11/17/17 11:30am

Previously visible only to airplanes, drones, satellite-image sleuths, and Phillips 66 employees on sufficiently high floors of their adjacent offices: the soccer field with encircling track and enclosing fence pictured here atop the energy company’s parking garage, with Beltway 8 in the background. An additional artificial-turf practice area exists off camera to the left.

Phillips 66’s campus was completed last year at 2331 CityWest Blvd., along the Beltway at Westheimer, and includes 2 office towers as well as the parking center. The main office buildings sport their own recreational facilities: a yoga studio, spin workout hall, basketball court, and outdoor putting green.

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Pitch Roof
11/01/17 12:45pm

Here’s a view from 2 Houston Center onto the construction site where a new 13-story precast-concrete parking garage is in the early stages of assembly. The site is the west half of the block bounded by Rusk, Fannin, and Walker streets Downtown. On the eastern half: The newly opened Le Meridien hotel (partly visible in the right foreground), built in the renovated former Melrose Building; and (hidden) behind that, the 11-level 1110 Rusk parking garage. On the opposite side of Fannin St. is another recent Downtown hotel: The Aloft, at 820 Fannin (in the left foreground of the image), with BG Group Place directly behind it.

The new parking garage going up on Downtown’s Block 94 appears to be an accessory to another development not visible in the photo, however: It’s a project of developers Lionstone and Midway, to go with the companies’ Jones at Main redo of the former Gulf Building and the adjacent Great Jones building at 712 and 708 Main St. respectively, both 2 blocks away to the northwest.

The parking garage site has been a surface parking lot since not long after Memorial Day 1986, when the retail building on the site was decimated by a natural gas explosion. The replacement structure is expected to be complete by the end of next year.

Photo: Eric Ramon

Block 94
09/29/17 1:30pm

The 3 office buildings that stood on the block bounded Town & Country Blvd., Town & Country, Ln., Town & Country Way, and the Katy Fwy. eastbound feeder road just north of CityCentre are all cleared now, a reader reports. Except, that is, for the underground parking garage below the concrete — and its liquid contents. The closeup view above, taken from the office building known as CityCentre Five, shows the water level this week at the lower reaches of the entrance ramp. Think it’ll be easy to drain? Take a close look at the concrete surface and you’ll see evidence of previous efforts:

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All Over, Except for the Garage Water
08/11/17 1:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: PARKING REQUIREMENTS FOR SELF-PARKING CARS “I think the live load requirements for a parking structure are actually a little higher than a residential building, but the bigger misconception is that shared autonomous cars don’t need to park. The fleet of autonomous cars will have to be sized to meet peak demand, which happens for a few hours in the morning and a few in the afternoon. Outside of those hours, a large proportion of the fleet will need to be stored somewhere. Overnight, that somewhere can be a non-central location, since presumably many people will still live in suburbs. But during the day, surplus vehicles will be most efficiently stored somewhere close to where their passengers will be in the afternoon. The real advantage is that the car storage won’t have to be so closely tied to the destination, so a parking structure every few blocks should be adequate, rather than each building needing its own dedicated (usually surface) parking. It’s more likely that this garage will stay a garage, but nearby surface lots can be developed into actual buildings.” [Angostura, commenting on How To Design a Parking Garage That Won’t Become Useless Once Cars Get Restless] Illustration: Lulu

08/10/17 1:15pm

HOW TO DESIGN A PARKING GARAGE THAT WON’T BECOME USELESS ONCE CARS GET RESTLESS The best way to make sure parking garages don’t become obsolete heaps of concrete once cars figure out better things to do with their time when drivers aren’t using them is to build structures that have flat floorplates and more headroom, Gensler’s Peter Merwin tells reporter Kyle Hagerty: “Any future use will require level ground rather than the steep slopes typical to garages, so designing flat floors on every level is critical. To convert to residential, developers need a minimum 11-foot floor-to-floor height. That allows designers to properly core the infrastructure and build out the space.” Merwin, who works in Gensler’s Houston office, is guiding the design of the proposed Fairview District Garage at Fairview and Genesee streets in Montrose. His ideal future-proofing floor-to-floor dimension for garages as we approach the age of the driverless car? 15 ft. “That opens up the option to convert each floor into lofts, residential, retail or office. Another added benefit is that in the event you need more parking, not less, you can convert a 15-foot level into a double stacking parking floor like those in operation in many dense metros.” [Bisnow] Rendering of Fairview District Garage: Gensler

06/28/17 3:00pm

The latest of Gensler’s renderings of that midrise parking garage planned atop the recently evacuated location of nightclub and drag venue Meteor shows the structure rocking a swath of greenery in place of the decorative bicycles pictured across the facade in earlier drafts. Cara Smith reports in the Houston Business Journal this week that the garage is one of the projects that Gensler is “future proofing” — that is, designing with an eye to an eventual decline in Houston parking garage needs, whether spurred by the rise of self-driving cars or other shifts in transportation patterns. The firm was featured by Web Urbanist last month in an article discussing some of its other current garage projects, some of which are being outfitted with conversion-minded utility hookup spacing, as well as ceiling heights suited to something other than car stacking; modular features like easy-to-tack-on facades and removable ramps are also in the mix.

There appear to be 6 retail spots in the foot of the garage that will be ready for tenants before such time as the rest of the garage might hypothetically be repurposed (along with a slew of other spaces in the development, per Edge Realty’s leasing flier):

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Prepped for Obsolescence in Fourth Ward
05/30/17 2:15pm

The state bill proposed by Houston-area senator John Whitmire (to require a vote on major county-funded upgrades to certain Texas stadiums that happen to be the Astrodome) was killed in the Texas House by a different Houston-area legislator, Robert Arnold reports this week for KHOU. (That likely means the work on Harris County’s plan to fill in the bottom of the Dome with an underground parking garage can go ahead without a special election on the spending.) The bill actually passed the Senate at the end of March, but died in the House’s County Affairs committee chaired by representative Garnet Coleman (whose own legislative district ever-so-slightly overlaps Whitmire’s around Fourth Ward: From there, Coleman’s District 147 stretches down through Third Ward toward the Beltway along the Gulf Freeway, while Whitmire’s Senate District 15 horseshoes up 290 to FM 1960 and Humble before looping back down to the Ship Channel). Arnold says the bill made an unsuccessful comeback attempt as an amendment to another measure, and looks to be dead for now as of yesterday’s end of the normal legislative calendar. (Then again — who knows what might pop up during a special session?)

Schematic of county Astrodome parking garage plan: Harris County Engineering Dept.

Parking Plan Stop-and-Go
05/19/17 5:15pm

 
It’s not clear yet whether there’s much more planned in the way of cosmetic changes for the Travis- and Commerce-facing sides of the new parking garage being wrapped up now at the corner of Franklin and Milam streets. (That’d be the 2 sides, shown above, that didn’t get the skirt of fake windows and storefronts along the sidewalk level, meant to help the building “blend in” with its surrounding Main Street Market Square Historical District companions.)  A reader checking up on the structure from a nook in the nearby Bayou Lofts building tells Swamplot that the crane used to construct the garage was removed in the last few weeks; the photo up top was snapped before that happened.

Okay — so the 2 flat concrete sides may blow the garage’s cover for building sleuths peering over from Main St. or Buffalo Bayou. But the lack of disguise does leave very little standing in the way of some kind of later jazzing up, whether that’s commissioned or not.

Images: Michael Partney (photo); Powers & Brown (rendering)

Straight Up Downtown
05/10/17 3:30pm

In other grocery-apartment-midrise news, the 2-story hole for the below-ground parking component of the planned Pearl-branded apartment midrise with built-in Whole Foods looks to have touched bottom, and a tower crane on the site has reached its full height. Some of the construction site’s fence decorations have been swapped out with newer renderings, too — the latest drawings show a zoomier design and a new color scheme (this one falling more in the slatey-grey-brown range, compared to the doughy yellows picked out for the older drawings):

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Pearly Gates on Smith St.
04/27/17 11:30am

Beheaded Trees at Lyric Center garage site, 440 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002
 
A weekend wanderer sends a few photos of the new sprouts now poking out of some recently beheaded trees alongside the Lyric Centre parking garage construction site on Smith St. It’s unclear exactly when the shortening occurred, though a shot taken of the site back in late October seems to show at least a few of the trees still tall enough to peek over the construction fencing:

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Stumped Downtown
03/22/17 4:30pm

Crane at under-construction Capitol Tower, Capitol St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Another shot of that crane that took to the air this weekend by the economy-stalled stub of Skanska’s Capitol Tower comes from a reader peering over the site’s parking structure from Rusk St. yesterday. (That’s the neighboring Chase Tower looming over the scene in the background.) Bank of America was outed as being in talks with Skanska about leasing space in the tower (which might add the bank’s current home in Bank of America Center to the list of recent abandonments of Downtown office towers by their namesake tenants). The other sign of life on the site this year was the addition of a street-level mural to the parking garage’s corner, which was dry in time for the Super Bowl last month:

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Sprouting Downtown
03/20/17 4:30pm

STATE COMMITTEE OKAYS BILL TO REQUIRE ‘CERTAIN COUNTIES’ TO VOTE ON ASTRODOME PARKING GARAGE-IFICATION Proposed Astrodome Parking Garage PlansThe Texas senate’s committee on intergovernmental relations gave an early stamp of approval to that bill that would require Harris County to hold a vote on the plan recently set in motion to turn the Astrodome’s sunken field into an underground parking garage, Mihir Zaveri notes in the Chronicle this morning. The bill’s language doesn’t explicitly single out the Dome and the county commissioners; it would just mandate that “certain counties” — those with a population of 3.3 million or more — would need to call a vote on work related to “certain sports facilities” if the price tag of a given project reaches $10 million — namely, those sports facilities already more than 50 years old when the bill passes. (Harris County, with a population estimated around 4.5 million, is the only Texas county that comes remotely close to passing the bill’s size threshold.) [Houston Chronicle; Texas Legislature; previously on Swamplot] Schematic of Astrodome parking plan: Harris County Engineering Dept.

02/23/17 4:00pm

Demo of Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002
Rendering of One Market Square Parking Garage

First on Linbeck’s docket for the block across Prairie St. from the slowly dissolving former Chronicle building: the 11-story parking garage rendered above. The structure is planned for the southern half of the block between Prairie St. and Market Square, which means the restaurant space depicted in the rendering will face Travis St. (presuming the retail spot is not just part of a clever disguise). The garage is being branded as One Market Square until such time as something a little taller goes up next to it and takes the name, joining Market Square Tower and Aris Market Square along Preston St. to either side.

Back across Prairie St., the wrapped-together collection of buildings formerly housing the Houston Chronicle‘s operations has been getting slowly disassembled since a judge ruled over the summer that Hines could carefully demo the structures. A couple of high-up shot from this morning (above, and below) shows the current state of affairs inside the rubble-in-progress:

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Rising and Falling on Prairie St.
02/21/17 5:15pm

Americana Building, 811 Dallas St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

The 10-story tower segment of the Americana building at 811 Dallas St. is now undergoing disassembly, Nancy Sarnoff confirms this afternoon. A few folks caught sight of the tell-tale orange barricades and fencing around the base of the tower over the weekend; the view above was captured from Milam St. and shows the defunct former Subway on the Dallas corner of the block. Hilcorp, which owns the site (and also wrapped up its new tower across Travis St. on the site of the Foley’s blowup early last year), hasn’t yet announced further-down-the-line plans for the block. No explosives are part of the plan for this demo, however — the tower will be taken apart piece by piece, leaving the parking garage intact.

Photo: ThaChadwick

Laid Low Downtown
02/07/17 10:00am

Owl Sculptures by Dan Mabry, Kelvin St. at University Blvd., Rice Village, Houston, 77005

Rice Village, Houston, 77005The sculpted birds above are now staring intently in various directions from just south of the entrance ramp for the Rice Village’s rooftop parking lot between University Blvd. and Amherst St. The new bird-studded cage hangs around the upper half of the Kelvin St. access staircase for the lot, previously shielded from prying eyes by a since-removed blinder of brick (as pictured second above at the start of the work last year, before much of the paint-up or knock-out action had taken place on the eastern side of the structure). The birds are the work of Californian metalworker and periodic perched bird sculptor Nathan Mabry. Changes to the building roughly align with the older renderings of the remodel, though the space was previously depicted with an extra new window (along with some ghostly stand-in art): 

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Kelvin St. Bird Cage