Before-ish and After Views of the Rice Village Design Overhaul Now Underway on University Blvd.

Renderings of redesigned former Rice Village ArcadeRice Village, Houston, 77005

Compare and contrast the 2 images above, which together show the former Village Arcade at University Blvd. west of Kelvin Dr. both as is and as it may become. The rendering above appears in a marketing brochure released earlier this year by Trademark Property, which manages Rice University’s Village-area properties. The brochure shows potential update plans to a number storefronts in the former Village Arcade buildings (which Trademark is collectively rebranding as just “the Rice Village“); the changes range from simple color swaps to major reshaping and remodeling.

The U-shaped patio above, which currently houses a fountain and a bronze copy of the Italian boar statue Il Porcellino, is shown in the corresponding rendering housing tables in front of a round kiosk ringed with bar-style seating. The drawing also depicts those PoMo-style pediments of the second floor facade replaced with a large sign labeling the structure as Rice Village Market. The building also appears to be painted white.

Earlier this year, a previously released rendering from the set got some grounding in reality when the former Sprint storefront on University west of Kelvin was whitewashed, to prep the space for beauty supply shop Blue Mercury:


Renderings of redesigned former Rice Village Arcade

Rice Village, Houston, 77005

North of that corner, renderings in the brochure also show glassy updates to the rooftop parking lot access stairs:

Rendering of Proposed Rice Village Arcade Renovations, 2506 University Blvd., Rice Village, Houston, 77005

Here’s what that same spot on the west side of Kelvin looks like currently, behind the construction fencing blocking off the road from University to Amherst St.:

Rice Village, Houston, 77005

More white paint appears to be in store for the storefronts to the east, just north of where Amherst dead ends into Kelvin; that strip currently houses Ann Taylor, right next to the shopping center’s Kelvin-side parking garage entrance:

Rice Village, Houston, 77005

A rendering in the Trademark flyer shows the Ann Taylor space with a new ghostly pallor, though retaining its existing brick patterns. The same drawing also depicts Chico’s in the currently vacant spot next door, just south of the Le Creuset at the far end of the strip: Renderings of redesigned former Rice Village Arcade
But that spot may not be where Chico’s is planned to wind up by the end of the center’s renovations. Another set of renderings shows Chico’s back in its current spot on Amherst next to Papyrus, though with a significant reshaping. Here’s how things look at the moment, facing southeast on Amherst toward the intersection with Kelvin:

Rice Village, Houston, 77005

And here’s the same view of Amherst made over, including a wider pedestrian zone and new landscaping:

Renderings of redesigned former Rice Village Arcade

Papyrus’s logo appears above a patterned arch decoration that looks a whole lot like the one currently hanging out in the stretch of facade between the 2 stores, over the covered walkway that divides the spaces. That gap is shown in the rendering with a Rice Village Alley label, and appears to be sheltered by a light-admitting cover, shaking up the existing indoor hallway feel:

Renderings of redesigned former Rice Village Arcade

There’s even an appearance in the brochure by Shake Shack, which announced yesterday morning that it would take over the La Madeleine spot at the corner of Kirby and Amherst as its second Houston location:

Renderings of redesigned former Rice Village Arcade

The rendering depicts the La Madeleine space going gray and taking a few snips off the top. Here’s the current facade:

Rice Village, Houston, 77005

A few other store names show up in the renderings, some but not all of which do belong to real businesses:

Renderings of redesigned former Rice Village Arcade

Boutique glasses store Warby Parker shows up fuzzily in the foreground of the above rendering; the business was mentioned specifically by a Trademark spokesman as a possible (or at least hoped for) tenant, in a December 2014 Houston Chronicle article discussing the property’s planned post-Weingarten redesign. (Other stores mentioned at that time: Toms Shoes, Anthropologie, and Bonobos.)

The logo for women’s clothing shop Madewell also makes an appearance in the renderings, as does a sign for a business just 1 letter off from Dallas-based upscale hunter-gatherer-themed rooftop patio bar HG SPLY CO.:

Renderings of redesigned former Rice Village Arcade

Here’s a before-photo and an after-rendering showing what appears to be more whitewashing around the Morningside Dr. parking garage entrance, currently flanked by Black Walnut Cafe to the left and D’Amico’s Italian Market Cafe to the right:

Rice Village, Houston, 77005

That’s the former Baker St. Pub space in the back right, with a wooden privacy screen covering its front entrance (visible just above the stop sign). A comparable rendering angle shows the area in front of D’Amico’s, bar 55, and the Baker St. space sporting a new shade structure, as well as patio seating in an area currently taken up by parking:

Views of Renovations to Rice Village Shopping Center, Rice Village, Houston

Here’s another view, of shops along Times Blvd.:

Views of Renovations to Rice Village Shopping Center, Rice Village, Houston

The brochure includes a map of the existing developments being managed by Trademark (dark blue), along with orange markers of future development plans:

Rice Village existing and proposed development map, from Trademark

The bulk of that orange-highlighted development looks to be slated for the block north of University Dr., west of Greenbriar Dr. from the Rice Stadium and the Greenbriar parking lot:

Future Rice Village Development Site on Chaucer, Rice Village, Houston, 77005

Much of the orange-tinted land is currently occupied by only grass or asphalt, though the orange footprint does partially step on the existing Rice development and alumni relations building (shown above to the right), as well as a couple of residential buildings on Chaucer Dr. (above to the left). The grassy lots in the foreground of the shot above also contained homes for decades, prior to their collective demolition by the end of 2007.

Images: Trademark (renderings), Swamplot inbox (photos)

Shopping Fix-Up

31 Comment

  • Maybe just me, but would not that large of signage be better suited (although do not understand it) along the Kirby side as there is more traffic?

  • Bring back Two Rows.

  • Is it just me, or does white paint on brick just seem tacky?

  • It reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Homer goes to a chiropractor. After getting painfully wrenched and cracked by the chiropractor, Homer gets of the table and says: “it feels a little better.”

  • Is there going to be a Bork? I’m not interested if they’re not getting a Bork.

  • The white brick looks terrible. Why not design an improvement that actually leverages the existing brick (first clean it up) instead of ruining everything with paint, and the wrong color of paint. Will look awful in 1 year after exposure to the elements.

  • You have to understand that this center is owned by rice who’s real estate investment committee is just a cabal of unqualified, inexperienced, and arrogant overgrown children with no personal responsibility and an almost unlimited checkbook due to large alumni contributions. This is a hobby for them, so whatever ridiculous moves they make are not based on any business acumen.

  • Yes. Don’t paint brick.

  • I am usually surprised at how spot on commonsense is. But unqualified and inexperienced is far from how I would describe these folks. On a separate note Chron reported today that Frank the tank is giving Rice $16+ mil, so he must think they are doing something right.

  • Please don’t get rid of the pig. I’ll never forget stumbling over the original in Florence at the leather market and enjoying the pleasure of recognition. It’s a wonderful piece and perfect for Houston: High art with charm and whimsy and beauty right where you don’t expect it.

    If you move it, okay. But put it someplace we can continue to enjoy it.

  • It makes it look less like a uniform, boring suburban strip mall. I’ll take it.

  • I happen to live not too far from the Village but I actively avoid it, other than to use Kirby, due to the ugly traffic flow. It has been decades since there was anything worth going into that maelstrom for. Life is too short to be stuck in some gridlock.
    So, they can whitewash away and put as much lipstick on that pig as they want. Not going over there – wouldn’t be prudent. (Tip of the hat to Dana Carvey’s impression of the elder Bush.)

  • @commonsense, they may have no business acumen, as you say, but they’ve got to be doing something right for the amount of people that go to the shops and nightlife they have attracted.

  • nice update – looks higher end and the signage looks vintage. This should be a great asset to the area. Can’t wait to see how it turns out. The original looks ok but kinda boring or dated. Cool that Shake shack is on it’s way, too. Some of the stores like Express and la madeleine seem too plane for this hip and coming area.

  • Things I like: more trees and shrubs; wider sidewalks; opened up stairway (current is pretty dismal).

    I don’t have an opinion on painting the brick, but the current look of the arcade is generic-suburban, so I don’t feel it could look much worse.

    Thing I don’t like: lack of a Bork. Really needs a Bork.

  • The only reason I ever go into the Village Arcade anymore is the occasional lunch at Bombay Brasserie with a friend who works nearby. I used to spend so much time in that area (shout out to the long gone Bank Draft).

    They should just plow everything between Sunset and University under and build one enormous shit stain of a luxury condo high-rise. They can probably even pipe in the boutique grape-and-piss scent from the stairwells so those they live in the nightmare tower get that authentic Village feeling.

  • @KCB Me too! I saw the one in Florence and thought, oh, we have one of those in Houston! It was there I realized it’s significance.

  • The Briar Shoppe is the nearest cigar vendor (other than Spec’s), so I can’t completely avoid the Village. I do remember some great times at the Ginger Man, but that was long ago.

  • I can’t get into any of this. Looks like th 80’s all over again. For me, shopping is Get-in Get-out Done.

  • Meh. I share the distaste for white paint over brick, but it was pretty grotty brick to begin with. I go to the Village a couple of times per month, but almost never to the “Village Arcade” tenants. El Meson (Hi, Peter!), Half Price Books, and G&G Model Shop (don’t ever change!) are my draws, and Half Price is the newest. Used to be the Gingerman, too, but I no longer live within staggering distance. That stuff in the “Arcade”? All chain stores. Why bother? It’s all online.

  • @movocelot, it’s not the 80s until they rebuild the Village Theatre.

  • The way people shop today is changing rapidly and I think Rice Village needs to adapt to these changes or it will be impossible for traditional retail tenants to stay and pay rent.

    The current set up with poor signage, terrible sidewalks, erratic parking, and poor lighting is not welcoming to customers. I’m all for the changes as they are a step in the right direction and maybe they will address some of the deficiencies. I’m hoping Rice can take some of the ideas from the Rice Design Alliance and connect the future development (A) on University at Greenbriar to their exiting holdings (B3). I think they are going to get it right.


  • @GoogleMaster, indeed!
    Now we drive to the Edwards ClusterPlex

  • @movocelot, does the Edwards Clusterplex show dirty movies like the Village Theatre did in its final years?

  • Oh, and add my vote for “don’t paint the brick”.

  • Painted brick can be attractive and appropriate in some cases. But here, they are also painting over the stone trim, and that is foolish.

  • Redo is atrocious!

    I liked that the first rendition saved the old MOVIE SIGN!!!! It is gone in the redo

  • The fatal design flaw for the The Village Arcade buildings are the awful brick columns in the middle of the sidewalks. Rice University/Trademark has to know they can, and should, do more to improve walkability throughout the entire Rice Village, in addition to around the Village Arcade buildings. All the other shops/stores/restaurants in The Village are owned independently owned and the Rice Village Alliance (capably led by Peter Garcia at El Meson) does not have the influence or capability to influence the re-imagination The Village sorely needs with the City of Houston.
    Sidewalks need to be completely overhauled and re-engineered to allow two people to comfortably walk side-by-side. Few would argue that Morningside, between Rice Blvd and University, is a complete and total walking disaster on both sides of the street. Come on, guys!
    While I am in the mode of spending other people’s money (smiles!), the absolute best place in The Village for a multi-story parking garage is the block bounded by Kirby/Kelvin/Rice/Bolsover. The majority of that block is owned by the family which owns Fresh Market and is arguably the single best piece of real estate in The Village. They could build a 4-5 level parking garage, with street-level commercial space, great sidewalks and even throw in a Marriott-caliber hotel tower on top. As Ken Hoffman likes to say, do I have to think of everything around here??????

  • This is horrible. Taking classic red brick and slapping a coat of tacky white paint on it that will require maintenance forever. Dumb. Let’s just ghetto up one of the classiest places in Houston with some paint on brick. You don’t see Highland Village going down this road, do you?

  • I’m so glad Rice Village is getting a “make over”. It’s location is super convenient, but detest the parking meters. Can someone please add a nice women’s shoe store, and specialty grocery store where you can buy basics!

  • @Irma Bujnoch, yeah, we could call the grocery store, um, Rice Food Market, or say, Weingarten Grocery. Oh wait, we had those already but we tore them down.