Decorative Center Houston: The Intersection of Office Space and Creativity

HOUSTON – (By Cynthia Lescalleet for Realty News Report) – Creative office space has always had a literal meaning at Decorative Center Houston, where luxury lifestyle showrooms and design resources flank a modern, glass-skin office tower known for its telescoping rotunda and artsy lobby amenities.

Over the years, that deliberate juxtaposition of usage lent itself to a complementary tenant mix, as design and architecture firms, creative agencies and cultural organizations buoyed and benefited from showroom proximity — and vice versa, said Stephen Fredericks, national leasing director at Manhattan-based Cohen Brothers Realty Corp., which purchased the property in 2000.

Over time, a fair number of small philanthropic organizations and family-run ventures have also been in the “symbiotic” fusion, he said.

Decorative Center Houston sits on seven acres at the intersection of Woodway and Sage. It is one of four Cohen Design Centers owned by the real estate organization led by Charles S. Cohen, who is an accomplished film producer. (His firm’s films include the 2017 Academy Award Winner The Salesman.)

Other Cohen Design Centersinclude New York’s Decoration & Design Building, Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, and Design Center of the Americas, located north of Miami in Dania Beach, Florida.

Recently, Colliers International was awarded the leasing assignment for the 10-story, 500,000 SF tower, which looks over Uptown Houston’s skyline and several of the city’s tony neighborhoods, such as Memorial and Tanglewood.

Colliers Re-Introduces the Tower

Blake Virgilio, vice president, Colliers Agency Leasing Group, said the property’s office building was ready for “reintroduction” in its submarket. “It had fallen off the radar,” he said, pegging current occupancy at 80 percent.

The rotunda at Decorative Center Houston.
The rotunda at the Decorative Center Houston. Photo: CALpix.

Virgilio is a fan of the property’s unique features; he appreciates how the building isn’t another “Lego set” structure, as found in much of Houston’s commercial districts. The site’s reflection pool approach and interior rotunda are its most notable features, he said.

Also helping set it apart is the 24/7 HVAC, which is good for the furnishings inventory as well as the expansive common spaces used for events and exhibitions. The restaurant Roots Café occupies a sizeable presence off the lobby.

Trammell Crow Co. developed the initial property in the mid-‘80s. Over time, the surrounding area has become more densely developed and commercially entwined. Decorative Center Houston itself has quadrupled its original size and updated its components repeatedly.

“We never stop doing,” Fredericks said of Cohen’s attention to the Houston asset.

The property’s design-centric ethos makes tending it especially important, he said. As with the fashion industry, design trends are always evolving and “quickly become dated.” While buildings can’t be updated weekly, they can be tweaked, he said, citing such examples as the center’s terrazzo flooring in the lobby, marble-clad entry, and fountain in the extended reflection pool.

The surface parking lot and its landscaping are next up for a redo, he said.

A former tenant, the CultureMap online lifestyle magazine, had its offices at Decorative Center Houston for several years. Clifford Pugh, the publication’s former editor-in-chief, recalled the building as nicely maintained — “although it couldn’t seem to shake off its ‘80s vibe.” The lobby reminded him of “the hull of a ship,” with an open atrium anchored by restaurant space.

There’s plenty of parking, he said, but area traffic can snarl departures late in the work day. “Of course, that was pre-Covid,” Pugh quipped in his emailed comment.

Showcasing Style 

Colliers’ leasing scope does not include the property’s 80,000 SF of showroom space. Fredericks, Cohen’s chief of national leasing, has been closely overseeing the Houston showroom for 20-plus years.

And showrooms are evolving rapidly. Among the trends: smaller showrooms as design resources respond to shifts in shopping, even at the highest end. One outcome of that downsizing, however, is there’s room for more vendors – and the client traffic they generate, he said.

“The demise of the showroom model has not come to pass,” Fredericks said. But that doesn’t mean showrooms haven’t changed up their appearance and merchandising approach, such as shifting to luxury lifestyle vignettes rather than strictly resource materials.

One thing that has not changed is the clientele itself, a group he described as having “a passion for living well. There is always a market for quality.”

Dec. 22, 2020 Realty News Report Copyright 2020

Photos of Decorative Center Houston. Credit: CALpix

File: Cohen Brother’s Decorative Center Houston. Charles S. Cohen. Colliers International. 5120 Woodway.

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