02/19/13 11:00am

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

12/21/12 10:31pm

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:


03/28/12 12:23pm

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.


03/31/11 4:38pm

In 2005, Houston’s transportation agency agreed to pay $15 million for 17.3 acres of flood-prone land along the northern bank of White Oak Bayou just north of Downtown, reports the West University Examiner‘s Michael Reed. Former Houston Rockets and UH basketball star Hakeem Olajuwon had purchased the property from the Union Pacific Railroad for an estimated $2 million six years earlier. But even more eye-popping than Olajuwon’s roughly estimated $13 million profit on the sale is this little nugget: A separate appraisal — conducted the same year as the sale — valued the property at only $2.6 million.


07/13/09 11:29am

Hidden upstairs in that new double-decker strip center on the south side of 59 between the Kirby CVS and the feeder-road Chick-Fil-A, nestled between a hair salon and a spa, is a brand-new recital hall, outfitted with a 7-foot-5 Hamburg Steinway Model C grand piano and room for up to 100 fans of fine classical music. Leave the curtains on the back wall open, and performers can appreciate a sweeping view of the freeway traffic as they play.

The hall is inside the brand-new Dowling Music, a gifts-and-sheet-music store run by concert pianist Richard Dowling, who recently returned to his hometown and bought the Houston branch of Pender’s Music (which Pender’s had bought from the local Wadler-Kaplan Music Shop in 2000).

The strip center and its neighbors were built on the former Kirby Dr. site of Westheimer Transfer & Storage, which former Rockets star Hakeem Olajuwon bought in 2002. Olajuwon demolished the building and flipped the land, parceling it out in pieces to suburban-style developers.

Dowling, who performs about 60 concerts a year around the world, can’t have expected much walk-in business from visitors patronizing other establishments in the strip center. Downstairs from his store is the Methodist Breast Imaging Center; an Israeli martial arts studio, a weight-loss clinic, a GolfTEC indoor golf clinic, and the Pasha Snoring & Sinus Center round out the second floor. But Dowling tells the West University Examiner‘s Steve Mark that traffic has doubled since he moved the store from its Portwest Dr. location:


10/16/08 12:39pm

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