- 16350 Clearcrest Dr. [HAR]
HAKEEM OLAJUWON’S MOON SHOT, A LONG WAY FROM THE GALLERIA The two-time NBA champ opened DR34M in December to showcase his line of luxury men’s sportswear, leather goods, and body lotions — but the 3300 East Nasa Pkwy. location struck some as unlikely: The Jim West Mansion? In Clear Lake? Where NASA used to study the moon? Houston Chronicle‘s Joy Sewing drops by to see what the baller has done to the old place: “[Olajuwon] took great care to maintain the integrity of the mansion . . . . The great room is likely one of the most impressive entry ways of any luxury store from Louis Vuitton to Hermès. . . . He commissioned an artist to add gold-leaf accents throughout the mansion. . . . In the west wing, the DR34M sportswear collection is prominently displayed in a room that features flooring from the Rockets’ 1995 NBA championship game.” And it’s only about 40 minutes south on I-45, far from Uptown: “It would not make the same impact (at the Galleria),” Olajuwon tells Sewing. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia
Former Houston Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon quietly opened the doors this past week of a brand-new flagship store for his new clothing line, DR34M. It’s conveniently located just off NASA Pkwy., inside a mansion built during the Depression by a Texas oilman — used later for more than 20 years by NASA for its Lunar and Planetary Institute.
The 17,000-sq.-ft. Italianate mansion by the Clear Lake shore was completed in 1930 by Houston city hall architect Joseph Finger for Jim West, whose family sold it to Humble Oil when he died in 1941. Since then, it has been owned by the Pappas restaurant family and Rice University. And in 1969, during the Apollo missions, the nearby Johnson Space Center moved its moon unit here; it stayed until 1991.
Olajuwon, who has made a lot of investments in Houston-area real estate since his 2002 retirement from the NBA, bought the West Mansion in 2006. He had plans to subdivide the sprawling 41-acre estate to sell off to developers, according to news reports. Later reports indicated the mansion would be razed, or that a retirement village would be built around it. But since early this year, workers have been making extensive renovations to the building, inside and out:
COMMENT OF THE DAY: DIRECTING BAYPORT TOURISTS “This terminal sure has had some bad PR. Sure there’s the container terminal right next door, but it’s not so unsightly. And planting a few hundred or so palm trees could even obstruct that view from the roadway if so desired. There aren’t any refineries in the immediate area — lots of homes though. Those departing from the Bayport Cruise Terminal should be directed to drive from I-45 to NASA Bypass/Parkway to 146 to Port Road — thus avoiding the unsightly industrial area on 225. Make sure the passengers see Clear Lake on their way to the terminal instead of the Port of Houston. NASA and Kemah are just a few miles from this terminal. Kinda touristy if you ask me. Lots of land available for building hotels, restaurants, and shops too. It’s not Galveston — no. But it’s not all dark clouds as many make it out to be.” [Thomas, commenting on Comment of the Day Runner-Up: Bayport for Tourists]
Update: Olajuwon’s DR34M store is now open.
Hakeem Olajuwon hasn’t officially announced what he plans to do with Clear Lake’s landmarked Jim West Mansion, which he bought along with the surrounding 41-acre property at 3303 NASA Pkwy. in 2006. But a teaser website suggests that the former Houston Rockets center intends to transform the oil and cattle baron’s former estate — which served for a time as NASA’s Lunar Science Institute — into a flagship store for DR34M, the clothing line he introduced before a New Year’s Eve Rockets game in 2010, but that hasn’t drawn much attention since.
“The DR34M Spring 2012 Collection will launch online and in our new Houston flagship store,” announces the website at Dr34m.com. It’s illustrated with a photo of the 17,000-sq.-ft. Italianate mansion, which was designed by Houston city hall architect Joseph Finger and completed in 1930 not far from the current site of Houston’s Johnson Space Center. “We are busy designing a new line of clothing, collaborating on a collection of leather bags and accessories and sourcing modern furniture,” reads the brief copy, which is accompanied by Olajuwon’s signature.
Wood shingles, gingerbread trim and a taste of a wraparound porch lend Victorian flavoring to the exterior of this new listing in the Brook Forest neighborhood of Clear Lake.
LIVING IN THE SOG ZONE As Hurricane Alex heads for the northern banks of Mexico more than 300 miles away and the National Weather Service issues a coastal flood warning, the Chronicle‘s Clear Lake website offers this bit of advice: “Residents throughout Clear Lake and the rest of the Houston area should watch for street flooding in the usual areas.” [Ultimate Clear Lake]
STUCK IN THOSE NEIGHBORHOOD SAND TRAPS The Ohio investor who bought up 3 Houston community golf courses over the last decade, then sold the one in Quail Valley to Missouri City a couple of years ago, is running into a few obstacles in his attempts to sell the other 2 to developers: “The latest roadblock came with a jury verdict late last year that would prohibit the use of the land that once served as the Inwood Forest Country Club for any purpose other than a golf course. . . . The Harris County jury found that the Inwood Forest golf property contained an ‘implied reciprocal negative easement,’ [Inwood Forest homeowners association member Julie] Grothues said. In plain English, that means that an owner of the course is bound to keep it as a course even though the original deed has no such restrictive covenant. The lawyer for the homeowners association argued that the course was an essential component of the neighborhood, and that allowing it to be cut up for development would irrevocably change the character of the community and the value of the homes.” Is Mark Voltmann’s game going any better at the shuttered Clear Lake Golf Club? “The deed for the Clear Lake property contains a restriction preventing owners from using it for anything but a golf course or recreational facility until 2021. Voltmann has filed suit to try to bust the deed restrictions. In theory, success could translate into a big payday, as a portion of the property has good commercial potential. But the Inwood verdict is looming. If it stands up, homeowners could use the same argument to stymie him again.” [Houston Chronicle; listing]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: CLEARING THE AIR AROUND CLEAR LAKE CITY “As a resident of the area, I’m very interested in your comment about ‘knowing what was going on around and within Clear Lake City before Exxon developed it as a community…’ Are you aware of anything specific that might raise concerns, or is this just a baseless consumer scare?” [C.T., commenting on Comment of the Day: Clear Lake City Cleans Up Nicely]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: CLEAR LAKE CITY CLEANS UP NICELY “Is there a discount [for homes near chemical plants]? Hell yes! And it’s for lots of reasons: 1) real or perceived pollution, 2) real or perceived high crime, 3) low elevations, 4) higher property insurance rates, 5) fewer nearby white collar jobs, and 6) living there indicates to snobs that you’ve got a low social status. Most of the discount is unwarranted, but it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Look at Clear Lake City; parts of it are only about 1.5 miles from the nearest chemical plants. It was developed upon depleted oil fields and is adjacent to still-active fields. (It was developed by a subsidiary of Exxon!) It’s adjacent to an airport. It has a low elevation. But all that stuff is out of sight, out of mind, and so there’s no stigma.” [TheNiche, commenting on House Shopping in the Chemical Discount Zones: Finding Houston’s Less-Toxic Neighborhoods]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ENDEAVOUR RESCUE PLAN “Original asking prices for the 80 unit tower ranged from $425k to $2.5 million. After all the hype about sales, it looks like the developer was only able to sell 36 units. Now Regions has unloaded 44 units for an average price of $216k plus back taxes and interest. OUCH! And what can we read between the lines of this comment? ‘The group also said it would pay normally budgeted homeowner assessments for 2010 for any condo owner current on their assessments for 2009.’ It sounds to me like MANY of the 36 original buyers are behind on their maintenance fees. Wonmore is trying to incentivize them [to] get current by offering to pay all their fees for 2010??? That sounds like an awfully big incentive? Are they trying to solve an awfully big problem? When condo associations go broke, look out below. . . .” [Bernard, commenting on Wonmore in Bankrupt Endeavour]
WONMORE IN BANKRUPT ENDEAVOUR The sale of 44 unsold condos in high-flying developer Robin Parsley’s bankrupt Endeavour highrise on Clear Lake in Pasadena was approved by a court last week. “The winning bidder was a partnership named Wonmore Ltd. The group agreed to pay $9.5 million plus past-due taxes and interest, according to Houston attorney Walter Cicack, who represented Wonmore. The group also said it would pay normally budgeted homeowner assessments for 2010 for any condo owner current on their assessments for 2009. . . . The 30-story Endeavour, at 4821 NASA Parkway, had been in legal limbo since earlier this year when its developer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection the day before the building was scheduled to be sold in a foreclosure auction. Regions Bank was listed as a creditor in the bankruptcy with a claim of $20.8 million.” [Houston Chronicle]
FAST FOOD FIRE FOAM FAKE-OUTS Acting on the orders of a prank caller, managers of 2 local Arby’s locations recently ended up spraying foam all over their kitchen and food-prep areas. The caller, claiming to be from the local fire department, said that the system had been turned off, but instructed the manager in each instance to pull the lever that activates the fire suppression equipment — to allow the department to perform a test. At the Arby’s on Garth Rd. in Baytown, the foam caused at least $600 in physical damage and significantly more in loss of business during the cleanup. At an Arby’s in Clear Lake, employees “followed the instructions from the caller even further and broke out the windows of the restaurant, according to [Baytown Detective Lt. Eric] Freed. The Jack-In-The-Box on Decker Drive in Baytown also got a similar call, but did not do anything that the caller said to do, he said.” [Baytown Sun]
One more reason to get excited about the possibility of another Depression: It could save the Jim West Mansion in Clear Lake!
Two years ago, a real-estate company controlled by former Houston Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon bought the mansion with plans to subdivide its 41 acres for sale to developers. At one point, the mansion seemed about to be razed. At another, it seemed likely to become the centerpiece of a luxury complex for retirees.
But as of yet, no deal has solidified. And that’s where [Clear Lake schoolteacher Linda] Sansing finds a strange upside to talk of a new Depression: With credit tight, it seems unlikely that a for-profit developer will swoop in.
Great! But . . . will that make raising money for preservationists to buy the property any easier?
Linda Sansing’s nonprofit group, Preserved in Time, aims to raise $100,000 in earnest money, so it can make an offer on the mansion and some of its grounds. She figures that, ultimately, the group will need $11 million to buy the mansion and some of its land. Some of that money could come from opening the mansion to the pubic for rentals and tours. Some could come from grants. But she knows she has a long way to go.
Video: Preserved in Time