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PREVIEW O N LY Copyright Š 2016 by Green Oak Publishing Co. All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the expressed written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. First printing, 2016 ISBN: 978-0-692-77883-8


Thirty-three transformative blocks of downtown Houston

PREVIEW O N LY One of the largest real-estate transactions to ever occur

in the core of a major American city shifted the course of Houston’s history and transformed undervalued land into a modern space in which to live, work, and play.

written by

LORA-MARIE BERNARD + F R A N K S TA AT S graphics by

AU S T I N LOYA + S H E R I DA N S TA AT S photos by

M I K E LO PA M AT M AT


TA B LE O F CONTENTS

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VISIONARY DEVELOPER G E O RG E R . B ROW N , V I S I O N A RY B U S I N E S S M A N A N D LE A D E R George Rufus Brown’s decision to return to

his contract. “He talked me into extending my

Texas after he was severely crushed during

leave of absence another six months and going

a cave-in at a Butte, Montana mine was the

to work on one of these bridges, which I did,”

start of one of the world’s largest construction

the Houstonian said. “When my leave was up

conglomerates. In 1922, George was attending

by that time I was interested in pursuing the

Colorado School of Mines and working for the

construction, so we decided I would resign

Anaconda Copper Company when the twenty-

from Anaconda Copper, and continue to

four-year-old student suffered a fractured

work on these bridge projects that he had in

skull, broken arm and some broken ribs. He

Williamson County.”

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said he “came back to Texas for [his] health.” That was when Herman started the Texas Herman Brown had received a contract to

based road-building company with brother-in-

repair a number of bridges damaged from

law Dan Root. They called the new business

the flood of 1921, George said in a July 1972

Brown and Root. Root was a bachelor who

interview for the federal government and the

funded Herman. Not long after the company

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library. “He had to do

began, Root died and George purchased Root’s

a lot of blasting under water to get the piers

part of the company. The brothers considered

down, and I told him we’d been doing that

changing the name to Brown Brothers but

in Montana.” He said his brother, Herman,

decided Brown and Root was “just as good.”

convinced him to help his older brother with

Statue of George R. Brown in Discovery Green. Photo Credit: Mikelo Pamatmat. 26


Overlooking Discovery Green, facing the front of the park, bisecting the east-west sidewalk and gracing the lawn of The Grove restaurant, stands the statue of George R. Brown. A visitor can miss this majestic testament to one of Houston’s most revered citizens if he or she isn’t paying attention, but the contributions of George Brown should never be overlooked. He is the namesake of the downtown convention center, but city leaders often hear the question:

“ WHO WAS G E ORG E R. B ROWN? ”

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B ROW N A N D RO OT PROJ E C T TI M E LI N E 1940, Awarded contract for the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas.

1919, Brothers George

Brown and Root emerged

and Herman Brown

from WWII as a major USA

partnered with brother-

Construction & Engineering

in-law Dan Root to

Company. They continued

create their Texas-based

expanding their scope and

construction company.

magnitude of projects.

1930s, Built the Mansfield

1950, Built Rice Stadium,

Dam, Colorado River,

Houston, Texas.

Austin, Texas.

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1942, Formed Brown Shipyard Co., which built 359 combat ships, twelve pursuit craft, 307 landing craft, thirty-six rocket-firing boats, and four salvage boats.

P H O T O C R E D I T S I N C H RO N O L O G I C A L O R D E R 1 . The Brown Brothers built Mansfield Dam along the Colorado River during the 1930s. Photo Credit: Cubby T. Bear via Flickr under Creative Commons License. 2 . Civil service employees leave the Assembly and Repair Shop at the naval air base in Corpus, Christi. Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection rep. number: LC-USE6-D-007396. 3 . The Brown Shipyard. Photo Credit: Litterst Commercial Photo Co. at Rice University via Creative Commons License. 4 . Rice Stadium was the location for President John F. Kennedy’s space flight speech in 1962. Photo Credit: Faungg’s Photos via Flickr under Creative Commons License.

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1967, Formed Texas Eastern Transmission Co., and purchased the Big Inch and Little Inch Pipelines from the government.

1970s, The acquisition of thirtytwo blocks, master-planning, and first construction of Houston Center.

1950s, Petroleum, petrochemical, and chemical industry projects were added to their portfolio.

Late 1960s, Texas Eastern

1998, B&R merged with

relocated B&R from

M.W. Kellogg creating

Shreveport to Houston and

KBR, one of the world’s

initiated their investment in

premier engineering

Houston real-estate.

and construction firms.

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1962, Awarded the planning contract for the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston.

5 . NASA Apollo 13 flight director, Eugene Kranz speaks to astronaut Fred W. Haise Jr. during a televised segment on April 12, 1970 in the manned spacecraft center. Photo Credit: NASA on the Commons via Flickr. 6 . Pennsylvania section of the war emergency twenty-four inch pipeline to carry oil from Texas fields to eastern refineries, completed in July 1943. Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection rep. number: LC-USW3-014956-D. 7 . Rendering from William Pereira’s Master Plan.

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W I L L I A M P E R E I R A’ S MASTER PLAN TH I RT Y-TH R E E B LO C KS , N OW W H AT ? Texas Eastern’s thirty-three continuous blocks

George Brown and Baxter Goodrich began

featured a collection of rough, light-density

plans to build a “city within the city.” They

development. It was prime for reclamation.

drew inspiration from Rockefeller Center

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in Manhattan, which was the nation’s only

The site encompassed roughly eight and one-

visionary private urban development at the

half blocks in length and four blocks in width.

time. They envisioned a large scale, high-

It constituted 2,000,000 square feet or forty-six

quality, innovative development, made possible

acres of land area. With the air space above the

by multi-block planning and the use of air space

streets, the total site area constituted 3,210,000

over the streets. To accomplish this, they sought

square feet or about seventy-four acres.

out a true urban planner: William Pereira.

The eastern boundary of the site is adjacent to

In 1971, Pereira created a plan for the integrated

the elevated freeway that encircles Houston’s

environment Texas Eastern wanted. Houston

central business district. The western limit

Center contained office, retail, and residential

ends at Fannin Street, one block from Main

properties. With Pereira, they decided to

Street. The City of Houston pinpoints the

reenergize the decaying inner city with private

center of downtown Houston to be just south of

capital. Shortly after its reveal, Goodrich

McKinney and Main. McKinney is the east–west

announced, “Our master plan envisions a City of

street that bisects the site area, a relationship

the Future in which people can work and live in

that emphasizes the strategic importance of the

uncongested and beautiful surroundings. It may

area. Texas Eastern had a blank canvas to create

well prove to be a prototype of what is to come

a central business core they imagined.

for other cities.”

Early rendering for Houston Center. Photo Credit: William Pereira’s Master Plan. 42


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PREVIEW O N LY 5 , 0 0 0 A PA R T M E N T U N I T S 1 ,500 HOTE L ROOMS 1 4 M I L L I O N S F O F F I C E S PAC E 1 . 5 M I L L I O N S F R E TA I L

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PEOPLE MOVE RS PEDESTRIAN PLAZAS LOOP ROAD

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2 HOUSTON CENTER

TH E GATE WAY TO H O U S TO N C E NTE R 2 Houston Center was constructed on the

the buildings, meeting rooms, seating areas,

property that Texas Eastern lost its first

and public spaces.

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attempt to enter the real estate game.

2 Houston Center was built on the old

The structure of the P-2 level was designed to

Rossonian property two years after Baxter

support the people-mover, with trams moving

Goodrich made his bold statement that

along the X-bracing. Another element that

Houston Center would become a template

remains from Pereira’s master plan is the

for the nation’s cities. The forty-story,

patio space on this level that connects 1 and 2

1,024,000-square-foot tower was completed

Houston Center over San Jacinto Street. His plan

in 1974.

included two decorative exhaust stacks on the patio that enclosed large wind turbines to draw

The architects for the flagship building

car exhaust from the enclosed roadway below

were Pierce Goodwin Flanagan and William

to keep the air quality clean for pedestrians.

Pereira. The general contractor was W.S.

The turbines were cutting-edge because clean

Bellows. The structural and civil engineer

air was a novel concept in the 1970s. A large

was Walter P Moore. Pereira intended for 2

inflatable Santa Claus was positioned in one

Houston Center to be the heart of the “city

of the stacks over the holidays and became a

within a city.” Features included a tram

Houston Center fixture during the 1990s. The

people-mover with a stop on the second level,

decorative stacks and fans were removed in 2010

known as P-2. Today’s P-level designations

during a patio renovation.

are remnants from the Pereira master plan. They referred to “pedestrian levels” that were

Several levels of the building extend across

intended for retail activity. P levels were

Fannin Street to connect it with 1 Houston

designed as common-area connectors among

Center. They include the X-bracing where the

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2 Houston Center main entrance from Fannin Street. Photo Credit: Mikelo Pamatmat.


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LY O N D E L L B A S E L L TOWER TH E FO R M E R 1 H O U S TO N C E NTE R A N D TE X A S E A S TE R N Opened in 1978, the building known originally as

quick getaway to a heliport on the building’s

1 Houston Center has forty-six floors with Class

roof. The heliport was removed from the rooftop

A office space. It is at the 1200 block of McKinney

in the 1990s. The executives also had a separate

Street. The 678-foot-tall building was developed

parking area on the B-2 level of the garage that

by Texas Eastern. The architect was Caudill

was referred to as the “Bat Cave.” The garage

Rowlett Scott. The general contractor was W.S.

door automatically opened when executives

Bellows. The structural engineer was Walter

arrived and quickly closed behind them. An

P Moore. The building lobby is clad in a rich

express elevator awaited their arrival and

Minnesota pink granite.

whisked them quickly to the executive suites

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on level forty-six. These security measures The building was designed as the corporate

addressed the threats made against industry

headquarters for Texas Eastern. 2 Houston Center

executives almost half a century ago. Texas

was built first because the company intended to

Eastern leased 600,000 square feet at 1 Houston

use 1 Houston Center as their corporate address.

Center and an additional 300,000 square feet at

The executive offices for Texas Eastern were on

4 Houston Center. The firm moved out of both 1

level forty-six. The Energy Crisis of the late 1970s

and 4 Houston Center with the sale of Houston

led Texas Eastern to incorporate extraordinary

Center to JMB Realty in 1989. Today, Crystal

security precautions. The wall covering

Molinar with CBRE is the senior real estate

masked a hidden door that opened into a secret

manager and Paul Dudkowski is the senior chief

passageway and to a stairwell. The route was a

engineer at the property.

LyondellBasell Tower with skybridge to The Shops at Houston Center. Photo Credit: Mikelo Pamatmat. 70


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GEORGE R. BROWN CONVENTION CENTER

A N I S L A N D O N TH E E A S TE R N E D G E O F D OW NTOW N In 1986, the neighborhood surrounding the

lobbied City Hall and city leaders to build

proposed site for the new convention center

the new convention center on the east side

showed an island on the eastern edge of

of downtown, six blocks from the nearest

downtown. No major buildings graced the

office building. The convention center at the

immediate vicinity and not much green space

time, Albert Thomas Convention Center, was

colored the landscape. Surface parking lots

located on the west side of downtown, where

ruled. It would be years before Minute Maid

the majority of hotels and office buildings

Park, the Hilton Americas, Toyota Center, and

were located. George’s Texas Eastern donated

other downtown projects would come on board.

six of the eleven blocks required to build

Clearly, the George R. Brown Convention Center

Houston’s sparkling new red-white-and-blue

(GRB) was the impetus for new development

convention center and agreed to build green

of the east side of downtown Houston.

space to connect the convention center back

Today, Discovery Green, Houston Pavilions,

to Houston Center.

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One Park Place, Marriott Marquis, and other buildings are scheduled to add another layer

The original facility, which is owned and

of landmarks near the downtown convention

operated by the City of Houston, was

center. Together, they will create the focal point

completed on time and under budget with

of downtown Houston.

a price tag of $104.9 million. Construction required thirty months with more than 1,200

The center was named for the late Houston

workers on site. The sale of bonds, to be repaid

entrepreneur, civic leader, and philanthropist

by the hotel occupancy tax, spared local

George Brown. George and Texas Eastern

taxpayers any new burden.

View of the George R. Brown Convention Center from the grassy hills at Discovery Green. Photo Credit: Mikelo Pamatmat. 122


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FAC TS Location

1001 Avenida De Las Americas

Developer

City of Houston

Previously

Pillot Residence, Salvation Army, Norman Scott Volkswagen, + Chinese Baptist Church

Completed

1987

Cost

$104.9 million

Size

(Expanded to) 1,900,000 sf

Type

Convention Center

Rooms

88 meeting rooms

Dining

The Grotto, Pappadeaux’s, Bud Pitmaster’s BBQ , Kulture, McAlister’s Deli

Hotel Architect Contractor Fact

Hilton Americas (added 2003) + Marriott Marquis (added 2016) Golemon & Bolullo Architects Gilbane Building Company

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The GRB is the only convention center in Texas to have two anchor hotels

The finished building was opened on the east

of meeting and trade show professionals who

side of downtown Houston amid great civic

helped in planning the new center’s state-of-the-

celebration on Sept. 26, 1987. The public fanfare

art details. The general contractor was Gilbane

included a parade, music festival, aerial artwork,

and Charles Staffa of Texas Eastern was the

red-carpet tours, and a ribbon-cutting by Mayor

project manager.

Kathryn Whitmire. A spectacular fireworks show capped the unveiling.

The first convention held in the GRB was the American Society of Travel Agents beginning

The futuristic-looking new convention center

on Oct. 11, 1987. The major events over the years

was designed by a consortium of Houston

have included the 1992 National Republican

architects and engineers to symbolize the

Convention, the Smithsonian Institution’s

building’s devotion to function, according to

Traveling Exhibition in 1996–1997, the World

chief designer Mario Bolullo of Golemon &

Energy Congress in 1999, the World Space

Bolullo Architects. “I designed it to reflect the

Congress in 2002, the NFL Experience as part of

city’s futuristic attitude, from technology at

Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, and fan festivals

NASA to research at the Texas Medical Center

that were part of Major League Baseball’s and the

to the offshore drilling rigs,” Bolullo said.

NBA’s All-Star Games in 2004 and 2006.

Architects were aided by an advisory committee

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George R. Brown Convention Center initial construction. Photo Credit: Houston First.

George R. Brown Convention Center after completion in 1987. Photo Credit: Houston First.

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“I designed it to reflect the city’s

futuristic attitude, from technology at NASA to research at the Texas Medical Center to the offshore drilling rigs,” Bolullo said.

George R. Brown Convention Center just after its third expansion in 2016. Rendering by SWA. Photo Credit: Houston First.

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DISCOVERY GREEN

H O U S TO N ’ S D OW NTOW N PA R K Today, Discovery Green is the center of bustling

In 2002, the City of Houston, under the

activity with children squealing with delight

leadership of Mayor Bill White, purchased

as they rush through dancing fountains that

a portion of the property and found it had

jettison water fourteen feet into the air. Mounds

significant environmental issues that impeded

of grass create impromptu picnic areas for

future development. Undaunted, the city

families and couples. An outdoor stage directly

acquired the rest of the property in 2004 and

in front of them provides free evenings of

made an application with the Texas Commission

entertainment with local to national acts. It can

on Environmental Quality to clean it up. State

be transformed into a giant movie screen at will.

environmentalists cleaned the groundwater

A premier green restaurant, The Grove, provides

by injecting microorganisms that break down

high quality, modern dining. In the winter, the

contaminants and restore the water. When the

park pond activities transition from kayaking

clean up was finished the dingy green space was

to an ice-skating rink so every Houstonian can

targeted for redevelopment.

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imagine himself in a triple Salchow. The vast lawn provides the foundation for the city’s

City leadership took on the initiative and found

largest festivals and gatherings all year round.

support from the Brown Foundation, the Kinder Foundation, the Wortham Foundation, and

An occasional glance will reveal interactive “fun

the Houston Endowment. The Discovery Green

spots” such as a whisper tunnel or a walkway

Conservancy, a private non-profit partnership

with the names of donors who supported the

between local businesses, the City of Houston,

public-private partnership that made Discovery

and several foundations, was created to raise

Green a raging success.

funds, operate, maintain, and program the park.

The lawn at Discovery Green with festival booths along the White Promenade and views of the Houston Center skyline. Photo Credit: Mikelo Pamatmat. 138


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FAC TS Location

1500 McKinney Street

Developer

The Discovery Green Conservancy

Previously

The SuperBlock

Completed

2008

Cost

$125 Million

Size

11.78 Acres

Type

Urban Park

Rooms Event Dining Retail

11 gardens + 4 water features 2 outdoor areas + stage The Grove + The Lakehouse 2 outdoor market areas

Lead Architect

Hargreaves Associates

Sustainability

LEED Gold

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The conservatory was instrumental in the

and engineers created a thoroughly enjoyable

early phases of visioning, fundraising, and the

experience right in the middle of downtown

design process. Guy Hagstette was selected

by keeping the community vision and

to be the project manager to oversee the

experiences at the forefront of their designs.

development of the new park.

The variety of design elements reflects the community’s diverse interests.

The Houston City Council used Project in Public Places (PPS) to spur a community-

The twelve-acre premier park was opened

wide effort to plan the park. The innovative

in 2008. The Discovery Green Conservancy

organization includes the Placemaking

released a statement that said, “Discovery

program that leads communities to reimagine

Green’s mission is to operate an urban park

under-used spaces into sustainable sites that

that serves as a village green, a source of

benefit residents. The program even included

health and happiness for our citizens, and a

a public contest to name the park.

window into the diverse talents and traditions that enrich life in Houston.”

Following the visioning workshops PPS helped implement, San Francisco-based Hargreaves

The park continues to meet that mission

Associates was selected to coordinate the

and impress outsiders. It is considered

design team. Landscape architects, architects,

one of the first projects that pivoted

water feature and playground specialists,

Houston from an oil boomtown to a major

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Artwalls titled ‘The Synchronicity of Color’ by Margo Sawyer conceal access to parking below ground. Photo Credit: Mikelo Pamatmat.

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Park-goers enjoy refreshments at Discovery Green’s casual restaurant, The Lakehouse. Photo Credit: Mikelo Pamatmat.

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