HOUSTON – (By Michelle Leigh Smith) – EaDo, on the eastern edge of downtown Houston, is being transformed with new parks and the redevelopment of old industrial properties into residential units and Milliennial-friendly restaurants and bars, an EaDo leader says.
“It’s all moving forward and becoming a great neighborhood,” said Anton Sinkewich, Executive Director of the East Downtown Management District in a speech to CREW Houston, an organization focused on women in the commercial real estate business.
At the CREW meeting, Sinkewich presented the progress on efforts to develop on the five-block park created in the Right-of-Way on Bastrop from Bell to McKinney that is now called the Houston International Promenade.
“We just finished the second phase with a dog park in the ROW and we’ll start phase three in 2018,” he says. We worked with David Addickes to install the massive sculpture of the Beatles. We’ve been incrementally adding to it as the community develops.”
Sinkewich, a 2006 graduate of Rice University, pointed to new residential development like Circuit Apartments at Emancipation and Texas and the Sampson Lofts, at 806 Sampson, recreated in a 1912 warehouse housing unique, true lofts that keep the integrity of the building, preserving the original wood, brickwork and exposed ceilings.
EaDo is working on proposed under-bridge art installations by firms like the SWA Group. He points to the success of businesses like the 8th Wonder Brewery, now in its third expansion and Sigma Brewing Co. “We like to add beer to everything in EaDo,” he joked.
“I am most proud of the sense of community between the new businesses and the residents,” Sinkewich said. “There is a TIRZ No. 15 that is helping the fund infrastructure and streetscape improvements as well as parks.”
On the private side, David Denenburg, 37, shared his painstaking journey to restore and redevelop the abandoned circa 1917 Cheek Neal Coffee Building, a 55,000 SF historic landmark at 2017 Preston that later housed Maxwell House Coffee. Denenburg says he plans to lease the first floor to retail and offer the upper floors for office space, with large floor plates.
He closed on his purchase of the building in July of 2015 and the next day, he found out that TxDOT planned a freeway expansion for I-45 right through the footprint of the Cheek Neal building.
“We moved quickly to have this amazing treasure designated as a historic landmark,” says Denenburg, who also serves on EaDo’s Management District board.
“The ROW (right of way) for the TxDOT 45 freeway expansion project has now moved around our Cheek Neal Coffee Co Building due to the historic nature of our building,” he says.
Denenburg pointed out how he had re-designed and upgraded the panels of the 88 steel windows, now double-paned, energy-efficient, and sound-proof.
“Architects, historians, and the City of Houston told me the windows could never be restored, that they were in far too poor condition,” he says. “They urged me to use aluminum which may last twenty-five years, whereas steel lasts centuries. Look at them now–perfect and as beautiful as they were back in 1917! I worked weekends, bought pipe at cost for $10,000 that would normally have been $150,000. Keeping costs down is key, but I never compromise the quality.”
A tireless preservationist, Denenburg works side by side with a crew of craftsmen, glazing glass, and stripping away the undesirable finishes others added through the years. “I don’t need to go to the gym. On any given day, my FitBit may register 14,000 steps. I’m up and down stairs, running to Home Depot, shoveling sludge out of basements, emerging covered in diesel. It’s non-stop but so fulfilling to see the results.”
The University of Texas Ex expects the gross rates for Cheek Neal to start at a base rate of $33 SF for the second floor; $34 SF for Floors 3 and 4 and $36 SF for Floor 5.
“Our OPEX is lower because we have a Historical Property Tax break for 15 years,” he says.
He’s already working on his next project, the original North American headquarters for Schlumberger at 2720 Leeland built in 1938. “I’m currently restoring it, replicating all 110 windows exactly as they were in 1938,” Denenburg says. “It will be a mix of retail and office space in EaDo.”