(UPDATED With A Talk With The Owner) Houston Studios & Warehouse District: Big, Modern Development Coming?

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The Warehouse District is one of Houston's funkiest areas, as artists through the years have used the spaces north of downtown for every kind of art from plays to movies to painting to whatever.

Now, if some web action is to be believed, the nature of the place may be changing.

Houston Studios, where movies like Jason's Lyric have been filmed and where Beyonce and ZZ Top have shot videos and rehearsed, has a somewhat odd new webpage up that shows a multi-use nightclub/commercial district going up in the area.

The "Houston Studios Building," says the site, is looking to lease "to Tenants who wish to lease the 3-Story Building for a Commercial use: ie: Office Space, Galleries, Restaurants, Bistros, Shops or a Manufacturing or Industrial use. Residential uses are not being considered at this time." (We can't match the various colors used in the copy, alas.)

What else can go there? Glad you asked:

Perfectly suited as office space for Architecural Firms, Advertising Agencies, High-Technology start-ups, a Downtown Medical Center, or support facilities for the Ballet, Opera or Alley Theater. It would also work great as a Fashion and Design Center with showrooms, offices and common-use areas for productions and displays. Lastly, any of these uses could be complimented by using the basement as a Jazz Club/Bistro at night and sharing the available parking.

ALTERNATIVELY, it would make an ideal indigenous* downtown Entertainment Center using the soundstage as a Performance Venue/Nightclub and the rest of the building for Shops, Bistros and Bars to support THE MAIN DRAW.

The website has a disclaimer as to what it's about (Don't blame us for how they spell "gauge" or other words.):

BY WAY OF THIS WEBSITE, BUILDING OWNERS ARE: -- Attempting to guage the depth and type of leasing interest in the building as a renovated historic structure, or -- Attempting to guage the depth and type of leasing interest in the property if the building was razed and a new structure was erected in it's place. -- Attempting to determine the viability of securing enough lease committments (at least 50% of the gross square footage) to make either of the above scenarios bankable. -- Open to the notion of bringing in investment capital so that the property can be developed on a spec basis with fewer pre-lease committments.

In case you're wondering how committed they are to historical preservation, check out the caption to a picture from inside the Houston Studios building: "What you're looking at is the biggest Cyclorama in the southern United States. But it could and probably would be demo'd for a nightclub."

Now that's a new twist: Bragging about the historical significance of something you then make clear you'd be happy to raze to the ground. Nice.

The developers say they expect construction costs for the project to be about $5 million, and "it is perhaps not unreasonable to believe that the total average rental rate would not exceed $1.66 per square foot per month."

A little bit o' hope for you anti-development types: Plans like this have failed before.

We've had bad luck before with people immediately spreading the news and leaking about similar development stories before we could post them while we wait for developers to never call us back, so we're drawing your attention to the website before we try to call the developers. If they talk to us, we'll update immediately.

Update: Property owner H. Milton Howe has gotten back with us and confirms he is looking to transform the area if possible. (He also confirms historical preservation isn't at the top of his priority list: "[I]f I am presented with an offer to demolish it and start over, and nothing else......then, I'm not married to historic preservation, if you know what I mean," he tells Hair Balls.

Let's let him speak for himself:

The buildings involved are the Houston Studios Building and adjoining soundstage which have two addresses on the streets that it faces: 707 Walnut and 908 Wood St. In addition, I show that parking is available on the lot behind the soundstage and the old STASCO Tire Co. just north of the soundstage, both of which belong to my neighbor. Additional parking is available under Interstate-10 @ San Jacinto.
I hope to move forward asap. As soon as I can find a lead tenant that will take more than half of the space...or....I find investment capital to begin the project on a spec basis. I'm more than testing the waters, and if that's what it sounds like, I need to clarify it. My intention has always been to put the building back in service on a profitable basis as a renovated structure and keep it going for another 30 years or so (which is beyond my lifetime) and then see what the highest/best use is for the property at that time. But, if I am presented with an offer to demolish it and start over, and nothing else......then, I'm not married to historic preservation, if you know what I mean. There are some quite beneficial tax incentives that are available to an investor if the building is renovated as an historical structure. Especially, the 20% Federal Tax Credit (see Tax Incentives on my website). But the people who administer those programs also want to drive the bus and are usually quite difficult to deal with.
The vision that I would most like to see happen would be to use the soundstage as a performance venue and use the rest of the building as office space for some creative businesses (architects, ad agencies, fashion designers, etc) as well as shops, Bistros and bars to support the stage; and market the destination to the hotels downtown as a kind of "Atlanta Underground". The basement is really perfectly suited for a Jazz Club.

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