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South Main Innovation District In Midtown


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16 minutes ago, wilcal said:

Cmon everyone, lets have a little faith here. It's been covered up for decades. They're going to tweak it for sure. 

 

I'm sure the first rendering will turn some of you back from wanting to flatten it. 

I do hope you’re right.  As it stands, though, I just don’t see that the architects/designers have much To work with. 

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1 hour ago, Naviguessor said:

It's a "District".  There will be plenty of opportunity Modern, New and Edgy with other buildings.  This structure will make the rest look that much more Modern, New and Edgy.  Plus, I imagine that the Sears will be significantly enhanced. 

I hope so.  Time will tell what kind of cohesive, show-stopping final “district” grows from this starting point.  I REALLY hope something spectacular happens, but Houston developers have such a track record of turning grand visions into mediocrity.

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The Sears project is too visible and has the backing of too many prominent institutions and officials for any remuddling to take place.
We sometimes forget other successful renovations. The UH - Downtown main building used to be painted an unappealing shade of mustard yellow; Slick Willie's on lower Westheimer was painted flat black for years. In both cases,  new colors, properly applied made these formerly dowdy buildings sparkle.
I expect the rebirth of the Sears building to be even more spectacular. And an architecturally significant building is never out of place in Houston.

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It’s a big concrete box. That was a Sears. It’s great that they’re repurposing it for a cause/institution I totally support. But acting like it’s some cherished architectural landmark that must be saved is a bit much. It’s a dilapidated department store.

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11 hours ago, Vy65 said:

It’s a big concrete box. That was a Sears. It’s great that they’re repurposing it for a cause/institution I totally support. But acting like it’s some cherished architectural landmark that must be saved is a bit much. It’s a dilapidated department store.

Read. Learn.
http://offcite.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2010/03/EndangeredCity_Moore_Cite67.pdf

 

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It can have all the history it wants (putting aside the sad ridiculousness of treating a Sears as a cultural landmark). It’s still a dillapadated concrete block. Even with some Art Deco flair, I’d want better for a tech hub.

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13 minutes ago, dbigtex56 said:

Now I understand.
There's a peculiar sense of pride that some Houstonians take in their ignorance of and contempt for the preservation and renovation of architecturally significant old buildings. The words 'dilapidated' (sometimes spelled correctly), 'eyesore', and 'outdated' are featured prominently in their criticisms.
Never mind that such sad, ridiculous figures as Houston-raised Barry Moore (FAIA, senior associate with Gensler architects) finds merit in the architectural history of this building. And never mind that a properly renovated building will no longer be dilapidated. These concepts are difficult to grasp, and it's easier to cling to ones ignorance as if it were a virtue.
You could, I suppose, click on the links I provided, read the articles, and issue a thoughtful rebuttal; but you won't.

 

Except that I did. Posting an article about a department store’s history isn’t some grand defense of a large, concrete block. Instead, it’s a sad statement of what passes for “landmarks” in this city. And that’s putting the whole issue of whether and how it will blend in with other planned renovations in the area. Are we going to pioneer the Art Deco tech hub? How does that look? Will it, as others have suggested, maintain its style while the other newer developments reflect a more modern bent?

 

Saying some good said some nice things about it once is equally dissatisfying. Do all architect’s agree on that point? Are we not allowed our own opinions? Or do we just do the appeal to authority thing (and make snarky comments about spelling while we’re at it)?

 

In the abstract, I am not opposed to renovating the building. But those renovations should line up with its intended purpose. That’s not the case here. And at the end of the day, this is a sears department store. Bolstering that up as “culture” because it has some flare is pathetic. 

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33 minutes ago, Vy65 said:

Posting an article about a department store’s history isn’t some grand defense of a large, concrete block. Instead, it’s a sad statement of what passes for “landmarks” in this city

 

I don't know if this qualifies as a grand defense, but it hardly seems like a description of a large, concrete block:
"...the store had a deserved architectural reputation. Designed as a modern prototype by the Chicago firm Nimmons, Carr and Wright, the Houston project had Art Deco siblings in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, and Glendale, California. Alfred C. Finn was the local associate architect..."
 

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38 minutes ago, Vy65 said:

And that’s putting the whole issue of whether and how it will blend in with other planned renovations in the area. Are we going to pioneer the Art Deco tech hub? How does that look? Will it, as others have suggested, maintain its style while the other newer developments reflect a more modern bent?

 

Does the renovated Rice Hotel blend in with the skyscrapers that surround it?  Do the modern buildings on the Rice University blend in with the iconic style of its original design? No. They provide contrast and context. 
And we would hardly be pioneers by repurposing an old building for a modern function. If anything, it's utterly conventional. Former factories, warehouses, and all sorts of other commercial buildings have been pressed into service in recent decades in virtually every city. Frankly, I find the idea of creating a sort of modern Brasilia on South Main kind of creepy.

 

 

50 minutes ago, Vy65 said:

Saying some good said some nice things about it once is equally dissatisfying. Do all architect’s agree on that point? Are we not allowed our own opinions? Or do we just do the appeal to authority thing (and make snarky comments about spelling while we’re at it)?

 

I agree with what I think that statement is saying; just because someone's an architect doesn't mean we have to like the same things he likes. My point is that this building is more than just some random concrete box, and a prominent architect agrees.
So far as the misspelling: I misspell frequently, and fortunately the built in spell check makes me aware of the error. I make the correction because it seems discourteous to the reader to leave it as is. I'm not going to police your grammar, punctuation, or usage.

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5 hours ago, Vy65 said:

Are we going to pioneer the Art Deco tech hub? How does that look? Will it, as others have suggested, maintain its style while the other newer developments reflect a more modern bent?

 

No, we're not going to pioneer the Art Deco tech hub, as Twitter has already beaten a path in that direction via adaptive reuse of a 1937 Deco building that formerly housed wholesale furniture design showrooms. I daresay that if this approach passes muster for a leading tech company's headquarters in San Francisco, there's no reason it can't work in Houston. 

 

RS6714_photo-lpr-1440x1080.jpg

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What makes you think that the sears redevelopment will end up looking like Twitter HQ?

 

While that’s a fine building (looks much better than what we have), do you prefer that to the alternative (razing/building a high rise/mixed use development) instead?

 

edit: here’s 1871

 

ED433A4F-002E-4818-B371-D0D2457D9672.jpeg

 

Does anyone honestly believe that the sears will will end up looking like something in the same realm as that?

Edited by Vy65
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That's why Houston is struggling to build up density. We have a building surrounded on all sides with empty lots and the one building onsight has interest because it's different and hold done nostalgia for many Houstonians and y'all wanna flatten.

 

I could understand if this was not structurally sound and the area is running out of space but there is nothing around this thing. And soon too be more nothing once 59 construction gets on the way and I hear it tear it down.

 

At least if they restore the store fronts there will be some appeal from the train. The vast majority of new buildings have little ground floor appeal. Even attractive buildings such as 609 main. 

 

 

An attractive mixed material midrise  ( think Aris) can go up on the parking lot north of this building.

 

They can continue the theme across the street to the east with similar materials. This lot is huge and could accommodate another large midrise on top of parking.

 

Then the same can be done for the fiesta site. Or something completely different as a building on the middle lot would totally obsucure the Sears building. 

 

Anyway these three sites can accommodate 5 hilcorp sized buildings. That's a lot of space. I don't know why can't we retain a little bit of nostalgia

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20 hours ago, Vy65 said:

It can have all the history it wants (putting aside the sad ridiculousness of treating a Sears as a cultural landmark). It’s still a dillapadated concrete block. Even with some Art Deco flair, I’d want better for a tech hub.

I'm just glad you aren't part of city planning. 

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On 5/12/2018 at 9:42 AM, dbigtex56 said:

There's a peculiar sense of pride that some Houstonians take in their ignorance of and contempt for the preservation and renovation of architecturally significant old buildings. The words 'dilapidated' (sometimes spelled correctly), 'eyesore', and 'outdated' are featured prominently in their criticisms.

 

There's just as much overuse of the term 'architecturally significant' when describing old buildings. Especially old buildings that the people who call it architecturally significant have no money invested in.

 

This building is not architecturally significant. 

 

That doesn't mean it needs to be razed. Honestly, that decision is up to the owner of the property. If they want to raze it, so be it, if they want to spruce it up and make it look more like it did when it was first built, so be it. They own it, they can do what they like to it. 

 

It looks like they chose to spruce it up. With the appropriate amount of sprucing, it might actually become an architecturally (and culturally) significant building. After they're done though, it might also end up being just as forgettable as the box it's been for years. 

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1 hour ago, samagon said:

This building is not architecturally significant.

A matter of opinion, to be sure. No one is claiming that it's in the same category as Radio City Music Hall or the Chrysler Building. It's a 1930s department store, designed in a workmanship-like manner by proven architects of the era. To current and future generations who weren't around when free-standing department stores were the norm, and may be unfamiliar with the late Art Deco/Moderne style, it is instructive and therefore significant.

 

1 hour ago, samagon said:

They own it, they can do what they like to it. 

This straw-man argument is at the core of much of the opposition to historic preservation in Houston. Of course it is, and they can. Houston has some of the weakest preservation laws in the nation. Heck, the house that stood on the lot that the Sears building now occupies was much more architecturally significant.
Rigid laws regarding preservation is a two-edged sword; it has saved such places as Greenwich Village in NYC and the French Quarter in NOLA, both of which are beloved features of their respective cities and a draw for tourism. Many visitors to Houston are disappointed to find that that only a handful of 19th century buildings have survived. On the other hand, the restrictions and red tape associated with historic preservation can discourage new development and investment.
Owning something and having the right to do with it as you please doesn't make one immune to public opinion, and sometimes criticism. There are local developers and businesses who have found out the hard way that ignoring public opinion comes at a price. I'd be surprised if the officials at Rice University didn't take into account that many Houstonians have an affection for this building.

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(If moderators think this should be a separate thread please feel free to create one)
There's been a lot of discussion about windows and the lack thereof in the Sears building. Everyone seems to be in agreement that windows are a desirable addition to an office or workspace environment.
If or when Fiesta vacates their building at the end of the lease, and if this building is also to be utilized as part of the tech center, won't windows also be an issue with that building?
Fortunately for the redevelopers, it's pretty much a blank slate. Not much effort was put into creating an architectural style in 1980s supermarkets, and punching windows in the exterior walls should be easily accomplished. However, only the perimeter would benefit. Those stuck in the middle would still be a long way from the closest window.
An atrium would resolve that problem. Imagine a garden in the center of the building, surrounded by windows. It could be a pleasant place for workers to enjoy breaks or lunch, and provide more natural light to the rest of the building. A mezzanine level could be added to compensate for the lost productive space.
Thoughts?

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3 hours ago, dbigtex56 said:


An atrium would resolve that problem. Imagine a garden in the center of the building, surrounded by windows. It could be a pleasant place for workers to enjoy breaks or lunch, and provide more natural light to the rest of the building. A mezzanine level could be added to compensate for the lost productive space.
Thoughts?

 

the building is certainly large enough to where an atrium with skywalks would fit perfectly, and would make a nice feature for the building

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8 hours ago, MarathonMan said:

I don’t think there’s been any discussion of converting the Fiesta.  And I’d guess that most would agree that there isn’t much architectural significance to the Fiesta building.  I’d wager that it comes down.  

That's certainly a possibility.
On the other hand, seems like it would be cheaper to re-hab an existing building than to raze it and start again, and there may be are always budget constraints.
Money spent on a glitzy new building could better be spent on gizmos that would be useful for research and development, such as environmental chambers and 'clean' rooms.

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Rehabbing a modern building like the Fiesta shouldn't cost too much - there's not much change in fire-codes, it'll be a similar use, etc, but the main issue is how useful a one story building (maybe with a mezzanine) is for the plans compared to knocking it down and building a new 3 or 4 story building

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3 hours ago, Brooklyn173 said:

Maybe it's just me, but I thought the reference to Fiesta and design decisions was just sarcasm regarding the 'love' for the Sears building.

No intended sarcasm here.
Aside from both being retail outlets, the two are dissimilar. Sears spent the extra money to make the statement that this is a modern store, substantial, where quality items are sold. Fiesta is a bare-bones box with a token façade slapped on, where a wide variety of groceries can be purchased inexpensively. No further statement needed.
Because Sears abuts the Main Street corridor, aesthetics play a larger role. Fiesta? I hope they gussy up the exterior a bit, but the main concern (if, indeed it is under consideration) is creating more square footage of workspace. Preferably pleasant.
An aside: many years ago I worked in the R&D building of a well-known instrument manufacturer. That building had no windows whatsoever. No one liked it, but the engineers still came to work.

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3 hours ago, dbigtex56 said:

An aside: many years ago I worked in the R&D building of a well-known instrument manufacturer. That building had no windows whatsoever. No one liked it, but the engineers still came to work.

Years ago I worked on a 500,000 sq. ft. tilt wall building that had been used as a ware house. The design called for installing sky lights which defined corridors in the space and a mezzanine in part of the structure to increase the office floor space. The employees loved it because the alternative was to build an new facility further away from where they all lived and with the diffuse lighting from the sky lights the space was actually pleasant. The city loved it because it kept the tax base strong.

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17 hours ago, dbigtex56 said:

No intended sarcasm here.
Aside from both being retail outlets, the two are dissimilar. Sears spent the extra money to make the statement that this is a modern store, substantial, where quality items are sold. Fiesta is a bare-bones box with a token façade slapped on, where a wide variety of groceries can be purchased inexpensively. No further statement needed.
Because Sears abuts the Main Street corridor, aesthetics play a larger role. Fiesta? I hope they gussy up the exterior a bit, but the main concern (if, indeed it is under consideration) is creating more square footage of workspace. Preferably pleasant.
An aside: many years ago I worked in the R&D building of a well-known instrument manufacturer. That building had no windows whatsoever. No one liked it, but the engineers still came to work.

Yeah, the Sears was built in 1939 while Fiesta came in-line 50 years later, and looks very similar to how it did from that period, including that track marquee lighting. What I'm confused about is the actual lease agreements. An article from the time that Fiesta opened says that Sears sub-leased to Fiesta, and prior to Fiesta there was a parking lot there. Sears, on the other hand, was a 99-year lease from Rice that Rice bought back early. However, in the 1940s and 1950s, Sears only had half of the block bounded by San Jacinto/Eagle/Caroline/Wheeler, the other half was houses, and in the late 1970s aerial you could see the difference in the paving where those houses were cleared for additional parking (this "additional parking" didn't last long, by 1989 it was the Fiesta).

 

So....did Rice always own those houses, and then lease that land to Sears later on a different lease, or did Sears buy out that land itself? If the former is true, then Rice had to have made one more purchase, and if the latter is true, then there's nothing Rice can do since Sears is still sub-leasing Fiesta, unless Rice bought that too. But if Rice bought the Fiesta out, then why is it still operating and Sears isn't? You could argue that Sears is not doing well, but Fiesta has shown to empty out quickly if there's a better commercial interest waiting in the wings, and if the land Fiesta sits on is too valuable to continue operating as a grocery store, Rice wouldn't hesitate to bump it out as part of their "Innovation District" plan.

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2 hours ago, IronTiger said:

But if Rice bought the Fiesta out, then why is it still operating and Sears isn't?

 

According to HCAD records, WILLIAM MARSH RICE UNIVERSITY bought 4200 San Jacinto St. from Sears on 10/4/2017.
Just speculating, but they may be concentrating their efforts on renovating and filling the Sears building while collecting rent from Fiesta. If and when they need to expand, they'll have the space to do so.
edit: And Sears is no longer operating because...it's Sears.  "[T]he struggling retailer said it told associates at 64 Kmart and 39 Sears stores that the locations will be shut down between early March and early April 2018."

Edited by dbigtex56
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5 hours ago, dbigtex56 said:

 

According to HCAD records, WILLIAM MARSH RICE UNIVERSITY bought 4200 San Jacinto St. from Sears on 10/4/2017.
Just speculating, but they may be concentrating their efforts on renovating and filling the Sears building while collecting rent from Fiesta. If and when they need to expand, they'll have the space to do so.
edit: And Sears is no longer operating because...it's Sears.  "[T]he struggling retailer said it told associates at 64 Kmart and 39 Sears stores that the locations will be shut down between early March and early April 2018."

 

So Sears really DID own the Fiesta. I don't believe the Sears was part of the shut down, it shut down early and wasn't on closing lists. They are selling off what locations they can if the price is reasonable, for all I know, the Midtown Sears was actually profitable (just not as profitable as selling back the lease). So I'm guessing Sears sold back their 99-year lease AND the Fiesta in one fell swoop, which is probably why Fiesta is still operational and Sears isn't. The Sears building is of course the more interesting but less profitable building.

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3 hours ago, IronTiger said:

for all I know, the Midtown Sears was actually profitable

You're correct that Midtown Sears closed prior to the ones announced in the link I provided.
I don't claim any expertise about profit margins on retail, but I noticed that the Midtown Sears discontinued its paint department several years ago, then electronics, and its optical department. Because the location is convenient for me, I've shopped there occasionally over the years, and often the employees outnumbered the customers. It was grim.
I feel pretty sure that taxes and utilities would have exceeded any profits. I was not surprised when its closing was announced.

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18 hours ago, IronTiger said:

Yeah, the Sears was built in 1939 while Fiesta came in-line 50 years later, and looks very similar to how it did from that period, including that track marquee lighting. What I'm confused about is the actual lease agreements. An article from the time that Fiesta opened says that Sears sub-leased to Fiesta, and prior to Fiesta there was a parking lot there. Sears, on the other hand, was a 99-year lease from Rice that Rice bought back early. However, in the 1940s and 1950s, Sears only had half of the block bounded by San Jacinto/Eagle/Caroline/Wheeler, the other half was houses, and in the late 1970s aerial you could see the difference in the paving where those houses were cleared for additional parking (this "additional parking" didn't last long, by 1989 it was the Fiesta).

 

So....did Rice always own those houses, and then lease that land to Sears later on a different lease, or did Sears buy out that land itself? If the former is true, then Rice had to have made one more purchase, and if the latter is true, then there's nothing Rice can do since Sears is still sub-leasing Fiesta, unless Rice bought that too. But if Rice bought the Fiesta out, then why is it still operating and Sears isn't? You could argue that Sears is not doing well, but Fiesta has shown to empty out quickly if there's a better commercial interest waiting in the wings, and if the land Fiesta sits on is too valuable to continue operating as a grocery store, Rice wouldn't hesitate to bump it out as part of their "Innovation District" plan.

 

 
From the Rice Thresher: " Rice’s property also includes theFiesta 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 itslease , according to the statement. "
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  • 2 weeks later...
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I mentioned this in the Midtown forum, but thought I’d also share here. It looks like Rice picked up more land in this area at 411 Richmond and 4510 S. Main St. HCAD indicates two different LLC’s acquired these plots in mid-June. Both LLC’s have a mailing address of 6100 S. Main St, Houston, TX 77005–the same address Rice uses for mail for the Fiesta.

 

Edit:  The account information for 4510 S Main LLC is account no. 0250210000001.  The account information for 401 Richmond LLC is 

0250230000009.  The Warranty Deeds are respectively recorded as  RP-2018-268638 and RP-2018-273779, and each indicate "c/o William Marsh Rice University."

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by houstontexasjack
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^ I hope some form of infill, hopefully in the form of a high rise, comes to fruition in this part of Midtown. This area desperately needs it.

 

I went to Under the Radar Brewery a couple weekends ago and the area around the Wheeler light rail station made my skin crawl. A lot of trash, small camps, and pan handlers in a small area. Once the Sears is restored and other projects go up around it, I hope the area begins to see a turnaround. It feels really disconnecting to drive through all the new developments in Midtown (Australian High Rises, Camden, etc.) only to drive through this area on your way to TMC. 

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