The Houston Chronicle Will Abandon Downtown for This Freeway-Side Post Brutalist Bunker

Former Houston Post Building, 4747 Southwest Fwy., Houston

Yesterday afternoon’s news came couched in pillowy fluff: Houston’s largest news-gathering organization will be moving to an exciting new state-of-the-art facility in the Galleria area! No, the Houston Chronicle isn’t leaving the heart of the city it covers: Key reporters will remain downtown!

But here’s a rougher-edged reading of the newspaper’s apparent retreat: The Hearst Corporation is getting ready to sell off one of its most valuable Houston assets — a block and a half of prime Downtown real estate — so it’s telling Chron editorial staffers to find room for themselves somewhere in or around the austere 440,000-sq.-ft. concrete fort where the company’s distribution, circulation, local sales, and press operations have been camping out, on 21 acres in the lower right armpit formed by the intersection of Hwy. 59 and Loop 610.

The former Houston Post compound at 4747 Southwest Fwy. (above), designed by Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson in 1970 as a stark Brutalist follow-up to their work on the Astrodome, was part of the booty obtained by the Chronicle when it bought out its rival paper in 1995. The announcement calls the complex its “future campus,” but the extent of renovations or any new construction planned on the site is unclear.

What about that downtown foothold the paper is promising?


Houston Chronicle Buildings, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown Houston

That would be easily fulfilled by leasing a smidge of office space in some other CBD building for what remains of the government-covering news crew. Doing so would free up the Houston Chronicle Media Group to sell all of its downtown holdings, which consists of an entire block of buildings at 801 Texas Ave. (or 416 Milam if you’re looking up county tax records) and its aging half-block parking garage, catty corner at 710 Preston St. When those properties sell, it’s likely the structures will be goners.

“The location is great,” a Chron employee tells Swamplot, “especially if that surface parking lot between us and Market Square Park really does become highrise residential.” (Or, more likely, an office building.) “But the Chronicle’s building doesn’t have much to recommend it: It’s really three very old buildings under a single, 1960s-ish faux-marble facade. (One of the three was an old vaudeville theater.) The place is full of walls in weird places and odd little half-staircases where the floors of the three buildings don’t line up.” In short, the complex has “all the problems of old buildings,” says the source. But”none of the charm.” The Chronicle plans to begin the employee-moveout phase of its Downtown exit in 18 months.

Photos: Wikimedia Commons/WhisperToMe (4747 Southwest Fwy.); Sean Davis (801 Texas Ave.) [license]

A Newspaper Retreat

24 Comment

  • That old Post building has to be one of the ugliest structures in North America. There’s brutalism (see, say, Boston City Hall), and then there’s that thing, in which the state would feel a momentary pang of guilt before placing prisoners.

  • Continuing the march of major newspapers towards the fate of the dinosaurs…

  • The Chronicle building downtown used to look really nice before the marble facade covered everything up:

  • Houston stills has a newspaper? Learn something new everyday…

  • I was wondering when The Chronicle would sell its property downtown. In an era when newspapers have seen ad revenue plummit and ink prices soar, and drops in circulation it’s not surprising they would sell off lucrative assets they really don’t need. It would be odd, considering the state of the newspaper business, to make a large investment like building new buildings on their campus. To me that property will always represent the lamented Houston Post. I can certainly understand The Chronicle unloading their Texas Avenue location, however do they really have the investment dollars to embark on a building spree. I suppose from the money they get for their downtown property they can afford it, but maybe it would be cheaper to just lease space in Greenway Plaza or The Galleria Area. I like that the old Post building sits all hulking on it’s 21 acres, I hope they don’t ruin the look with some glass structure not at all complimenting to the Posts Brutalist headquarters.

  • Uh, Boston hates their City Hall and is in the process of tearing it down. I actually like this austere beast of a building, it’s actually kinda elegant in its polished concrete suit, and frankly find it cooler looking that Boston’s leaky City Hall. Oh and don’t forget the old HISD administration building, another ghost of Brutalist architecture.

  • The Alley Theatre is fairly brutal as well, lacking only gun ports. Wikipee says the term comes from a French word meaning concrete, but I think that’s a lie.

  • Shannon’s a bit confused. Boston’s City Hall is ugly but in an interesting and thought provoking way, and plans to tear it down were cancelled three years ago in favor of a redevelopment plan. In contrast, the Post building is a drab, weatherstained concrete bunker whose only redeeming features are location and the fact that the Chronicle already owns it.

  • I worked at the Post in 1990. The building looks like hell from the exterior, but the front building(there are actually three buildings, front to back) is really kind of cool on the inside. The main corridor through the middle of the building has a very magisterial feeling to it. I imagine, In the 1970’s, when the fifth estate still meant something; as you walked through the center of that edifice, it said to you “We are the Press, the Fifth Estate, we are the power which is the check on power”.

  • More like Houston’s over conservative advertiser, posing as a news paper. Welcome to plan B Chronicle,. it fits you well. Sorry for the old Post building…

  • A failed paper’s building certainly reflects the “state” of the art of writing newspapers. Hopefully the Chron fixes it up though so when Swamplot buys it and becomes Houston’s paper of record, there’s a cool place to move.

  • Politics is fluid in Boston, yes. Too bad, it’s a bad building, much to hash for that part of Boston.

  • Too harsh*

  • If people MUST complain about a harmless brutalist building, don’t worry, they can pop a bunch of randomly-placed square windows out of the blank walls, dress up the towers with stucco cornices, and paint the whole thing a nice brick red. It’ll fit right in with the townhomes and the strip malls.

  • Beton Brut = raw concrete

  • It will be nice to see cars in the parking lot again. They need to take a pressure washer to the entire complex.

  • liven up folks, it’s an awesome looking building.

  • Must keep this brutal building!
    Glad The Chron will use it to full advantage.
    Also, opening up prime downtown property is exciting in its own right.

  • Even if they totally renovate the building and make it state of the art like they say they’re going to – it’s still almost outside the loop, and on the dreaded Southwest side of town. My understanding is that most Chronicle reporters are deathly afraid to go to Southwest Houston – which is why you almost never see any reporting from the area (crime reports paraphrased from HPD press releases notwithstanding). I suspect high turnover from the move.

  • ZAW, I thought the TV news had a monopoly on “SW is Scary!!1!” stories, seeing as how they’re mostly clustered together on that side of town.

  • @ Shannon: fyi- the Comical is owned by the Hearst Corp (i.e.- DEEP pockets; the Hobby family SOLD the Post in 1983 to the Toronto Sun newspaper, which then sold it 4 years later to MediaNews Group,led by editor William Dean Singleton.The Post ceased operating / published it’s last edition on 18 April, 1995. Hearst Corporation purchased it’s assets (5 printing presses, the real estate and the name,etc.).@ ZAW: ” dreaded side of Southwest Houston” . You obviously ,like the wussy Chron reporters, need to grow a pair. Not ALL of Southwest Houston is crime ridden, you ill-informed goof ball.. Some of Houston’s NICEST hoods are located there…Do some FACT checking before you post info ..The Chron “reporters” are not tasked with field reporting..

  • The greatest accomplishment of the Boston City Hall architecture is how much it makes my eyes hurt. It’s like looking at an optical illusion, not even a good one, if you want that check out the concert hall in Reykjavik (not brutalist but an optical illusion kind of building. Also nearly bankrupted the country o.0). Anyways.

  • @Padraig: I was being sarcastic. I’ve lived in he Sharpstown area since 2007. I think it’s one of the most under appreciated, misunderstood, and urbanistically abused (if I might coin that term) parts of this town.
    As far as Chronicle “reporters” not being tasked with field reporting. That’s part of the problem. They do seem to have plenty of boots on the ground to take pictures of galas in River Oaks. But they almost never venture outside Loop 610 – and that’s why I surmise they might be scared to do so.

  • Nice to see this monstrosity of a building come down.