Construction began in June, but the new administration of Houston’s Ronald McDonald House chose this past Tuesday — 2 and a half weeks after water spilling over the banks of adjacent Brays Bayou made Holcombe Ave. in front of the property difficult to pass — to hold an official groundbreaking ceremony for its new 3-phase expansion and renovation project. The facility at 1907 Holcombe Blvd., which sits across the Texas Medical Center’s official southern border between Holcombe and the bayou just west of Cambridge St., serves as a temporary home for families with children receiving treatment for serious illnesses.
Now going up: a new 2-story bedroom wing directly to the west of the main building. A complete renovation of the 50-bedroom existing building — dubbed Holcombe House — will follow. The photo immediately above, taken from the third floor of that building, shows the construction site as it looked earlier this week.
The official rendering below is still being used to raise the $22.5 million needed for the project; it shows the new bedroom wing on the left and the existing building on the right:
If a year or so from now you find yourself holed up in acute or intensive care in the North Campus Tower of the Houston Methodist hospital in the Texas Medical Center and for some reason start to wonder how that bathroom behind you was constructed, have we got a video for you! (It’s posted above.) It’s a time-lapse showing how workers from interior finishes contractor Marek pieced together 207 prefabricated restroom pods in the McCorvey Sheet Metal Works warehouse at 4800 Fidelity St. (just southeast of the intersection of I-10 and the East Loop), then shrinkwrapped and transported them, 1 or 2 at a time, to 6551 Bertner St., where they were they were lifted and dollied into place and hooked up to the building’s plumbing.
How’s construction on the $700 million, 960,000-sq.-ft. 22-story north tower Med Center expansion going so far? Here are a couple of views from today — from construction cams trained on the project:
The little swatch of test facade tilted up at 7551 Main St. north of Brays Bayou earlier this spring is still standing, a reader’s drive-by snap attests this week. The piece, which shows off the look of a handful of warmer and cooler beige-and-brown pairings, is likely related to the much taller project planned on the site by Allen Harrison Company, which bought the land last year. The developer has the spot marked for an 11-story residential building (the top 7 of which’ll hold 186 apartments, and the bottom 4 of which’ll hold 285 parked cars). A reader over on HAIF also spotted the recently completed review of the building by the Federal Aviation Administration folks, who okayed the plans for the 125-ft.-tall structure as not a flight hazard.
The little house on the corner with Lehall St. is no longer standing in the would-be shadow of that hotel planned on the 7100 block of Bertner Ave. (seeing as it’s no longer standing at all). Developers with Zhejiang Blossom Tourism Group Houston had originally sketched up a 9-story hotel with a footprint dipping around the holdout corner lot. Adolfo Pesquera notes over at VBX that the latest plans now show a 16-story structure, and an expanded footprint of the site was okayed for commercial use by the planning commission after the property sold.
Here’s a glance back at what the hotel looked like in its earlier iteration, minus a few floors and motarboards:
The sign above announcing the proposed abandonment of the short dead-end stretch of N. Braeswood Blvd. running east of Main St. was captured in situ by a reader over the weekend. The roadway currently serves as the access road for the remainingSaint Nicholas School campus, though the school is planning to be all moved in at that new facility further south along Main St. in about a year and a half. That’ll free up the landf for whatever might be in the works by shell corporation 7200 Main St., which now owns both the school property and the 8-plus-acre tract north of the N. Braeswood segment, former site of barn-shaped restaurant The Stables.
To the east of the orange-roofed soon-to-be-former Saint Nicholas school, HCC’s Coleman College for Health Sciences building looks to be just about wrapped up, at least in terms of exterior finishes:
An employee confirms to Swamplot this afternoon that the Kroger at 1990 Old Spanish Tr. will be shutting down on January 24th. The formerly 24-hour grocery store (referred to previously as Slow Jam Kroger in Jeff Balke’s 2010 Inner Loop Kroger census, though arguably having earned the nickname BankRobberyKroger in the years since) has already reduced its hours and is closing up at midnight these days. Readers report low morale among car-less residents of the nearby apartments; they also report a few slightly mismatched rumors that the land has been sold to a big name in the Medical Center.
The fire that started late yesterday afternoon at the Holmes Road Recycling Center (just west of 288 south of 610) is still on the Houston Fire Department’s list of active incidents at the moment, after about 19 hours. KHOU reports that the firefighting has been complicated by the need to cool off the heat-retaining piles of burning scrap metal on the scene, as well as a lack of water supply in the industrial patchwork around Pierce Junction. Hazmat crews reportedly say there’s no out-of-the-ordinary chemical concerns related to the smoke this time, though HFD captain Ruy Lozana did note to KHOU last night that the smoke’s strong smell and darker color is probably from leftover fluids in crushed cars catching fire.
Wind coming primarily from the south and southeast pushed smoke and haze from the fire across 610 all the way to the Texas Medical Center, some 3 miles north. Nearby Rice University sent out an alert around 4:45 warning folks with respiratory issues to stay indoors for a bit — below is a view (from several hours after that warning) of the haze from the Rice campus parking lot on Greenbriar, east of the stadium:
The double hypodermic needles atop the Cesar Pelli-designed O’Quinn Medical Building have just gotten brightened up: a lighting designer from FUSE sends Swamplot these bare-all shots of the Madonna tower’s roof following the company’s just-wrapped installation of a new LED setup around the tips. Down below, Texas Children’s Hospital announced earlier this week that it has bought the tower from Baylor-slash-St.-Luke’s, along with a Baylor outpatient clinic down the street. Texas Children’s told the Chronicle that it isn’t planning to boot tenants until they can move into that under construction campus on Cambridge St., somewhere around 2020.
Nor does the new owner have plans to change the tower’s name right away — though many of the physicians who petitioned against the building’s O’Quinn christening in 2005 aren’t likely to mind if they do. At the time, dozens of doctors signed a document insisting that the current namesake, Houston’s own John O’Quinn (of fen-phen and breast implant lawsuit fame), “bears partial responsibility for the litigious environment in which we work,” and that it was offensive “to have money we earned — and which he took by suing us — going to name after him a medical building in which we work every day.”
The sunset shot above looks west across the Rice campus (that’s the stadium that played backdrop to JFK’s go-to-the-moon speech, given 54 years ago this past Monday, on the right above the octagonal base); the itty-bitty silhouette of the distant Williams Tower can be seen poking up from the horizon on the left. Here’s the tip itself, so close you can almost see the filament in the flashing bulb:
The commute northward along Almeda Rd. from the corner with Hermann Park Ct. is much less shady of late, reports a reader in the area who snapped these photos last week. The tipster says that some 15 trees have been cut up and shuffled around by the Marquis Lofts (the ones at the edge of the Med Center, not the ones that once hosted a James Harden rooftop photo shoot). Most of the trees appear to have been directly alongside the road, though a few of the felled were reportedly rooted on the other side of the sidewalk. (That’s the formerly bankrupt and bank-rupturingMosaic condo highrise in the distance, north across MacGregor and Brays Bayou in the shot above.)
Below is a graphic closeup of some of the arboreal aftermath (a warning here to those uncomfortable with the sight of sap and shredded cellulose):
Here’s a preview of the 9-story hotel planned for the stretch of now-mostly-cleared land along Lehall St. at Bertner Ave. south of the Texas Medical Center. The land slated to hold the Blossom Hotel Houston is right across Bertner from where the TMC wants to build a double helix park and collaborative campus; Zhejiang Blossom Tourism Group has been buying up lots on the east and northeast of the block, which have held a mixture of homes, a commercial building, and nothing over the last few decades.
Not shown in the rendering: the lone house still standing right on at the corner of Lehall St. and Bertner Ave.:
Here’s a glance down MacGregor Dr. across Cambridge St. toward the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Building for Personalized Cancer Care — now labeled the “Sheikh Zayed Building” for short, a reader notes. The 4-tower structure, now standing where Moursund Dr. meets MD Anderson Blvd., is one of the projects funded by the $150 million grant given to MD Anderson in 2011 by the building’s namesake’s son, current UAE president Khalifa bin Zayed al Nayhan. HDR designed the building, which went up on the space formerly occupied by UT’s Mental Science Institute (shipped off to the nearby UT Research Park back in 2010).
Here’s a glitzier shot of the building, looking east across MD Anderson Blvd. with The Spires condominium tower rising on the left in the background:
Greystar plans to squeeze a 375-unit apartment highrise on the same 1.35 acre lot at 6750 S. Main St. as an in-the-works hotel from Medistar. That Medistar project, which was originally planned as a 220-unit hotel-slash-apartment building on the same spot, will now be a 357-room just-hotel, and will share a lobby with Greystar’s apartment tower on the southern half of the block between Travis St. and S. Main at Old Main St. (across the street from the Texas Women’s University building.)
The two towers (rendered above styled as 1850, seemingly in reference to the Old Main address) will slip in between a Best Western and a Wyndham Hotel, and would total in the neighborhood of 800,000 sq.ft. of floorspace, Greystar’s David Reid tells the HBJ’s Cara Smith. The apartment unit floorplans range significantly in size— the largest 2 suites measure in around 3,800 sq.ft., and the smallest bottom out at an Ivy-Lofts-esque349 sq.ft.
Ground-level retail will remain and expand — a siteplan released by Transwestern shows most of the building’s remaining restaurant tenants still in place, with an existing parking garage ramp exiting onto Fannin seemingly replaced by a 1,670-sq.-ft. storefront spot (Retail E in the plan below):