Before its award-winning overhaul into a spiffy bike shop and office space, the small ‘20s vintage storefront building on 11th Street in Houston Heights had its share of neighborhood-oriented uses, including a pool hall.
During the recent renovation, neighbors and former business patrons dropped by to share tales from back in the day, and some of them also had photographs of the building in use.
The vintage visuals proved handy in determining how to renovate and restore parts of the 1,700-square-foot building. The exterior’s distinct Art Deco markings drew particular attention, says Bryan Danna, Re:Vive Development principal.
The building’s redo into retail and office space has earned a 2018 Good Brick Award from Preservation Houston, which is holding its annual presentation event, the Cornerstone Dinner, on March 2 at River Oaks Country Club. Tim Cisneros was the project’s architect.
As for why it won the award, Preservation Houston’s executive director, David Bush, explains: “It’s a small building in a neighborhood commercial strip. It’s the kind of building that can easily be lost, no matter how distinctive its design. It had sat empty for a long time. The Good Brick jury was impressed that Re:Vive recognized the building’s potential, appreciated the original design and figured out a way to redevelop the property and contribute to the neighborhood.”
Sturdy, with Staying Power
Having logged time in New Orleans, Danna, a Timbergrove Manor resident, says he has a personal and professional appreciation for older buildings that were built meticulously but a bit forgotten as time moved on. They’re solid. Too solid and often too well-located to just raze, he says.
As a developer working in a part of town with a past, he believes “It’s part of our duty” to preserve intriguing buildings. “There’s always a cool spin you can put on these buildings” to make them attractive to tenants and their customers, he says. “One of our missions is to try to give our tenants all the tools they need to increase their sales volume. Architecture is one of the tools.”
His company’s first foray into Heights area commercial renovation was the streamlined shopping center housing Lola, also located on 11th Street, a commercial corridor then and resurging one now. That project, formerly a drug store, also earned the company a Good Brick Award.
“We are always looking for buildings with character,” he says. “We feel it’s important to preserve their history while contributing to the growth of our city.”
In the case of the property at 1121 11th St., Danna’s growing company was also looking for space to accommodate its offices.
Good Brick Award materials cite the 5,000 square foot lot’s parking, something unusual for Heights-area commercial space. The building was sturdy. And the building was distinct. Polishing it up would help retain the unique fabric of the neighborhood.
Prior to the redo, the somewhat overgrown property had a trailer parked on the tree-shaded open lot next to the building, Danna recalls.
The roof had collapsed onto the slab at the back of the building, which was used for storage of some sort.
Danna says the property needed love as well as restoration. As with most of the projects Re:Vive encounters, first up was rebooting the lot’s drainage, which had been altered by layers and layers of resurfacing materials.
Inside, the solid brick walls had been covered in thick plaster over a mesh screen. Removing it (by flathead screwdriver) proved to be the project’s most time-consuming task. Like the building itself, the plaster had been installed for posterity.
Part of the reboot opened up windows that had been closed up and covered by the masonry. New lintels and old-time windows boosted natural light, a hallmark of Re:Vive properties.
Overhead, a series of fantastic, 100-year-old beams also needed some rejiggering and replacement. A colleague’s demolition of a cotton warehouse around the same time provided comparable beams.
The renovation uncovered some original black and white tile, a color scheme that continues in the building’s iconic Deco-detailed chevron screen over the door.
As projects go, this one was straight-forward and fairly simple for the company, Danna notes.
The tenant, Bicycle Speed Shop, took the initial 600 square feet of retail space at the front of the building and will soon take over the entire property. Re:Vive has found another, larger building to convert, an old warehouse farther west on 11th Street.
“It’s time for us to take a bigger spot,” Danna says.
Re:Vive has been renovating and establishing unique urban developments in the Leader news area since 2006. Others projects have included conversion of a one-story commercial building for Southern Goods Restaurant; a former convenience store for White Oak Retail; a former gas station for Durham Retail; a former industrial property for Oxford Office Space; and a former gas station for Ritual. The company is behind the redo of a center at 34th Street and Ella Boulevard as well as centers at 19th and Shepherd and three corners of the 34th Street and Shepherd Drive intersection.
For Good Brick Award info or tickets to the Cornerstone Dinner, visit www.preservationhouston.org.