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Greater Houston Preservation Alliance Announces Good Brick Award Winners

January 22, 2011 -- Greater Houston Preservation Alliance will again showcase outstanding preservation projects and the people who make them when it presents the 2011 Good Brick Awards during The Cornerstone Dinner on Friday, February 4. This year, 15 projects were chosen to receive awards from almost three dozen nominations.

A jury of design and preservation professionals, former Good Brick Award winners and community leaders selected the recipients. GHPA board member and former Houston Chronicle home design editor Madeleine McDermott Hamm chaired the jury.

Houston Parks & Recreation Department is also sharing an award with Houston Downtown Management District and the Downtown Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ #3 for redeveloping Market Square Park, the site of City Hall for the first century of Houston’s existence. The park includes Lauren’s Garden, a memorial to those killed on September 11, 2001, funded by the Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas Foundation.

During the Cornerstone Dinner, the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects will also present its 25 Year Award and 50 Year Award for outstanding architecture of lasting value. The 25 Year Award will go to RepublicBank Center (now Bank of America Center) from 1983 by Johnson/Burgee Architects and Kendall/Heaton Associates. MacKie & Kamrath’s Humble Research Center (now Exxon Research Center), completed in 1954, will receive the 50 Year Award.


Remembering 9/11: Victim's Legacy Grows at Lauren's Garden in Houston

September, 11, 2010 -- Her voice remains on the answering machine where she left it nine years ago, a window into the final moments on a flight that none on board would survive. 

In a calm, collected voice, Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas told her husband, Jack Grandcolas, that she loved him and that "there was just a little problem." 

It was the kind of message that might be left by someone caught in traffic on her way home from work, not someone aboard a hijacked plane on Sept. 11, 2001, said Grandcolas, who met and fell in love with his wife while they were students at the University of Texas.

"I never heard the phone call," said Grandcolas, who was still asleep at home in San Rafael, Calif., when his wife called and left the message before allowing another passenger on United 93 to use her cell phone.

He doesn't listen to it often and has rarely allowed others to replay or hear her final recorded words ("It's just too painful," Grandcolas says), but he has saved it on a DVD and kept the original answering machine along with other of her belongings.

The pain of losing Lauren has been part of an ongoing post-9/11 struggle for those she left behind, many of whom will be at Houston's newly redesigned and reopened Market Square Park today for a dedication ceremony in her honor. Lauren graduated from Stratford High School in Houston.

Building on her memory

Her parents, Houstonians Larry and Barbara Catuzzi, surveyed the downtown park's Lauren's Garden memorial Friday, their daughter's death still on their minds.

"It's not a thing that's going to leave," Barbara Catuzzi said. "We have it every day."

Nine years after the attacks, in which 19 hijackers took the lives of 2,996 people, emotions for the relatives of Sept. 11 victims have ranged from the shock of disbelief to the grief of loss to the tensions surrounding the proposed Park 51 community center near Ground Zero.

Most substantial for Grandcolas and the Catuzzis, however, has been the turn in their lives as survivors of 9/11 victims.

"Early on, it was such a public tragedy that we ourselves didn't want to go to social events or weddings, because it was a downer. … People would say, 'Oh, you're the one who lost her daughter,' " Barbara Catuzzi said.

But she, her husband and Grandcolas quickly attempted to build upon Lauren's memory, establishing a foundation in her name and repeating her story to others.

They continue to speak of her love and strength, which may have been epitomized when she and other passengers aboard United 93 decided to wrest control of the jetliner from hijackers.

The foundation worked with the city of Houston to incorporate the garden into Market Square Park, which reopened last month.

Grandcolas said Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, Calif., named a birthing room after Lauren, who was 38 and three months pregnant at the time of her death.

"Obviously, Lauren may have given birth right at that hospital," Grandcolas said of Marin General, "so we thought it was the first and maybe the most appropriate place to have dedicated to her."

While the Catuzzis will be at today's dedication, Grandcolas decided not to come.

"I stay very quiet and solemn" on Sept. 11, he said.

He instead may visit Marin General. "Sometimes I stop by just to see how many babies were born this year in the room," he said.  By ZAIN SHAUK, HOUSTON CHRONICLE


Feathers and Fur" Film Screening with Aurora Picture Show 

March 29, 2011 -- Aurora Picture Show presents "Feathers and Fur", an evening of artist-made short films dedicated to the pets we love, at Market Square Park (301 Milam St., Houston, TX 77002) on Saturday, April 16 at 8PM. In partnership with Houston Downtown Management District, Aurora Picture Show and the Houston Humane Society invite Houstonians and their dogs to join us for a free film day of activities and an outdoor screening.  Starting at 4PM, the Houston Humane Society will host activities, including Frisbee demonstrations and pet vendor booths.

Showcasing short films from a diverse group of artists, the screening will feature filmmakers such as Bill Plympton and William Wegman. Director Bill Plympton is an American animator who recognized for his short films about dogs, including the Oscar-nominated Guard Dog.  Aurora will screen two films from his collection, including Guide Dog (a sequel to the Oscar nominated short) and Hot Dog (the second sequel).  In addition to works by Plympton, Aurora will host a selection of short works from William Wegman, a pioneer in the fields of moving image, performance, best known for his works with Weimaraner dogs.  The selection of Wegman works will include Milk/Floor, Dog Duet, Spelling Lesson, and Growl.

In addition to booths and demonstrations, the Houston Humane Society will have pets available for adoption from Diamond in the Ruff dogs, as well as trainers on-site to give tips to owners.  Diamond in the Ruff dogs are long-time residents who have graduated from a 4-week basic obedience training program, making them the perfect dog for adoption. Each dog will be spayed/neutered, micro-chipped, current on shots, tested for heartworms, and will receive 30 days of free pet insurance.

Market Square Park in Houston's Historic District Now Open

August 28, 2010 -- Market Square Park, the original heart of community activity in downtown Houston, is once again the place to be. Combining live entertainment, tasty temptations by Niko Niko’s, shady walkways and a dog run to rival all dog runs, Market Square Park will be reminiscent of another era where neighbors gather and enjoy the space they call home.
Officially opened on August 28 to live entertainment and fun activities for adults, kids and pampered pooches, Market Square Park isn’t your average community park. With the addition of a window-service style Niko Niko’s, park-goers can enjoy their favorite Greek food and sit outdoors nestled in the shade or take to the lawn for picnic-style casual dining.
The park will truly be a feast for the senses. As well as an onsite café, free live concerts in collaboration with the non-profit The Houston Sound are planned for the fall. Neighbors near and far are encouraged to soak-up the atmosphere of live music filling the streets of historic downtown Houston.
The public art on display is a vital component of the redesign, with some of the most unique pieces created by local and national artists. The park’s rich past is illuminated by Richard Turner’s repurposed and scattered pieces of demolished downtown buildings and the hand-painted ceramic tiles by Malou Flato, which evokes the feel of Market Square in the late 19th and early 20th century. Points of View, a painted steel and wood sculpture by James Surles stands above a gentle water feature and anchors the new cafe.
“Market Square Park is steeped in history,” said Bob Eury, executive director of Downtown District. “So it was only natural that the goals of the redesigned Market Square Park were to acknowledge this history while creating an active, urban green space that could meet the needs of a diverse neighborhood and also conserving and incorporating unique works of art.”
In the 1900s, Market Square was the site of the original City Hall. In keeping with preserving part of the city’s past, visitors can follow a granite band through the park for a tour around the footprint of City Hall’s foundation. A lush green lawn sits at the foundation’s center.
The north end of the lawn is dedicated to Lauren’s Garden, a tranquil garden setting created in memory of Houstonian Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 and all those lost on September 11. A gift to the City by the Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas Foundation, this area is also home to Ketria Bastian Scott’s cast-bronze sculpture with two vine-like tendrils growing from the fountain reaching toward each other and a young tendril emerging. This is a quiet place for reflection and meditation.
To create a truly diverse park that can accommodate a growing and diverse community, many great minds came together. Lauren Griffith Associates, a Houston-based landscape architect, Ray + Hollington Architects and Tribble & Stephens all consulted on the project and designed a park that was in keeping with history and embracing of the future.

Houston Icon Niko Niko's Expands with New Market Square Park Location

April 12, 2010 – The Houston Downtown Management District has signed a deal with Niko Niko’s Greek & American Café – an iconic staple of Montrose dining – to expand for the first time in its 30+ year history with a new restaurant kiosk located in the soon-to-be-completed Market Square Park redevelopment in the heart of Houston’s Historic District.  Slated to debut in time for the park’s opening, Niko Niko’s will reach back to its roots with a sidewalk café-style restaurant reminiscent of the original walk-up window shop opened on Montrose Boulevard in 1977 (the building itself has since undergone several remodels and expansions). With the piers for both the café and dog run having been poured and construction well under way on the other elements of the park, Market Square Park remains on schedule to take a late summer bow.

“Niko Niko’s is a great fit for Market Square Park,” says owner Dimitrios Fetokakis of the deal. “We’re honored that we’re right in the middle of the [Historic District’s] transformation, especially with the history of the site.  Anything we can do for Houston – because its done so much for us – we’ll do it. Everybody knows that we don’t expand quickly.  For our company, this is right.”

Fetokakis’ enthusiasm is shared by Downtown District leadership. “Niko Niko’s was the best choice for Market Square Park.,” says Angie Bertinot, Director of Marketing and Communications for Downtown District. “We wanted a café operator who would not only interact with the neighborhood, but also be a draw for people living outside of downtown. They are a strong brand, but more importantly serve up amazing food and provide customer service second to none. We are thrilled to have another foodie icon in the Historic District’s Market Square.” Niko Niko’s will join favorites Treebeards and Les Givral’s Kahve along with neighborhood newbie Hearsay Gastro Lounge.

Having declined opportunities to expand for decades, Fetokakis recognized the redesigned neighborhood urban green space as the perfect opportunity. “We’ve always thought about expanding,” he says. “And at 375-square-feet, we can grow the Market Square project with complete control and without jeopardizing quality. We’ve always drawn a lot of business from downtown, and this will create additional capacity for catering and corporate delivery.”

A pared down version of the flagship store’s menu will focus on to-go foods perfect for neighborhood residents and on-the-move business folk; breakfast selections; and European café-style coffee, espresso, frappes and desserts. Favorites like Niko Niko’s famous gyro sandwiches, shish kabobs, hummus and chicken avgolemono soup are making the trek downtown.  They will also offer packaging for picnics in the park.

For the first time ever (and only at the Market Square Park location) Niko Niko’s will serve a Greek themed breakfast with fresh Greek yogurts and honeys, cheese pies, egg pitas, and bougatsa – a custard-filled pastry with powdered sugar.  Niko Niko’s at Market Square Park will also have a selection of imported, domestic and local beer and wine. For more information, please visit

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301 Milam Houston, Texas 77002 | Open Daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.