10/10/17 3:15pm

MIDTOWN SEARS CLOSURE NETS RICE 9 ACRES NEAR THE WHEELER TRANSIT CENTER The company that manages Rice University’s $5.3 billion endowment last week bought out the 28 years remaining on a 99-year lease the university had signed with the Sears department store on its Midtown property back in 1945. The Sears at 4201 Main St., which opened in 1939, will close in late January, after a liquidation sale beginning early next month, it was announced today. Rice also bought 3 adjacent acres owned by Sears, giving the university a multi-block 9.4-acre chunk of land near Metro’s Wheeler Transit Center and the Southwest Fwy. it can now decide what to do with. Among the properties on that land: the Sears Auto Center at 4111 Fannin and the Fiesta Mart at 4200 San Jacinto, which has a lease that runs for 2 more years. The Sears’s original art deco façade was covered with metal panels in the 1960s. Rice prez David Leebron says the university will now “initiate a process of thoughtful planning for the future use of this land,” with a yearlong study of options directed by the Rice Management Company. [Houston Chronicle; Click2Houston] Photo: Pete Molick via Swamplot Flickr pool

05/10/17 11:30am

Remodeling along the lines of what’s depicted here is now underway on Amherst St. between Kelvin St. and Kirby Dr., according to a Rice Village District rep. A couple of newly released drawings shown here fill in details to some of the previously mentioned changes planned for the south side of Amherst, including the conversion of part of the roadway itself into more walking and sitting room behind some protective planters. And that narrow passageway in the building, running between Amherst and University Blvd., appears to be getting its own signage labeling it as The Alley (complete with light-up arrow directing shoppers inside).

The plans also call for some rooftop greenery and the chopping off of some pointy brick pediments — a swap which the District says will make all that 2-hours-free rooftop parking more visible, in the wake of the recent parking scheme changes:


Retail Redistricting
12/20/16 12:30pm


Proposed Opera House, Rice University, Houston, 77005Rice University announced this week that the opera house it plans to build in the parking lot next to the Shepherd School of Music will, in fact, be designed by the classic-leaning architecture firm of Allan Greenberg — and formally released what appear to be a couple of the same renderings that Swamplot posted back in June, after a reader’s encounter with the above presentation materials on campus. Like the Baker Institute, the design looks to be covered over in classic-ish details more or less reminiscent of Rice’s older buildings; the towers on the south side of the opera house also roughly match the one on the Humanities building, which Greenberg also designed.


West Lot U-Turn
09/01/16 3:30pm

Moody Center for the Arts, Rice University, Houston, 77005

Moody Center for the Arts, Rice University, Houston, 77005The skirt of first-story glass now appears to be in place along the northern side of Rice University’s in-progress Moody Center for the Arts, per the shot above from Allyn West this week. The second photo, taken a few weeks before as part of a sunset set, shows the facade looking a little bit blue — the magnesium oxide coating covering the building’s exterior bricks picks up different colors in different light conditions, as Molly Glentzer notes, contrasting with the pinkish St. Joe bricks used throughout most of the rest of the campus (as demonstrated by the nearby Shepherd School, shown here peeking through the sculptural hole and pipeburst on the end of its new artsy neighbor).

The $30-million center should be done in February, according to last month’s announcements, and the building is starting to look a lot like the renderings released by Michael Maltzan Architecture: 


Changing Campus Colors
06/02/16 4:30pm

RICE UNIVERSITY’S U-TURN AWAY FROM A MODERNIST OPERA HOUSE rice-opera-proposedA recent Facebook post by architect Allan Greenberg appears to confirm his firm’s involvement with the Rice University opera house project, of which possible renderings and a model recently surfaced in another building on campus. The choice of Greenberg, a self-described classical architect who designed the university’s Humanities Building, represents a major reversal of ideology from the previously announced selection of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (designers of part of New York’s High Line, who once created a building shrouded perpetually in fog). The selection of DS+R was announced in March of 2014; Greenberg had begun to publicly mention involvement with the project by this past December. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of Rice University opera house design model: Swamplot inbox

06/01/16 4:45pm

Proposed Opera House, Rice University, Houston, 77005

Proposed Opera House, Rice University, Houston, 77005A set of unattended display posters spotted during Rice University’s graduation weekend appear to show interior and exterior renderings of the campus’s planned opera house. The drawings (which were reportedly laid out somewhere in would-be-next-door Shepherd School of Music’s building) included a campus site plan showing the rendered structure’s footprint in place between the existing music school and the remaining stadium-side parking lots.

Rice announced back in early 2014 that Diller Scofidio + Renfro would be the architect for the project — but this design doesn’t really look like the kinds of projects DS+R is known for. DS+R hasn’t yet responded to Swamplot’s attempts to confirm whether or not the firm is still involved.

Included with the presentation materials was the foamcore model below, which renders the building’s ornate exterior details in full 2D and demonstrates some additional landscaping options:


Lifting the Curtain
03/18/16 9:45am

Renderings of redesigned former Rice Village ArcadeRice Village, Houston, 77005

Compare and contrast the 2 images above, which together show the former Village Arcade at University Blvd. west of Kelvin Dr. both as is and as it may become. The rendering above appears in a marketing brochure released earlier this year by Trademark Property, which manages Rice University’s Village-area properties. The brochure shows potential update plans to a number storefronts in the former Village Arcade buildings (which Trademark is collectively rebranding as just “the Rice Village“); the changes range from simple color swaps to major reshaping and remodeling.

The U-shaped patio above, which currently houses a fountain and a bronze copy of the Italian boar statue Il Porcellino, is shown in the corresponding rendering housing tables in front of a round kiosk ringed with bar-style seating. The drawing also depicts those PoMo-style pediments of the second floor facade replaced with a large sign labeling the structure as Rice Village Market. The building also appears to be painted white.

Earlier this year, a previously released rendering from the set got some grounding in reality when the former Sprint storefront on University west of Kelvin was whitewashed, to prep the space for beauty supply shop Blue Mercury:


Shopping Fix-Up
01/25/16 12:30pm

Blue Mercury, 2506 University Blvd., Rice Village, Houston, 77005

The western corner space at University Blvd. and Kelvin St. in the Rice Village now has a coat of white paint over its brick facade, though the storefronts to either side have yet to follow suit. The space, last occupied by a Sprint store prior to a multi-year vacancy, appears to be setting up as the next link in the Blue Mercury cosmetics-spa chain, while street and utility work progresses at the corner.

The former Village Arcade (now being rebranded as, simply, the Rice Village) consists of the shopping centers on University on either side of Kelvin St.; the buildings were acquired from Weingarten in 2014 by Rice University, which already owned the land beneath the center and employs the same St. Joe brick in many of its campus buildings. Rice also employs development company Trademark to manage the Arcade property; the company released a few renderings of the first phase of the center’s intended makeover last fall, just before work began:


University Redo
12/15/15 12:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE PERSECUTION OF FANTASY SOUTHERN GOTHIC fig-leaves“First they came for the colleges (Cell Block D and the McMurtry Unit), but I was not an undergraduate so I said nothing; then they came for the academic buildings (Brockman Hall and the Moody Arts Center), but I was not on faculty so, again, I stayed silent; then they came for the administrative office buildings and parking garages (this eyesore) and there was no one left to speak for me.” [Ghost of Ralph Adams Cram, commenting on Strategically Placed Fig Leaves Will Shield Bashful Rice U. Parking Garage from Medical Scrutiny] Illustration: Lulu

12/14/15 3:15pm

Proposed Office Building and Parking Garage at Rice University, 6100 Main St., Houston, 77005

Don’t stare: next week, Rice University will begin construction of a new 6-story parking garage, which will be hidden from roving eyes in the Med Center across the street by giant plastic scrims covered in images of fig leaves.  The 496-space garage will go up on part of the existing Lovett parking lot (just off Main Street, northwest of the intersection with Cambridge, at campus Entrance 3) and will come with an attached office building tastefully tucked alongside (in pale blue below):


A Modest Proposal
06/04/15 10:30am

YUM YUM CHA CLOSING HINTS AT RICE’S PLANS FOR RETAIL BUILDING IT BOUGHT NEXT TO VILLAGE ARCADE Yum Yum Cha Cafe, 2435 Times Blvd., Rice Village, HoustonThe owner of Rice Village dim sum spot Yum Yum Cha tells Eric Sandler that Rice University’s management company “can’t decide what they’re going to do” with the building it bought earlier at the corner of Times Blvd. and Kelvin St., but that demolition is possible. Yum Yum Cha was offered only a 6-month renewal on its lease. Instead, the restaurant, which has occupied the space at 2435 Times Blvd. for 10 years, will be shutting down June 15th or as soon as it runs out of food — whichever comes first. The 1955 building that houses it forms a small portion of a double block dominated by the Rice-owned Village Arcade shopping center — but lacks any off-street parking of its own. Remaining tenants in the building are Grace Anna’s boutique, Myth Hair Salon & Spa, Joseph Keith Jewelry, and — around the corner — Vietnamese restaurant Miss Saigon. Yum Yum Cha owner Lisa Mak says she and her father, the restaurant’s chef, are already looking for a new location. [CultureMap; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

03/18/15 11:45am

5606 Chaucer Dr., Rice Village, Houston

5606 Chaucer Dr., Rice Village, HoustonIs it Rice’s manifest destiny to extend its land holdings all the way from the Texas Medical Center to West U? The university already owns a bit of frontage on Kirby Dr., on West U’s eastern border, between University Dr. and Amherst St., but the holdings between that far outpost of the Village Arcade and the main campus are a little spotty. Two recent purchases — and accompanying demolitions — appear poised to make the swath more continuous, however.

This week occasioned the demolition of the house at 5606 Chaucer Dr., 2 blocks west of Rice Stadium, directly over the back fence from Little Woodrow’s on Morningside Dr. The home appeared in this morning’s demo report — along with a neighbor at 5608 Chaucer St. (at center left and left in the top photo). County tax records show that an entity connected to Rice purchased both houses late last year. (The second house is listed as 5612 Chaucer St. on the tax rolls).


Tales of Chaucer
02/10/15 12:45pm

Rice Stadium, Rice University, Houston

According to the manager of banished-from-FM KTRU, a new low-power transmitter for the student-run radio station is to be constructed on top of Rice Stadium — now that the FCC has granted permission to the university to return to the airwaves. The new surprise announcement heralds a return to broadcast radio for the student-run organization after several years of internet-and-app exile. Amid protests from students and alumni, Rice University’s administration sold off the radio station’s broadcasting capabilities — including its 50,000-watt transmitter in Humble — to the University of Houston in 2010.


Not Humble
02/02/15 3:30pm


Rice U.’s real estate appetite for Rice Village property just picked up another choice tidbit: 2445 Times Blvd. That’s the 1955 flat-topped 7,500-sq.-ft. retail property on the southeast corner of Times Blvd. and Kelvin Dr. that’s spooned by mega-neighbor Village Arcade (which Rice also owns). In its listing by Davis Commercial, seller Rinkoff Rice Village LP’s asking price for the “trophy” corner was $3.995 million, though it initially sought $4.2 million. Who’s currently on display behind all the storefront windows?


Miss Saigon Goes to Rice
01/23/15 1:00pm

Proposed Brian Patterson Sports Performance Clinic, Rice Stadium, Rice University

It’s been notoriously difficult to fill Rice Stadium — ever since those darn Houston Oilers came to town. Even President Kennedy couldn’t do it when he came by in 1962 to introduce a little mission to the moon he had cooked up. About 8 years ago, giant logo-bearing tarps were planted over the seating areas in both end zones, reducing the capacity (though not permanently) from 70,000 to 47,000.

But the latest planned changes appear to be following a 2-fold strategy to help fill the place: First, Rice University’s new $31.5 million Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center will knock out the stadium’s entire northern end zone — including more than 11,000 seats. Even better, the mostly brick building will have a giant glass wall on the side facing the playing field, which will offer spectators tired of watching the game shaded views into 2 levels of weight rooms. If they can get the scheduling right, with gridiron and pumping-iron action running simultaneously, fans will have the opportunity to enjoy 2 attractions at once. Likewise, flexing athletes will have a pretty good view of the field — and fans, if they’re out there — while they’re working their muscles.


Watch Them Pump and Watch