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South Main Innovation District In Midtown


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21 hours ago, bobruss said:

This happened just after the Martin Luther King assassination, in response to the rioting that occurred in many cities across the country.

They were worried about their large plate glass windows being broken out.

 

17 hours ago, UtterlyUrban said:

Much of your post is likely true.  One point of minor clarification though......(assuming I interpreted your post correctly).... the “race riots” around the country were occurring before the assignation of MLK take one of the most notable: Newark.  It happens a year before MLK was killed, as I recall.

Full disclosure: I cribbed the following from the comments section of that other website:

From a 2006 Cite article by architect Barry Moore:
http://offcite.org/from-the-cite-archives-when-good-buildings-go-bad-by-barry-moore/
.
“it was the threat of race riots. In the tumultuous aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.”s assassination in l968, local Black Panther activist Lee Otis Johnson organized an 8,000-person strong memorial march, which unsettled much of the business community. Sears, watching from a Chicago torn apart the same summer, reacted by bricking up almost all the Houston store’s show windows and cladding the elegant upper stones with beige metal. And so Fort Sears has remained ever since, hiding from an evolving international city and culture, and wondering where all the shoppers went.”

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This whole project sounds amazing and almost exactly as I would have envisioned it in my urban design fantasies. The last item on my wish list would be to have Rice University open up a new Computer Science building there, with state of the art computer facilities for classes, leased time, etc. This would help prime the pump in the area with new people and a new culture. Maybe even dormitories in the future. But I can't really complain based on all of the good news coming from Wheeler nowadays.

 

Related but completely different, NYC has a wonderful example of a department store's transformation to an academic institution. Completely different architecture and environment, but if you ever get a chance, a visit to the CUNY Graduate Center (nee: B. Altman's Department Store) on 5th and 34th. The interior is completely changed (and wonderful) and the exterior is as handsome as it ever was.

http://nyccirca.blogspot.com/2013/04/b- altmans-palace-of-trade-moves-uptown.html

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Just to put a few more puzzle pieces on the table here, this effort is the first foray into reimagining the 9.4 Acres owned and managed by Rice Endowment.

 

http://realtynewsreport.com/2018/04/12/rice-creating-innovation-district-in-midtown-houston-around-1939-vintage-sears-store/

 

Rice Endowment is working with HR&A Advisors (see, NYC High Line) to plan and develop.  While this is pushing forward, TxDOT will be dropping that portion of 69 below grade.  Couple that with stakeholders working to reinvision the public spaces (transit stations, cap parks, traffic engineering) and there will be a remarkable amount of churning over the next 36 months.

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Part of the magic of the hub will be an easier transit approach, which promises to be at separate grade. “Edwin Friedrichs, Senior Principal at Walter P. Moore, has said that anything at street grade would mean traffic gridlock, so Rice will be working with HR&A to look at grade separation,” said Greg Marshall, a Rice University spokesman. “We have that top of mind.”

 

What is he talking about? Grade-separating what?

 

On a different note, this would be a great time to revive the Universities Line.

 

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13 minutes ago, H-Town Man said:

 

 

 

What is he talking about? Grade-separating what?

 

 

Sounds like above-grade light rail station right? That would seriously help with the Richmond/Main/Wheeler intersection.

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34 minutes ago, Triton said:

 

Sounds like above-grade light rail station right? That would seriously help with the Richmond/Main/Wheeler intersection.

 

Changing the grade of the train would be massively expensive, require a long approach on both sides, and involve numerous problems, including the presence of the freeway for starters. And I can't imagine they would raise it just for this building, when it runs at grade past several million square feet of office space downtown. I have to think he is referring to roads, but why would you change the grade of any of those streets? Grade separations are blighty and anti-urban. Street grids are usually efficient enough for just about anything, although it does get a little wonky in that area with the train and the freeway.

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On 4/14/2018 at 0:54 PM, dbigtex56 said:

 

Full disclosure: I cribbed the following from the comments section of that other website:

From a 2006 Cite article by architect Barry Moore:
http://offcite.org/from-the-cite-archives-when-good-buildings-go-bad-by-barry-moore/
.
“it was the threat of race riots. In the tumultuous aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.”s assassination in l968, local Black Panther activist Lee Otis Johnson organized an 8,000-person strong memorial march, which unsettled much of the business community. Sears, watching from a Chicago torn apart the same summer, reacted by bricking up almost all the Houston store’s show windows and cladding the elegant upper stones with beige metal. And so Fort Sears has remained ever since, hiding from an evolving international city and culture, and wondering where all the shoppers went.”

 

Looks like this story is urban legend

 

https://www.chron.com/entertainment/article/Lisa-Gray-Sears-eyesore-hides-an-Art-Deco-delight-1763773.php

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5 hours ago, thatguysly said:

I was just signing in to post the same link after seeing a post on Facebook from Houston Preservation. If Lisa Gray says that news of the update appeared in the Chronicle in 1962, I tend to believe her.
I wonder what Barry Moore's source(s) were. Strange how these urban legends get started.

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On 4/13/2018 at 2:08 PM, H-Town Man said:

This will also help drive demand for Midtown's apartments and breathe energy into the MidMain-area retail. And the image of Midtown seen by passersby on 59 should be enhanced considerably.

 

This is why I am sad to lose the fiesta. Wish they can create room for it in a future building before they demolish the current fiesta building. Kinda like a transition to a new store. Fiesta is quite different from whole foods and appreciate the option

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2 hours ago, HoustonIsHome said:

This is why I am sad to lose the fiesta. Wish they can create room for it in a future building before they demolish the current fiesta building. Kinda like a transition to a new store. Fiesta is quite different from whole foods and appreciate the option

 

Do we know that we are losing Fiesta?

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1 minute ago, Sanjorade said:

 

I believe their lease was bought out by Rice. 

 

From the Rice Thresher:

 

" Rice’s property also includes the Fiesta Mart store located at 4200 San Jacinto St., but the store is not expected to be affected by this sale during the two-year remainder of its lease, according to the statement. "

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14 hours ago, dbigtex56 said:

I was just signing in to post the same link after seeing a post on Facebook from Houston Preservation. If Lisa Gray says that news of the update appeared in the Chronicle in 1962, I tend to believe her.

 

More to the point, her article also says the windows were not bricked up until the 1980s.

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While it's a shame to potentially lose the Fiesta, we are gaining a Whole Foods like 10-12 blocks away and the museum district HEB about 1.5 miles to the south. 

 

While density doesn't have enough demand at the moment, it'll likely be coming soon as midtown densifies more and it having a prime spot just one block from a light rail stop. 

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On 4/16/2018 at 4:25 PM, H-Town Man said:

 

Changing the grade of the train would be massively expensive, require a long approach on both sides, and involve numerous problems, including the presence of the freeway for starters. And I can't imagine they would raise it just for this building, when it runs at grade past several million square feet of office space downtown. I have to think he is referring to roads, but why would you change the grade of any of those streets? Grade separations are blighty and anti-urban. Street grids are usually efficient enough for just about anything, although it does get a little wonky in that area with the train and the freeway.

Edwin is talking about a Metro rail grade change, or at least that's the point of exploration.  The Wheeler/Main intersection is already a clusterfk, add in the BRT running Richmond/Wheeler and it will be untenable.  The question is, are we just kicking the can down the road by not doing a grade separation now, where we'll have to perform some expensive engineering feat tomorrow instead of today.  The Sears building is merely the tip of the development being considered; when complete the impact will be exponential for the immediate area as well as the region.  

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6 minutes ago, Diaspora said:

Edwin is talking about a Metro rail grade change, or at least that's the point of exploration.  The Wheeler/Main intersection is already a clusterfk, add in the BRT running Richmond/Wheeler and it will be untenable.  The question is, are we just kicking the can down the road by not doing a grade separation now, where we'll have to perform some expensive engineering feat tomorrow instead of today.  The Sears building is merely the tip of the development being considered; when complete the impact will be exponential for the immediate area as well as the region.  

 

Very interesting. If you put the train below grade, then the block south of Sears is opened up as prime development land. Might not cost too much as long as there isn't an underground station. Maybe Wheeler Station could migrate north to between Eagle and Cleburne, but then you need to keep a transfer point at Main and Wheeler for the Universities line. If you put the train above grade, you improve traffic but stigmatize everything in its shadow.

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You could make the station still be at Wheeler but be a sunken plaza style - but you would still have major construction to bring the tracks below grade, and they would have to be at grade again before crossing the newly trenched freeway (unless they want to trench the freeway even more)

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Just because it will flood in extreme weather doesn't mean it's a bad idea.  All three metro rail lines have at least one place that is affected by flooding to one degree or another, so another location won't be the tipping point that closes the system.  59 and 288 are already trenched in places, so trenching them in midtown won't change their usability in a storm.  As long as houses and businesses are above the flood plain, as well as the surface streets being relatively passable, it doesn't matter as much how the underpasses will flood...as long as they're designed for it.

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Below grade infrastructure makes lots of sense in Houston.  That way the floodwaters are kept on the roads, when nobody should be driving, and away from the buildings, and then within hours the water is pumped out and everything is passable again with no damage.

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39 minutes ago, rechlin said:

Below grade infrastructure makes lots of sense in Houston.  That way the floodwaters are kept on the roads, when nobody should be driving, and away from the buildings, and then within hours the water is pumped out and everything is passable again with no damage.

 That's what I've never gotten about Houstonians. I'd rather the streets flood, than my home flood. 

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If the Red Line rail went below grade for crossing under Wheeler/Main, I don't think there's enough room for it to get back up to grade level to go over IH-69, unless the station is partially trenched at an incline also; I'd guess they'd need about 500 feet to rise up from below grade, which is approximately the distance from Richmond/Wheeler to IH-69.  And they aren't going to trench IH-69 deep enough to have the rail cross over it below grade (clearance below at-grade tracks for the Red Line will only be 16'5" per the current plan).

 

I suppose the rail could go above grade, but the extra noise from that might not make the tenants of the Sears building happy.

 

Another possibility would be to make Richmond/Wheeler, including the University Line, below grade under Main, to minimize interference.  The Wheeler University Line station could then be below-grade, with a tunnel for pedestrians to cross over to the Wheeler Red Line station.  And if they succeed in making Main pedestrian/bicycle-only in Midtown as some have proposed, then there would be no real concern about the Red Line maintaining an at-grade crossing over Main.  For northbound Main traffic, the left turn lane would continue to bypass the tracks, and the right turn lane could be trenched below grade.

 

This would all be very expensive, of course, but it would minimize interference between the Red Line and the University Line, plus it would allow Richmond/Wheeler traffic to avoid crossing the Red Line, which always holds up traffic.

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This is from a multi-voiced conversation among stakeholders, planners, and decision-makers focused on the many issues and opportunities that need resolving in that area as TxDOT will begin its trench-work there(confusedly labeled stage 3, I believe), as Metro looks to the lines and land it has to work with, as Rice starts to frame what it hopes to accomplish, and as the neighborhood management groups seek to responsibly revitalize.

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I believe the plan is to first do the part of Segment 3 that is west of SH-288, then they will do Segment 1, then Segment 2, and finally the rest of Segment 3.

 

This is very good for this innovation district because it means there will be no possibility of a nearby homeless encampment on Wheeler under IH-69 pretty much from day 1 (assuming freeway construction starts within 2 years as planned), instead of having to wait a decade for everything else to be finished first.

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On ‎4‎/‎18‎/‎2018 at 0:20 PM, cspwal said:

 

BRT?  Is the university line back on as a BRT?

 

On ‎4‎/‎18‎/‎2018 at 0:27 PM, Diaspora said:

Yes, that's the current conversation; that's the least ambitious (but probably most realistic) scenario for e/w public transit.

Have our friends in Afton Oaks weighed in on this option?

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1 hour ago, Diaspora said:

This is from a multi-voiced conversation among stakeholders, planners, and decision-makers focused on the many issues and opportunities that need resolving in that area as TxDOT will begin its trench-work there(confusedly labeled stage 3, I believe), as Metro looks to the lines and land it has to work with, as Rice starts to frame what it hopes to accomplish, and as the neighborhood management groups seek to responsibly revitalize.

 

It's part of Segment 3.  The segments are simply numbered from north to south.  Not that confusing.  ;-)

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  • 3 weeks later...
14 minutes ago, j_cuevas713 said:

I'm still trying to wrap my head around why this building was every covered up. A little TLC and this thing is going to be beautiful!

"Modernization" circa early 1960's. Yes, this will be a novel building once again when restored.

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1 hour ago, Specwriter said:

"Modernization" circa early 1960's. Yes, this will be a novel building once again when restored.

Simply because starting in the early 70s all store fronts that were plate glassed became favorite targets for the thieves and they were literally stealing merchants like Sears into bankruptcy. They became eyesores once the massive bricking took place, you would have to be born in my era to appreciate the vast difference in the mindset of America in just a few short years, I hope that explains it.

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When the “unveiling” began, I got a glimpse of some of the tile accents on this building and was excited to see more.  But as the metal cladding continued to come down, I must admit I became a little disappointed.  IMHO this is not living up to the hype.  It’s kind of blah, actually.  Reminds me of an outdated Sears department store.  As the cornerstone for an innovation hub, I’d rather see something modern, new and edgy.  Knock it down and start fresh, in true Houston fashion!

Edited by MarathonMan
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1 hour ago, MarathonMan said:

When the “unveiling” began, I got a glimpse of some of the tile accents on this building and was excited to see more.  But as the metal cladding continued to come down, I must admit I became a little disappointed.  IMHO this is not living up to the hype.  It’s kind of blah, actually.  Reminds me of an outdated Sears department store.  As the cornerstone for an innovation hub, I’d rather see something modern, new and edgy.  Knock it down and start fresh, in true Houston fashion!

 

Honestly, it probably needs a good pressure wash and some street foliage. 

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2 hours ago, MarathonMan said:

When the “unveiling” began, I got a glimpse of some of the tile accents on this building and was excited to see more.  But as the metal cladding continued to come down, I must admit I became a little disappointed.  IMHO this is not living up to the hype.  It’s kind of blah, actually.  Reminds me of an outdated Sears department store.  As the cornerstone for an innovation hub, I’d rather see something modern, new and edgy.  Knock it down and start fresh, in true Houston fashion!

With the Art Deco exterior, it could have a Wayne Enterprises from “Batman Forever” look going for it. 

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Don't knock it down, but for sure don't just use it as is - clean it up on the outside and try to enhance the Art Deco building as opposed to ruining it.  

 

I doubt they're going to knock it down - if they were they wouldn't be carefully peeling the layers off

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18 hours ago, Materene said:

Simply because starting in the early 70s all store fronts that were plate glassed became favorite targets for the thieves and they were literally stealing merchants like Sears into bankruptcy. They became eyesores once the massive bricking took place, you would have to be born in my era to appreciate the vast difference in the mindset of America in just a few short years, I hope that explains it.

So true and unfortunate about the plate glass windows being covered up. I remember the great displays in the windows of the downtown Foley's for Christmas time and imagine those large windows presented the same vandalism issues.

I took j_cuevas' comment to be primarily about the metal cladding higher up that obscured the Art Deco detailing. I agree with Purdueenginerd: a good cleaning will make the details easier to appreciate even though the overall look is somewhat subdued.

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12 hours ago, MarathonMan said:

When the “unveiling” began, I got a glimpse of some of the tile accents on this building and was excited to see more.  But as the metal cladding continued to come down, I must admit I became a little disappointed.  IMHO this is not living up to the hype.  It’s kind of blah, actually.  Reminds me of an outdated Sears department store.  As the cornerstone for an innovation hub, I’d rather see something modern, new and edgy.  Knock it down and start fresh, in true Houston fashion!

It's been covered up for years, and probably slightly damaged--I know the facade on 806 Main ruined the original brickwork.

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