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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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Acts as an Air Filter, Too
07/10/17 3:30pm

There appears to be some uh . . . work being done to a few of the (long-time-since-they’ve-been-rented) rooms at the former Downtown Days Inn building at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy., also known as Houston’s last remaining (for now) abandoned skyscraper. Look at the lowest level of windows above the parking garage in the top photo. See how the windows appear to be busted out —in a way that’s maybe somewhat different from how many of the other windows are busted out? A somewhat systematic regime of glass removal appears to be working its way up the building’s southern façade, according to a quick comparison of the shot at top, taken today, and this one, from a slightly different angle, taken almost exactly a month earlier:

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Windows Ate
07/07/17 4:00pm

The highrise hotel with apartments River Oaks District developer OliverMcMillan has been promising for a couple years as a tower feature of a promised second phase of the mixed-use development will be an Equinox, according to documents submitted to the city planning department. There’s already an Equinox fitness club in the River Oaks District, fronting Westheimer; the new Equinox hotel will be on the west side of Westcreek Ln., on the rear parking lot portion of the 3.4-acre Sullivan’s Steakhouse–Le Peep shopping center along Westheimer closer to the West Loop that OliverMcMillan leased almost 2 years ago.

The hotel portion of the site is 1.91 acres and set back from Westheimer. Equinox is seeking a variance from the city to allow the hotel to take access from Westcreek Ln., which further to the north also serves as an entry road for the SkyHouse River Oaks and the Wilshire condo towers.

The variance application doesn’t mention how tall the building will be, but renderings of the imagined hotel dating from 2015 (below) show a structure of approximately 25 stories, with a lower parking garage immediately to the west. A shorter building is shown on the 1.5-acre southern portion of the site facing Westheimer:

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Phase Two
06/26/17 12:00pm

What wonders wait in the secret rooftop garden that appears to be peeking over the edge of the highrise at 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy.? Reader and city sleuth Rachel Dvoretzky spotted a handful of leafy protrusions from the former hotel, Vedic school, and ambiguous combination thereof, most recently converted to a Days Inn prior to its slide into further dilapidation. The ever-changing graffiti veneer presented to passing Pierce Elevated drivers has seen some changes since April, too:

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Between Heaven and Heaven on Earth
06/23/17 12:15pm

Reader Bayan Raji sends these pics of the new Hotel ZaZa as it nears completion deep in the superblock just east of Bunker Hill Rd. and south of I-10 in Memorial City. The design by Kirksey Architecture is somewhat reminiscent of the shape of the Hotel ZaZa in the Museum District, except instead of looking out onto the grand traffic circle around the Mecom Fountain and Hermann Park beyond, the double wings of this one will look out past a surface parking lot (shown in the foreground above) to the 20-lane-wide (including the feeders) Katy Fwy. To the west and south, the hotel is flanked by shorter parking garages; directly to its east (behind the construction fence pictured here) will be a green space reserved for live music and festivals.

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Rooms in Memorial City
06/20/17 2:00pm

Here’s a shot from a recent hard-hat tour of the Hotel Alessandra, under construction on a corner of the GreenStreet don’t-call-it-a-mall Downtown. The view hints at what a poolside scene might look like when the hotel opens in October, though not exactly: Marlowe, the 20-story Randall Davis Company condo seen rising in the left background (in front of the Hilton Americas), should look a bit less stubbly stubby by then.

Next, a few pics from the Alessandra lobby, highlighting the swervy ceiling:

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And Other Sneak Peeks
05/05/17 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AN ALTERNATE ROUTE FOR CLEANING UP DOWNTOWN’S IMAGE  “Well, if the problem is defined as ‘Pierce Elevated drivers see blight’ — then one solution is to get rid of the blight; another is to get rid of the Pierce Elevated. It’s probably obvious by now which is more likely to happen.” [_,  commenting on Downtown’s Preeminent Dilapidated Hotel Tower Now Outfitted To Greet I-45ers with New Nametags, Fewer Window Panes] Photo of former Days Inn: Bob Russell