07/12/10 8:17am

Got a question about something going on in your neighborhood you’d like Swamplot to answer? Sorry, we can’t help you. But if you ask real nice and include a photo or 2 with your request, maybe the Swamplot Street Sleuths can! Who are they? Other readers, just like you, ready to demonstrate their mad skillz in hunting down stuff like this:

Answers to two questions left over from last week:

  • Discovery Green: The sleek, silver and blue Skyline Bar & Grill on the 24th floor of the Hilton Americas hotel is gone. In its place is the Skyline Ballroom, shown above in flouncier attire, courtesy of a reader who pointed us to the hotel’s meeting-room brochure. The 3,275-sq.-ft. space is now available for banquets and receptions. Meanwhile across the green, reception of the 10 wind turbines recently installed at the top of the brand-new 30-story Hess Tower has been just a little bumpy. “The turbines are functional,” reports engineer and new Metro board member Christof Spieler. “Whether they’re economical is another question…. the turbulence at the top of a building means it’s not nearly as good a place for a wind turbine as an open plain.” But it all adds up, commenter Mt figures: “Power Bill savings: Negligible, PR Value for [an] oil and gas company: PRICELESS!”

We’ll post more reader questions tomorrow. Send us what you’ve got before then!

Photo of Skyline Ballroom: Hilton Americas—Houston

07/06/10 6:40pm

Got an answer to these reader questions? Or just want to be a sleuth for Swamplot? Here’s your chance! Add your report in a comment, or send a note to our tipline.

  • Discovery Green: Two questions this week, coming from within a block of each other: First, a reader wants to know what happened to the “awesome” silver-and-blue Skyline Bar & Grill that used to be on the 24th floor of the Hilton Americas hotel Downtown. Separately, and across the park, another reader submits what may turn out to be an existential question about the top of the new Hess Tower:

    We just returned from the Dock Dog competition at Discovery Green and noticed that the 30+ story building adjacent to the Northwest corner of the park has what appears to be 5 or 6 wind turbine-like devices rotating at the top of the building. My daughter and I were wondering if they are actually functional electric-producing turbines or are they just ornamental? Thanks for any info you and your loyal readers can send our way.

Photo of Hess Tower from Discovery Green: Stanford Moore

05/05/10 12:11pm

The owners of the international foods emporium voted best grocery store in the city by Swamplot readers last year have announced they’ll be opening a second location Downtown, across the street from Discovery Green — whose opening day was voted the Best Moment in Houston Real Estate in the Swamplot Awards the previous year. What Swamplot Award-winner mashup will they think of next?

The new 28,000-sq.-ft Phoenicia Specialty Foods — smaller than the 55,000-sq.-ft. store on Westheimer near Kirkwood — is expected to open at the end of this year across McKinney St. from the Downtown park, in the ground floor of the One Park Place apartment tower. But park visitors will likely have to walk around the building to get their freekeh on: The store’s entrance will face Austin St.

We know what you’re wondering — will the pita be floating down from the ceiling on a conveyor belt Downtown too?


02/03/10 3:43pm

The Wall Street Journal‘s Katy McLaughlin picks on a few loud restaurants:

Many of the most cutting-edge, design conscious restaurants are introducing a new level of noise to today’s already voluble restaurant scene. The new noisemakers: Restaurants housed in cavernous spaces with wood floors, linen-free tables, high ceilings and lots of windows—all of which cause sound to ricochet around what are essentially hard-surfaced echo chambers.

Upscale restaurants have done away with carpeting, heavy curtains, tablecloths, and plush banquettes gradually over the decade, and then at a faster pace during the recession, saying such touches telegraph a fine-dining message out of sync with today’s cost-conscious, informal diner. Those features, though, were also sound absorbing. . . .

Restaurateurs often say the only complaints they get about noise are from older clientele. As people age—and particularly when they are 65 or older—they often lose acuity in hearing high-frequency sounds, making it harder to understand speech, says Mark Ross, a professor emeritus of audiology at the University of Connecticut.