07/20/18 10:00am

BRASA’S STEAKHOUSE WILL DEBUT IN ABANDONED KALEIDOSCOPE THEATER ON CAPITOL Recent permit filings show that the abandoned Kaleidoscope Theater on the Capitol-St.-side of the St. Germain Lofts at 705 Main St. is about to be reborn as a steakhouse. Founded by 2008 American Idol contestant Colton Berry 6 years ago, the theater played host to cabaret-style productions during its time in the space. But in the summer of 2016, Berry told the audience at a production of “PEOPLE” that the theater company was shutting down and splitting from the building, reported the Chronicle. That left a roughly 8,000 sq.-ft. hole in the north side of the residential structure — pictured above from the corner of Main and Capitol where the theater is survived by another, once-neighboring ground-floor tenant, Flying Saucer Draught Emporium. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Realtor.com

07/17/18 3:00pm

HINES SIGNS UP FOR 48-STORY HIGHRISE ON FORMER HOUSTON CHRONICLE DIGS DOWNTOWN Building permits filed last week for a concrete foundation in place of the HoustonChronicle-building-turned-parking-lot at 801 Texas Ave. reveal the vertical extent of what Hines has planned for the site: 48 stories. They’ll soon rise up above the fought-over tunnel system where a judge buried the hatchet 5 months ago, awarding Hines’ neighbor Theater Square $200,000, reported Nancy Sarnoff. Theater Square owns the property across Prairie St. from 801 Texas and claimed it had the right to access tunnels beneath the former newspaper building that it needed to connect its own subterranean sprawl to Houston’s broader downtown tunnel system. That hookup is now complete — writes Sarnoff — though the neighboring developer has yet to break ground on its own planned tower. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Brie Kelman

07/17/18 12:45pm

The new owner of the floody Spaghetti Warehouse building downtown has cooked up a novel idea for how to deal with its proximity to Buffalo Bayou: crack open its lower stories and fill them with a floodable dining area that sits below an upper-story bar. Renderings from Diamond Development show how they’re hoping to pull it all off by removing several doors and windows from the back of the 15,000-sq.-ft. building (which an application to Houston’s historic commission notes will be stored away for potential future use) and adding louvers to the building’s east side.

The slats would go in place of the parking-lot-fronting wall shown missing part of its face during Harvey:

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Floodable Food Court
07/13/18 5:00pm

Harris County and the trailblazing Buffalo Bayou Partnership will soon clear the way for a new trail segment on the south side of the bayou by demolishing the vacant 1119 Commerce Building warehouse along with portions of the inmate processing center to its east. Pictured above, 1119 Commerce St. spans the width between San Jacinto St. and the Fannin St. bridge at which the existing trail terminates. Harris County Flood Control district bought the building in 2010 as part of its efforts to smooth out that sharp oxbow where White Oak and Buffalo bayous meet and allow more water to flow through Downtown.

But a lot of that water ended up flowing through the building itself, dampening its below-street levels on at least 4 occasions since the county’s purchase. The year after a 2015 checkup found that the structure’s lower-level steel columns were “95 percent rusted,” the flood control district axed its lease with former tenant Quiznos in preparation to bring down the 94-year-old house, originally built for the Texas Packing Company.

After the trail takes over the lot occupied by the not-yet-demolished building, it’ll butt up next against the adjacent Harris County Inmate Processing Center at 1201 Commerce:

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Jailbreak
07/11/18 3:00pm

A new downtown hole-in-the-wall is making its debut at the foot of the city’s longstanding famous buildings. Among all the openings in the house now standing in the middle of Sam Houston Park, the most accessible one (ADA-certified) is at the end of the ramp pictured above. Cherry Moving was the first to add holes to the building: it inserted the more conventional windows after scooping up the 80-year old, 16-by-24-ft. single-story from the East End in order to resell it. The buyers: serial house tweakers Dan Havel and Dean Ruck, who perforated its façades and lined the bubbles with PVC piping to make them watertight.

You can see the piping’s light blue tint from the angle below:

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Say Cheese
07/02/18 12:15pm

From start to finish, the video above fast forwards through about 2 years of construction on the Kinder High School for Performing and Visual Arts’ new building at 790 Austin St. Following an official groundbreaking in late 2014, workers stacked 5 floors atop a 2-story underground parking garage (which took on about 10 in. of water during Harvey) — leaving space in the front face on Austin St. for a multistory jigsaw-like window.

That opening started out as more of a hole:

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Assembly Period
06/29/18 9:30am

Caffé di Firenze is the name of the coffee shop now on its way to the 127-year-old Henry Brashear building at 910 Prairie St., across from El Big Bad and Local Foods’s downtown location. Despite a renovation in 2016 that added red face-paint to the building’s formerly-black façade, its first floor has remained vacant for the past several years. Plans now call for that story to include a sidewalk seating area that’ll hang out in front of it.

Meanwhile, the building’s longtime owner is still working to get one or more tenants in the upper 2 floors — which include this outdoor patio:

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Coffee Grounds
06/25/18 11:30am

Construction is almost a wrap on the 13-story parking garage bounded by Fannin, Rusk, and Walker streets — and neighbored by the Le Meridien hotel shown above to the east. Looking from the southwest, you can see the 2 structures shouldering up close to each other. But aside from their proximity on the block, there’s not much else they have in common: The garage serves the Jones on Main complex, a WeWork-inclusive renovation of the Gulf Building and adjacent Great Jones building, both 2 blocks away.

Another shot taken from 1001 McKinney’s 12-story garagecatty corner to the new structure — looks north up Fannin to show more of the concrete exterior:

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Surface Lot, All Grown Up
06/15/18 3:45pm

THE ONGOING TRAVELS OF CITY HALL’S FLOODED-OUT BASEMENT EMPLOYEES Shell has been allowing the city’s procurement staff to stay for free in 74,000 sq. ft. at One Shell Plaza, across Smith St. from the City Hall basement they were forced out of by Harvey’s floodwaters. (They’re joined in the office tower by IT employees from the city’s 611 Walker facility, which suffered its own water damage when its sprinkler system malfunctioned in December). But the free ride is coming to an end this month, reports the Chronicle’s Mike Morris: Shell is charging $70,074 for June rent. Now, the city plans to move its refugee employees again — this time to Enterprise Plaza (pictured above) at 1100 Louisiana where they’ll stay from July 1 to the end of next year at a rate of $93,380 per month for 69,000 sq. ft. (about $1.7 million total). After that, they’ll head back to 611 Walker, which the city plans to have ready for permanent residents by then. As for the damaged City Hall basement and the tunnel connecting it to the adjacent annex across Bagby St., their interiors “remain stripped, the walls peeling or patched with plywood, the wood veneers in one stairwell warped to mark the water line just below the annex’s first floor.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo of 1100 Louisiana St.: Hines

05/21/18 4:30pm

Remember that North Canal that showed up in Plan Downtown’s maps and drawing last year and included a island in Buffalo Bayou? Well, TxDOT’s latest schematics for its planned I-45 reroute include a bypass and island as well — but in an entirely different location. The highway agency’s map above — with west facing up — indicates a new waterway draining into Buffalo Bayou right underneath the section of I-45 it plans to build in place of a portion of the Houston Housing Authority’s Clayton Homes neighborhood. How the canal gets there is obscured, but a straight course northwest appears to shoot the gap between 2 planned detention ponds and cross under the existing section of 59 (shaded gray), before linking up with the bayou again east of Elysian St. Marooned on TxDOT’s version of the make-believe, bayou-banked island the canal would create: a few of the houses in Clayton Homes.

As TxDOT’s caption makes clear, it’d be up to someone else to actually build the waterway. Doing so wouldn’t preclude the previously proposed North Canal from being dug further upstream. Plan Downtown’s less technical map at top shows that waterway beginning at White Oak Bayou and emptying into a bend of Buffalo Bayou just west of Elysian. In doing so, its course creates an exclusive new landmass home to the Harris County jail.

Road map: TxDOT. Downtown map: Plan Downtown

Offshored
05/14/18 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: BLAME IT ON THE TUNNELS “If you’ll forgive a play on words, the tunnel system is undermining Downtown’s bid to become a livable, walkable destination. The restaurants and businesses that occupy the tunnels skim the cream of the workforce during business hours on weekdays, then are sealed off from the public on evenings and weekends. Given the price of real estate and rents downtown, and that street level businesses have to survive on the evening and weekend trade to [stay in business], and the fact that so many buildings are inhospitable to pedestrians (many have only two street level entrances on an entire block) — retrofitting Downtown into a livable space is not going to be easy. There are exceptions: Market Square and stretches of Main Street. But for the most part, that which has already been built is an impediment to filling this donut hole.” [Big Tex, commenting on Comment of the Day Runner-Up: The Hole in the Donut] Photo of Lamar Tunnel: Swamplox inbox

05/11/18 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: THE HOLE IN THE DONUT “I enjoy living downtown to be close to events, bars and work. But it is a major pain to not have a decent full-service grocery in walking distance. And all of the fast casual restaurants are closed on the weekends. And we desperately need something like a CityTarget or Walmart Neighborhood Market to get random everyday items. Spend all this money to be close to everything but still have to leave Downtown to do most shopping.” [JasperRasper18, commenting on Latest Downtown Houston Headcount; A Restaurant and Juice Bar for Houston’s First Whole Foods 365] Photo of Main St. at Commerce St.: Bill Barfield via Swamplot Flickr Pool

05/10/18 3:30pm

The Downtown Redevelopment Authority is kicking off the engineering phase of its project to run a 2-way bike path along the east side of Bagby St. The new thoroughfare — to be designed by engineering firm Jones Carter — would begin more precisely on W. Dallas St. by the Allen Center parking garages off I-45, then cross Clay St. and hug the curve shown distantly in the rendering above before heading 2 thirds of a mile north up Bagby past 4 adjacent parks. Also on the route: the Houston Public Library, City Hall (shown fronting McKinney in the view at top), the Hobby Center, and Bayou Place.

After crossing Buffalo Bayou, the path would make a right turn and continue east on Franklin St. Following one more right, it comes to an end on Congress, at an elevated drop-off point above the Buffalo Bayou bike trail that crosses through Sesquicentennial Park:

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Bayou Biking Connection
05/04/18 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE DOWNTOWN APARTMENTS THAT RAN IN MY FAMILY “My uncle, J. Holly Brewer, bought the Plaza Court and Peacock apartments sometime about 1942. It was managed by his mother, Kate Lillian Brewer, and my mother, Edith Fox Bannerman, until J. Holly Brewer and my father, James Knox Bannerman, returned from service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. J. Holly Brewer then operated the apartments alone until his death in 1984. Edith Fox Bannerman and her sister, Frances Marion Marchiando, then inherited the property and jointly managed it. After Mrs. Marchiando passed away her son, Michael Marchiando, jointly managed the buildings with mom until 1995. At that point I, James Knox Bannerman II, and my mother, Edith Bannerman, shared the management of the buildings until we sold them in 2014. I felt it was time to sell them as [my] mother was 97-years young. Mother did not speak to me for a week after the sale. When she did speak her first sentence was, ‘You took my job away.’ Go figure. She is amazing. She drove the Houston freeways until she was 93 with never a citation or accident. Mom is 100 now and occasionally we drive her to visit some of the long-term tenants. These buildings have many stories to tell. I am delighted to see they are to be updated and preserved.” [James Knox Bannerman II, commenting on The Changes Coming to the Pre-War Peacock & Plaza Apartment Complex Downtown] Photo of apartment courtyard: LoopNet

05/03/18 2:45pm

THE CHANGES COMING TO THE PRE-WAR PEACOCK & PLAZA APARTMENT COMPLEX DOWNTOWN The new owner of the Peacock & Plaza Apartments at 1414 Austin St. — a 2-building, 32-unit complex that sports a colorfully feathered mosaic a block west of the Toyota Center — tells Swamplot what’s in store for a portion of the property: “We plan to heavily upgrade each unit in one of the two buildings. New plumbing, electrical, upgrade of HVAC systems, all new kitchens, appliance, bathroom.” In the other building: “We’ll clean the units up but we’re going to try to leave it somewhat original,” says the representative of the buyer, Fat Property. Before Colorado-based FVMHP took over the complex in 2014, it had been owned by the same woman for 80 years, according to the current buyer. Designed by Houston architect Lenard Gabert, its first building went up in 1926; the second followed 14 years later. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Fat Property