Keep Montrose Weird: Combining Growth, Flavor and Funk

HOUSTON – (By Michelle Leigh Smith for Realty News Report) – Significant growth and development is blossoming in the Montrose area, an established and colorful district near the southwestern edge of downtown.

“This is our little jewel,” said Mark Davis, president of Davis Commercial, which specializes in real estate brokerage for Inner Loop properties. “Houston to a large degree is homogenous, but Montrose has the flavor and the funk.

Mark Davis

Davis delivered his remarks to the Houston City Breakfast Club. It’s Houston’s second oldest professional women’s breakfast club and it has been meeting for 41 years.

Davis shared his mixed emotions about the demolition of the 44,000 SF shopping center anchored by Spec’s and Half-Price Books at the corner of Westheimer and Montrose Boulevard. Skanska, a Stockholm-based company, purchased the property – which Davis calls the Main at Main of Montrose – for a record-setting $230 a square foot for the dirt.

“It’s happy sad,” says Davis, speaking only hours after bulldozers moved in for the kill. “The good news is it wasn’t the best-looking shopping center. They’ll put a temporary user in there which will be a drive-in movie theater concept, for 12 to 24 months while percolating their master plan.”

Skanska terms it “temporary activation.” On the weekends, the property may be used as a farmer’s market. “Most likely, ultimately it will be a large mixed -use development with a boutique hotel,” says Davis. “They are also talking about office space to cater to a piggy back on the technology spaces at the new innovation hub, The Ion.” The Ion, a redevelopment of the old Sears building on Main Street on property owned by the Rice University endowment.

The Montrose Construction Boom

Mark Davis shared his screen showing a Google street-view tour of new developments and demolitions in the Montrose area.

“The two-acre Kroger (nicknamed the Disco Kroger)  space next door (to the Skanska site) was purchased by Southeastern out of Augusta, Georgia at the beginning of the year,” says Davis. “These folks paid $8 million, or $167 per SF which was not record setting, but not pocket change either.  Southeastern plans to do retail on the first floor and then do some sort of residential tower, although there is nothing definitive about their concept.  They don’t have any dates yet.

La Colombe D’or and Hines just completed a joint venture, with a high-end residential apartment tower (34 stories, 265 units) with a couple floors devoted to mini-hotel suites. Lauren Rottet designed the interiors. Steve Zimmerman will open his completely redone hotel concept this week, in the old Fondren mansion on Montrose Boulevard.

Steve Radom of Radom Capital built a four-story Montrose Collective with a couple hundred thousand SF of office and retail space. They lease to concert promoters Live Nation. Then on the first floor, they are leasing some retail. It’s a pretty big, cool project that should be completed in three months.  Steve has done a great job and he also has a couple of projects in the Heights.

Larry Levine Pays $162 Per SF for a Full Block

 “There’s an old one-story church near the Mason Building and the new Glassell School between Bell Park and 5000 Montrose purchased by Larry Levine with Levcor for $162 a foot,” says Davis, who is also president of the Museum District Business Alliance. “It’s a full city block, for about $8 million.  He said he’s not sure what he’s going to do with it.  He loved the real estate.  I think he’s looking at some multi-story hotel concepts but he has not announced anything definitive yet. When people pay these big numbers, they really don’t have any choice but to go up (high-rise) with it.”

A transformation of the former El Real, a Mexican restaurant in the old Tower Theater, will soon be revealed as Acme Oyster House, out of New Orleans.

The old Tower Theater building has been an entertainment cornerstone in the Montrose neighborhood, which has been influenced by the LGBTQ+ community, the arts and and a rich supply of homes and bungalows built prior to World War II.

Voodoo Donuts Opening on Lower Westheimer

And Voodoo Donuts just opened at 1214 Westheimer. “It’s not your grandfather’s donut store. Let’s just say they have area-appropriate donuts for Montrose,” says Davis. “In addition to really funky flavors, they are doing a lot with art. They had a painting commissioned by native Houston artist Wes Anderson and it’s a fun, funky use that I think will do great. Voodoo is planning to open three more stores in 2021, which could include further expansion in the Houston market, according to a donut company spokesperson.

How About a Straight-Razor Shave at Cutthroat Barber Shop?

 “There’s a little shack at 1508 Westheimer that’s been completely redone as a high-end, newly opened Cutthroat Barber Shop,” says Davis. Cutthroat offers old-school straight razor shaves. A haircut and a full shave runs $72 while a buzz cut is $32 and a regular haircut costs $37.

Another newcomer to the neighborhood is museum-bound Café Leonelli at the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at MFAH, set to open April 16.

On the municipal side, there is a plan to improve Westheimer Road, including Lower Westheimer.

“They’ll redo the intersections and expand the sidewalks to make them more pedestrian and bike friendly,” says Davis. “It will be a little bit similar to what’s happened at the front of Lamar High School. We want to make the intersections safer.”

Perhaps Austin, which is in the midst of a phenomenal growth spurt, can hang on to its slogan: “Keep Austin Weird.”

But the Montrose area has proven it has the staying power to accommodate growth and new construction and continue to be weirder than Austin ever was.

April 2, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021

File: Keep Montrose Weird: Combining Growth, Flavor and Funk

Photo: La Colombe D’or on Montrose Boulevard. La Colombe d’Or in Houston. Photo credits: La Colombe d’Or and Hines.

For more about Houston development, check out the book Houston 2020: America’s Boom Town – An Extreme Close Up  by Ralph Bivins. Available on Amazon

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1 comment

P O -ed April 15, 2021 at 9:28 am

Great…now if we could just get the city of Houston to issue about $3 Billion in bonds and repair/repave all of the raggedy-xxx streets/roads. Shameful.


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