02/08/17 11:00am

HOW MANY DOWNTOWNS DOES HOUSTON HAVE? Williams Tower, 2800 Post Oak Blvd., Galleria Area, Houston, 77056The list of Houston neighborhoods with potential to be mistaken for Downtown by outsiders, Blake Mathews of KHOU writes this week, is long, and includes at least “Uptown (Galleria), the Texas Medical Center, Greenspoint, Greenway Plaza, The Woodlands and perhaps even Westchase.” So what makes a Downtown? Mathews runs through some factors for consideration, ranging from the city’s population density center (which falls somewhere west of Downtown) to total office space (Uptown has less than downtown Houston, but more than downtown Denver) to building height (with a specific shoutout to the Williams Tower, pictured here.) [KHOU] Photo of Williams Tower: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

09/02/16 2:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW HOUSTON LEARNED IT’S NOT FLOOR COUNT, IT’S HOW YOU USE IT Missing Skyscraper“Competing for the tallest building is the civilizational equivalent of comparing certain body part sizes. Houston may have been ‘robbed‘ of it back when it was a headstrong teenager, but with maturity comes the realization that it’s really not necessary to spend ridiculous amounts of money just to have the tallest, shiniest building on the block.” [meh, commenting on ExxonMobil Backs Off Property Tax Dispute; Fiesta Wayside’s New Look]

08/26/16 3:30pm

ESPERSON, PENNZOIL, 712 MAIN TUNNELS TO REOPEN NEXT THURSDAY AROUND STALLED SPROUT OF CAPITOL TOWER Capitol Tower Tunnel ReopeningFrom the depths of the Esperson building, a reader sends a fresh shot of a sign announcing that tunnel connections from the building to nearby 712 Main and Pennzoil Place will be open again late next week. The phrasing implies that the connections beneath the site of Skanska’s planned-for-maybe-later Capitol Tower may not all be open by that time, but the Chase Tower (which itself connects to the lawsuit-embroiled former Houston Chronicle spot) will at least be accessible via a 712 Main detour. The tunnels beneath the former home of the previously-blown-away Houston Club building have been closed since 2014 as Skanska poured a tower foundation and built a parking garage; the company said earlier this year that it won’t be moving forward with the rest of the Capitol Tower until the market looks perkier. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: ThaChadwick

07/27/16 4:30pm

Market Square Tower construction, 777 Preston St., Downtown, Houston, 77002Market Square Tower construction, 777 Preston St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

The spindly yellow crane that has been dangling over the top of Woodbranch Investment’s Market Square Tower is coming down in pieces this afternoon, notes a downtown reader. The shot above shows the scene from the corner of Prairie and Travis streets, with the top edge of the still-standing-by-court-order former Houston Chronicle building sticking in from the left.

The 463-unit tower has been leasing spaces since April, with plans to open this fall. There’s still work to do on the building before then, though the support for the glass-bottom cantilevered rooftop pool that will hang some 500 feet above Preston looks to be in place. Here’s Jackson & Ryan’s rendering of what the space will look like once the water has been added:

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Coming Down Downtown
07/21/16 5:00pm

downtown-tour-1

A set of skeletal construction updates are the product of Bob Russell’s downtown photo hunt earlier this week. The view above is a Hines 2-fer: Behind James Surl’s spiky Point of View sculpture is the 32-floor apartment building on its way up at the corner of Travis and Preston (now going by Aris Market Square), with a sliver of all-business 609 Main visible on the right. The office tower has been getting its last few bits of steel stuck into place this week — check out a more centered portrait of the rooftop action (plus more covert snaps of bare beams from around the area) below:

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All On The Way
07/08/16 12:45pm

Capitol Tower Tunnel Closures
The connections to the Downtown tunnel system beneath the planned future site of 35-story Capitol Tower at 811 Rusk St. should reopen by the end of the year, a Skanska representative tells Swamplot, though a hard date hasn’t been set yet.  The developer told Cara Smith of the HBJ last month that the bulk of the project wouldn’t go forward until leasing conditions look better, regardless of the explosive eviction of the former Houston Club building from the site, and last August’s foundation pour. The closures have cut off 601 Travis, the rebranding former Gulf Building, and all 3 of the buildings tangled up in that Hines-Linbeck-Houston-Chronicle tunnel lawsuit from the rest of the system since work on the spot first started in 2014. Take a look at the once-and-future underground crossroads in broader context:

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Under Downtown
06/21/16 4:45pm

Sky Lobby, 600 Travis St., Downtown, Houston, 77002sky-lobbyYou’ve missed your last chance to catch a view like these from the Chase Tower at 600 Travis St., unless you’re there on business. Craig Hlavaty reports that Hines has permanently closed the downtown skyscraper’s 60th floor Sky Lobby to the public, just 3 years after that 2013 redo by Gensler, to cut down on tenant-bothering “extra non-business-related traffic” on the floor (which is also an elevator swapout zone.) Time to update that list.

Photos: Bill Barfield (top) and Russell Hancock (bottom) via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Grounded Downtown
05/06/16 12:30pm

allen-center-remodel-2

One Allen Center, 1200 Smith St., Downtown, Houston, 77002Brookfield released a few renderings this morning of the plans to make over One, Two, and Three Allen Centers at the corner of Smith and Dallas streets downtown. The rendering above depicts the new plan for the greenspace between One and Two: to subtract 1 of the 2 second-story skybridges currently running parallel to Smith and add an events venue. The redo plans also include a major street-level change for One Allen Center, depicted above with a 2-story glass lobby running around corner in place of the current largely-bricked-over podium facade.

That tiny neon sign on the left edge of the turn-of-the-decade photo above once marked the location of Don Patron; the quarter-centenarian Tex-Mex lunch spot started to close in February and finished the job in March. The remodel plans swap it out for a higher-end restaurant, which will get some patio space along Smith St:

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1, 2, 3 Remodel
04/26/16 10:30am

Former Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002

The company developing the block across Prairie St. from the Houston Chronicle‘s downtown ex-headquarters filed a lawsuit last week over the impending demolition of the paper’s former haunt at 801 Texas Ave. Theater Square, an entity connected to Linbeck, claimed in a Wednesday night filing that the upcoming demo interferes with its plans to build a tunnel through the former newspaper building’s basement to connect its across-the-street property into the broader downtown tunnel network.

The ex-Chronicle building (actually a collection of buildings later wrapped together behind a single facade) currently sits above a tunnel segment connecting the 717 Texas Ave. building (the office building formerly known as Calpine Center) sharing a block with the Lancaster Hotel and its new parking lots) to the Chase tower (south across Texas Ave., between Milam and Travis). Theater Square’s filing alleges that news corporation Hearst agreed back in 2007 to give the company permanent access to some underground easements for the purpose of building a new tunnel segment leading to the property across Prairie (currently a surface parking lot previously slated for the International Tower project). Theater Square also claims that the easement access agreements transferred to the next owner when Hines bought up the property last year.

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Downtown Tunnel Tussle
04/14/16 4:45pm

712 Main St., Downtown, Houston, 77002
The Chase-occupied former Gulf Building at 712 Main St. (above) and the 10-story Great Jones building tucked next to it on the corner with Capitol St. are getting made over and rebranded together as The Jones on Main. Planned updates to the 37-story art deco skyscraper, which between 1929 and 1951 housed the Sakowitz department store in its first 5 floors at the corner of Rusk St. and Main, include a de-conversion of the ground level at that corner from office space back to retail usage — here’s a look at the intended floorplan released by developer Midway this morning, with Rusk at the bottom of the frame:

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712 + 708
02/10/16 10:30am

COMMENT OF THE DAY: UPPING THE VOLTAGE ON HOUSTON’S DOWNTOWN VIEWS Electric Blue Skyline” . . . I wonder, if the property management companies downtown would illuminate the Houston skyline with LED lighting, how cool it would look? With Houston’s strong artistic community, it would be great to see a curated lighting of the skyline that’s different when you drive in from every angle. As they stand in the dark every night, you can’t at all see the pyramid atop Heritage Plaza, the outlines of the “kissing” Pennzoil Place towers, or hardly see the three tiers and spikes of Bank of America. At night, the Energy Capital of the World’s skyline is hardly . . . yawn . . . energetic.” [Austin, commenting on Shining a Little More Light on the Williams Tower Beacon, Now Back in Action] Illustration: Lulu

02/09/16 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A 64-STORY HOLDOUT TO UPDATING THE HOUSTON VERNACULAR Williams Tower, Uptown, Houston“I’ve wondered why this building has maintained its old name socially but other buildings in town haven’t. Many residents still refer to the building as Transco Tower instead of Williams Tower. The name change was in 1999. Why don’t folks in Houston call the JPMorgan Chase Tower the Texas Commerce Tower? The Bank of America Building is formerly known as the RepublicBank Center, the NCNB Center, and the NationsBank Center. Enterprise Plaza used to be called the Southwest Bank of Texas Building. Gulf Tower became Chevron Tower and is now the Fulbright Tower. I guess because the building is [one of] the tallest in Houston, and the most recognizable.” [Walker, commenting on Why the Williams Tower Beacon Was Off Last Fall] Photo: Russell Hancock

02/09/16 11:30am

Scaffolding on the Williams Tower, 2800 Post Oak Blvd., Galleria Area, Houston, 77056

A more senior representative of the Williams Tower’s property management office wrote in yesterday with a correction to Friday’s note about the recent return of the rotating spotlight at the top, after another employee told Swamplot that the beam had been off while a new bulb was being hunted down. In fact, the source tells Swamplot, the entire beacon fixture has been replaced, as part of a redo of the tip of the tower itself.

The current work on the top started in November 2014 and includes the replacement of the “apex roof” (consisting of the sloping panels directly beneath the beacon, and the vertical panels directly below those, above the start of the glass skin). The above photo shows those vertical panels missing late last spring as the swap was underway. The new spotlight turned on in late December, and final touches to the roof should be done by March, if the weather cooperates.

Here’s what the roof looked like back before the work began:

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Spotlight on the Roof
02/05/16 4:15pm

Williams Tower, 2800 Post Oak Blvd., Galleria Area, Houston, 77056

Update (2/9): The entire beacon fixture has been replaced. See this story for details.

The rotating spotlight on top of the 64-story Williams Tower in the Galleria area has been back on for a few weeks, following an autumnal hiatus. According to a representative of the tower’s property management office, the beam stayed dark during difficulties finding the correct kind of bulb for the fixture. A reader sent a report this week from a bedroom window overlooking the Galleria area:

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Twinkle, Twinkle, Giant Bulb
01/26/16 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: SIZING UP HOUSTON’S REFINERY BOOM Refineries” . . . The total investment ongoing in the Petrochemical complex is about $50 billion. 1000 Main sold in 2014 (after the crash was underway) for $0.5 billion. There are about 50 skyscrapers in downtown. Therefore, with the investment ongoing in the Petro complex, we could rebuild downtown Houston twice with only our classiest of class A skyscrapers.” [awp, commenting on A Tale of 2 Houstons During the Oil Bust; Inside 500 Crawford] Illustration: Lulu