05/19/17 11:45am

The light at the end of the N. Main St. tunnel beneath the Union Pacific Line was obscured for a bit this morning where the northbound side of the road re-emerges into tossed-coffee-cup range of the Burnett Transit Center light-rail stop (atop the topmost overpass in the shot above.) The semi that briefly plugged the hole looks to have scraped its way through the entire length of the tunnel before getting stuck at the northern exit. Transtar pinned the stopup to about 10:38 this morning; not much had changed as of 40 minutes ago (see below), but the road is now marked by professional traffic-watchers as cleared. 

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Yards from Hardy Yards
04/24/17 11:00am

Demolition of Houston Chronicle Building 801 Texas Ave., Downtown Houston

That’s pretty much it for the surface-dwelling sections of the Houston Chronicle‘s former bundle of headquarters structures at 801 Texas Ave. — a reader captured the minor dustup above on Friday, and activity on the site is now mostly at or below ground level. Work to shore up the section of basement the district court ordered Hines’s Block 58 to leave behind (for tunnel use by Linbeck-controlled neighbor and plaintiff Theater Square) was mostly wrapped up last fall, according to some December court filings.

Other documents filed as part of the case show that the legal compromise set up last summer (which allowed the demo of the Chronicle building to go forward after all) has hit a few bumps since then: Theater Square filed a motion to find Block 58 in contempt of court late last year, and a trial appears to be scheduled for June.

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Texas Ave. Tunnel Tussle
04/10/17 4:30pm

TACOS A GO GO IS A GO BENEATH DOWNTOWN Tacos a Go Go at 910 Louisiana Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002Tacos A Go Go’s latest location is currently being set up in the tunnel spot beneath soon-to-be-Shell-free One Shell Plaza at 910 Louisiana St. The permitting process for the remodel of the space (centered roughly between branches of Murphy’s Deli, Starbucks, and the People’s Trust Co-op) kicked off late last year, around the time Tacos a Go Go’s third location opened in the now-thoroughly disguised former Roznovsky’s Hamburgers spot in Garden Oaks. The company’s website currently says the fourth spot’ll open Downtown later this month, operating on breakfast and lunch taco hours (from 7 to 3). [Previously on Swamplot; tunnel coverage] Image of One Shell Plaza leasing flier: LoopNet

04/06/17 3:15pm

THE TUNNEL BENEATH THE DEAD CHRONICLE BUILDING IS NOW OPEN AGAIN Capitol Tower Tunnel MapManagement for 717 Texas (or Calpine Center, if you’re less of a fan of numerically-forward tower vernacular) just sent out word that the tunnel from that building to Chase Tower at 600 Travis St. is now open again. The route takes a turn beneath the pretty-much-done demo of the newly former Houston Chronicle headquarters, evidently still slated by Hines for surface-lotdom for now — plus whatever work the folks next door have planned below ground to tie their own development into the tunnel network. Meanwhile, another block southwest down the same tunnel system (as visible in the 90-degrees-or-so rotated schematic above), Skanska has just signaled the go-ahead on the above-ground section of its Capitol Tower; no word yet on whether that construction will have another round of tunnel closure associated with it. [Previously on Swamplot] Map of Downtown tunnel connections: Skanska

04/04/17 2:30pm

Ragin' Cajun tunnel location beneath 930 Main St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Ragin' Cajun tunnel location beneath 930 Main St., Downtown, Houston, 77002Ragin’ Cajun, likely Downtown’s most subterranean crawfish vendor, is packing up and crawling out of the tunnels beneath the McKinney Place Garage at 930 Main St., a reader notes this week. (That’ll leave its French-Quarter-evocative retail space open for more underground restaurant turnover; the garage most recently saw the swapout of a Prince’s Hamburgers branch for Time for Thai, amid other nearby culinary tunnel shuffles). The shop’s other locations are still open, per signage left behind at the scene.

Photos: Dave

Crawfish Digout
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
03/08/17 11:00am

Closed restaurants in 811 Louisiana tunnels, 811 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Closed restaurants in 811 Louisiana tunnels, 811 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002The latest report from Swamplot’s anonymous tunnel correspondent indicates that neighboring Asian fast casual and counter spots Thai Spice and Sidewalk Cafe appear to have both closed in the tunnel beneath 811 Louisiana (also previously and variously known as Two Shell Plaza or 777 Walker. Signage from the building’s management folks went up by the end of February, and the Thai Spice branch’s phone number is now out of service as well. An outdated leasing flier still up on the 811 Louisiana LoopNet page shows the layout of the spaces amid the rest of the tunnel stretch, between the Esperson building and the tower at 611 Walker:

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Out and About Downtown
07/28/16 11:15am

Former Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002

No wrecking balls are swinging this morning at 801 Texas, but a reader notes that some of the glass panels of the southern facade are being draped in long swaths of black material, while others have already been removed. What about that lawsuit over tunnel rights that forced developer Hines not to demolish the building back in April? Documents filed with the district clerk’s office show that plaintiff Theatre Square did get the court to issue a temporary stop on any work “demolishing, damaging, interfering with, filling in, impacting or otherwise physically impairing” that particular piece of the former Chronicle building’s basement (which Theater Square wants for the purpose of building a tunnel system connection to its own property across Prairie St.) The court chose to modify that order in mid July, however, to clarify that Hines can demolish, damage, interfere with, fill in, impact or impair the section in ways that are reasonably necessary to design and build a new building on the site.

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Coming Apart At The Seams
07/14/16 1:00pm

Time for Thai, 930 Main St., Downtown Tunnels, Houston, 77002

Swamplot’s anonymous tunnel correspondent sends the following deep-Downtown restaurant updates (and a few other subterranean readers send along photos to illustrate):

The location formerly occupied by Prince’s at 930 Main St., [beneath the] McKinney Place Garage (unoccupied since early March) will soon be home to Time for Thai, whose sign says that they are an offshoot of Thai Cottage:

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Coming Up Downtown
07/05/16 4:45pm

Site of Nosh in Tunnel beneath 919 Milam, Downtown, Houston, 77002

The subterranean snapshot above comes from a reader roaming the Downtown tunnels, where a curved privacy-please construction barrier for a coffee-snacks-and-breakfast operation labeled Nosh now arcs around the spot formerly occupied by the ATM beneath 919 Milam. The change comes in the wake of other food-related shuffling beneath the 24-story tower this year; Genesis Energy also spread out onto another of the tower’s floors back in February.

Photo: ThaChadwick

Downtown Down Low
04/28/16 4:15pm

Proposed Prairie Tunnel Map, per Theater Square lawsuit filings

What led up to the neighborly lawsuit filed last week over the former Houston Chronicle building’s planned demolition? A pair of letters filed with the county clerk’s office as part of the suit sheds a little light on the back-and-forth between the building’s new owners and their new neighbors. Plaintiff Theater Square, a partnership controlled by construction and development firm Linbeck, is developing the downtown block marked SITE in the map above, immediately across Prairie St. from the former Chronicle property (bought last year by Hines entity Block 58 Investors). Theater Square wants to link its own could-be-a-Class-A-contender block into the Downtown tunnel network (traced above in solid black).

The company sued both Hines and Chronicle owner Hearst News last week to stop the demo, claiming that Hearst gave it property rights to build a new tunnel through the newspaper building’s basement (via the route shown in stripes above along Travis St.) and that the demo (as currently intended) interferes with that plan. Theater Square sent a letter to Hines on April 15th citing news stories about the impending demo and requesting both access to inspect the basement and assurances that the demolition would be carried out in a way that doesn’t harm certain existing structures that the new tunnel’s already-semi-permitted building plans depend on.

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Fight For The Right To Tunnel
02/29/16 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: GETTING HOOKED IN TO THE HOUSTON UNDERGROUND Downtown Tunnels“The condo where I live is connected to the tunnels. It makes it very easy [to get] to and from work, home for lunch, etc. And during the rush hours I don’t have to worry about avoiding cars, delivery trucks, and unsightly ‘street people’ hanging out around Main Street Square. I hope that many of these new residential developments downtown can be connected to the tunnel system.” [Walker, commenting on Comment of the Day: Fighting Tunnel Vision on Downtown’s Pedestrian Experience] Illustration: Lulu

01/07/16 1:30pm

Rustika Cafe and Bakery, 801 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, Tx 77002

Stuck downtown jonesing for a turnover, or a maybe a wedding reception? A satellite outpost of Rustika Café and Bakery has crept into the tunnel beneath 801 Louisiana St. in the spot previously occupied by Porch Swing Desserts. The cafe is now open for business with a taco-heavy mini-menu to kick off operations.

A tipster tells Swamplot that sweets fiends will be able both to order and to retrieve custom cakes from the new underground locale, though they will still be constructed at the cafe’s original strip mall location (at 3237 Southwest Freeway between Tokyohana and the Michaelyndon Salon & Day Spa). This first franchise of the Mexican-Jewish mashup will also offer catering.

A few fresh snaps of the newly-stocked pastry counters beneath Louisiana St.:

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Taking the Cake Down Below
12/22/15 11:30am

Proposed Modifications to 800 Bell St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Permits were issued yesterday for construction of a new tunnel concourse below 800 Bell St. —  the Louisiana tunnel will be tied into the new digs planned beneath the former ExxonMobil building, at the corner of Bell and Milam downtown.

Following Exxon’s gradual withdrawal north to its new Woodlands campus, the Bell St. building is being completely redone — beneath a fancy new hat, the structure’s exterior fins will be engulfed in a new glass skin to add 100,000 sq.ft. of floorspace to the building. Eric Anderson told the HBJ last year that the only part of the building that wouldn’t be replaced is the concrete.

Renderings and site plans from architects Ziegler Cooper now provide a glimpse into plans for the basement and coming tunnel connections as well:

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800 Bell St.