12/12/18 5:30pm

The new owner of 812 Main St. (shown above) is the same entity that owns the JW Marriott next-door at 806 Main St. Well, sort of. Technically, the properties belong to 2 separate entities, but they both tie back to the same real estate overlord: Pearl Hospitality, a Houston-based hotel operator with a few extra properties in Lubbock. Pearl closed on the 812 Main St. building last month for $3.6 million.

Designed by Houston architects Joseph Finger and George Rustay the recently-transacted tower was completed in 1950 for the Battelsteins’s department store — which occupied each of its 10 floors. It’s now been vacant for roughly 30 years. Battlestein’s signage has been replaced by the smudges visible above the mural-ized storefront face in the photo at top. But 2 naked flagpoles remain on either side of where the lettering once was.

After visiting the property in December, 2015, PDG Architects estimated it’d cost nearly $17 million to renovate it into something suitable for office tenants to inhabit. Just bringing it up to code could cost $8 million, according to public records.

The JW Marriott next-door at Rusk St. — formally known as the Samuel F. Carter building — underwent its Pearl-Hospitality redo starting in 2010 with a bit of financial help from the city and HUD, as well as architectural know-how from Gensler:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Department Store Skyscraper
05/30/18 1:00pm

Here’s the latest rendering of the Hotel RL that’s planned for the block of St. Emanuel St. just north of recently-opened bars Rodeo Goat and Truck Yard. Complete with a roughly 6-story high Texas flag dangling from its hamster-wheel-like facade, the building itself — designed by STOA Architets — stands at 27 floors. It’s planned in place of the 2-story Kim Hung Market building at 1005 St. Emanuel, pictured above outside its entrance. That structure currently backs up to Hutchins St., at the edge of a block-long parking lot to its west.

Rendering: STOA Architects. Photo: Greg D.

Deep in the Heart
05/08/18 2:30pm

Shots of the massive waterfront development planned in Kingwood east of Woodland Hills Dr. show it situated around 2 adjacent and existing lakes that neighbor both the San Jacinto River and the Clubs of Kingwood golf course. The 300-acre project — dubbed Herons Kingwood Marina and recently stumbled upon by online architectural sleuth Urbannizer — lays out a plan to link the 2 bodies of water and transform them into marinas with docks, pedestrian paths, and outdoor amusements.

The water-level rendering above from Italian architecture firm Torrisi & Procopio shows a boat parking lot fronting a shopping center that’s planned beside the west marina. From the air in the rendering at top, you can see the eastern marina neighbored by skyscrapers, described by the architect’s website as home to hotels, restaurants, shops, and apartments. A narrow channel leads to the other, aquatic area in the distance.

Here’s where both lakes sit now, just south of Barrington Kingwood — a 200-acre, loop-shaped neighborhood:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

The Liveable Lake
04/27/18 2:00pm

INDICTMENTS BRING LE MERIDIEN HOTEL RENNOVATOR’S INTERSTATE KICKBACK SCHEME TO LIGHT A construction boss who oversaw work to turn the Melrose Building on the corner of Walker and San Jacinto into the new-ish Le Meridien Hotel has been indicted for his role in a scam to embezzle $3.4 million from his employer — The Beck Group — during its renovation of the structure. “[Moses] Said was picked to manage construction at the Le Meridien Hotel from 2016 to 2017,” reports the Chronicle‘s Gabrielle Banks. “Prosecutors say he turned in fake invoices he had signed off on asking the Beck Group to pay for services that were never provided. After the fake contractors received money from Said, they kicked back some of the illegal proceeds to Said, according to court documents.” Also named in the indictment: 8 co-conspirators across multiple states who worked with Said as part of the scheme. The 225-room hotel opened in late 2017 after roughly 2 years of work. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Le Meridien Hotel: apvossos

04/26/18 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: MY SUITE CHILDHOOD YEARS IN A DOWNTOWN HOUSTON HOTEL “My dad was the innkeeper when the Holiday Inn opened, and we lived in the building for a couple of years. It was quite a place — with the Orbit Lounge, one of A. J. Foyt’s Indy cars in the lobby, and so on. But its day has passed.” [Patrick, commenting on Downtown Houston’s Foremost Abandoned Building Now Listed for Sale]

04/25/18 2:45pm

The Holiday-Inn-turned-Days-Inn-turned-Heaven-on-Earth-Hotel at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. has now been posted to CoStar by commercial broker CBRE following a 2-week period of higher-than-usual on-site cleanup activity. Crews removed debris from its garage and pool late last week; and just yesterday, 2 workers scaled nearly all 31 stories of its western face to take down the semicircular light box of the Days Inn sign that once hung near the top of it (see photo above).

The seller, SFK Development, bought the property in 2012 — becoming the building’s third owner in its post-Maharishi era. (The building — which for a time was home to a Vedic school run by the former Beatles spiritual advisor — was shut down by the city in 1998.) Since then, it has been fertile ground for numerous urban explorers, as well as the imagination of several would-be redevelopers.

The sale listing includes images of possible makeovers:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Heaven On Earth Up for Grabs
04/20/18 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FROM THE DOWNTOWN DAYS INN WATCH TEAM “Before I left work, a guy was at the very top pulling a long rope he had tied to a wooden structure hanging on the corner of the building. It looks like a homemade trebuchet. I’ll keep posting updates if anything major happens; hell, it’s in my sight line all day.” [Kim, commenting on Cleanup Crews Now Polishing Downtown Houston’s Most Famous Abandoned Building] Photo of former Days Inn at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy.: Guy Mahaffey

04/20/18 11:00am

SHUTTERED LANCASTER HOTEL’S POST-HARVEY REDO HAS BEGUN The latest purchasers of the recently-renovated Lancaster Hotel hotel at 701 Texas Ave. had only owned it for about 2 months before 2 ft. of water entered its lobby — and 12 its basement — during Harvey, reports the HBJ’s Cara Smith. Its last redo in 2013 was along the same lines (“significant alterations to the lobby, guest rooms, suites and meeting spaces,” the HBJ wrote then) as what Magnolia Lodging has planned for it now: “a redesigned lobby, guest rooms, a new restaurant and bar, an indoor mezzanine, an espresso bar and a new cardio fitness studio.” The 92-year-old structure has been shuttered since the storm, leaving its 12 stories and adjacent parking lot (where 2 buildings were demolished on Louisiana in 2016) unoccupied. [HBJ ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: Jay H.

04/19/18 11:30am

CLEANUP CREWS NOW POLISHING DOWNTOWN HOUSTON’S MOST FAMOUS ABANDONED BUILDING A reader in the KBR Tower 2 blocks east of the former Days Inn at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. reports sightings of several different crews that have appeared outside the north face of the hotel within the past week. A pair of crane trucks have been parked at the foot of the hotel’s garage, and a swing-stage scaffold is hanging near the top of the podium. Also noted: Workers have cleared out debris from inside the garage, and accumulated trash has been removed from the pool of the 31-story hotel-turned-Vedic-school. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Kimberly Knight

04/10/18 4:30pm

The frame is up for the first floor of the hotel that’s under construction just north of the Royale Woodbridge Plaza shopping center at the corner of S. Hwy. 6 and W. Airport Blvd. The 1.27-acre former field where the building is now semi-standing directly neighbors Advance Auto Parts’ sole Sugar Land location (not to be confused with that of AutoZone, situated diagonally across the street).

Guests with rooms furthest away from the auto shop will have a view of the drainage ditch that runs along the other side of the property:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Sugar Land Hospitality
03/02/18 4:45pm

Excavators have begun clawing at the ballroom that sits behind the La Colombe d’Or hotel’s main building on the corner of Montrose Blvd. and Harold St. — in order to make way for a new apartment tower. Demolition began on the structure formally and formerly known as Le Grand Salon de la Comtesse in late January after portions of its rococo interior — including oak paneling, gold-framed mirrors, and chandeliers — were catalogued, extracted, and shipped to an offsite storage facility by teardown crews.

That’s just about the reverse of how those interiors got there in the first place. La Colombe d’Or owner Steve Zimmerman bought the furnishings — crafted in the 1730s for members of the French royal family — in 1995 from the son of oilman John Mecom Sr., who’d kept them stored in a blimp hangar he owned at the former Hitchcock Naval Air Station of Hwy. 6. He’d been stockpiling other French home goods (including one of Marie Antoinette’s bathrooms) for more than 30 years. Once Zimmerman got ahold of the decor, he built the less pedigreed stucco structure at 3410 Montrose Blvd. behind the hotel building where the items served as a backdrop for weddings, corporate functions, and the occasional speech.

In this view of the neighboring 30-story apartment tower now known as the Hanover Montrose (previously 3400 Montrose), the Colombe d’Or and its ballroom can be seen at the bottom left:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Montrose Stack-Up
02/28/18 4:45pm

Coming soon to the block on the Katy Fwy.’s westbound feeder just east of the Camden Heights Apartments: a new Courtyard by Marriott hotel. Work on the 8-story building began late last year after the hotel chain filed construction permits on the just-over-an-acre parcel at 3220 Katy Fwy. — which sits between Columbia and Oxford streets. The photo at top sent in by a Swamplot reader looks south from E. 4th St. toward I-10 to show a couple of beams now staking out the lot.

The hotel building will front Columbia on the west side of the parcel, where a First National Bank branch and its drive-thru once sat before they were demolished a few years ago. East of the hotel, a parking garage is planned along Oxford, behind the McBillboard shown in the photo above. That structure’s northeast corner will go in place of a single-family house on 4th St. that was town down before the bank disappeared.

Photos: Kepdogg

By the Katy
09/04/17 9:30am

If you or someone you’re helping has been accepted into FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance program — meant to clear out shelters by providing people who can’t return to their homes a hotel or motel room for a limited period of time — you may want to use the map shown here. It marks the locations of every eligible hotel or motel in the Houston area approved by the program. Using the map should make it easier to find an acceptable one nearby. To view the map in its own browser window, click here.

This map is yet another whipped-up-by-volunteers-in-a-jiffy product of Sketch City — this one created by the civic hacking group’s founder, Jeff Reichman. Sketch City volunteer and college sophomore Nile Dixon (who earlier created a similar tool to help people find nearby shelters) has created a simplified text-it-to-me version of it as well: Just text your ZIP Code to 832-981-4926 and a bot will send back contact info for the nearest verified accommodations in the program.

You can find out more about U.S. government Harvey assistance, including the TSA program, from the FEMA Harvey website.

Map: Sketch City

Harvey Maps
08/11/17 11:15am

The new Holiday Inn Express about to begin construction at 3401 N. Main St. in the Near Northside will have some consistently quiet neighbors and some occasionally very loud ones — with the steady drone of the adjacent North Fwy. available to somehow bridge the gap. The 1.44-acre site, where the Casa Grande Mexican Restaurant stood until it was torn down 2 years ago (and Stuarts Drive-In before it), sits across N. Main St. from the Hollywood Cemetery (yes, the same cemetery featured in Wes Anderson movie Rushmore). And it’s just a bit more than a quarter-mile up N. Main from the White Oak Music Hall complex, whose outdoor concert habit spurred nearby residents kept up late at night by the noise to file suit against the venue — and later, the city of Houston — for failing to follow (and enforce) local sound ordinances.

Late last month, crews removed the concrete paving left behind after the Casa Grande demolition (see photos above). Just this week, a city permit was granted for a 58,929-sq.-ft., 95-room Holiday Inn Express on the site — up 10 rooms from the 85 promised a couple of years ago, when the developers submitted these drawings as part of an application for a variance that would allow them not to have to extend or widen Norma St., on the north end of the lot:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Near Near Northside
07/28/17 2:45pm

Workers who began removing windows earlier this month from rooms in the long-vacant 30-story abandoned hotel tower at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. haunting the southern reaches of Downtown have reached a critical height. Photos sent to Swamplot show that the systematic effort to yank off the fenestration of every room of the former Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel (it also spent time as a Days Inn, a Holiday Inn, and a Vedic school) have now reached the 13th floor above the structure’s parking garage. This now affords viewers above a certain height — from a neighboring office building, say, or driving along the Pierce Elevated — actual views through the building.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Acts as an Air Filter, Too