Houston Offering Tax Breaks to Build Housing Downtown, Create a Vibrant City

Skyline image courtesy of Urban Splatter

Houston. (Courtesy Urban Splatter)

Houston is set to double the amount of tax breaks it gives to developers for downtown apartments and condos to try to lure people to the city’s sleepy business district. The City Council unanimously agreed to expand the Downtown Living Initiative, which first launched a year and a half ago, to offer tax breaks for 5,000 residential units, up from a previous cap of 2,500.

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Page Architects Transforming Basement Tunnels at Houston’s Niels Esperson Building

News, Preservation, Southwest
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
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Renderings of the lobby after the basement's reconstruction (Photo Courtesty of pagethink.com)

Renderings of the lobby after the basement’s reconstruction. (Courtesy Page)

The historic Niels Esperson Building has lit up the Houston skyline since 1927, but far below the tower’s neo-Classical cupola, a basement space connecting to a series of tunnels meandering underneath the city has remained out of the spotlight. Now, the building’s basement gets to play catch up in the fame game with a $2.5 million renovation spearheaded by architectural firm Page.

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Despite Preservation Push, Rice University’s Martel Center Demolished After All

News, Preservation, Southwest
Monday, April 21, 2014
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(COURTESY GLASSCOCK SCHOOL OF CONTINUING STUDIES)

Never mind! After all that fuss to preserve the iconic Texas tin structure, Rice University’s Art Barn met the Grim Reaper on Wednesday, April 16. While a group was able to salvage the building’s corrugated metal siding, wrecking crews tore away at the Martel Center’s structure, marking a definitive end to efforts of preservationists to move the building to another site in Houston. Andy Warhol’s famous oak tree planted in front of the former structure will remain intact, but once the dust clears only a grass lawn will serve as tombstone. A rogue power line temporarily stalled the demolition, thereby buying a commemorative moment for the Art Barn’s historical and cultural import. The building’s spirit will live on through the Menil Collection it once housed, as well as its legacy with other tin houses.

Art Barn on the Move: Rice University’s Martel Center To Be Relocated to Houston’s Fourth Ward

Southwest
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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The Art Barn (Courtesy Rice)

Leaving campus the way it came in—amid a swirl of shifting plans and controversy—seems to be the modus operandi for Rice University’s Martel Center, more colloquially known as “the Art Barn.” After reports last month that the building would be demolished, Rice University changed its mind and announced that it would, instead, relocate the historic structure to the Fourth Ward area of Houston, just west of downtown.

The Art Barn has graced Rice University’s campus since 1969. Originally conceived by John and Dominique de Menil as what was meant to be a quick-fix housing solution for their prestigious private art collection, the squatter became father to a generation of its kind, and established itself as a cultural mainstay not just within the university, but the community as a whole.

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Our Crisis: Engineer Considers Options for Houston’s Transportation Future

Eavesdroplet, Southwest, Transportation
Thursday, February 20, 2014
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Houston. (Paul Sableman / Flickr)

Houston. (Paul Sableman / Flickr)

It’s no secret that Houston is going through a growth spurt. The city currently has four central business districts that, if separated, would each be among the country’s top 15 employment centers. In the next 30 years, 3.5 million people are projected to move to the 8-county region, with two million of those concentrated in Harris County.

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Letter to the Editor> Reimagine the Astrodome Competition Sour Grapes

Letter to the Editor, Southwest
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
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(Courtesy HiWorks with Erica Goranson)

(Courtesy HiWorks with Erica Goranson)

[ Editor’s Note: The following is a selection of reader-submitted comments from the online feature about AN’s recent Reimagine the Astrodome competition. It appeared as a letter to the editor in a recent print edition, AN01_02.05.2014_SW. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com]

Three of these are not serious, and the one with merit, the “sky dome” closely resembles a proposal I published over two years ago. Naturally we think that is a great concept, but the devil is in the details.

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Gensler Tower in Houston Becomes One of First in U.S. to Receive LEED V4 Platinum Pre-Certification

Newsletter, Southwest
Monday, January 20, 2014
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The high-performance design includes daylight harvesting, rainwater collecting, and bicycle amenities, among other green features (Courtesy Gensler)

The high-performance design includes daylight harvesting, rainwater collecting, and bicycle amenities, among other green features (Courtesy Gensler)

The Gensler-designed Capitol Tower, a 34-story speculative office building developed by Skanska USA on the site of the former Houston Club in downtown Houston, Texas, has been awarded Platinum Pre-Certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED v4 ranking system. According to a press release put out by Skanska, the project is one of only a handful of in-the-works buildings to earn the distinction under the fourth generation of the LEED system. The company also stated that it wished Capitol Tower to be the greenest building in Houston. The design includes a high-performance facade system, daylight harvesting technology to reduce energy use, 90 percent access to daylight and views for tenants, a garage with daylight occupancy sensors and a green roof, alternative vehicle charging stations, a rainwater collection system, and bicycle amenities to encourage cycle commuting, among other sustainable features.

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On View> “Roads of Arabia” Exhibition on Saudi Arabian Archaeology Opens December 19 in Houston

Art, On View, Southwest
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
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(Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts Houston)

(Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts Houston)

Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston
5601 Main Street
Houston, Texas
December 19 through March 9, 2014

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) is hosting an eye-opening exhibition this winter that will uncover the rich history of the ancient trade routes of the Arabian Peninsula. Organized by the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., in association with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), Roads of Arabia will feature objects recently excavated from more than 10 archaeological sites, and give insight into the culture and economy of this ancient civilization. Recently discovered objects along the trade routes include alabaster bowls and fragile glassware as well as heavy gold earrings and monumental statues. All of the artifacts are testament to the lively exchange between Arabs and their neighbors, including the Egyptians, Syrians, Babylonians, and Greco-Romans.

Houston Voters to Astrodome: Drop Dead (But A Better Plan Is Coming!)

Southwest
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
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Inside the Houston Astrodome in 2005 when it houses Hurricane Katrina survivors. (Kelly Garbato / Flickr)

Inside the Houston Astrodome in 2005 when it houses Hurricane Katrina survivors. (Kelly Garbato / Flickr)

Yesterday, Houston voters killed a $200 million ballot initiative to renovate the unused Astrodome. Fifty-three percent opposed the measure and 47 percent supported it. The plan would have turned the stadium—the first domed and air-conditioned professional stadium—into a multi-use event and convention space. Houston’s professional sports teams now play in Reliant Stadium next door and Minute Made Park in downtown Houston. Without funding for renovation, the dome appears destined for demolition.

Tomorrow, AN will release the results of the “Re-imagine the Astrodome” competition, which includes both pragmatic and visionary ideas for re-using the Space Age structure. To celebrate, join us for coffee and refreshments at the Texas Society of Architects in the Grand Lobby of Fort Worth Convention Center from 10:00-11:00 a.m. We’ll also be launching the inaugural issue of the Southwest edition. Stop by meet AN‘s new Southwest Aaron Seward.

Saturday> Here’s Your Chance to Own a Small Piece of Houston’s Astrodome

Southwest
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
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(Courtesy Texas.713 / Flickr)

(Courtesy Texas.713 / Flickr)

As Harris County voters prepare to make their decision on the fate of Houston’s iconic Astrodome, some lucky locals will have an opportunity to bring home a piece of the historic stadium this Saturday. In preparation for the stadium’s pending rebirth as the “New Dome Experience” (or its possible destruction), the building’s managers are tearing a page out of Minneapolis’ playbook as they put sections of the stadium up for sale.

A limited quantity of seats, genuine sections of AstroTurf, furnishings, concessions equipment, and various memorabilia—including the space helmets worn by the grounds crew for the stadium’s opening 48 years ago—are up for sale at the Astrodome Yard Sale and Live Auction at Houston’s Reliant Center on November 2.

Continue reading after the jump.

Two Polls Indicate the Disposition of Harris County Voters Regarding $217 Million Astrodome Bond Fund

Southwest
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
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The Astrodome during the 1999 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo (Courtesy Gary Hunt/flckr)

The Astrodome during the 1999 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo (Courtesy Gary Hunt/flickr)

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that two recent polls have given clues as to how the denizens of Harris County will vote in the matter of approving $217 million in bonds to fund the reuse of the Astrodome. Previously, the Harris County Commissioners Court set the matter of the bond fund to a November 5 referendum. If voters approve the fund, the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation will be able to proceed with its plans to create a New Dome Experience in time for Superbowl LI in 2017. Harris County property tax will also experience a slight hike to pay for it all. If voters oppose the issue, the Astrodome will in all likelihood meet the wrecking ball. Either way, entrants to AN and YKK AP‘s Reimagine The Astrodome competition will be watching with bated breath.

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Architecture Assemblages in Texas Create Curious Houses

Southwest
Monday, September 23, 2013
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Fifth Ward Jam (Courtesy Ed Schipul / Flickr)

Fifth Ward Jam. 2010. (Ed Schipul / Flickr)

Artists Dan Havel and Dean Ruck of Havel Ruck Projects have garnered attention for some interesting installation pieces in Houston, blurring the lines between art and architecture. Over the last eight years, the collaboration has constructed temporary artworks using old, wooden homes, bizarre shows of simultaneous deconstruction and reconstruction of architecture.

Inversion from 2005 recreates two wood bungalows, donated to the artists by Art League Houston, into a vortex of white wooden planks. In 2010, the Houston Art Alliance sponsored Havel Ruck Projects’s creation of Fifth Ward Jam. A wooden home doomed for refuse in Houston’s 5th Ward became an imaginative community stage of vertically spewed boards.

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