History yields to present on Allen Parkway – High profile Jamat Khana in Houston

Nov. 18, 2006, 7:25PM

History yields to present on Allen Parkway

Religious center will stand where 1920s-vintage warehouse is now

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

The recent sale of the Robinson Warehouse on Allen Parkway finally puts an end to speculation over the fate of the historic property.

The historic Robinson Warehouse on Allen
Parkway has been sold to the Aga Khan
Foundation and will be cleared to make
room for a Muslim Ismaili center.
Buster Dean: Chronicle

The Aga Khan Foundation purchased just over 11 acres at the corner of Montrose and Allen Parkway to build a Muslim Ismaili center. The group plans to demolish the brick art deco warehouse that’s been there since the 1920s.

Zahir Janmohamed, CEO of the Aga Khan Council for the USA, said the site is an ideal location for the Ismaili Centre.

“Allen Parkway has undergone a fair bit of metamorphosis from a development perspective and continues to,” he said.

Indeed, several key parcels along the parkway have been redeveloped in recent years. But some of those involved demolishing historic buildings.

The Jefferson Davis Hospital was razed for construction of the Federal Reserve building, and the Gulf Publishing building was torn down for a 33-story residential tower.

The new project will be similar to other Ismaili centers in Vancouver, London and Lisbon.

It will include facilities for lectures and conferences relating to the Aga Khan Development Network as well as for recitals and exhibitions to educate the public about Islam’s heritage. The building will also contain a prayer hall, classrooms and offices.

The new property is also expected to have gardens and other green spaces. Still, the design concept and timeline for development have not been determined.

David Bush, director of programs and information for the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance, said the group has seen some of the Aga Khan’s other projects and “the designs have been outstanding.”

“Even though we regret losing a historic building, at least this time it may be replaced by some truly exceptional architecture,” Bush said.

Janmohamed said he’s not disregarding the historical nature of the building. Rather, he said the plan will consider the best use of the property, a portion of which is in the flood plain.

The foundation purchased the acreage from Ameriton Properties, a subsidiary of apartment developer Archstone-Smith, for an undisclosed price.

The building at 2323 Allen Parkway opened in 1929 as Houston’s first Sears store.

The architect, Nimmons, Carr & Wright, also designed the Sears store on South Main at Wheeler, which replaced the Allen Parkway store.

In 1935, floodwaters from Buffalo Bayou swamped the first floor of the store, resulting in a huge flood sale, according to the Greater Houston Preservation Society. The store moved to South Main a few years later.

In the 1940s, the building was the temporary home of Baylor College of Medicine until its Texas Medical Center building was completed.

Arthur Robinson purchased the building in the 1950s for a storage business, the first of its kind in the Houston area and a prelude to today’s mini storage facilities, said real estate broker Stan Creech, who sold the property to Ameriton in 2005.

The city’s preservation group has had the property on its “endangered” list for many years and has tried to find someone to buy it and renovate it. One suggestion was that a farmer’s market occupy the first floor and residential units be built above it, but nothing ever came of that plan.

Bush said the flooding issue made financing a redevelopment of the property extremely difficult.

“This is one of those frustrating cases where the original owner wanted to preserve the building, other interested parties wanted to preserve the building, but no one could find a way to make it happen,” he said.

170 units spoken for
About 170 reservations have been made for units in Mosaic, a twin tower condominium project on Almeda Road across from Hermann Park.

The developers said the refundable reservations of $2,500 a unit have been made on the first tower, which is under construction and should be complete in about a year.

The project will have 792 units starting in the $160,000s. The average unit size is 980 square feet.

Earlier this year, however, when construction started on the 30-story building, it was being marketed as a rental tower.

Developer Donald Phillips of Raleigh, N.C.-based Phillips Development & Realty said a more focused marketing approach caused the shift to condos.

Sales teams have targeted specific buyer groups, like workers in the Texas Medical Center and students or employees of Rice University.

“As we sampled market, the response was so overwhelming,” Phillips said.

The developer is also negotiating leases with retailers to occupy space in the building, including Yapa, a prepared foods market and a bank.

To prevent speculators from buying and flipping units, no more than two can be sold to one buyer.

Phillips said construction on the second tower should begin in the first part of next year. If the demand continues, it will be another condominium building. The project financing allows it to be a rental building as well.

“Both segments in the Hermann Park district are extremely strong,” he said.

The project is a joint venture of Phillips Development and Realty and Wood Partners of Atlanta.

Shopping center included
Today’s planned residential developments have evolved a great deal, as developers integrate different kinds of housing and retail spaces with single-family homes and community swimming

The Vintage, a 640-acre development of Vincent Kickerillo and Walter Mischer, will have an 85-acre, open-air shopping center that’s being built by Interfin Cos., which created Uptown Park in the Galleria area.

Upscale apartments are also being added to the mix.

Sueba USA Corp. is developing Vintage Park Apartments, a 324-unit complex near the corner of Louetta and Texas 249.

Ranging in size from 814 square feet to 1,220 square feet, the units are being leased for $995 to $1,495 per month.

A Central Market H-E-B is also under construction in the development.


Houston Chronicle

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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