Sold to a Colorado-Based Developer: Downtown’s Antique, Colorful Peacock & Plaza Apartments

peacock-apartments-mosaic-1414-austinpeacock-plaza-courtyard

According to Harris County Clerk documents, the Peacock & Plaza apartments at 1414-1416 Austin St. downtown across the street from Root Memorial Square were sold late last month to a Colorado-based development company.

The two Spanish-tinged, red-brick pre-war buildings — one of which is adorned with an eye-catching tile mosaic of a proud peacock, both of which are studded with dark green and white awnings — hold a total of 32 studio apartments.

There’s no off-street parking, but that’s offset in part by “crazy low rents in a prime location,” according to a reader. Prime it is indeed, just across Root Memorial Square from the Toyota Center and blocks from Discovery Green and the convention center. And cheap it is indeed too, at least as of last year, when units were being advertised for $520 a month.

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The reader goes on to say the tenants are on month-to-month leases, have not been given any notice of when or if they might be forced to leave, and are now sending their rent to a new address.

The buyer is listed as FVMHP, a limited partnership with a Colorado Springs address. The sale price was not immediately available, though Loopnet had the buildings listed at $2.632m.

“It will be a shame to lose the building (and especially the awesome peacock mosaic) if the developers demolish it,” the reader says.

The apartments are an early project of Houston architect Lenard Gabert, who went on to design the landmark Third Ward music venue the Eldorado Ballroom overlooking Emancipation Park, and Monarch Cleaners at 2815 S. Shepherd Dr., which in greatly altered form now houses Triniti Restaurant.

Perhaps most famously Gabert also assisted Mackie & Kamrath in the design of Temple Emanu El on Sunset Blvd., the synagogue he attended, and had a hand in the Brochstein’s Inc. industrial plant on S. Main St.

Photos: Loopnet (courtyard and exterior); Swamplot inbox (peacock mosaic).

History For Sale

24 Comment

  • Everyone duck for the Wrecking Ball.

  • This one is a true shame if it gets demoed. When the weather is cooler, I walk through Downtown on my lunch break: these apartments and Root Memorial Square Park (rainbow chard for landscaping!) are two of my favorite spots on this walk. I’ve always been curious what the rooms look, especially when I try to nonchalantly peek into the courtyard. This building adds some nice character to a sea of surface parking lots.
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    The one thing I didn’t like about this place was the relatively large utility/power services literally located right behind the building.
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    The mosaic is gorgeous. Hopefully parts of this building will be salvaged if (when) it sees the way of the bulldozer.

  • I don’t see this ending well for historic preservation or for the people who live there.

  • Mr Gorbachev tear that building down!!! and put up a new one of course

  • 32 units at $520/month = $17k/month (I rounded up). This building will be blown up FOR SURE. Someone doesn’t pay $2.6m+ for a building that brings in $17k/month in rent to keep as an income property.
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    (a high end limit of what we’ll pay for a building, if it’s in an area we like and there are other factors that make us want it, is 100x monthly rent. So this place would be $1.7m at MOST and that would still result in a pretty low CAP)

  • I helped move a friend out of one of those apartments a few years ago. My recollection is that the apartment was a tiny one-bedroom plus bathroom and kitchenette, the walls were dingy, and the place was overrun with cockroaches. Much cooler on the outside than on the inside.

  • Lived there in the summer of 2007. Paid $400 back then. Exteriors were nice but the interiors were small and prison-like with thick metal screens on the windows. Had cool Murphy beds that seemed original to the building. Parking was a problem though and it also had a huge cat, mouse, & roach problem. Needless to say, I didnt stay there long.

  • An ad for one of these units went up on Craigslist a couple months ago, so I went and looked at it. A resident named Oswaldo showed it to me. I had a feeling he was sort of the property manager. Rent was $520 a month, with a month to month lease and a $235 security deposit.
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    The room was a one bedroom studio with a small dressing area (built in wardrobe unit), bathroom, dining area, and small kitchen. The murphy bed apparatus looked very old, and folded from the bedroom into a separate closet. The room was well worn; the carpet was dingy, and the walls here dirty. It also smelled faintly of urine. I gave Oswaldo the security deposit.
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    A few days later, I called Edith (the 90-something year old lady who owned the complex) back, and told her I changed my mind. We then talked about her day for a little while. She had recently moved from her Galleria-area apartment to a nearby assisted living facility. She agreed to refund my deposit, and I received a check from her a few days later.

  • Very interesting! Thanks for the additional info about the interiors and experiences with it. Super gross/awful/horrible about the pests. :S I was a bit surprised to hear that there were 32 studios in that building and expected about half the number of apartments. Definitely a cool-looking building on the outside – wish we had more nicely maintained pre-war buildings in Houston.

  • This would be a cool building to buy and fix up. But based on the size, and no parking, you’re not going to get much more rent. Thus, to buy as an income property, you’d need it for much much less.
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    The property is doomed.
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    Andrew, this made me laugh: “The room was well worn; the carpet was dingy, and the walls here dirty. It also smelled faintly of urine. I gave Oswaldo the security deposit.”
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    heheh… “This place sucked. I gave them a deposit” :)

  • See this is where I think HUD and the housing advocates have it completely wrong. They – should- be pushing for affordable housing developers to buy buildings like the Peacock & Plaza – good buildings in good areas with already-low rents. Get those places into tax credits to help the owners make up for the low rents, and also to ensure they stay affordable for decades.
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    But instead they (HUD and the housing advocates) pick fights with suburban towns and cities and blow tons of money and effort on lawyers fees. *sigh*.
    .
    OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

  • “Affordable housing INVESTORS” I mean. Those buildings should be preserved, with the rents kept low – and this can be made possible with tax credits….
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    OK, NOW I’ll get off my soapbox.

  • More affordable housing turned to dust.

  • Believing that this will end up a tear down.

    I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that it makes financial sense to buy revenue producing buildings and tear them down, when right next door are a bunch of parking lots with no need for demo.

    Seen this before in other locations.

  • If there was any way to combine this property with the run down Athens hotel on the other corner of the block – which I believe does have some parking and banquet space? – I think this would be a cool boutique hotel project. The owner would have to believe the remaining lots would quickly fill in around them.

    of course, I know nothing about the economics of small hotel renovations, but I can dream….

  • @Cody this is a perfect location for someone without a car; in fact, the friend I was helping move out did not own a car and did not even drive. Unfortunately, as you’ve pointed out multiple times before, the City! Has! Laws! about these things, and mandates a certain number of spaces per unit… This place was obviously grandfathered, but I guess a change of ownership probably changes all that.

  • Zaw: To make this worth buying and keeping as apartments, the tax credits would have to pride the equivalent of about $300/month/unit.
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    I don’t know how tax credits work so I don’t know how that delta is accomplished. I’ve always avoided them as I’m more of a “just leave me alone” type when it come to the government vs. going into some partnership where I follow x rules for y reward (same reason we don’t take the ‘sure money’ from tenants who get rental assistance). But assuming someone could do whatever the tax credit people say, and get the effective income from ~$520/unit to about $820/unit, then it would be worth keeping in place and paying ~$2.6m

    Of course, you could still do *WAY BETTER* (in terms of rent coming in per $ of money spent) by buying just a few miles east — but I understand the wussyness of income property buyers when it comes to location :)

  • @ GoogleMaster: There are no parking requirements within Downtown.

    @ awp: Many of those parking lots are owned by folks who just won’t let them go (for example, a certain owner from the Far East that in sum total owns a major chunk of southeast Dowtown). If you can’t pry the vacant land away from their clutches, then go for what’s available.

  • inam sick of how our treasures are destroyed for a parking lot or even a high rise apartment building. The new is never built as well and the craftsmanship is not near what the artisans of the past took pride in. A chrome and glass building mat appeal to ths new generation, but I prefer the character of the old! Such a sad commentary on what money willed!

  • Here comes the shoddily build ,soul less NC. Yuck. Which will be “luxury” units. Read: granite and stainless and a few amenities. The unsanitary interior descriptions are on par for building from that era.

  • Padraig, I hate to break it to you, but pre-war buildings aren’t predisposed or more likely to have roaches/rats/cats compared with other buildings. Being on top of your maintenance usually prevents “unsanitary conditions.” The insides of this building sound pretty damned wretched, and if one chooses to reside in a prewar building, I think an expectation of not having it smell like piss is more than reasonable.

  • I live and enjoy living at this complex. Units are indeed small but it works for me. I only want the experience of living downtown and spending an arm & leg is not possible. Previous owner was & is the best, I’m sure her age was a major factor in selling. Any issue with my apartment and or complex have always been addressed and resolved asap.

  • I also live in these apartments, and have for many years. They are not luxury by any standards, and do need much work to bring them up to standards. The past landlady was a sweetheart, and I know she hated to give up these apartments, but she was 97 and finally moved into assisted living. As a resident, I was disappointed in not being kept in the loop of what was happening here. We don’t know what will now happen to us, if we can remain living here or not. If we do, and if improvements are made, we all know the rent will go up drastically. The new owner seems nice, and has great ideas and plans to remodel the buildings, but I am not sure it is a wise financial decision for him. I, we hope we can all continue to live here, and that the dreaded wrecking ball does not come to wipe our home out. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

  • Two years later and they are still there.