq. ft.)

How real is this thing? Well, it’s coming from the team behind the Conservatory, Downtown’s only other currently operating food hall (as well as Prohibition Supperclub and its accompanying Oyster Bar) — and yesterday the Downtown Management District approved a $140,000 “catalytic retail grant” towards the estimated $1.8 million buildout.

Here’s a peek at the construction currently going on in the space:


Bravery Chef Hall
10/25/16 1:00pm

Market Square Tower, 777 Preston St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Just added: water for the cantilevered glass-bottom pool jutting out of Market Square Tower’s rooftop deck, some 41-plus-or-minus-the-penthouses stories above street level. Woodway is now advertising leasing availability for November, with some of the smaller one-bedroom units listed for $2,100 and up per month (and the largest of the penthouses, a 3-bedroom 3.5-bathroom 3-balcony affair, listed at $18,175) . The current floorplans available on the site now also suggest that the ground floor retail options will include a cafe, in addition to that CVS announced last month.

Those not enthused by the prospect of dangling over the downtown streetscape can opt for the other pool on the 4th-floor terrace, which overlooks Preston and Milam St.:


Filling Up Downtown
10/03/16 5:15pm

Aris Market Square Tower, Travis and Preston Streets, Downtown Houston

Hines’s increasingly pointy 609 Main and flat-topped Chase Tower are visible to either side of the company’s Aris Market Square apartment highrise in this recent shot from Congress at Travis streets (sent in by a reader, who noted the top-out tree temporarily hoisted onto to the rooftop). Following the latest growth spurt, the tower has now gotten about as tall as it’s going to (and the newly-craneless Market Square Apartment Tower, now leasing across the eponymous Square, will always have 8 stories to lord over it). Here’s a closeup of the Aris’s Preston-facing facade, as the glass and exterior finishes start to creep up the sides:


Highrise Done Rising
09/21/16 3:30pm

MARKET SQUARE TOWER FILLING STREET-LEVEL RETAIL SLOT WITH A CVS Market Square Tower floor plan, 777 Preston St., Downtown, Houston, 77002At least a chunk of that prime ground-floor retail space at Market Square Tower is going toward a CVS Pharmacy, according to some new verbiage now up on the highrise’s website. The announcement notes that the store will carry produce, as well as CVS’s line of eat-it-from-the-box prepared food, but doesn’t say how much of the available retail space the store will be taking up, out of the 20,000-or-so sq. ft. shown as up for offer in current leasing fliers for the tower. At the moment the only other CVS inside the 45-59-10 triangle is the one by Main Street Square at the foot of 1001 McKinney, south of the Holy Cross Chapel and currently arted-up competitor Just a Dollar 19¢ & Budget Food Store. [Market Square Tower; previously on Swamplot] Site plan of Market Square Tower ground floor retail space: Shelby & Estus Realty Group

04/28/16 4:15pm

Proposed Prairie Tunnel Map, per Theater Square lawsuit filings

What led up to the neighborly lawsuit filed last week over the former Houston Chronicle building’s planned demolition? A pair of letters filed with the county clerk’s office as part of the suit sheds a little light on the back-and-forth between the building’s new owners and their new neighbors. Plaintiff Theater Square, a partnership controlled by construction and development firm Linbeck, is developing the downtown block marked SITE in the map above, immediately across Prairie St. from the former Chronicle property (bought last year by Hines entity Block 58 Investors). Theater Square wants to link its own could-be-a-Class-A-contender block into the Downtown tunnel network (traced above in solid black).

The company sued both Hines and Chronicle owner Hearst News last week to stop the demo, claiming that Hearst gave it property rights to build a new tunnel through the newspaper building’s basement (via the route shown in stripes above along Travis St.) and that the demo (as currently intended) interferes with that plan. Theater Square sent a letter to Hines on April 15th citing news stories about the impending demo and requesting both access to inspect the basement and assurances that the demolition would be carried out in a way that doesn’t harm certain existing structures that the new tunnel’s already-semi-permitted building plans depend on.


Fight For The Right To Tunnel
03/21/16 12:30pm

Jamal Cyrus Art Blocks mural as 901 Main St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

The next piece of Art Blocks art was smoothed into place at the corner of Main St. and Walker this weekend, above the lightrail-facing side of inflation-aware Just a Dollar 19¢ & Budget Food Store. The mural, Jamal Cyrus’s Lightnin’ Field, is one of 4 that will be rotated onto the side of the 1929 building at 901 Main throughout the year leading up to next spring’s Super Bowl. The other projects to pretty up the Main Street Square area include the 60-foot-tall wooden Trumpet Flower that will grow between One City Centre and its parking garage, and the Color Jam street paint-up underway at the corner of Main and McKinney.

The signs for Just a Dollar 19¢ appear to have been artistically blanked as part of the installation; the convenience store, which opened on the corner in the early 1990’s in the former Krupp & Tuffly Shoes building, is shown above from the northbound Main St. Square light-rail station, between the restored facade of the Holy Cross Chapel & Catholic Resource Center (on the right) and the 46-story BG Group Place tower at 811 Main (on the left, across Walker St.). Here’s a twilight shot of the nearly completed mural, with a cherry picker still loitering in the bottom corner:


Up on Main St.
02/22/16 4:30pm

Rendering of Color Jam at Main at McKinney streets, Downtown, Houston, 77002

Here’s an idea of what the corner of Main and McKinney streets may look like in a few more weeks, as the installation of Jessica Stockholder’s Color Jam Houston proceeds. The above rendering faces south across the north-er of the 2 intersections between the Main Street Square light-rail stops, with its existing semi-neutral stripes and swirls joined by some brighter colors. Stockholder’s installation, modeled after a previous painting of the town for Chicago in 2012, is one of the Downtown District’s temporary Art Blocks projects intended to brighten up the area for the year leading up to the 2017 Houston-hosted Super Bowl and NCAA championship. The Art Blocks initiative also includes the 60-ft-tall Trumpet Flower that will lurk in the alley between One City Center and its parking garage.

A reader tweeted a photo of some of the first blocks of pigment, evidently maneuvered into place late last week:


Art Blocked at McKinney
02/01/16 5:00pm

Trumpet Flower Painting Event, Market Square, Downtown, Houston, 77002

Preston St. was closed down Saturday afternoon between Travis and Milam, as hundreds of people showed up to Market Square to paint the reclaimed strips of wood that will compose Patrick Renner’s upcoming Trumpet Flower installation.  The sculpture is designed to loom 60 feet above the space between One City Centre and its parking garage downtown (off Main St. Square and Fannin, between Lamar and McKinney).

Renner, of far-more-horizontal Funnel Tunnel fame, is slated to install the towering cone by the end of March, as part of the Art Blocks project planned to jazz up Main Street Square leading up to the 2017 Superbowl.  The tip of the structure will stretch down from the top of the garage and flare out into a furnished canopy shelter at street level. A tiny model of the installation was on display at a side table during the painting free-for-all:


Sprouting Downtown
09/19/14 11:30am

Building Details at Block Surrounded by Preston, Prairie, Milam, and Travis, Downtown Houston

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:


Unearth, or Let them Lie?
08/11/14 4:30pm

Macondo Latin Bistro, 208 Travis St., Downtown Houston

We’ve got a couple of possibly linked downtown restaurant shutdowns to report: Macondo Latin Bistro, at 208 Travis St. just off Market Square, closed at the beginning of last week. “I look forward to serving you again at a new location,” owner Delaila Ocasio writes on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Meanwhile, around the corner at 917 Franklin St., chef Mark Latigue’s 4-month-old triple-threat Creole, Cuban, and Caribbean venture has also closed, but no announcements about the future of El Gallo Rojo have appeared on Facebook so far. A Swamplot reader was alerted to the missing red rooster after spotting a chafing dish sitting on the sidewalk in front of the property last Saturday evening. The Red Lantern Vietnamese restaurant closed in the same location last year.

Beyond the finishing of fusion cuisines, what’s the connection between the endings of these 2 restaurants?


Fusion Cuisine Restaurant Spot Fusion?
07/15/14 11:00am

Site of Proposed Market Square Tower, 777 Preston St., Market Square, Houston

Proposed Market Square Tower, 777 Preston St., Market Square, HoustonDowntown surface parking lots have been disappearing left and right, notes reader Debnil Chowdhury, who works downtown. The latest to bite the dust is the vacant lot at 300 Milam St. (above), directly adjacent to the Market Square Parking Garage, on account of Woodbranch Investments’ 40-story, 463-unit apartment tower going in there. The lot was closed permanently last week, Chowdhury reports.

If the Preston St. elevation of the proposed building (pictured above right) looks vaguely like Discovery Green neighbor One Park Place but without the tack-on pediments at the roofline, that might be because the new Market Square Tower was designed by the same architects, Jackson & Ryan, and because the roof is reserved for a glass-enclosed gym, sundeck, and pool, as shown in this more recent rendering:


777 Preston
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
01/06/14 11:00am

Proposed Hines Market Square Apartment Tower, Travis and Preston Streets, Downtown Houston

Slicker renderings of the 33-story almost-half-block apartment tower Hines is planning to plant on what’s now a parking lot catty-corner to Market Square downtown have been posted to the website of the building’s designers, Ziegler Cooper Architects. And an appended description annotates the more than half-dozen different facade treatments scheduled for different portions of the building’s 7-level parking garage, meant to allow the 289-unit structure to fit better into to its smaller-scale surroundings: The building will be clad in “a crisp combination of glass, aluminum, and stainless steel complimented by the richness of stone and masonry detailing.”

Between the garage and the apartments above them, according to the website, will be a 9th-floor gathering space featuring an “aqua lounge,” outdoor pool and terrace, fitness center, club room and kitchen, theater, and other typical apartment amenities. Facing Market Square at the corner of Travis and Preston streets will be “a welcoming porch for outdoor dining.” Ground-floor plans presented to the city’s historical commission in August showed retail spaces along Travis and Preston, but the latest renderings appear to show a garage entrance on Preston that might eat into some of it (on the building’s left) and don’t make clear which level will have the outside eats:


A Building of Many Faces
09/18/13 11:05am

All day Friday these 3 parking spots in Market Square in front of Frank’s — and where Hines wants to build that 33-story residential tower — will be unavailable. Why? Well, Gensler and the Houston chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (including firms Asakura Robinson, SWA Group, M2L, and Elizabeth Austin Landscapes) are gonna be using ’em to set up a parkette for National Park(ing) Day.

Just as the similarly hopeful Better Block project attempts to reproduce pedestrian-friendly street life for a few hours in a controlled environment, these wee pop-up parks work like dioramas of urban leisure: A rep tells Swamplot that a shade structure, trees, shrubs, and board games (checkers and Jenga, yo!) will be rolled in and set up here at 417 Travis from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for anyone who wants to park it and stay awhile.

Additionally, a group of architecture students from Texas Tech are trying to stimulate the same simulation at the corner of Leeland and St. Emanuel in East Downtown, near the food trucks at the Houston Food Park.

Photo: Barbara Novoa