03/13/18 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT’S STILL MISSING FROM THE TOP OF THE CENTRAL SQUARE PLAZA REDO “After all the beautiful exterior enhancements, does Claremont plan to update and restore functionality of the enormous electronic retro clock on top of the building? The building now looks so nice. I can’t believe the clock sitting on top has not been restored, paint peeling off and not turned on, especially when it completes the whole retro-mod feel of the entire project.” [Unsure About This, commenting on Midtown’s Redone Central Square Plaza Looking To Lure Tenants to Its Empty Ground Floor] Photo of former Central Square Plaza clock: meltedplastic [license]

03/12/18 4:00pm

A building permit filed recently on the Central Square Plaza complex that takes up the block of Travis St. between Gray and Webster reveals Kraftsmen Coffee as the latest restaurant slated for the renovated tower’s empty ground floor. Work to install plumbing for the 1,768-sq.-ft. space that the owners of coffee shop plan to take over began last year.

The photo at top views the west portion of the building’s ground floor, which sits about halfway down the block on Gray St. and faces Milam. A parking garage is off-camera to the right. Around the corner — on the building’s north side — a TABC flyer for Malawi’s Pizza still hangs in the window of the empty storefront on Gray where it was originally posted back in 2016:



Kraftsmen Coffee
03/09/18 4:45pm

With a few exceptions, new buildings are required to sit back 25 ft. from their property lines along major thoroughfares in Houston —  lending the city’s feeder roads, for example, their familiar drive-right-up demeanor. But the Gold Quest Group wants to do things a little differently along the westbound Katy Fwy. feeder, west of T.C. Jester.

The rendering at top, from architecture firm BDC Nomadas, shows the feeder-hugging 5-story office building Gold Quest is proposing: its 3 stories of offices on top of 2 garage levels are set back just 10 ft. from the property line. A 10-ft.-deep berm would block most of the lower-level parking from street view. Not pictured: the garden planned atop its roof.


Off Shoulder
03/01/18 11:15am

SIGNS ARE ON THE DOOR TO WEWORK’S NEW DOWNTOWN BRANCH AT 708 MAIN The building on the corner of Main and Capitol — known since 2003 as the Great Jones building — is showing signs of the new WeWork office that’s heading into it. Last April, the workspace provider signed a lease for 86,000 sq. ft. in the building — originally billed as its first Houston location, although a smaller WeWork branch snuck in and opened on 3 floors of the Galleria I tower last December. 708 Main St. has been undergoing renovations since 2016 when its developers Midway and Lionstone Investments announced they planned to link the structure to its neighbor — the JP Morgan Chase building on the corner of Main and Rusk — via a first floor and mezzanine common area dubbed the Currency Lounge. The entire block between Capitol and Rusk is now being marketed as a single property termed The Jones on Main. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of WeWork entrance: Swamplot inbox

02/22/18 4:30pm

Update, 7:00 pm: At the request of the copyright holder, the images of Caydon Properties’ proposed development have been removed.

The Australian company that’s already begun construction on a residential tower in place of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Association building on the corner of Main and Tuam has plans for a pair of additional towers on the 2 blocks north of that site, along Metro’s red line. These renderings from visualization studio Large Arts show the extent of the complex — including a hotel, offices, residential space, and street-level retail fronting the rail up to McGowen St.

The rendering at top views the development from the corner of Main and Drew St. to show the new southern tower — home to a hotel — fronting Fannin while the northern one faces Main. Further up the tracks, a train pulls into the northbound McGowen St. station stop — shown lined with storefronts that sit below the north tower. An alley runs along the north end of the development, between the building and Greensheet Media’s former office — just out of view on the left at the corner of Main and McGowen.

More retail fronts the alley, adjacent to the McGowen platform:


New Main Drag
02/14/18 4:00pm

Here’s a good spot for people doing business in both Cypress and Houston: new coworking space The Work Well. The 23,000-sq.-ft. shared workspace takes up the top floor of the 3-story office building shown at top on Wortham Center Dr., just off the northwest tentacle of Houston’s jurisdiction, which runs along the Northwest Fwy. and links the city to Cypress. The red arrow on the map above indicates where The Work Well sits at 13100 Wortham Center, east of Goode Co.’s Cy-Fair location and just inside the city’s territory. Nearly all structures beyond the red shaded zone — save for a few along other major roads Houston keeps for itself — are outside of Houston city limits and inside unincorporated Harris County.

The Work Well’s first business day was back in December. A grand opening is now planned for March.

Photo of 13100 Wortham Center Dr.: LoopNet. Map: Houston Map Viewer

The Upper Reach
02/07/18 1:00pm

Been a while since your last Kirby Dr. drive? Here’s a look over developer Thor Equities’s collected works — dubbed the Kirby Collection — now standing tall between Colquitt and W. Main. The complex just north of Richmond began rising back in 2015 on the site of Cafe Express and a set of bars carved out of the former Settegast Kopf funeral home. A few pioneers have already settled in the 25-story ribbed apartment tower, shown on the left in the photo above. A boxier 13-floor office building rises at the south end of the block, on the right.

On the complex’s Kirby-fronting side, you can see where street-level shops will move into the Collection’s 65,000 sq. ft. of retail space, north of its ringed entrance court:


In the Upper Kirby Air
01/03/18 2:15pm

New renderings released by Sydness Architects show the street-level changes planned for the Bank of America Center, which sits across the street from Jones Plaza on one side and Philip Johnson’s other notable downtown office tower, Pennzoil Place, on the other. Last fall, building owner M-M Properties announced plans to remove the mummified 2-story Western Union building that had been encapsulated within the Bank of America Center’s northeast quadrant since 1983 (see photo above).

Windows and doors are shown added to the skyscraper along Capitol and Louisiana streets — in 2 of the walls that once entombed the telegram building. The rendering at top shows the reconfigured view from outside Jones Hall, with new 2-story openings facing Capitol St.

Only one new street-level entrance is clearly shown in that rendering, however: the awninged door to a new restaurant along Louisiana St. That restaurant is planned for a portion of the former Western Union building’s ground floor in the northeast corner of the Bank of America Center:


Philip Johnson’s Ghosts
01/02/18 12:30pm

Quick, what’s the most vaulted bank in all of Houston? Easy: the lofty Bank of America branch on the ground floor of the Bank of America Center at 700 Louisiana St. Downtown (pictured at top) — so grand, so postmodern, so . . . unleasable. Philip Johnson designed the 12-story high banking hall to resemble “a sixteenth-century Dutch guild hall, albeit one scaled to be seen from the freeway at sixty miles per hour,” writes Joel Warren Barna in a history of the project included in The See-Through Years. But now big changes are planned for that empty space:

“We’re just going to kind of slip in these two floor slabs,” Jeff Sydness of Sydness Architects tells the Chronicle’s Katherine Feser. Sydness was hired by M-M Properties to reconfigure the lower levels of the 56-floor tower, which was built in 1983. So: Lower ceilings ahoy! New mezzanines are now being planned to colonize the banking hall’s towering overhead emptiness. The new structures, edged with glass walls, will fill much of that air-conditioned but unused airspace with workstation- and cubicle-ready office platforms:


Loft Office
11/29/17 5:00pm

Work is almost complete on Pipeline Realty’s conversion of the 2-story office building at 2617 Bissonnet (seen at top in a recent photo) into a new second-story coworking space called Local Office. The 13,500-sq.-ft. building, pictured above before the 2 trees standing in front were removed and larger windows were poked into its north and west facades, previously served as the offices of Industrial Audio/Video.

Local Office, due to open sometime next month, will be joined early next year by a ground-floor coffee shop, labeled “Local Coffee” on the rendering below but more likely to be a third outlet of the growing local Cavo Coffee chain:


Offices of West University
11/17/17 11:30am

Previously visible only to airplanes, drones, satellite-image sleuths, and Phillips 66 employees on sufficiently high floors of their adjacent offices: the soccer field with encircling track and enclosing fence pictured here atop the energy company’s parking garage, with Beltway 8 in the background. An additional artificial-turf practice area exists off camera to the left.

Phillips 66’s campus was completed last year at 2331 CityWest Blvd., along the Beltway at Westheimer, and includes 2 office towers as well as the parking center. The main office buildings sport their own recreational facilities: a yoga studio, spin workout hall, basketball court, and outdoor putting green.


Pitch Roof
10/24/17 4:00pm

The lights have been changed again in the vacant office building at the center of Midway’s newly renamed East River site on Buffalo Bayou in the Fifth Ward. The 12-story former Building 3 on the KBR campus the development firm bought last year has progressed from referencing Amazon minus a couple of vowels to spelling out our city’s well-accomplished hometown baseball team minus its initial A. The view above was captured by a Swamplot reader from Clinton Dr. last night

The AMZN lettering lives on, though, at the end of a promo video Midway produced to rep Houston — and its mostly vacant 150-acre former industrial site:


’Stros in Lights
10/23/17 4:00pm

A reader shows us a few through-the-fence glimpses of the massive demolition project that now appears to be taking place on the Shell Oil Company’s Woodcreek campus, just south of the Addicks Dam: 7 connected triangular 5-story office buildings and a separate cafeteria structure on the west side of the campus at 200 N. Dairy Ashford are all on the crushing block, according to a demo permit filed a couple of weeks after Harvey hit.


Energy Corridor Clearance
10/18/17 10:30am

HOW A CANADIAN PENSION FUND FOUND ITS WAY TO SWALLOWING A BUNCH OF HOUSTON OFFICE BUILDINGS Ralph Bivins explains how it came to pass that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, with its now-completed purchase of REIT Parkway, became the owner of 8.7 million sq. ft. of office space in Houston, including Greenway Plaza, CityWest Place, San Felipe Plaza, the Phoenix Tower, and Post Oak Central: “At one time Cousins and Parkway were separate companies with sizable holdings in Houston. The Houston office market tanked when oil fell from a high of $107 a barrel in June 2014 to less than $30 a barrel in early 2016. Houston energy firms laid off thousands of employees and vacated huge chunks of office space. Publicly traded firms with significant portfolios of Houston office space were under pressure. Security analysts criticized them. So Cousins and Parkway merged, all of the Houston properties were stripped out and placed into a new company, Parkway Inc. Now, the oil markets have stabilized. Houston’s office market is still soft and vacancies are high, but it appears to be on the road to recovery.” [Realty News Report] Photo of Greenway Plaza: Brent Oldbury, via Swamplot Flickr pool  

10/10/17 2:00pm

Skanska is touting the green roof it’s planning atop the 11-story parking-garage portion of the Capitol Tower as a “Sky Park”: It’ll be the “first and largest green roof in Downtown Houston to be open to all building tenants,” the development company says. The 24,000-sq.-ft. roofscape will feature pathways surrounded by plants, grasses, and a few decorative trees; arbors with roofs modeled after the pipe-assembly structure seen at Rice’s Brochstein Pavilion, and “an infinity edge that makes it appear as though the park is floating in the sky.” Plus: an automated irrigation system that’ll pull water from the building’s 50,000-gallon rainwater cistern. Looming neighbors will include the Esperson Building, 712 Main, and Pennzoil Place.

Access to the roofscape, which was designed by OJB Landscape Architecture, will be through west-facing doors on the building’s 12th floor, the 35-story building’s lowest office level:


Green Roofs Downtown