This week’s SpaceCom expo at the prettied-up George R. Brown Convention Center included a preview of some more down-to-earth plans for the immediate neighborhood — including the NASA-themed drop tower Mars mission ride to be installed for Super Bowl visitors at Discovery Green across the street. The ride, called Future Flight, will include virtual reality goggles; the rest of the setup will include a chance to try out the goggles for people who like virtual reality but don’t want to take the plunge, as well as some exhibits of next-gen space hardware and some kid-geared activities.
The ride’ll be free — if you can get a spot. Chris Baldwin points out that about a million people are expected to show up at the pre-Super Bowl festival planned for the week before the game, but timeslots on the ride will be limited to a few thousand per day between January 28 and February 5 (and the details on how to get a spot aren’t out yet).
Earlier this month, Houston First showed off renderings of the office building it’s planning to build for itself and 3 other Houston-boosting organizations (top), headlined by the Greater Houston Partnership, one block north of and linking to the George R. Brown Convention Center. (A massive attached 1,900-car parking garage would share the skybridge to the George R. Brown and fit between the building and the Hwy. 59 overpass.) Yesterday, the operator of the city’s performing arts and convention facilities pulled out an additional pic (above), highlighting another aspect of its plan, and showing how the same building would look with a 15-story add-on perched on top of it. The rendering of the tower portion by WHR Architects, the same firm that’s designing the office building and parking garage, is meant to be “conceptual”; Houston First announced it will begin taking proposals for the hotel from developers, who might choose a different design team.
The 10-story office building announced earlier this week for a site across the street from the George R. Brown Convention Center won’t just house the Greater Houston Partnership, for which the project is being named; it’ll also be home to a swell crowd of quasi-governmental city-boosting organizations, whose members will gladly walk you out onto the 2-story 2,000-sq.-ft. upper terrace at the corner of Rusk and Avenida de las Americas, slap you on the back, and point out all the new buildings and visitors and conventions swarming around Discovery Green.
If it isn’t too late in the afternoon (the deck faces west), a city scout needing a little convincing or glad-handling will have an eye-opening view of Houston to behold: A slice of Houston’s central, quasi-public park with its suggestively undeveloped surface parking lots and the rest of downtown beyond, bookended by the city’s 2 remaining non-acronymed sports facilities, Minute Maid Park and the Toyota Center. Kinda stepping in front of the center portion of that view will be the new Marriott Marquiscurrently under construction along the combined Walker and McKinney streets on Discovery Green’s eastern flank, but the hotel’s tower portion will be shifted a bit to leave room for a park overlook. In a nod to the marketing world’s recent fashion of mildly gritty cité-vérité, the new office building’s deck won’t be air-conditioned, but the nearby towers should generate a fair amount of breeze, and its height should put it safely above Houston’s 8-story mosquito line.
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:
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:
NEW HILTON AMERICAS SIDEWALK CAFE SEATING WILL FEATURE ELECTRIFYING VIEWS Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops inside the Hilton Americas Hotel downtown will soon feature sidewalk seating and an outdoor lounge area — but not on the hotel’s busy side facing Discovery Green.The improvements are going instead on the west side of the structure, facing Crawford St. (shown above under construction) — and Centerpoint Energy’s showcase full-block electrical transformer farm next door. Crawford St., which is blocked by the Toyota Center one block to the south, will be reduced to 2 traffic lanes, while the sidewalk is widened by 25 ft. Plans for the sidewalk scene by landscape firm Clark Condon Associates show the lounge area surrounded by a low wall closer to Dallas St., a dining area further south, and a double row of sycamore trees that should help shield sidewalk sitters from any sparks across the street. Separately, sidewalks are also being widened along 3 blocks of Dallas St. between Houston Pavilions and the George R. Brown Convention Center. The Spencer’s eating area should be complete by October; drawings of the design are currently on display in the restaurant. Photo: Swamplot inbox
Will the Decentralized Dance Party scheduled for Houston this weekend even happen? Not if fundraising goals aren’t met in time, declares the event’s Facebook page, and with less than 10 hours left only $591 of the required $999 has been raised on Kickstarter. What’s a Decentralized Dance Party? Exactly what it sounds like: a portable event made possible by a radio transmitter, lots of boomboxes, and at least dozens — and in most cities it’s been thousands — of committed partygoers ready to travel wherever the party takes them and all moving to the same synchronized beat. Begun in Canada a few years ago, the event is hitting Houston at least in part because one of the event’s originators, Gary Lachance (on the right wearing sunglasses in the above video), was also part of a small group of people that bought the entire contents of a small grocery store in New York’s West Village last year — on credit, just for kicks:
Yesterday was moving day for 2 unusual Downtown buildings: The 1905 Cohn and 1904 Foley (above) houses cattycorner from the George R. Brown Convention Center. Leftover single-family homes from an area once known as Quality Hill and now strangers in the land of skyscrapers and stadiums, they’d be notable Downtown residents even if they weren’t designated historic structures. The city is moving them across the street and a block closer to Minute Maid Park, where they’re intended to become add-ons to a mysterious Regional Tourism Center proposed for the 600 block of Avenida de las Americas. According to plans flashed at the last public meeting for the Downtown/EaDo Livable Centers Study, this new building dedicated to Upper Texas Gulf Coast vacationers would face the westbound light-rail line along Capitol St. and sit at the bottom of an unidentified residential tower:
The bottom 2 floors of the 6-level parking garage at One Park Place will be dedicated for shoppers at the new Phoenicia Specialty Foods market going into that building, reports the Chronicle‘s Purva Patel. How convenient will that be for folks arriving by car who want to grab a few pitas from the conveyer belt and then head around the other side of the building to Discovery Green for a picnic? The opening of the 28,000-sq.-ft. store at 1001 Austin St. was originally scheduled for December and then April. It’s now been delayed until “at least” May 15.
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!