REDISCOVERING ACRES HOMES WITH A DE MENIL-BACKED COMMUNITY FOR CREATIVE LIVING

Source: Rediscovering Houston Blog

Many people embrace living in small towns because they enjoy the sense of community that is often unavailable in large cities. Ten minutes north of Houston, however, there is a community with a rich history and a distinct identity as a wooded semi-rural retreat nestled within one of the largest cities in the country: Acres Homes. For decades, artists have flocked to this area to join the fabric of the historically African American community and find inspiration from the greener space and slower pace.

Answering the demand from more creative professionals and other inner loopers looking to join the community, renowned architect Francois de Menil has designed a community of modern single-family homes in Acres Homes designed for creative living known as NoLo Studios @ Acres Homes. Star Massing, a top producing Boulevardian, will serve as the exclusive listing and marketing agent for the homes. Massing was also involved in conceiving the project, since it was her strong relationship to the art community that led her to search Acres Homes for such a property for more artists to take root.

Among the many artists who currently call the Acres Home area home are the Art Guys, David Kidd, Terrell James, Thedra Cullar-Ledford, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Richard Huebscher, Kiki Neumann, Seth Mittag, and several others.

De Menil will be the developer and the architect for each of the fourteen homes and common areas that will be built in a three-acre gated community between the T.C. Jester Hike & Bike Trail and Wheatley Street off of Mansfield. Residents will be surrounded by existing and additional new landscape of pine, oak and sycamore trees as well as green space meandering throughout the property. The homes have been carefully placed to optimize views & the sense of personal space—following the Japanese notion of “borrowed light.”

It’s planned that each of the one-, two- and three-bedroom homes will be situated on close to a 10,000 square foot tract of land and will start in the $300s. The defining architectural feature of each of the homes is the studio space, full of possibilities for the inspired individual who wishes to be surrounded by equally creative neighbors.

We couldn’t be more excited about the community, which broke ground last month and is slated for completion within a year. You can look out for us at the National Night Out in Acres Homes this month, as well as the Highland Heights Annex Action Committee (HHAAC), where neighbors, old and new, come together to address issues impacting the community.

Old Heights Theater Could Become a Music Venue Soon

Source: Houston Press

According to a report today in Guide Live, an entertainment/events site owned by The Dallas Morning News, the owner of Dallas' historic Kessler Theater is on the verge of closing a deal to buy Houston's Heights Theater and could have it open by early next year.

Edwin Cabannis took over the Kessler, built in 1942 in Dallas' Oak Cliff neighborhood, about six years ago and has since turned it into one of the Metroplex's top destination music venues. But with other venues like the Bomb Factory opening up and the ever-increasing amount of festivals in the area, Cabannis decided “we have found our niche in the market,” he said. So instead of trying to find a bigger venue in DFW, he opted for branching into a different city; after considering Tulsa, Little Rock, Fort Worth and Austin, among other cities in the region, Houston won out.

"Houston was always on the short list because of Dallas' proximity to Houston and because if its size," Cabaniss said. "I found myself going back to Houston often."

The deal isn't quite finalized yet; Cabaniss noted he still must work out a deal with the Houston Planning Commission. But if his proposal goes through, he added, he could close as early as early next month and spend the next few months renovating the building.

"We're on the five-yard line, not over the goal line just yet, so let's not go popping any champagne corks," he said.

Back in April, the Houston Business Journal reported the Heights Theater was up for sale, with the price tag set at $1.9 million. It was was listed as a residential property, and the agent handling the sale noted the sellers hoped to preserve the historic value of the building, which originally opened in 1929 and most recently housed the Gallery M Squared art space.

“I'm doing my best to contact businesses that would want to make it a theater or gallery or restaurant or something like that, but we also wanted to list it as residential for someone to make it a live/work space,” Star Massing told the Journal.

The Kessler was built in 1942, about a decade after the Heights Theater, and since Cabaniss took it over has been recognized a number of times as the best live-music venue in Dallas; many even say it's the best small to mid-size room in the state.

Between this and the construction of Pegstar's new White Oak Music Hall (scheduled for completion next year) and impending changeover of Fitzgerald's from the Pegstar team to incoming GM/current sound engineer Lauren Oakes this fall, the market for live music in the Heights is about to be hopping. Whether Houston audiences can fill all these rooms is another question, but don't bet against a lot of full houses in the near future.

Historic Heights Theater on the market again

Source: Houston Chronicle

One of the coolest landmarks on 19th Street in the Heights, the historic Heights Theater, is currently for up for sale again.

For $1.9 million the property, located in the heart of the 19th Street shopping district, can be yours. The owners previously tested the market on the property about five years ago.

The building as of late has been a rentable event space, accommodating everything from weddings to art shows.

Built in 1925, according to the listing, the property is just over 7,000 square feet in size. It got an art deco overhaul in 1935, when its original mission-style façade was removed.

It remains the oldest surviving Houston movie theater still on its original site. It was also one of the first to include that most Houston of amenities, air-conditioning, which probably made it a hot ticket during its heyday.

A fire in 1969 gutted the insides, leaving just the outside walls. You can still see on the walls scorch marks from that blaze.

It is thought that it was the victim of arson after the theater showed one of the first mainstream XXX films, “I Am Curious (Yellow)” which was controversial upon release. There were also protests outside the theater around the time of the film’s release by groups looking to enforce decency on Heights residents.

The current owners, Sharon and Gus Kopriva, restored the location to its former glory when they purchased it in the late ‘80s. They even won an award for their work. 

As of now the theater is not a protected historic landmark building.

"They purchased the building to preserve it. It had a tree growing in the middle of it when they bought it," says Star Massing with Boulevard Realty, which is handling the sale of the property.

You shouldn't worry about it being bulldozed (like so many other Houston landmarks) and turned into something new.

"Everyone who has expressed interest would like to keep it the way it is now," Massing says. Plans have also been batted around to construct an upper level terrace which would have a great view of downtown.

When the Koprivas bought the theater in 1987 it was a “bombed-out shell” that had a derelicts living inside it and no roof to speak of. It took a year of rehab on the $50,000 property to restore it to its former luster.

“My hope is that it will remain in cultural use, be it theater, art, or music,” says Gus Kopriva. He estimates that he’s spent close to half a million dollars on repairs the past 28 years.

The buyer will need to sign an agreement that the façade and marquee outside will stay the same and never be altered. It’s become part of local iconography on shirts and artwork.

“I think there would be trouble here if anyone wanted to change things,” says Kopriva.

That projector, located right inside the front doors, is the original one of two original ones from the theater, dating back to the ‘30s. They somehow survived that fire.

“One projector still had a print of “I Am Curious (Yellow)” still inside,” Kopriva says. 

FILM HOUSE FOR SALE: Now $1.9 Million Buys Your Good-Forever Ticket to the Heights Theater, Whatever It’s Showing

Source: Swamplot

THE ASKING PRICE for the Heights Theater on bustling 19th St. in Houston Heights in today’s live-or-work listing is $1.9 million. The owners last toe-tested the reel deal in 2008, at $1.3 million. In the interim, surrounding neighborhoods have tipped even more hip. Though the future of the historic (but not protected) property is up for grabs, its past scrolls like an old film roll, with scenes of early prosperity, seedy decline, suspected arson, and restoration.

The exterior’s revamp earned the current owners aGood Brick Award 20-ish years ago. The interior, a shell space since its near destruction by fire in 1969,has been used for live theater, retail, events, and galleries. In the former lobby’s crossroads sits an original projector (top), a sculpture standing as both a testament and witness to passing eras.

Accounts of the theater’s origins describe how it rose on the former site of the Heights Hotel, which burned down in 1919. It’s believed to be the oldest movie theater on its original site in Houston. The 1925 exterior featured mission-style flourishes (above); its house initially held 750 movie buffs. In 1935, an art moderne renovation of the facade also expanded the seat count, to 900, and introduced some of that era’s new-fangled air-conditioning.

In 1969, a suspected protest torching of its screening of the X-rated I Am Curious (Yellow), the theater was mostly destroyed, leaving only the shell. In 1982, its then-owner began the exterior’s reboot. The property’s redemption from near demise continued at the hands of current owners: artist Sharon Kopriva and husband Gus Kopriva, who owns the Redbud Gallery on 11th St.

Behind the doubled doors of the double-wide entry, the floor plan is mostly an open room, currently occupied by tenant Gallery M Squared.

The 7,058-sq.-ft. building sits on a 6,600-sq.-ft. lot. In its current listing, the room count suggests a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, a full and half-bath — and a mighty high ceiling. A floor plan of the events venue appears on the Gallery M Squared website.

Picking the right realtor among a sea of sharks: True home experts offer real analysis, community experience

Source: CultureMap

booming Houston real estate market over the last few years brought with it a surge in the number of realtors, reputable or not, selling houses in the area. Houston Association of Realtors membership is now estimated at a dizzying 29,000.

Add this to a surfeit of home search sites that direct you to “premier agents” whose qualifications extend to paying a few hundred dollars a month in ad fees, and most consumers are justly fatigued with the traditional realtor model.

While some real estate agents and firms have resorted to discounting commissions to attract clients, a handful of realtors are rethinking what it means to earn their value.

“Realtors don’t just find people houses anymore,” admits broker Bill Baldwin of Boulevard Realty. “Both buyers and sellers have more resources at their fingertips than ever and are questioning the value of a commission. Smart realtors are finding ways to build more into that value with their level of specialized knowledge and with what they can uniquely bring to the table before, during and after the sale.”

Melissa Kubala is on to this trend. A construction expert in the Heights, Kubala doesn’t just sell houses in the area; she’s part of a movement to preserve the neighborhood’s cherished look as part owner of Modern Bungalow, a family owned renovation and construction business based in the Heights. She charges herself with keeping alive the style that gives the Heights its iconic character and that buyers come looking for — traditional craftsman with sensible updates.

“I can’t be all things to all people, but to another builder or new construction buyer in the Heights, I’ve immersed myself in this world so that I can say that I really do have all the answers,” Kubala says confidently. “I don’t know that I necessarily want to compete with someone who doesn’t truly understand everything that goes into crafting a home."

"I love everything about houses, and I can’t help but think about each one as a full process that I have to know in and out.”

Likewise, Cynthia Mullins, a realtor and blogger, knows she’s expected to be an expert on far more than home values and location.

“My background is engineering, and besides being detail-oriented and analytical, I didn’t really know how it would translate to real estate,” says Mullins, who also sells mostly in The Heights. “Then I realized that people like data, and they want to know how you know what you know. So I find that I’m constantly researching, looking at every imaginable metric of what makes a home or neighborhood worth a certain price.”

Other times she finds she has to take a more personal approach. “But when it comes to knowing just how good the public schools are in my area, I can only really be so certain because I’ve raised my two sons in these schools and have been involved," Mullins says.

"That’s the point where I can’t just rely on numbers; I have to stay ingrained in the community and an authority on the neighborhood not just from a market standpoint, but from a demographic, cultural, and economic view as well. It’s exciting.”

True Real Estate Passion

Brandi Downey is also a realtor who understands it’s more than even full-time work to stay competitive. The Rice MBA learned early on that to be valuable to prospective clients she needed to eat, breathe and sleep real estate, and she formed her brand Eat. Drink. Real Estate. as a way to do just that.

“We don’t just sell homes anymore, we’re selling a lifestyle. I’d hate to think that I’d sell someone a house and the first weekend after they move in they don’t know where to go out. That should be part of my job," Downey says.

She’s also keen that people want to see more from their realtors than an ad and familiar logo; they have to show a high command of an ever-changing field. “I even started to teach real estate as a way to stay freshly informed," Downey says.

Other agents are drawing from their past experience to set themselves apart. Star Massing is using her close ties to Houston’s art scene to set herself apart. Massing (who is married to Art Guy Jack Massing) commented, “When I started as a realtor, I didn’t think that there was enough overlap between art and real estate to really make that a specialty, but really art and architecture are a huge part of what makes a house feel like home.”

Recognizing her niche, Paper City recently named Massing as the realtor to the art, design, and architecture communities following her trend of selling homes that are hard to find yet appealing to those buyers looking for something unique. She listed artist Bert Long’s residence and studio last year and is currently listing three new homes by internationally renowned professor of architecture Bill Price.

“I work with a wide array of clients, but my passion is ultimately about matching people with their built space,” Massing says.

Changing the role of a realtor means changing the real estate firm, too. As a broker, Baldwin is sensitive to this and sees his duty as fostering a sense of community, support and education while still allowing for ingenuity.

“Boulevard Realty doesn’t shy away from coming together as a group, even though we’re all self-driven entrepreneurs at heart. We have several community events every month not because we have to, but because we enjoy being together with our fellow Houstonians whether they do business with us or not.”

“There may be an advantage in some ways to selling your house with someone who operates as a one-man show or in what’s essentially a price-cutting franchise model, but I don’t think that’s the only response to the shifting sense of value," Baldwin says.

"People want to be a part of a community, and I think they want to work with someone who has that same sensibility.”

Art's in the House

Source: Paper City

Curious about how collectors live with art? Take a peek into six intriguing residences, guided by insiders Star Massing of Boulevard Realty (she's known as the Realtor to the art, architecture and design communities, plus she's married to Art Guy Jack Massing) and Catherine D. Anspon, PaperCity's executive editor, visual arts + features. The duo have crafted ArtHouse.001, a two-day, private-bus tour to exceptional and fascinating Houston collections. On tap for the River Oaks/Montrose tour on Sunday, March 29, are the PaperCity featured homes of Leigh and Reggie Smith, Michael Landrum and Pepper Paratore, and The Cherryhurst House. The Heights itinerary on Saturday, March 28, encompasses the folk art collection of Victoria Harrison and Jay Wehnert; the studio, home and gardens of artist Dixie Friend Gay; and the historic Victorian castle of preservationist Bart Truxillo. Each afternoon wraps with a toast and meet-up at a unique, surprise venue. Tickets may be purchased for one day or the entire weekend — but book soon, because there's limited seating on the bus. Both tours begin at 1 pm. Single day $30, both days $55, through yourblvd.com/arthouse; more information, Star Massing, 832.640.1628. 

Arty real estate: Bold painter's unique Houston home and studio goes on sale for $200,000

Source: CultureMap

Editor's Note: Houston, the surrounding areas and beyond are loaded with must-have houses for sale in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. In this continuing series, CultureMap snoops through some of the best and gives you the lowdown on what's hot on the market.

A uniquely designed former home and art studio used by one of the city's most celebrated artists is up for sale. Bert Long, Jr., known for his bold, highly-personal paintings, lived and worked at the 4739 Buck Street home for more than a decade before he passed away on Feb. 1, 2013.

Located in the rapidly changing Fifth Ward, the 5,831-square-foot property features a 960-square-foot two bedroom, one bathroom home as well as Long's separate studio space.

The attached double-shotgun row house, once featured in design and architecture magazine Dwell, was carefully renovated 15 years ago as part of a year-long thesis project by then- Rice University graduate architecture student Brett Zamore. Originally built for two families, Zamore deconstructed the home and rebuilt it, transforming into something completely unique.

"I received the house from the Fifth Ward CRC (Community Redevelopment Corporation) in disrepair," Zamore, founder of Brett Zamore Design, says. (The nonprofit encourages preservation and development of inner-city properties.) "I injected a new life, an open, modern feeling to the house."

Long, who grew up in the area, purchased the home after the renovation for around $70,000. He lived at the Buck Street domicile with Joan Batson, his wife and a fellow artist, until his death.

Walk through

It should come as no surprise that an artist's former abode doesn't look like your typical home. Its open ceilings and visible rafters make the one-story house feel larger than it is and allows for a lot of storage space on the second story. Central air-conditioning and a number of ceiling fans help cool the quaint home and most rooms feature track lighting. A modest-yet-functional open kitchen, living room and dining room anchor one side of the former row house, while bedrooms and a centralized bathroom are found on the opposite side.

The property, which sits just east of Waco St. and south of Interstate 10, also features a large yard between the home and studio buildings. The artist's former studio could easily be transformed into a cozy garage apartment as it houses a full bathroom of its own.

Long's expansive art collection, which includes many large sculptures and mixed-media pieces, is being handled locally by Deborah Colton Gallery.

Lot size: 5,831 square feet

Home size: 960 square feet

Asking price: $200,000

Listing agent: Star MassingBoulevard Realty