Though the Houston Club itself may be historically significant, Skanska representatives argue that its former home at 811 Rusk Street — a building constructed specifically by business mogul Jesse Jones for the club — is functionally obsolete.
When the Swedish construction company purchased the property in 2011, its development team looked into different options for the structure.
"The column spacing is too tight and the walls are too deep for adequate sunlight," Mike Mair, executive vice president and regional manager of the Houston office, told CultureMap. It was ultimately decided that they would tear down and start anew on a Class A office building.
Skanska is working with the Houston office of Gensler on the design for the tentatively-named "Capitol Tower," which is still in the planning phases. (No construction timeline has been set.)
Among the major proposed changes? The building will be fronted along Capitol rather than Rusk, an improvement that will ease traffic flow for those entering downtown from the north, and its facade will be distinguished by LED-lined light boxes.
Plus, the underground tunnel (there are connections on all sides of the block, which is bounded by Capitol, Milam, Rusk and Travis) will be energized on the street level with a two-level plaza filled with restaurants, retail, amenities for office tenants and an inviting common area.
"We hope it will create what we call 'unintended points of intersection,'" explained Mair, who envisions friends and coworkers enjoying a cup of coffee on the wide steps or eating lunch in the cafe seats.
The plaza will open to the north side, where the orientation of the JPMorgan Chase Tower allows for maximum daylight. METRO's East End and Southeast light rail lines are currently under construction along Capitol and Rusk, making it a prime spot to take advantage of mass transit.
Mair projects that corporate relocation to downtown Houston will remain on the rise for decades to come, and Skanska is planning accordingly with this 700,000-square-foot concept, offering 24 floors of office space above a 10-story parking garage.
"We hope to be a great addition to the neighborhood," he says.
Interior demolition will begin in June on the former Houston Club building. Skanska aims to divert as much waste material as possible to the recycling stream and apply for LEED certification in the construction process.