Last week, the Houston Press cast its vote in favor of downtown development by moving its offices to a historic building on the corner of Milam and Pease. The newly christened Houston Press Building, built in 1927 as an automobile showroom for the Shelor Motor Company, features a state-of-the-art, contemporary interior created to meet the needs of an expanding weekly publication.
"This is a product of the tremendous growth and success of the paper," says Press publisher Terry Coe. "The paper has grown to a point of maturity in the marketplace. It demands a home of its own."
In the past four years, under the ownership of the Phoenix-based New Times Corporation, the Press has doubled its readership, and now prints about 112,000 copies each week. In that time, the average issue's number of pages has also doubled.
The Press Building is perhaps best known for its trompe l'oeil murals of historic building facades on two sides. They are so realistic that an insurance salesman once called to report dark liquid -- actually, wet paint -- oozing out from the windows. Houston artist Suzanne Sellers, commissioned by the building's owner to make his property more attractive in the days before the current boom downtown, painted the murals in 1994. Sellers has also painted murals for the Exxon Building and the exterior wall of Treebeard's Restaurant on Market Square.
But the murals cover only two sides of the Press Building. The other two sides are graced by ornamental stone and brickwork from the '20s.
With the move, the Press joins other New Times publications that occupy historic buildings. In particular, the Phoenix New Times preserved and renovated an inner-city elementary school, and the Dallas Observer makes its home in the wedge-shaped Magnolia Oil Building in downtown Dallas.
"Of course, we put the [Dallas] editor out on the point, behind bulletproof glass," jokes Scottsdale design architect John Douglas, who has worked on all three New Times projects.
Douglas's design for the Press Building's ground-floor interior features terra-cotta-toned floors and colored plaster pillars, as well as distinctive slanted walls in the building's main corridors. In some cases, Douglas left red brick and raw concrete spaces exposed. In others, he designed arched ceilings to match the building's existing curves.
The Press's new address is 1621 Milam, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77002. Phone: (713) 280-2400.