Monday, August 07, 2006

Mixed-Use Development Coming to Houston



 

Jennifer Dawson

A hip and trendy new mixed-used development is getting a mixed reception in a unique shopping and entertainment district dating back to the 1930s.

Rice Village is slated for its first new urban development project in more than 10 years.

Lamesa Properties Ltd., one of the largest property owners in the area, plans to develop midrise condominiums with offices over street-level retail space.

Lamesa estimates the project cost at more than $100 million.

Plans call for demolition of roughly four acres occupied by old buildings with tenants such as Walgreens and Nit Noi restaurant.

Lamesa also wants to seal off a segment of Bolsover Street to create a public market setting where residents, office employees and shoppers can congregate.

The proposed project and street shutdown is a subject of debate among members of civic clubs active in the Rice Village area.

The City of Houston will have the final say on whether the development stretches across part of the thoroughfare.

Lamesa has owned most of the four-acre tract for three decades, and put the complete package together by acquiring other bits and pieces over the past five years.

Real estate broker Jeff Peden with Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc. says the land price would probably be "off the charts" if bought today.

Peden estimates Village land might go for $70 to $80 per square foot, putting the value of four acres at $12.2 million to $14 million.

"That land is so highly sought after," Peden says. "Plenty of developers would love to put in office, retail, residential. The demographics are so good."

The median household income within one mile of the project was $104,006 in 2005, according to Lamesa.

Those deep-pocketed shoppers are loyal to the Village, which originally was established to cater to Rice University students, and now has more than 300 shops and dozens of restaurants in a 16-block area.

It takes a village

Lamesa's development site is just north of Rice Village proper in an area bounded by Morningside, Dunstan, Kelvin and Rice.

Residents in some civic clubs are making an effort to keep Bolsover open to traffic. A petition with at least 75 names will be presented to the Public Works Department opposing a city sale of the street's right-of-way to Lamesa.

Other civic clubs have voted in favor of the deal. On July 10, the Southampton Civic Club board voted to send a letter of conditional approval of the project to the city, as long as Lamesa sticks to the current development plan.

Some residents contend the project's height clashes with the Village character and hope the development fails to get off the ground.

Preliminary plans include buildings taller than existing structures in the pedestrian-friendly shopping mecca.

Prolific condo developer Randall Davis is consulting with Lamesa on the residential section, which will be six or seven stories high with 250 units and underground parking.

Sources say participation of Davis, a high-quality product and proximity to Rice University and the Texas Medical Center mean that Lamesa probably won't have a problem moving the residential units.

Blake Tartt III, a retail broker not involved with the project, says Lamesa also won't have trouble filling the 100,000 square feet of retail in the works.

"There's a tremendous pent-up demand from national retailers and restaurateurs to get into the Village," says Tartt, president of New Regional Planning Inc.

Julie Tysor, an area resident and Lamesa's point person on the new project, wants to attract a boutique grocery store, a few restaurants and high-end soft goods retail tenants that would complement current retailers in the Village.

"The Village is ripe for some redevelopment," says Tysor. "You can look at that site and see that it needs to be something other than what it is."

A moving study

The project will be built in two phases, with first-phase construction slated to begin as soon as early 2007.

Each phase will take 18 months to build and include residential, office and retail components.

Robert Williams, a resident of Southampton Place, is concerned the higher density will make already bad traffic congestion even worse.

Williams says a traffic study used by the city to evaluate the project was arranged and funded by Lamesa.

He says the study was conducted after Lamesa stopped renewing leases on company properties in the area. Lamesa's Tysor says the move-out began two years ago in anticipation of this deal.

Williams is also concerned that the project will have inadequate parking.

"They have an urbanization vision, which is fine," Williams says. "But I don't think appropriate for the Village. It's way out of character."

A successful project will generate more traffic, says retail broker Tartt, but it just comes with the territory.

"Any time you add that amount of density, you're going to add traffic," says Tartt. "It's just part of what's happening in Houston."

Les Appelt's Lamesa

. A brokerage firm launched by Les Appelt in 1949 changed names over the years and operates today as Colliers International.
. In the early 1970s, Appelt formed Lamesa Properties Ltd., an entity of roughly 40 limited partners with a portfolio of assets inside the 610 Loop. Lamesa Corp., the general partner, is owned by the Appelt family.
. Appelt also founded the Appelt Co., the management company for Lamesa Properties. Appelt Co. is now owned by Julie Tysor and Gary Clayton, the firm's chief financial officer.
. Tysor carries the titles of vice president of Appelt Co.; vice president of Lamesa Corp.; vice president of Colliers International, where she does a limited amount of brokerage work; and president of the University Place Association, a "super neighborhood" created by the City of Houston that encompasses several civic associations in the Rice University area.
. Appelt lives in Bastrop and is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations.

Lamesa's Building Blueprint

. 250 residential condominiums for sale, designed by Randall Davis Co.
. 100,000 square feet of retail space
. 50,000 square feet of office space
. Village square-type plaza in center
. Underground parking for residents
. Commercial properties designed by Ziegler Cooper Architects


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