Good Brick Award-Winners Beginning Work on 113-Year-Old Fifth Ward Building

At 2020 Hardy St., this building dates to 1900. Previous owners the Espinosa family managed rental properties from here; it’s also been home to the Monte Carlo Lounge and pool hall and a grocery. The 5,000-sq.-ft. building, lying about 2 miles north of Downtown in the Fifth Ward, was bought in early January by 2011 Good Brick Award winners David and Bennie Flores Ansell, who have spent the past month sweeping and clearing out the interior — which came to them unbidden with cases of unopened tostadas, garbage bags of discarded mail, shelves stocked with ’80s perfume, sunglasses, and self-help videos, broken billiards trophies with tattered replica baize, etc. They hope to have the building transformed into offices and apartments by this summer.


Preservation Houston recognized the couple for their “sympathetic addition” to their Old Sixth Ward home. On that renovation they worked with Shipping Container Whisperer Joe Meppelink, who, the couple says, will help make sure things proceed according to code here. The interior of the building’s been home over the years to squatters and termites. Water damage has ruined much of the ceiling Sheetrock.

The ground floor is now subdivided into two spaces: the door on the right beneath the fire escape in the photo above leads to what used to be the bar, where a chrome-plated cooler is still stocked with cases of Bud Light. (It’s not cold, alas.) The door on the far left leads to a defunct general store; Bennie has begun rearranging some of those aforementioned curious geegaws in advance of a kind of rummage sale. The couple hasn’t decided whether they’ll knock down the non-load-bearing wall splitting the space in two. Below: the original chain-link fence has been rendered rather wobbly by weeds and trash trees; it will come down once an permanent exterior fence is finished.

Below: a shed was cleared away from the side yard; if you look into the foreground you can make out a concrete base where a support beam was attached; the yard will serve as a shared outdoor space for tenants with a vegetable garden:

The back of the building, with views of the upstairs apartment windows:

The side of the building, looking south from Noble St.; the madras-like colors of the brick suggest prior additions to the original building.

Photos: Allyn West

18 Comment

  • This is really cool. I hope they’re successful in turning this into a property that makes money.

  • SOOOOOOOO jealous. That building looks awesome. I bid on a smaller building like that near Washington/Heights but got outbid by about 100 others that also wanted it.
    I’d love to get my hands on a place like this.

  • Very cool. Looking forward to hearing updates on this one.

  • Neat building, terrible neighborhood. I hope they have plans for a moat. Won’t get much better once they are nearly underneath the extended Hardy toll road.

  • I’ve commented to myself many times about the awesome potential of this building. Glad someone who can actually do something has purchased it. As the east side builds up and gets expensive and the Greater Heights is generally already there, I’ve often wondered how long it would take for this near northside to take off and be a destination for people. It’s layout reminds me much of the Heights, built pre-car, has churches tucked inside the neighborhoods instead of on freeways, lots of potential for shops and restaurants within the neighborhood in addition to the more highly traveled cross streets. I generally follow the well proven idea that a presence of artists and arts is what ignites a neighborhoods transformation and that hasn’t begun to happen for this area, but maybe this is the bait that ultimately brings the masses north.

    On a side note though, I am curious how something like this would survive the Hardy Toll Road expansion that is currently being talked about in some circles.

  • Cool when the apartments are ready I wonder how much they will rent for ?

  • People are quietly buying up property in the near northside. Even with the possibility of a Hardy Toll extension, the feeling is that the redevelopment of the near northside is going to pick up some steam very soon as the rail is complete and as the Heights gets too expensive and other areas fill in (1st/6th wards). Projects like this are a great way to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

  • The Hardy Toll Road extension is suppose to run along the rail road. I don’t see why this building would be in danger, its atleast 2 blocks away. It would be great if they built the Toll Road below grade but that would be to much like right for Houston.

  • Has anyone noticed that some (at least one) of the vacant lots along Hardy street have Greenwood King realtor signs on them?

    I travel this way to downtown often and agree that there are a lot of nice old houses with good bones that could be rehabbed to make this neighbourhood a gem.

    Drawbacks – railroad line to the east.
    Probably in the flood zone
    Some real nasty looking types hanging around the few gas stations in the area.

  • What would be even better than a below grade tollroad is if Metro, or better yet, a private entity (perhaps UP or BNSF), built commuter rail along Hardy.

  • Completely awesome! I have always wanted to do something with this building, myself, seeing it deserted for so many years. Since I’m not a developer and I have no money, that was always a just a sad dream. I have always worried that it would get razed or crumble from disrepair. I’m very happy to see this building getting renovated and re-used by great people.

  • Old School: I’m buying a lot in that area. I think it’s too close to “good” areas not to become better soon. It’s also a great place to put people that want to live in our Montrose stuff but want a huge place for next to nothing vs. a studio for $800

  • I hope they stucco over that ugly brick and put some Mediterranean awnings on it.

  • Some of my jaded has faded seeing this one saved.

  • This is not far from Lyons, right? There’s a lot of interesting old retail architecture over there if I recall correctly.

  • This can be the ‘back from the dead’ for 2013

  • 5th Ward…the last piece to Houston Gentrification…we need it done.

  • Guys,
    Stop with the container whisperer already. Please? I consult with 2-3 inquiries per month advising them not to build with containers. Happy to tell you why sometime…
    Architecture / Product Design / Civic Art