KHOU is showing a rendering of the new Downtown satellite studio it plans to open in a storefront space that’s part of Avenida Houston, the collection of restaurants and entertainment venues Houston First has been corralling into the George R. Brown convention center’s expanded frontage along Avenida de Las Americas. The 780-sq.-ft. studio will be KHOU’s first venture out into the city since its mid-Harvey retreat to UH.It’s expected to open next March at 1001 Avenida de Las Americas and will be used for portions of the station’s programming.
The rendering shows tables and chairs placed in a cordoned-off area outside the studio’s storefront. According to the organization’s press release, the teevee station’s new pied-à-terre “will have the flexibility to open on to the plaza, enabling reporters to directly engage with the public.”
Is Houston ready for yet another loop road? Here’s the proposed Green Loop, a 5-mile network of parks, trails, and other public spaces that the neighborhood supergroups behind Plan Downtown imagine ringing in Houston’s bicentennial — if it’s completed by 2036. One of 10 separate proposals in the plan, the city’s littlest loop is meant to take advantage of TxDOT’s proposed rerouting of I-45 to the east side of Downtown — by wrapping the district tightly with a transportation and recreation circuit that could attract adjacent development and help link the city center to adjacent neighborhoods.
Plan Houston’s new report flags ideas and renderings for 3 spots along Downtown’s proposed Emerald Choker: At Buffalo Bayou, on top of I-69 and I-45 once they’re sunk behind the George R. Brown, and on Pierce St. at the Midtown border.
New buildings at the northwest corner of Downtown would face Buffalo Bayou as well as the surrounding streets, lining the waterfront with flood-worthy attractions:
Bob Russell sends a fresh slew of downtown updates, this time checking up on the state of the George R. Brown Convention Center area’s ongoing redo. The structure’s main entrance on Avenida De Las Americas has been getting a major facelift — the supercolumns installed last summer have since turned white, and the glassy facade has stepped outward and dropped a few stripes, in line with the plans released previously by semi-public city branding organization Houston First:
The second of 6 supercolumns being added to the west-facing façade of the George R. Brown Convention Center was lifted into place yesterday, with Pedro Velasquez of WHR Architects on hand to record this timelapse video of the effort. The columns — each 120 ft. tall and 48 in. in diameter — will support a roof-level trellis extending over the front of the building’s 3 center bays facing Discovery Green. The remainder of the columns will be installed over the next few days.
It looks like engineers have begun soil testing the thin strip of land left along Crawford St. downtown between the Hess Tower parking garage and the surface parking lot where the new Marriott Marquis hotel is about to go up. Conveniently for the rendering above showing Ziegler Cooper Architects’ design for a 39-story residential tower on that 72-ft.-wide site, there’s nothing there yet to block the view of the building’s lower portions from Discovery Green — but without the hotel in place the skybridge drawn in at the second level connecting across Crawford to the nonexistent second story of a parking lot does look a little strange.
The new apartments are being developed by Trammell Crow. They’ll sit on a 12-story garage podium. Some of its 314 units will have views of the Texas-shaped “lazy river” on the Marriott Marquis’s upper deck, but they’ll also have their own pool piece above the garage, with this view of Discovery Green and the George R. Brown:
A groundbreaking ceremony today is marking the construction start of the new $335 million Marriott Marquis hotel on Walker St. and Crawford next to the George R. Brown Convention Center downtown, which will face the existing Hilton Americas hotel across Discovery Green. The newly updated rendering shown below confirms that the hotel will be the first institution anywhere to sport an island shaped like Texas in one of its lower rooftop pools:
BILL GATES BUYS DOWNTOWN FOUR SEASONS Really rich guy and charitable fellow Bill Gates is investing in one more good cause: He’s buying the 30-story Four Seasons Hotel at 1300 Lamar St., announcing yesterday that his Cascade Investments will close on the deal sometime next week. It’s not clear yet whether Gates, as is his wont, will start working to update the operating system of the 1982 hotel, which has 64 rental apartments and 404 rooms and is home to Quattro, the Italian restaurant, though Ralph Bivins speculates that he will. [Culturemap] Photo: Klik To Go
COMMENT OF THE DAY: A BIG DIG FOR EAST DOWNTOWN “What needs to happen to connect Downtown with the East End/EaDo is TxDOT needs to put 59 in a tunnel from just south of 45 up to Commerce Street. Above ground create a mile long linear park. Instead of the elevated freeway discouraging pedestrian activity, a underground freeway below with a fantastic linear park above would draw in visitors in hordes. Who wouldn’t want to be around or live near a mile long urban park jewel? The value added is enough in itself to justify such a project for the betterment of the city.” [Thomas, commenting on Adding to Convention Center District Easy as 1-2-3 . . . 4-5-6-7]
Downtown has been missing out, RIDA President Ira Mitzner tells Bisnow: “A CVB study found we lost 630,000 room nights from conventions” between 2008 and 2012 because of a “lack of activity” around the George R. Brown Convention Center — the largest in Texas, says Mitzner, but only the fourth-most booked. Swamplot reported in December that RIDA worked with Morris Architects to develop a 30-story, 1,000-room Marriott Marquis — you might remember the rendering of a Texas-shaped lazy river on the roof. And other developments are coming. Houston First COO Peter McStravick lays them out to Bisnow step by step:
1 is the Marriott Marquis. 2 is owned by HISD and will be a high school for visual and performing arts, and the western half of block 3 may become a limited-service hotel.4is Houston First’s tract (1.5 blocks) and 5 is the site of the new [1,800-space parking] garage. 6 will house the Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage, and 7 (two blocks) will be the Finger 8-story tower.
Houston First wants that tract to become apartments and retail; the Finger tower of apartments and retail is planned for the same site where the Ben Milam Hotel stood until it went crumbling down in a cloud of glory in early December.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHO WANTS TO STAY DOWNTOWN? “. . . I ride my bike around downtown for pleasure on some evenings (unthinkable 15 years ago) and am always impressed by the level of activity after dark. Restaurants, bars, music venues and Discovery Green are always hopping. Another hotel can substantially increase this level of activity and hopefully sustain it by attracting business travelers, not just convention goers.
I am a business traveler, and work for a multi-national based here in Houston. When we have out-of-town guests, they never stay downtown — EVER. Actually, they prefer to stay where they can easily walk to entertainment, dinner, and bars, and quickly catch a cab to anywhere else they need to go. Usually, they go to CityCentre, the Woodlands, and Town Center in Sugar Land. When I ask around the office about this, most of my coworkers (suburbanites who have not been downtown in years, except for an errant Astros game) immediately wrinkle their noses at the idea of sending someone to stay there after dark. Word has not gotten out about the amenities downtown, and this hotel will help.” [Superdave, commenting on A Texas Island on the Next Convention Center Hotel]
These renderings of the Marriott Marquis show the shapes of things coming — by 2016, according to current plans — to Downtown. Planned for the corner of Walker St. and Avenidas de las Americas, the hotel will stand facade-to-facade across Discovery Green with its older brother, the Hilton-Americas, doubling the number of rooms that serve the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Morris Architects, teamed up with Rida Development, is responsible for the design of this 30-story tower, which will have more than 1,000 guest rooms and exactly one 40,000-sq.-ft. grand ballroom. On the deck atop that ballroom appears to be some fully realized Texas mythology: the state as an island, surrounded by a chlorinated “lazy river.” Guests will tube around it, enjoying what’s more typically considered a Hill Country pastime.
And this is what the hotel is supposed to look like around dusk:
SMALL COLD GALLERY SPACE GOING DOWNTOWN HOTEL SUITE MINI-BAR Having now sold out all remaining end-table and dresser drawer spaces in the hotel-room mini art fair he’s setting up in Room 307 of the Embassy Suites next to Discovery Green downtown, blogger Robert Boyd has found a tenant for one last untapped space in his Pan Art Fair, timed to coincide with this weekend’s Texas Contemporary Art Fair at the convention center down Dallas St. And that space would be: the hotel suite’s mini-bar. With only hours to go before tonight’s opening, Boyd has turned the space over to local experts with considerable experience running compact refrigerated galleries. Curators Emily Sloan and David McClain had been operating The Kenmore, a “cold self-run exhibition object” (which at approximately 3 ft. by 2 ft. by 2 ft. qualifies as one of Houston’s smallest art galleries) out of a few different local art spaces, including Skydive in Richwood Place. “I’m fairly certain I have no idea what [Sloan and McClain] will do,” Boyd is quoted as saying in a notice just added to the Pan Art Fair website, “but fuck-it, no one else wanted the fridge.” [Pan Art Fair; previously on Swamplot] Photo: The Kenmore