A New Vibe Resonates in Rice Village

HOUSTON – By Cynthia Lescalleet – (Realty News Report) – Structural steel uncovered in the revamp and repurposing of a long-vacant building in the core of Rice Village is one of many signs that the urban shopping district has been busy with its most recent transformation, one bringing a fresh mix of tenants and consumers alike.

The building’s revealed framework, to be featured as the new structure’s exoskeleton for Chinese/American eatery The Rice Box, embodies the endurance exhibited by the eclectic center, which regenerates as decades pass and as trends emerge in shopping, dining and gathering.

In the current reboot affecting Village properties controlled by Rice Management Co., the emerging tenant mix blends “digital native” retailers, meaning ones previously existing only online, companies floating their first Houston location, local ventures establishing a local presence, and national retailers with established cache tying their unique brands to a unique urban environ.

These are among the observations of The Blue Ox Group’s executive vice president, Burdette Huffman, exclusive leasing broker for Rice Village, owned by Rice Management Co.

“Retailers need to reinvent on a consistent basis,” he said. So do retail centers.

New outlets at Rice Village, located just west of Rice University on several blocks near Kirby Drive, will include Navy  Blue, Lily Rain and a coffee place with an Australian vibe.


In shifting the tenant mix over the past three years, Huffman said the “patient capital” of the landlord was key. In other words, RMC/Rice University has a long-term view and commitment. It’s not going anywhere. Rice Management Co. manages the $8.1 billion Rice University endowment, which is not bound by the pursuit of quick quarterly profits.

So while the pandemic-era vacancies were noticeable, the plan was always to elevate and enliven Rice Village, not just fill available space with ordinary retailers and run-of-the-mill restaurants.

Harbingers of what was in the works, Huffman said, was the arrival a year ago of CB2, soon followed by West Elm, both purveyors of home décor targeting Millennial sensibilities.

While restaurants with outdoor spaces and more walkable spaces in general were trends already in play around Houston before Covid hit, the move to indoor-outdoor environments has accelerated both. An example is Hamsa, which opened in May. Its modern Israeli cuisine and cocktails scene incorporates a knockout garden setting front and center.

“Retail is supposed to be exciting” – Burdette Huffman

Similar boosts to streetscape landscaping are part of the placemaking initiatives throughout Rice Village intended to forge a more appealing, greener, walkable setting, Huffman noted. Both dovetail with forging a more active street scene. Visually, that means making storefronts “canvases” to celebrate the brands. “It’s like candy for the human eye,” he said.

Add people. Programming. Pop-ups. “Retail is supposed to be exciting,” Huffman said.

The Village has something hard to fabricate, he noted. It’s an urban setting that evolved over many decades, as with South Congress in Austin, Abbot Kinney Boulevard in L.A., Highland Park Village in Dallas, and even SoHo in New York.


In the weeks ahead, if not already, several previously announced tenants will be opening. Among them:

  • Parachute Home, which over the weekend launched its first Houston brick-and-mortar location. The “LA lifestyle and home brand” of bedding and bath goods occupies a 3,184-SF space.
  • Allbirds, a sustainable shoes and footwear company, in 2,800 SF once home to Just Add Water.

The retail rollout continues come fall with:

  • The Rice Box, 3,824 SF under redevelopment at the southwest corner of Times and Morningside.
  • Vuori, a high-end active living apparel brand, which has taken on 3,036 SF for its first store in Houston
  • Bluestone Lane’s second Houston location, 2,566 SF of “Aussie café culture.”
  • Lily Rain’s first location, a flagship for its Houston-based lifestyle goods, in 2,150 SF.
  • Navy Blue, a highly-anticipated seafood restaurant by Aaron Bluedorn’s team, in 7,142 SF once (and briefly) occupied by pandemic casualty Politan Row food hall.

Aug. 9, 2022 Realty News Report Copyright 2022

File: A New Vibe Resonates in Rice Village

Image: Courtesy:Blue Ox Group


LISTEN: The RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with Ryan LeVasseur of Rice Management


 LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with Cameron Colvill of Whitebox Real Estate

 LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with Carlos Bujosa of Transwestern 

LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with Kris Larson of Central Houston Inc.

LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with Jason Gaines of NAI Partners.

LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with  Mike Spears of Lee & Associates Houston

LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with   Bob Parsley of Colliers  

LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with Michael Scheurich of Arch-Con   

File: A New Vibe Resonates in Rice Village. Blue Ox.

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