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JoshuaJP

US Goverment Building on Allen Parkway

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Hey,

I've been a guest to this site for a year or two now so i decided i'd finally join. Anyway, I browsed through the topics but i didn't see this topic discussed. But what is the huge building being built on the Allen Pkwy just west of downtown? Where the "new" jefferson davis hospital stood? I heard it was going to be a US Mint, but thought that may just be a rumor? anyone know?

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It's not a US Mint, but close. It's the new Federal Reserve Bank building, which will replace the much smaller building the bank is currently in downtown on Travis St.

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I believe I read somewhere that they have to sub lease part of it, because it had a huge area where they did things with checks processing or something. But now they are phasing that out and alot less federal reserve banks will do it now. So, anyone know who will take up the space?

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I found the article.

Sept. 4, 2004, 8:25PM

Fed having a change of space

Plans to process checks at building are canceled, so room opens up

By NANCY SARNOFF

Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

Apparently the mammoth Federal Reserve building going up at 1801 Allen Parkway didn't need to be quite so big after all.

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It turns out that a portion of the 300,000-square-foot property originally designed for check processing is no longer necessary because paper checks are soon to be a thing of the past.

When the Houston building was conceived in 1999, check processing was a major operation for Fed banks, which sorted and shipped checks from banks across the country.

The architects designed in plenty of room to handle pesky paper promissories.

But legislation called Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, or Check 21, will reduce the number of paper checks flying around the country by allowing banks to process electronic images of an original check.

Checks that still must travel will be routed to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said Donald Bowers, assistant vice president for the Houston branch.

This is part of a consolidation, reducing the number of Fed check processing centers from 45 to 32 this year, and to 23 by early 2006, according to the Fed announcement.

The check processing center was initially planned to be part of a larger payments operation facility representing less than 10 percent of the space in the building, Bowers said.

But what will happen with the empty space? Will it be leased?

Bowers said it wouldn't be the first time.

"That's definitely something to consider," he said. "Leasing space is not new to the Federal Reserve."

Reserve banks in other markets may also have some surplus space on their hands.

Check processing operations in nine bank locations around the country will be discontinued.

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"Hey,

I've been a guest to this site for a year or two now so i decided i'd finally join."

(quote, JoshuaJP)

josh, that's really amazing - i thought i was the ultimate lurker but it's you! i'm glad you decided to join in - welcome!

debmartin

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When the Buffalo Bayou rises, maybe they'll let each of us take home some cash to dry it out. Yeah, that's the ticket!

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is it just me, or is this building an ugly blight on our preimier parkway?

I'll try to withhold judgement until it's finished, but I don't care for what I've seen so far. It IS a behemoth...

Too bad the Jeff Davis Hospital had to come down... it looked so much better than what's going up now.

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I'll try to withhold judgement until it's finished, but I don't care for what I've seen so far.  It IS a behemoth...

Too bad the Jeff Davis Hospital had to come down... it looked so much better than what's going up now.

Yeah, Michael Graves' work has unfortunately degenerated into a dreadful pastiche. The Bank looks practically the same as the tedious Jones College at Rice. BTW Graves ordered the demolition of the absolutely wonderful Jones College Master's House of c. 1957 designed by Arthur Jones of Lloyd, Jones & Morgan and replaced it with that silly thing covered in salmon colored stucco.

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I drove by this building today and there is a huge sign on the front that says, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. ??? Uh, I don't get it. This building is in Houston. Just like our Government to get all confused and waste money, they'll probably change the sign in a year or two for $100k. Go check it out next time your driving down Allen Pkwy.

Dream

this post is dedicated to the late 27, "he may be country but that don't mean he wasn't classy"

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Dream, there's only 12 federal reserve banks (aka districts) in the country. It's the way it's set up. Our area (roughly Texas, parts of NM and LA) is one of the 12. Dallas was the largest city in the approximate geographic center of the district when it was set up. Hence Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. If I'm not mistaken all this was set up close to 100 years ago back when Houston was just a speck of a city anyway and wouldn't have had any chance of getting it. Galveston probably would have had a better shot as a port city.

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I drove by this building today and there is a huge sign on the front that says, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. ??? Uh, I don't get it. This building is in Houston. Just like our Government to get all confused and waste money, they'll probably change the sign in a year or two for $100k. Go check it out next time your driving down Allen Pkwy.

Dream

this post is dedicated to the late 27, "he may be country but that don't mean he wasn't classy"

Not to worry. Drive by again. They've added "Houston Branch" to the signage which aptly describes the facility. It really isn't that big of an issue is it? Saks Fifth Avenue didn't change it's name to "Westheimer Road" just because they opened a store in Houston, away from their New York roots.

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My office overlooks it from a nearby skyscraper, and if any of you have ever seen it from above, you see how L A R G E it really is.  The orangy-brown color grabs your eye and won't let go (even "tin can alley," block after block of Urban Lofts, can't detract from the Federal Reserves presence).

As for the style, it is definitely Graves.  I suspect before it is finished, there will be a soft blue grippy handle sticking out one side and a water spout on the other.  Very Target housewares.

It's light years better than another stucco, buff, beige brick, gray glass, boring me to tears office building that Houston seems to have adopted as official. Better this Graves design for Allen Parkway than something like that awful 3333 Allen Parkway apt/condo tower with the pathetic hat on top. It's supposed to have presence. It's supposed to make a statement. Bravo to Graves and to the Federal Reserve for having the balls to build it.

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Another important thing to note is that Federal Reserve Banks are also used as starving artist galleries. Walking through the public spaces make you feel like you are in a museum. You would swear the Dallas facility is a museum.

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IBetter this Graves design for Allen Parkway than something like that awful 3333 Allen Parkway apt/condo tower with the pathetic hat on top.

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I saw the finished building for the first time driving down Memorial the other day, and I really thought it looked great. I think it makes for a landmark frontispiece for the downtown skyline, and I love the stature that it has.

One thing that gets me about this forum, and about architecture forums in general, is the relentless pessimism. It's like we're all trying to sound like dour East Coast architecture critics, lamenting the failures of modern capitalism, longing for some golden age where everything was so well-scaled, so human, so right, and generally acting as if the world is going to end. If something fits in with what has gone before, then it's the same old boring thing, whereas if it breaks from the old, then it destroys the beauty, the charm, the genius of what went before. Either someone is doing the same old bland suburban thing, or someone is trying too hard to be New York, and not being Houston.

Witness the crying about the new courthouse building: "cheesy historical," "what's with the silly dome?", "hate the windows," "not daring enough," "not Houston enough." When all that was there before, and all that stretches to infinity beyond, is asphalt surface lots! A nice new shopping center proposed near Washington Ave. apparently doesn't benefit its existing context of graffiti-sprayed warehouses and seven foot weeds. Now this new building is "ruining Allen Parkway." Hello, Allen Parkway is in diapers. Its environment hasn't even been invented yet. In twenty five years it will look nothing like it does now.

I would put forth that none of the recognized great buildings in Houston had anything to do with anything that came before them, and that for each one that was built, somewhere there was a pessimistic critic lamenting the passing of the noble era of Houston building that had gone before. I want to point out that no developer in the history of this city ever gave a rat's a$$ about the existing environment, other than to change it, and that if any environment does exist in Houston, it happened purely by accident.

Look, I'm not responding to anyone specifically on this page. I used to be this way myself. But really, it does get to be silly sometimes.

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^^^

I have been thinking this ever since I started reading this forum and joined.

Thanks for putting my thoughts in a post. I think there are several people on the forum that feel this way.

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Don't really have a problem with the building's design (at least, no major ones) and I agree with Jtmbin that it's refreshing to see a break from the typical color schemes and surfaces that have been afflicting many southern cities as of late.

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I drove by this building today and there is a huge sign on the front that says, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. ??? Uh, I don't get it. This building is in Houston. Just like our Government to get all confused and waste money, they'll probably change the sign in a year or two for $100k. Go check it out next time your driving down Allen Pkwy.

Dream

this post is dedicated to the late 27, "he may be country but that don't mean he wasn't classy"

We're in the Dallas district of the federal reserve. There are only 12 branches of the Federal Reserve Bank. For some reason, the government assigned a city name to each of the branches instead of just a simple number. If you have any old greenbacks, they were stamped by each federal reserve bank. Some say Dallas, Chicago, New York, etc...

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I saw the finished building for the first time driving down Memorial the other day, and I really thought it looked great.  I think it makes for a landmark frontispiece for the downtown skyline, and I love the stature that it has.

One thing that gets me about this forum, and about architecture forums in general, is the relentless pessimism.  It's like we're all trying to sound like dour East Coast architecture critics, lamenting the failures of modern capitalism, longing for some golden age where everything was so well-scaled, so human, so right, and generally acting as if the world is going to end.  If something fits in with what has gone before, then it's the same old boring thing, whereas if it breaks from the old, then it destroys the beauty, the charm, the genius of what went before.  Either someone is doing the same old bland suburban thing, or someone is trying too hard to be New York, and not being Houston.

Witness the crying about the new courthouse building: "cheesy historical," "what's with the silly dome?", "hate the windows," "not daring enough," "not Houston enough."  When all that was there before, and all that stretches to infinity beyond, is asphalt surface lots!  A nice new shopping center proposed near Washington Ave. apparently doesn't benefit its existing context of graffiti-sprayed warehouses and seven foot weeds.  Now this new building is "ruining Allen Parkway."  Hello, Allen Parkway is in diapers.  Its environment hasn't even been invented yet.  In twenty five years it will look nothing like it does now. 

I would put forth that none of the recognized great buildings in Houston had anything to do with anything that came before them, and that for each one that was built, somewhere there was a pessimistic critic lamenting the passing of the noble era of Houston building that had gone before.  I want to point out that no developer in the history of this city ever gave a rat's a$$ about the existing environment, other than to change it, and that if any environment does exist in Houston, it happened purely by accident.

Look, I'm not responding to anyone specifically on this page.  I used to be this way myself.  But really, it does get to be silly sometimes.

BRAVO!! BRAVO!! Very well said!

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Yeah, Michael Graves' work has unfortunately degenerated into a dreadful pastiche. 

Pastiche: a dramatic, literary, or musical piece openly immitating the works of other artists.

So Michael Graves' architecture has degenerated into a dramatic, literary, or musical piece openly immitating the works of other artists? Wow, that's quite the degeneration... ;-)

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I don't care who designed it...It's an eyesore. I don't mind the structural design, but really dislike the blue stripes on the orange.

Graves was very quick to design a totally "original" structure but failed to give a damn about what people would be looking at as they drove down Allen Parkway. Seriously, it looks like a lego building. They should have polled the city's residents before they approved this design.

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Yes, it totally looks out of place. It's bigger than downtown if you know what I mean.

And not to mention its on one of city's premier routes.

This ugly mug would have been better served in the Warehouse District.

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You know, there are quite a few significant buildings that were initially built (in houston, and around the world) that were initially ridiculed for a variety of reasons. Some which are repeated on here.

Eiffel Tower, The San Fransisco Pyramid, the St. Louis Arch, and the Vietnam Memorial are a few that come to mind.

Give it a chance, in a few decades, I'm sure this building will be looked upon quite fondly.

We're too quick to point out the faults (whether or not justified) and compare it with our own personal tastes (which are varied, to be sure!) that we're ready to thrash it verbally.

If one individual designs a building that comes to fruition to a solid tangible piece of property, SOMEONE will find fault with it.

Ricco

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Im not saying I like the design - but you guys really think its overpowering on Allen Parkway when you have the likes of 3333 (whatever its called now), and American General Center - both are much taller and are easily visable from a distance, while the new Fed Reserve Building is shorter and can blend into the surroundings even from the Studemont Bridge.

Seriously, it looks like a lego building. They should have polled the city's residents before they approved this design.

This is a Graves Building we are talking about - THEY ALL LOOK LIKE LEGO's, also if the city was polled on buildings design.......... Houston wouldnt have about 30 or so Walgreens and CVS, the Mercer, the new Harris County Civil Courts building, and a few others.

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Im not saying I like the design - but you guys really think its overpowering on Allen Parkway when you have the likes of 3333 (whatever its called now), and American General Center - both are much taller and are easily visable from a distance, while the new Fed Reserve Building is shorter and can blend into the surroundings even from the Studemont Bridge.

I don't think American General or 3333 are overpowering from the street level, which is where I'm viewing them from. From a car or while running the trails, you only see just a small portion of most of the buildings. They are each pretty basic and your eye seems to move from one to the next without actually registering them (actually American General is quite nice now with the water feature). The plantings, mature oaks, and sweeping lawns help to soften their impact as well. The Federal Reserve, with its large retaining walls, doesn't accomplish this as well IMO.

Upon further reflection. maybe that is what I really don't like. As bland and basic as that cluster of buildings is, the American General complex seems like it fits into the natural terrain. It feels more integrated.

Like many have said here, it is all in the eye of the beholder.

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I think in twenty years the Allen Pkwy/Memorial Drive stretch will be a canyon of large and tall buildings with the bayou in the middle. I think it will make for a very interesting drive.

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Guest danax
is it just me, or is this building an ugly blight on our preimier parkway?

As H-town man mentioned too, we tend to be a little on the negative side regarding projects but it's not really as negative as it appears. I think we're just having fun being arm-chair architects and planners, giving vent to our imaginations designing the future of Houston.

So, if Houston had a master-planner and it was me, I would use Allen Parkway as our premier high rise residential strip, like Wilshire Blvd. in LA between Bev Hills and UCLA. Nothing but condo towers with views of the park on one side and the skyline on the other.

But, that's not the way it works here. This town is assembled piecemeal without much master planning. The fact that this would normally be a "downtown" building, even though it's short and squat, it might indicate that the future of Allen Pkwy is as single-sided off shoot of the CBD, to be lined with midrise office buildings; another mini-skyliine, which might be interesting and beautiful.

Then again, odds are that this prime parkway will be our typical, non-master-planned mish-mash, never quite finished or clearly defined. Not being negative here, as I'm beginning to understand that one needs to learn to appreciate the constantly varying scenes here to really love this city.

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Its freaking great! So much better than any other buldings on Allen Parkway. Come on people, I'd rather have this than some ugly ass generic building anytime.

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Although the building is far from my ideal for Allen Parkway, I have to admit it has grown on me. Allen Parkway is one of our premier streets in all of Houston, and yes, I would have liked a more clean classy style for it instead of the typical Houston "jumble of any and everything", but hey what are we going to do?

Regarding the criticism on this board of recent architecture, give me a break? We all are aware of the fact that people have varied tastes and preferences, but let's be real here..... some of the stuff that has been going up in Houston over the past few years could have been done with a little more thought into the designs. The attitude of " Oh let's just be greatful the Mercer is up because at least it's not a empty field anymore" is a attitude I do NOT share. Where was the overall criticism of Enron II, where was the overall criticism of the recent new rendering of the proposed Kirby Condo, where was the overall criticism of the new addition to the Galleria? There was no widespread criticism on these sites on those projects because there was no need for it.

I look at the architectural designs of most of the things that are going up in Atlanta right now and the designs of the things that are proposed, and it makes me even more critical of the designs that have been chosen for Houston as of late.

But at the end of the day, as it has been said already, we are just arm-chair architects who are having fun, so what's the big deal?

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While I admire several Michael Graves designs in other cities (Ministry of Health, Welfare & Sport-Netherlands, U.S. Courthouse-D.C., Denver Central Library), Graves definitely brought his

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