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WestGrayGuy

Old Central Bank Building

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The building I am referring to is the old bank building bounded by the streets: Webster, Milam, Travis and Gray. It is probably 12-15 stories and on the very Northern edge of midtown.

What can be done with this building? Can it be economically turned into resiential? Surely asbestos abatement would negate this. Can a business come in and renovate? Should it be another casualty of Houston's tear down craze?

To crater or not to crater?

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Just a few months ago I would have unhesitatingly said "Crater!".

But after some of the comments made on this board (especially in the Houston Mod section) I've gained a new appreciation for this building. The mosaic-like stonework on the south facade is especially pleasing.

The parking garage on the southwest corner does not relate to the building at all; if Central Bank was to be renovated, I'd hope a more sympathetic garage would replace it.

Someone once mentioned the name of the architect who designed this building - if anyone knows, please refresh my memory.

Aside from the asbestos abatement, another issue might be noise from the Pierce Elevated. I've heard that lower units on the north side of 2016 Main are plagued with that problem. I also wonder about the mechanical systems (heating-a/c, elevators, wiring, plumbing...)

Aesthetics aside, the economics look pretty daunting.

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The problem is that it doesn't look like it would serve any other interests otuside of the commercial office market. It doesn't look like the best structure for a condo reconfiguration or a hotel. However, I could be wrong.

Otherwise, keeping it around seems to not really serve a purpose. It's sort of like an eyesore between downtown and Midtown.

I think of greater concern are the Savoy and old Days Inn hotels. They're better designed for condo/loft/what-have-you redevelopment, especially the Savoy.

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I thought the same thing about the old World Trade building next to Minute Maid park. I didn't think anything could be done with that building.

Thanks to the foresite for Tillman Fertitta, the building looks great as the Inn at the Ballpark.

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century_building.jpg

Century_Building.jpg

I believe this is the photograph you are referring to. Is this the Central National Bank Building or the Cenuury Building? Or are there two buildings connected?

They are nice looking- much better than what would be put up now. The quality of detail could not be duplicated today with the cheap curtain walls, foam stucco, fake stone, or the apartment complex like town house lofts they are filling this area with. I am concerned this area will be in decay again in 10 years due to the lack of quality of the new buildings.

The Central Bank Building was a real swinging place-the second location of Glenn McCarthy's Cork Club in 1957 after he sold the legendary Shamrock Hotel to Hilton. Glenn McCarthy was known as "King of the Wildcatters" and was played by James Dean in the movie Giant. The Cork Club featured the top entertainers of the era including Frank Sinatra. (The last location of the Cork Club was to be at the office tower on Highway 6 at Memorial Drive in 1983 but the economic bust left that building unfinished for years and the club did not open.)

The Central Bank Building is said to be haunted, especially the top floor where the club was. In the 1980's the radio staions KKBQ 93FM and KULF/KKBQ 790AM

had their offices there. The best and most popular morning radio show of all times- the Q Morning Zoo staring John Lander, Jackie Robbins, Rio, Mr. Leonard, and Clete Dumpster- was broadcast from there. Ken Hoffman, with the Chronicle, was one of their writers. Jackie is now on the 107.5 morning show. They would often mention strange things that occurred in the building.

Recalling the lost information from the Lucian Hood III posts, architect Lars Bang had established a firm and Lucian Hood, Jr. later joined it. They had designed the office building in the Rice Village and the Big Doughnut shop, now the Marquies, on Bissonnet, west of Kirby, once shown on this site, and many other buildings and houses.

Bang and Hood split up while working on the Century Building because the developer, Kenneth Schnitzer, wanted to use an engineer that was his relative and Lars Bang wanted to use the engineer they usually used. Hood and Bang remained friends but Lucian Hood III believes they were destined for greatness if they would heve remained together. Schnitzer went on to build much of Greenway Plaza and the Richmond Office District.

Edited by SpaceAge

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Thanks for the info space age. According to the old database the Century and Central Bank buildings are the same. The asbestos problem limits things, but if demand ever was strong enough it might be worth it. The problem with asbestos buildings is that you just can't blow them up to demolish them, so it may be cheaper to just sit on them and hope the economics turn around. I have always envisioned this as condo potential, although that may not be realistic.

Space Age might the Cork Club have arrived there later? Does the building date to 1957? It looks newer than that.

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According to my 1969 city directory, it must consist of two buildings.

Central National Bank

2100 Travis

12 floors and a basement 10' ht.

Glenn H. McCarthy and The Cork Club- 12th floor

Paul & Paul Architects- 2nd floor

Several radio stations listed

Century Building

2120 Travis

14 floors and a basement 10' ht.

Kenneth L. Schnitzer- 8th floor

Fred Nahas- 4th floor (a local media celebrity)

HCAD has combined them on their site. Part of building is listed as built in 1956 and part in 1957.

295,000sf +/- total bldg, 1+ acre site

The parking garage was built 1961. Has office space on top of garage too.

Shown to have a new owner as of Jan 2002.

HCAD value 2004 is $2.8M

The 1957 date for the club may be correct. Yes, the building does look newer. Lars Bang and Lucian Hood, Jr. were out in front at the time style-wise.

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Thanks for researching that! I have always liked those buildings, but I could see it being years before anything is done with the property.

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Thanks for all the interesting info Space Age! I didn't realize there was so much interesting history there. I'm a fan of these buildings too and I really hope they can be saved.

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Please, blow it to high heaven.

The underground garage was filled with water after Allison for over two months.

So were some other garages, like the civic center. Why does that mean it should be blown to high heaven?

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Cuz it's an ugly dump and a bad location.

With all the new traffic on Hadley and Webster, nobody will ever have a chance to exit.

Traffic patters have changed, and worked against that building.

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Cuz it's an ugly dump and a bad location.

With all the new traffic on Hadley and Webster, nobody will ever have a chance to exit. 

Traffic patters have changed, and worked against that building.

Now why does that remind me of this song ?

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I used to sit next to this building everday in traffic when Pierce was being rebuilt in 2000.

It's a dump not worth saving. If it was any value at all, it would not just be sitting there. It's another Plaza Hotel.

Going nowhere, and a general eyesore in the process.

Print It

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Put all the "Midtown leaders" in it and blow it up and l hope it falls on the Greyhound bus station.

Post It.

Dream

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Let's see, how do I start this. Basically paying rent sucks so I've lived in quite a few empty buildings in the Houston area. Kapish?

Central Square is indeed two buildings. I'm not sure if they we're built seperately and joined later, but it certainly seems so, as navigating the place can be a freaking maze. There's also a third one story building that's cinderblocked off from the rest (used to be connected) on the northwest corner.

It is indeed a very ugly building. As much on the inside as on the out. Some pretty bad leaks in the building, and salvagers (crackheads) who also lived there have ripped out all of the copper and most of the brass. The noise from the Pierce elevated is actually barely noticeable, even on the lower levels. The building has very few windows on the North, East and South sides. (none on the south) I made a boat to explore the flooded basement. (pretty common in houston)

I would certainly believe that the upper stories are haunted. Weird feeling up there. And there's actually a bathroom on the VERY top with a window directly in front of the toilet that seems oddly placed. Like encouraging suicide. Very strange.

Very awesome HUGE map of Houston from the sheriff dispatch office that used to be in there. Still very easy to get into in case someone happens to know David Cook or whatever the realtors name is.

I also lived in the Savoy and have plenty of stories and opinions about that place. Houston is a squatters paradise. And before anybody yells at me, I never cause harm to a building, on the contrary, I often improve them. Unless the landlord is a jerk.

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Have you ever been to the 12th floor of the Central National Bank building? Can you see any remains of a night club or radio stations?

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Let's see, how do I start this. Basically paying rent sucks so I've lived in quite a few empty buildings in the Houston area. Kapish?

A hearty hello and welcome, squatterkid.

I knew people who lived at Allen Park Village just before much of it was destroyed (squatters), and they were decent folk.

Likewise, I remember when lower Westheimer had abandoned buildings which were respectfully occupied by non-paying residents.

I'm still mystified that people can own buildings and not want to do something with them.

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Welcome to the forum squatterkid. Very interesting perspective. I hope you have better accomodations now.

I believe the Ben Milam also had (has?) squatters living in it.

How was the Savoy?

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First off, thanks all for the warm welcome. Somehow I expected a bunch of property owner types to be telling me to bug off and whatnot. Glad that's not the case. (although property owner types would actually benefit from knowing me, I'm good at keeping the wrecker of building types out)

All I can recall from the upper floors of Central Square was that they were a hell of a lot more wrecked then the lower floors which were still nice. And I remember that one of the upper floors had a bunch of stylish leather furniture, probably that night club.

The electricity is unfortunately cut off at the street level so my attempts at manipulating the GIANT l.e.d. screen on the roof of the building failed.

The bank building (northeast corner) is kind of cool. The vault is open and it's kind of weird to be behind the bank teller.

I don't ever really live in one particular place in the country but by far my best free-rent living has been in Houston. Leave it to Texas to have abandoned SKYSCRAPERS!!

The Savoy is a completely different and awesome story. I think I'll start a new topic for it.

I have friends of friends that lived in APV, and would absolutely love to hear about any squats or stories in or near Houston.

sean

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We certainly wouldn't want to encourage illegal trespassing, but for you urban explorer or squatter types, a large window is broken out in the Central Bank building so anyone can walk right in, but don't, because that would be trespassing. ;)

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i had started this as it's own thread but i guess it belongs here:

"i have been wanting to photograph the central square (after driving by and seeing that huge clock a few blocks over) and by the time i get around to it there are fresh huge plywood boards around the first floor and broken glass in the street. are the boards really that recent? this was on friday around 4pm. there was actually one more newly broken window without plywood over it and glass in the street. i was only able to photograph the escalator and a wooden sales desk through the window. anyone know what happened?

i have many, many questions about a few of the older houston buildings but i figure it is best to search this site for previous posts and ask whatever has not been covered yet. thanks"

if anyone has photos of the inside -- could you share?

i also wanted to add that on the rail yesterday i noticed that this building got heavily tagged on one of the top floors. pretty large and intricate too. i am so irritated as this means there is more to follow. as i really like this building i worry that it would hasten it's being torn down.

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Someone here before had mentioned that the building has asbestos issues. If so, demolition is difficult because it would require asbestos abatement before demolition (since tearing it down would loosen and spread the asbestos). It makes the economics of demoltion or redevelopment pretty tough. I would love to see it redevelped.

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The Central Bank Building was a real swinging place-the second location of Glenn McCarthy's Cork Club in 1957 after he sold the legendary Shamrock Hotel to Hilton. The Cork Club featured the top entertainers of the era including Frank Sinatra. (The last location of the Cork Club was to be at the office tower on Highway 6 at Memorial Drive in 1983 but the economic bust left that building unfinished for years and the club did not open.)

I just recently came across this thread, and since I know someone who was intimately familiar with the Cork Club, I thought I would pass this info by him for his comments. An interesting bit of trivia...

"The discussion says the second location of the club was on Travis. Actually, the second location was on Fannin, across from the Warwick Hotel...in the Republic Insurance Building. It then moved to the Century Building. Yes, there was talk of having it open, after it closed in the Century Bldg, in a building at Hwy 6 and Memorial, but it never got beyond talk. McCarthy was going to receive a monthly, small set fee for allowing the use of the name Cork Club. The guy who owned the building was going to take over the Club and use its membership list to promote tenant leasing in his building. He was a con-man from Chicago and a real sleaze bag. The reason he was never able to complete the building was that his past finally caught up with him."

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Hola y'all!

I'm a firm believer in creative re-use of anything, be it a building, car or computer case. The Central Square building(s) really have a lot of square footage but they seem to have really gone downhill.

I've owned a condo catty-[kitty]-corner to it (@ 2016 Main) for several years but didn't actually live here until July '05. Central Square should be called HomeLess Square Condos, at times I have counted upwards of fifty squatters around the property.

Recently (Dec 05) I've seen maintenance-type people at the building, and there's a construction dumpster in the parking garage but aside from a little newer plywood, some barbed wire and a new For Sale sign (with a different realtor's name) I dont note any change.

Oddly, the new For Sale sign, which I noticed Jan 18, 2006, is a different realtor than the old one - but the original realtor's signage is still in place on all four sides of the buildings.

Our security people told me this week that I can expect to see Central Square demolished in approx two months [Mar 06?] but don't quote me! I'm going to try to find out if anyone knows any facts in that matter.

Then there's the Greyhound... rumor has it that it will be moving to the north/ne/nw side of downtown in the summer of 2006 - praise the lord, I'll be able to walk to McDonalds again :D

Jimmy

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Hola y'all!

I'm a firm believer in creative re-use of anything, be it a building, car or computer case. The Central Square building(s) really have a lot of square footage but they seem to have really gone downhill.

I've owned a condo catty-[kitty]-corner to it (@ 2016 Main) for several years but didn't actually live here until July '05. Central Square should be called HomeLess Square Condos, at times I have counted upwards of fifty squatters around the property.

Recently (Dec 05) I've seen maintenance-type people at the building, and there's a construction dumpster in the parking garage but aside from a little newer plywood, some barbed wire and a new For Sale sign (with a different realtor's name) I dont note any change.

Oddly, the new For Sale sign, which I noticed Jan 18, 2006, is a different realtor than the old one - but the original realtor's signage is still in place on all four sides of the buildings.

Our security people told me this week that I can expect to see Central Square demolished in approx two months [Mar 06?] but don't quote me! I'm going to try to find out if anyone knows any facts in that matter.

Then there's the Greyhound... rumor has it that it will be moving to the north/ne/nw side of downtown in the summer of 2006 - praise the lord, I'll be able to walk to McDonalds again :D

Jimmy

Welcome to HAIF, Jimmy, and thanks for the info on Central Square. We'll keep an eye out for demolition permits.

With both Central Square and Greyhound gone, that area is posed to take off.

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Our security people told me this week that I can expect to see Central Square demolished in approx two months [Mar 06?] but don't quote me! I'm going to try to find out if anyone knows any facts in that matter.

Jimmy

thanks for the information - we'll be watching the permits like hawks!

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Guest danax
sorry i just now saw this!

photos - and not pretty ones

That one photo of yours showing Central Convenience Center is very odd. It's got beadboard ceiling and the lettering and door hardware look like 1905.

Would they've done a retro-look store in a building that was likely looked upon as ultra-modern when built? Maybe it was installed much later as the place was fighting for an identity, but the door harware and beadboard look authentic.

Or, was there possibly an old general store on that site that was razed and the architects decided to pay homage by leaving a portion and converting it into the building's market? And the beat goes on.

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thanks - yes, the interior was quite interesting throughout, but extremely dirty and disgusting. there were so many architectural and design differences inside, like it was randomly put together - kind of like an architectural pick-a-part!

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Our security people told me this week that I can expect to see Central Square demolished in approx two months [Mar 06?] but don't quote me! I'm going to try to find out if anyone knows any facts in that matter.

oh no! i really like this building and was still hoping someone would find a purpose for it.

yet the filthier it got, the more it got tagged and with the lower windows busted out,

i figured as much.

interested if anything will happen with the lage digital clock on the roof (other than being part of the demolition).

Edited by torvald

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Our security people told me this week that I can expect to see Central Square demolished in approx two months [Mar 06?] but don't quote me! I'm going to try to find out if anyone knows any facts in that matter.

Can you get your building's security folks to tell you their source on this information? I'm having trouble confirming it.

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a couple flyers from commgate about central square advertise it as good for conversion (not demolition)

Edited by sevfiv

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You have to admit this building is beyond an eyesore.

It's pretty embarrassing its just left to sit and be ugly outside the CBD.

Edited by MidtownCoog

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At least they cleaned the graffiti off the top floor windows and sweeped up all the debris and litter from inside those fences. Granted, it'll only be a matter of time before the trash is back but at least they've gotten around to picking up what was already there.

If there was ever any way for that building to be an even bigger black eye on the skyline, the persistence of that graffiti accomplished it.

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century_building.jpg

Century_Building.jpg

I believe this is the photograph you are referring to. Is this the Central National Bank Building or the Cenuury Building? Or are there two buildings connected?

They are nice looking- much better than what would be put up now. The quality of detail could not be duplicated today with the cheap curtain walls, foam stucco, fake stone, or the apartment complex like town house lofts they are filling this area with. I am concerned this area will be in decay again in 10 years due to the lack of quality of the new buildings.

The Central Bank Building was a real swinging place-the second location of Glenn McCarthy's Cork Club in 1957 after he sold the legendary Shamrock Hotel to Hilton. Glenn McCarthy was known as "King of the Wildcatters" and was played by James Dean in the movie Giant. The Cork Club featured the top entertainers of the era including Frank Sinatra. (The last location of the Cork Club was to be at the office tower on Highway 6 at Memorial Drive in 1983 but the economic bust left that building unfinished for years and the club did not open.)

The Central Bank Building is said to be haunted, especially the top floor where the club was. In the 1980's the radio staions KKBQ 93FM and KULF/KKBQ 790AM

had their offices there. The best and most popular morning radio show of all times- the Q Morning Zoo staring John Lander, Jackie Robbins, Rio, Mr. Leonard, and Clete Dumpster- was broadcast from there. Ken Hoffman, with the Chronicle, was one of their writers. Jackie is now on the 107.5 morning show. They would often mention strange things that occurred in the building.

Recalling the lost information from the Lucian Hood III posts, architect Lars Bang had established a firm and Lucian Hood, Jr. later joined it. They had designed the office building in the Rice Village and the Big Doughnut shop, now the Marquies, on Bissonnet, west of Kirby, once shown on this site, and many other buildings and houses.

Bang and Hood split up while working on the Century Building because the developer, Kenneth Schnitzer, wanted to use an engineer that was his relative and Lars Bang wanted to use the engineer they usually used. Hood and Bang remained friends but Lucian Hood III believes they were destined for greatness if they would heve remained together. Schnitzer went on to build much of Greenway Plaza and the Richmond Office District.

i've always admired the panels/tiles on this side of the building. (currently, i could use 1000 square feet of tile. ;)) i do prefer adaptive reuse rather than demolition; however, this building has been empty for quite some time. the property is in a great location. hopefully something will happen soon, one way or the other.

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I actually like the building, but hate the way it sits there as a vagrant strong hold. I would love to see it redeveloped and I actually think the digital clock could look really cool as people pass through on I-45. At the same time, its sometimes hard to fault someone if they were to knock this down and build a smaller building that was being used. It could be perfect for a conversion to an apartment building with retail on the bottom, but that's the dream with every project right?

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Yes, this is one I always thought would be perfect for a condo conversion. Kind of a balcony area, and there's plenty of parking. There's an asbestos problem I believe, which makes it difficult to demolish without remediation.

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Our security people told me this week that I can expect to see Central Square demolished in approx two months [Mar 06?] but don't quote me! I'm going to try to find out if anyone knows any facts in that matter.

I have confirmed through sources in the know: there are no current plans to demolish the building. The activity that has been going on is also not part of any redevelopment project. The building's status may or may not change in the near future, but I can say nothing else, so don't ask.

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So perhaps it's just a useful rumor for those seeking to move units at 2016 Main? ;)

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So perhaps it's just a useful rumor for those seeking to move units at 2016 Main? ;)

Even if it was torn down, it wouldn't decrease the number of homeless people. The root of the problem is not that there is a derelict building nearby...it's the number of vagrants, and especially those that are very aggressive. Make no mistake, Greyhound is responsible for that. Central Square, if anything, is a victim of the plight rather than a contributor.

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I actually blame it on the Pierce Elevated.

yep - wherever greyhound may be, they'll always make it to the pierce elevated ^_^

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I actually blame it on the Pierce Elevated.

It's Hobo Haven under there.

The elevated may be a popular gathering place for vagrants, but the real problem is still with Greyhound. We've got a lot of elevated freeways, and if you transplant the source of the vagrants nearer to other prospective gathering places, like Interstate 10 and the Buffalo Bayou, they'll be more likely to gather en masse in those areas.

Sure, there will always be a population of them in Midtown, but at least the concentrated nature of the problem will be solved. Moreover, a lot of the retail and car rental businesses that cater to low-income travelers that come in via Greyhound will move elsewhere, freeing up new retail space in northern Midtown for upscale yuppie businesses.

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