10/16/17 1:15pm

Workers last week removed a few trees in the way of a new partition of Fountain Green, the plaza that stretches between Buildings 9 and 11 in Greenway Plaza just west of Edloe. Included in the scheme: A new separate lawn space on the green’s southern end, separated from the fountain by a covered walkway stretching between the 2 buildings; a separate canopy structure on the new lawn’s east side; and a new patio just behind that and in front of Building 9 — where a new restaurant designed by Austin architect Michael Hsu is planned. The aerial and ground-level views above shows the path being cleared for the walkway. Looking onto the green from the south across City Club Dr. is the former Houston City Club building, currently on its way to being refurbished for its new life as a location of Lifetime Fitness.

Renderings of the space shown by Greenway Plaza owner Parkway in March of this year, before it was announced that the Houston REIT was being bought by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, show the general contours of the plan:

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Fountain Green Green
10/06/17 10:15am

THE PIERCE ELEVATED’S GREAT UNCROSSING What’s going to replace the giant crosses on the east and west sides of the St. Joseph Professional Building towering over the Pierce Elevated once its new owner takes them down and redoes the exterior? “I want something that’s going to be iconic to Houston,Boxer Property CEO Andrew Segal tells Katherine Feser. The company has commissioned artists to develop ideas for the 18-story building’s new cross-free exterior look, Segal says: “It may be something that changes at night. It could involve a projector.” Also in the plans for the 135,586-sq.-ft. building at 2000 Crawford St., which dates from 1965: new shared lounges, workspaces, and conference facilities, changes to its ground-floor retail spaces, and a new name TBD. The steel crosses were added to the building in 2009. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Russell Hancock, via Swamplot Flickr pool

09/26/17 1:15pm

Something you might not have noticed about Houston’s iconic Bank of America Center (top) at 700 Louisiana St. Downtown: There’s an entire unused building hidden inside. The thrice-renamed spiky Dutch-ish PoMo tower complex, designed by architect Philip Johnson in 1982, sits across the street from his other famous Downtown Houston office building, Pennzoil Place. It’s not obvious from the exterior or interior, but the 2-story former Western Union building on the corner of Louisiana and Capitol streets (pictured above in a photo from 1957) takes up almost a quarter of the block Bank of America Center sits on. This was Western Union’s longtime regional switching center; Johnson was asked to design his building around it because the cable and electrical connections maintained within it were deemed cost-prohibitive to relocate.

Thirty-five years later, it’s the building’s anchor tenant that’s relocating: Bank of America, which now occupies 165,000 sq. ft., will move to Skanska’s Capitol Tower in a couple years. As part of a new set of renovations to the structure the bank is leaving behind, owner M-M Properties plans to completely dismantle what remains of the Western Union building, recapturing 35,000 sq. ft. of space without expanding the building’s footprint. Among the plans for the resulting space: A “reconfiguration” of the lobby and the addition of a “white tablecloth restaurant.”

The secret Western Union void is well disguised. It isn’t in the lobby of the 56-story tower but in the 12-story adjacent bank-lobby building fronting Louisiana St., more formally known as the the Banking Hall when the building first opened in 1983 as RepublicBank Center. It takes up the entire northern half of that structure: It’s beyond the colonnaded-but-blank wall on your right as you enter the lobby from Louisiana (on the left in this photo):

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Tales from the Vault
09/15/17 3:00pm

Entire episodes of TLC’s long-running reality TV series The Little Couple were devoted to the construction, outfitting, and decor of the 2-story home at 2802 Fairhope St. in Knollwood Village to accommodate the particular requirements — and dimensions — of the growing family of its owners, Dr. Jen Arnold and Bill Klein. The home has been shown off in magazine features, too (see the above video from People). Since the end of the show’s last season the couple has moved to Florida, however, and as of last week the home is up for sale. But here’s some news that might come as a disappointment to the show’s many fans — some of whom have chosen to show up on the home’s doorstep and leave notes for its stars: The home has already been renovated, and many of those little touches the couple so greatly appreciated (the custom-lower-height countertops in the kitchen, for example) have been replaced.

Non-fans or average-sized house shoppers just looking for a place to live, however, will probably appreciate the renovations just completed by Blackwell Design, which included raising all the shower heads; reworking the kitchen and bathrooms with standard-height counters; elevating the outdoor BBQ, and raising the cabinets in the laundry room and the vanity in the master closet. There’s also a new custom pantry in the kitchen.

Here’s a quick tour of the new interior:

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Moving on Up
09/12/17 10:30am

Here, courtesy of a Swamplot reader, are a few exterior views of the building at 1318 Westheimer after its weekend fire. “The damage is pretty severe,” Shawn Bermudez wrote on Facebook Saturday evening. The owner of Royal Oak Bar & Grill, which shut down in this location last September, had been renovating the property in order to reopen it as a bar named Present Company. That work was a month from completion, Bermudez estimates. Among the additions to the former 1950s home: new steel doors and windows. And here’s a view showing the current state of the new piggyback patio added in back:

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Bar and Grill
08/24/17 1:00pm

The City of Houston website may still describe Jones Plaza as a “fully renovated” public square that forms the centerpiece of the city’s Theater District downtown, but Houston First appears ready to fully renovate it again. The quasi-public agency says it will select 5 teams from among any “experienced urban design firms, landscape architects or architects capable of creating an inspired, iconic, accessible and welcoming design” that apply before September 5 to create preliminary designs for a redo. Among the possibly familiar items listed for inclusion on the redesign menu: a water element, a “green oasis with seasonal plantings,” a performance space, an art installation, and a 4,000-sq.-ft. fast-casual restaurant.

Jones Plaza’s current design, which features similar items, dates from a 2001 rebuild led by Bricker+Cannady Architects; that renovation lowered and canted the previously raised plaza surface so that all steps could be removed from the Louisiana St. side facing Jones Hall:

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Do-Overs
08/17/17 4:45pm

HOW THE NEW ARCHITECTURE CENTER HOUSTON WILL BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES WHEN HIGH WATER COMES What’s going to happen to the new exhibition, meeting, and office spaces at the Architecture Center Houston — set to reopen next month in its new location in the ground floor and former boiler room of the 1906 B.A. Riesner Building at 900 Commerce St., next to the Bayou Lofts and across from the Spaghetti Warehouse Downtown — in the very likely event that floodwaters rise from nearby Buffalo Bayou? Kyle Humphries of Murphy Mears Architects, the firm chosen to lead the reconfiguration of the space after a competition last year, tells the Architect’s Newspaper’s Jason Sayer that the designers imagined the interior as a bathtub, and accordingly wrapped a quarter-inch-thick plate made of aluminum around the interior on 2 sides: “’Our storefront system that faces Commerce Street is sealed and uses structural steel panels up to 3.5 feet long all along that facade,’ described Humphries. Furthermore, custom fills and seals on the doors (the profiles of which were manufactured in Switzerland) were prescribed with a custom-designed drop-in flood panel that can be operated by one person standing outside.” [The Architect’s Newspaper] Video walkthrough: Murphy Mears Architects

08/16/17 12:15pm

The multi-level steel antenna-support tower that’s long stood on top of the window-deficient AT&T building at 3303 Weslayan St. just north of Greenway Plaza was removed by crane over the last week, a reader reports. At least, that’s what appears to be the case from the ground: The Beck Group construction firm received permits for a partial demolition of the building’s cell tower in June. Also permitted by the city that same month: a Beck Group office remodel of the structure, which is referred to in the permit as the AT&T Weslayan Toll Building.

Here’s a view of the now-dismantled tower from a couple of years ago, as it loomed poolside at the neighboring 3333 Weslayan apartments:

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Hats Off
07/27/17 3:45pm

COMMENTS OF THE DAY: WHEN HOUSTON JEWELRY WRAPPED A SHINY BAND AROUND A COUPLE OF DOWNTOWN BUILDINGS AT 720 RUSK “We bought this building from Star Furniture in 1966 and operated in it until 1983 when we were offered a very generous price at the top of the market. After we left the building stayed empty until the Subway opened. . . . This is how the building looked when it was remodeled by architect Arnold Hendler in 1966.” [Rex Solomon, commenting on Downtown Houston Is Now Down To A Single Street-Level Subway] Photo: Houston Jewelry

07/27/17 2:30pm

Here’s a glance at how the now-redone North Shepherd strip center that used to house the Texas Cafeteria is looking this week, about a month before the second-ever location of sandwich joint Krisp Chicken & Batter opens up on the building’s south end. A raised bit of concrete slab seen on the near side of the building in the photo above will form the foundation of a planned dining patio. According to the building’s leasing flyer, a 1,825-sq.-ft. space in the building is still available for lease adjacent to Krisp; the rest of the building will become a Verizon store.

The center at 2400 N. Shepherd Dr. is immediately north of the former Fiesta lot where H-E-B plans to start construction on a new Heights market late this summer.

According to Culturemap’s Eric Sandler, the owners of Krisp are already planning to open additional locations in Memorial, Bellaire, and Downtown in the next few years — and possibly Pearland and Cinco Ranch after that.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Next Month
07/14/17 5:30pm

Here’s a view from last week of the former Express Wheel & Tire kiosk in Oak Forest, in the midst of its transformation into a yet-to-be-identified coffee drive-thru along Ella Blvd. at W. 34th St., at the eastern end of the shopping center redo Revive Development is working on at that intersection’s southwest corner. Demo crews are removing the overhang connecting the front canopy to the small building behind it. Renderings of the finished development on the Revive website show the canopy is meant to remain — to shade a few prime parking spaces at the eastern end of the development:

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W. 34th St. and Ella
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
06/27/17 2:30pm

The startup 3-barrel “nano-brewery” carving its ferment-and-serve spaces out of the former Bissonnet Auto Service Center garage on Bissonnet St. between Kirby and Greenbriar is scheduled for a Labor Day Weekend opening, according to a recent report in the Chronicle. New glazed overhead doors have been installed in the 2 garage bays, but according to this photo of the spot from earlier today, there’s still a bit of work going on inside.

If future passers-by do a double-take after seeing drinkers out on the front patio of the single-story structure at 2322 Bissonnet, it might be because the brewery-bar will be next door to the former Kay’s Lounge, also a single-story building serving drinks on a front patio, which was demolished last fall. These homes are scheduled to go up on that site.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

06/21/17 4:45pm

It may not look like a hole lot is going on in there in this photo taken a few months ago, but the 2,492-sq.-ft. 1940-vintage retail building at the southeast corner of White Oak Dr. and Oxford St. in the Heights — a crooked saunter across the street from Onion Creek Coffee House and a lot and a street down from the Heights hike-and-bike trail (and this) — will be filled with bagels this summer, promises its new proprietor. Behind its plywood poker face, the property at 3119 White Oak Dr. has been stuffed with a bagel oven, tile-front counters, and a walk-in refrigerator, according to the social media accounts of the establishment, known as Golden Bagels and Coffee. Soon to be on the menu, in addition to the comestibles promised in the shop’s name: local cured and smoked fish.

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Bagels for the Heights
06/20/17 10:15am

THESE ARE THE SALAD DAYS FOR EMANCIPATION PARK Covering the reopening of Emancipation Park, on Elgin St. east of 59, Michael Hardy surveys the adjacent eats: “Even before the park reopened, a number of businesses catering to the neighborhood’s newest residents had appeared. Across the street from the park, below the old Eldorado Ballroom, are the Crumbville, TX bakery, which sells vegan cookies and brownies, and the NuWaters food co-op. A few blocks down Emancipation Avenue, Doshi House serves sustainably sourced coffee and vegetarian meals. (Emancipation Avenue used to be called Dowling Street, after a local Confederate officer; the Houston City Council voted in January to change the name.) The latest business to open on the park periphery is the Rustic Oak Seafood Boiler Shack, which serves coastal Cajun cuisine. The owner and chef, Wendell Price, grew up on MacGregor Way, a more affluent part of Third Ward, and remembers the area around Emancipation Park as a food desert. ‘When I came down to hang in this area, you literally couldn’t get a salad,’ he said. Mr. Price, who previously operated a restaurant in Houston’s trendy Montrose neighborhood, said he would never have considered setting up shop in Third Ward if not for the Emancipation Park renovation.” [New York Times; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Doshi House: OffCite/Raj Mankad