Sunday, May 15, 2016

From Jefferson to Smith, and from 600 to three times that

Another Tower (Continental Center II)  Moving Up: 600 Jefferson to be up-scaled to 1801 Smith Street 

NE corner view of 600 Jefferson Office Building at
The Cullen Center 
One of the Cullen Center Towers, Continental Center II at 600 Jefferson, is slated for renovations and is also in for a stay-in-place address change as part of the Cullen Center do-over. It will go from its current East-West position in the 600 block to a North-South designation with a higher number that puts it in line with 1400 Smith (Chevron), 1600 Smith (Continental Center I, also partially occupied by Chevron), and 1700 (The Whitehall, previously the Crowne Plaza Hotel Downtown). Architect on the renovation project: Page Architects General Contractor: General contractor: Hoar Construction.

The office 20-story office tower was built in 1972 and shows signs of ageing, particularly in light of the redevelopments nearby: the reskinning of the Federal Building in reflective glass and the renovation of what was until recently the Crown Plaza Hotel. While Continental Center II has gone "sepia" over the decades, the hotel has recently undergone facade brightening, which is highly fitting, given the decision to revive THE WHITEHALL moniker.

600 Jefferson Office Building, renovated Mickey Leland Federal Building on the left 
According to HBJ, Stream Realty Partners and DRA Advisors purchased 600 Jefferson from Brookfield Office Properties in 2014 for $69 million. See HBJ story here; older HC story on ownership change here. HCAD records reflect that the property on the Southern edge of Downtown, which also includes a parking garage with motor bank, was appraised at $59,301,938 in 2015. The current owner of record is shown as G & I VIII JEFFERSON LP with an address in New York.

600 Jefferson Garage 
Vertical nonload-bearing concrete grid hides the multi-level garage 

Friday, May 13, 2016

What might this be? ... Venture a guess

Facade Disassembly  
Broken-up mirror images of other skyscrapers facade
in the curved reflecting glass skin of the Chevron Office Tower
in Downtown Houston  

Netherworld and above-ground Sabine Street news

While the inaugural ticketed-to-capacity chaperoned tour of the long-retired subterranean water cistern is being pitched as breaking news, another story -- of the less ephemeral kind -- is taking shape above; -- free and for all to see: The ongoing upgrades to the Jamail skateboarding facility. Alas, the rolling board acrobats will have to bide their time during the closure necessitated by the construction work. Spectators will benefit from the improvements, too, when completed, and additional square footage will provide enhance opportunities for sanctioned "tagging".

The Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark Do-over 

 Skatepark project components: Addition of shade structures, terraced seating, new fencing, LED pole lights, and new graffiti boards 
Skatepark closed while improvement work is under way 
A Place for Skate- and Graffiti Boards 

Jesus! - Is that a less than illegal graffiti? A veritable oxymoron? 
Event-lawn atop the water works facility with emerging
event tent anchored by containers to be filled with water 
Great view of the Downtown Houston Skyline from the observation platform atop the Water Works

Food trucks on the plaza - Water Works Park at Sabine Street 

View of the Skatepark & Water Works site across Buffalo Bayou from Eleanor Tinsley Park at Allen Parkway

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The end of the finer form of Marxism on recycled-rags-row in Montrose?

Houston Chronicle reports that Mark Cox (of Mark's fame) is suspending regular restaurant service at the fine-dining-in-a-church venue on Westheimer at Ralph. See story here.

Reading between the lines, it appears the one-of-a-kind dining spot is no longer economically viable.
More concretely, though not mentioned by Syd Kearney, the appraised value of the property has gone up substantially (from $1,621,921 to $2,014,468 in a year) and therefore, presumably, the property tax bill. That's typically bad news for both landlord(s) and tenant(s).

HCAD shows the property owner since 1998 as 1658 WESTHEIMER RESTAURANT GROUP, LTD (spelling corrected).

1658 Westheimer restaurant property comprising several lots, formerly a church 
There is considerable volatility in the retail/restaurant space leasing market nearby. The corner space on Westheimer and Dunlavy (formerly DUO, a boutique) is still empty, though there is a new store opening on the Dunlavy side of the building; and the former WISH WAREHOUSE next to BUFFALO EXCHANGE has not found a new occupant yet either (though the oversized space-for-lease sign has now been gone for a while). Across the street, nothing new has popped up in the mirrors-for-windows restaurant space at the strip center that poscol vacated when it moved East to its current standalone building past Montrose Boulevard. Meanwhile the street art on the South side of Westheimer opposite the Animal Hospital and the adjoining fenced vacant lot keeps morphing on. Running the gamut from quikkie urban graffiti to more serious non-abstract muralism, the scene on Montrose's fashion-recycling row changes so frequently that it's hard to keep up, pictorially speaking. In short: Avant garde, but multi-chromatic. Mark's table-cloth dining room really didn't make for a good fit.

Also see --> January post on commercial real estate leasing on the Montrose segment of Westheimer

From Crown Plaza to White Hall

Crowne Plaza Hotel Downtown is now The Whitehall (again). 

The Whitehall - Hotel at 1700 Smith Street Downtown Houston TX - formerly Crowne Plaza
View of the literally whitened hotel across the Chevron lawn, KBR Tower on the left 
Back to The Whitehall, with a bluish glow, rather than sepia  
It's a re-rebranding, for The Whitehall Hotel was the original name when the newly-built hotel opened in 1963. The legacy name revival is not entirely unprecedented. Think Sam. The Sam Houston Hotel (built 1924) went Alden, and is now back to "The Sam". 

Historic lodging in the heart of Houston: The Sam Houston Hotel 
Patio at Crowne Plaza Hotel and Metro bus stop on Smith St. (Mr 2016)
"Part & Parcel" is now on the patio. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Dinos and giant green non-invasive sturdy-core bunnies for front and back yard

All in the name of a better garden 

Garden gnome alternative 

The more verdant brontosaurus forages on the West side of  Nuntucket Dino Row
on the green strip adjacent to Chacho's parking lot   
River Oaks Plant Eater? 
And there giant green well-mannered bunnies too 
No need for daily inflation. 

Chacho's on Westheimer 6006 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77057

Nuntucket Drive at Westheimer: River Oaks Plant House 

Invasion of the monster rabbits and now a man-sized raptor in Montrose

While gigantic white bunnies have taken over the green at the former Enron, now Chevron, campus in the Central Business District, the Montrose area has quietly acquired an addition on the animalia front too. There is that life-sized cow and that equally stately shimmering horse at El Tiempo Cantina on Taft, of course. But those familiar mammals of longstanding affinity with homo sapiens already look lame. Now that a tyrannosaurus rex is on the loose. Well, not actually on the loose; -- just standing guard at a no-name patio joint, with a heavy metal chain securely fastened to one of its hind legs.

 No-name, no-sign patio venue on Lower Westheimer
The Golden Cantina Horse on the corner of Taft and Lower Westheimer 

Or perhaps it's a velociraptor. We'll have to leave it to the Jurassic experts to make a positive ID.

408 Westheimer - Caesarea Residence offers Unfurnished Rooms with a dinosaur out front.
Caesarea Residence offers unfurnished rooms with a dino out front.
408 and 412 Westheimer Road Houston Texas 77006 

Meanwhile, across the street, the / biskit / junkies / have started doing their thing 

Lower Westheimer intersection at Taft looking South
 biskit junkie joint now open in the SW corner

Mapping Downtown for tourists and other non-denizens

Main & Leeland looking East: Block 334 and Your Pie Pizza at the SkyHouse 
Finding destinations in Downtown Houston footwise is now getting a lot easier. No need to get lucky and happen upon a friendly Downtown District tourist-minder with a wad of center-of-town grid plans on hand, not to mention having to hunt down a civic-spirited local for free verbal advice and directional hand gestures. Or trying to tap into the seasoned expertise of the pavement-pounding street people when all else fails. No call to consult a hand-held electronic device either. The maps and directions are now posted at eye (or at least belly-button) level with accompanying maps on many Downtown corners.

Main at Preston looking North
(Harris County Administration Building)
Main & Leeland - Looking West - 1600 Smith and Chevron Towers, ExxonMobil 
McKinney at Travis looking East - Colored corners on Main 
Louisiana at Leeland - Looking North 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Snow-white bunny invasion afoot on Smith Street

Giant non-Easter Bunnies now hanging out 
at a Skyscraper near you 

Intrusion of the bloated bunnies 
Putatively Acclaimed Art Installation by Australian Artist Amanda Parer
at 1600 Smith Street sponsored by Arts Brookfield 
Houston engagement from Monday, May 9 – Saturday, May 14
More info here
Distinctive top of 1600 Smith Tower
with quartet of eyes on each face 
This sorry blob of a bunny could use some pigment in its eyes the better to engage with passerbys. 

Giant inflated long-eared bunny sitting on the lawn 

Oversized inflated rabbits being blown up Sunday May 8, 2016
on the plaza at 1600 Smith Street 
Smith at Ruthven: Rodent art installation site seen from underneath the
Chevron circle 
Looking up at the four holes in the roof 
And if rabbits full of air are not your thing,
here are a few shots of the ambient architecture  

Circular skywalk at Chevron's corporate campus 
The sharp edge of 1600 Smith seen from the West
(long-shot from Buffalo Bayou Park)

And for bunny lovers of the uninflated non-white kind in proper proportions, here is a 
specimen from Terry Hershey Park, where they are abundant this time of the year.

Local suburban rabbit habitat: Terry Hershey Trail in the Energy Corridor
near Eldridge Parkway / KBR Tower 

Houston Streetwise Summer 2015 - Thumbnails of Top Photos

Houston Streetwise Summer 2015 - Thumbnails of Top Photos
thumbnails of blog post pics Summer 2015

2015 Mosaic of Sample Pics

2015 Mosaic of Sample Pics
2015 Jan-Feb Pics Posted