Downtown Houston Is Now Down to a Single Street-Level Subway

DOWNTOWN HOUSTON IS NOW DOWN TO A SINGLE STREET-LEVEL SUBWAY With the shuttering last week of the Subway sandwich shop at the corner of Milam and Rusk streets — catty corner from Pennzoil Place, in the ground-floor space below the Level Office at 720 Rusk St. (pictured here) — the national sandwich chain is now down to a single Downtown location that can be accessed from a sidewalk. Another streetside Subway, in the ground floor of the Americana Building 5 blocks to the south at the corner of Milam and Dallas, exited its space before demolition began on that structure in February. A total of 8 Subways are located Downtown, but they’re all now harbored in tunnels or lobbies or food courts — except the lone fresh-air holdout at 405 Main St., at the corner of Preston. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of former Subway space at 802 Milam St.: cmoney_htx

21 Comment

  • Ahhhh the Downtown tunnels, the lamest idea in a city historically led by lame people. Those crappy tunnels have helped destroy street life in Downtown and have made Houstonians into moles.

  • If this were radio, you’d need the micro machines guy to deliver just about every first sentence on this blog. You’d have a hard time finding anyone else who could do it in one breath…

  • nothing wrong with the tunnels

  • I suppose hideously hot weather, occasionally interrupted by torrential downpours, and ever present panhandlers do nothing to disrupt the pleasant street life of downtown Houston. The only reason to prefer sidewalks to tunnels in Houston is so that you can smoke while outdoors. If so, get a vape pen and come inside.

  • @Onepunchman – As someone who uses the tunnels everyday, I contest that they are glorious. My sweatless armpits and rain-free coiffure are a testament thereto.

  • Over here in West Houston, a couple of nearby Subways also recently closed. I’m not sure this is something specific to Downtown.
    Regarding the tunnels, they are considered one of the top amenities for the office market – so much so that any building without a tunnel connection is not considered “Class A.” Furthermore, if you look at the type of businesses found in the tunnels, they are exactly the same types of businesses found in the core of office districts in cities like Chicago and SF at street level, and which also close mid-afternoon, just like they do here. Any business that wants to be successfully open in the evening or on weekends has to locate at street level anyway (or in Green Street, and is there anything open in the Shops at Houston Center on the weekends)?. So, yes, during regular weekday office hours, the tunnels lessen street life a little, but the negative impact hardly overpowers the huge amenity benefit to the office buildings. I would contend they have little or no effect on street life at other times.

  • Subway tastes like shit and has been rightfully relegated to run-down strip malls in sub-prime locations, with prepaid wireless, CiCi’s pizza. and payday loan shops, as neighbors.

  • I work in midtown and can see downtown from my desk. I’ve lived in Houston for 35+ years and I always forget the tunnels exist until I read the biannual Swamplot article about them.

  • Houston had a thriving downtown up until the 1940s: With retail businesses integrated at the ground floor level, pedestrian awnings and canopies that shield us from the elements, and more than likely, the same climate. The tunnels, sadly, have just helped proliferate bad urban design. The key take away is that we can use urban design to tailor our built environment to the climate we live in… And again, if Texans are so tough, then why is everyone complaining about getting sweaty?

  • What @Neil said. Anyone who criticizes the tunnels for “destroying street life in Downtown” is a hopeless urban planning romantic who doesn’t actually work downtown. We are not your playthings to be cast into the sweltering heat, just so that you can tout downtown as a walkable daytime urban environment.

  • @cmoney clearly the 1940s urban form seems to be superior – can you provide a useful guide to what else we should reintroduce from 70 years ago? The milkman? Large blocks of ice powering the refrigerator? Women painting pantyhose lines on their legs since nylon went into parachutes? Lack of interstate highways? Machine politics? Jim Crow? I’m not an expert on the 1940s so I’d appreciate your help.

  • We bought this building from Star Furniture 1966 and operated in it until 1983 when we were offered a very generous price at the top of the market. After we left the building stayed empty until the Subway opened….

  • This is how the building looked when it was remodeled by architect Arnold Hendler in 1966

  • @Local Planner – I was wondering about that too. All three Subways near Dairy Ashford between Memorial and I-10 have closed in the past year or two. The number of Subways within 10 minutes of my house has shrunk from 4 to 1. Too much competition from higher quality chains I suppose.

  • @Rex – cool history, thanks for sharing the photo.

  • Rex – thank you for the history and photo!

  • In the early to mid ’80s, the Houston Jewelry store was supposed to be replaced by a small office tower designed by Gentler. It was canceled due to the oil bust.

  • Thanks @SuperDave & @Justin Timbergrove….

    Yes Annon, the developer that we finally sold the property to was going to build a tower…as I remember about a year after we were paid that developer went under, and the property came under the ownership of the lender… which was a bit of a problem for us as the signage remained on the building as it was supposed to be demoed…and it confused our customers when they were looking for our new location in the First City Financial Center…. so finally we were able to get permission from the new bank owner to remove the signs…about 1986…. Interestingly we sold the Westheimer & Gessner Building that we had redeveloped and leased to Border’s Books, about a year before their lease expired mid 2007. The buyer was able to then buy the property occupied by the church next door and the Trammel Crow property across the street and flipped it…. the new owner built a new building where the church was and then wound up selling our building [after taking down the grandfathered largest sign pylon on Westheimer] to the current owner for less than we sold it for in 2007… and now it is a temporary Rug store… Meanwhile we’ve been at 9521 Westheimer now for 24 years…

  • @Rex Solomon,
    Thanks for the continued history lessons. Also thanks for introducing me to the concise term “temporary rug shop”. I knew there had to be a name for those places that pop up, last for about a year, hold a going-out-of-business sale, close, and reopen in the same location under a new name. There was one on S. Shepherd near Richmond that went through about four names before becoming a title loan place.

  • Haven’t eaten @ Subway ( on Waugh Dr @ Allen Parkway ) in 7+ years. It was an ok option-but there are other tastier places nearby and I’m surely not going into downtown to have a suburban tasting (read safe) tasting sandwich when there are myriad tastier options within a few miles.