03/23/10 11:47am

You might be thinking, “How can I buy me some prime Greenway Plaza real estate from the city for, say $12.50 a square foot?” If, as expected, city council approves the sale in tomorrow’s meeting, that’s the amount Lakewood Church will pay for the Southwest Freeway building it’s currently leasing.

Lakewood took out a 30-year lease on the property — which formerly served as home court for the Houston Rockets, first as the Houston Summit, and later as the Compaq Center — in 2001. Lakewood prepaid the entire $11.8 million lease amount, then spent more than $80 million to turn the former basketball arena into a proper TV-worthy megachurch. But the key to Lakewood’s current real estate good fortune is the lease extension it negotiated: an option to extend the lease for an additional 30 years for $22.6 million.

Since the city likely won’t receive any income (or tax revenue) from the property until the year 2061, city real estate managers think selling the 606,000-sq.-ft. property on more than 7 acres at 3700 Southwest Fwy. to the church is a good idea. The price? A value only net-present-value adherents, real-estate appraisers, and the Lakewood faithful could love: $7.5 million.

Feeling a little inspired by the church’s ability to swing such a deal? It is yet another testament to the remarkable real-estate skills of Houston’s leading property-investment guru, Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen. In this passage from his latest book, It’s Your Time, Osteen virtually screams, “GET IN FIRST, BUY LATER”:


03/08/10 4:44pm

The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance has sent out an email reporting that the congregation of the Immanuel Lutheran Church in the Heights voted in a special meeting this past weekend not to demolish its sanctuary building after all.

So what’s going to happen to the unused 1932 brick structure instead? Says the GHPA:

The Gothic Revival building on Cortlandt Street at East 15th Street will be used as flex space to accommodate church functions and Immanuel Lutheran School activities as well as community events.

Sure, it’s likely to make a great space for events. But how could any church function match an all-out building demo for fun?

The GHPA reports the congregation has committed to spending $150,000 on the rehab — about twice the cost of the demolition, which had already been scheduled for May. GHPA credits the 90-days-to-oblivion feature of the city’s otherwise toothless preservation ordinance for the save:


02/15/10 11:37am

That report we passed on last Friday about the congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church in the Heights voting to turn its former sanctuary at the corner of Cortlandt and 15th St. into a museum of Lutheran history turns out to have been false. City Council members Edward Gonzalez and Sue Lovell, who announced the decision in a press release, jumped the gun a bit:

Lovell spokesman Tim Brookover said the councilwoman’s office received a report from a preservationist attending the meeting that there had “been a lot of talk about a Lutheran museum” and presumed the church group approved the plan.

Though informally discussed, such a proposal has not been formally presented to the governing board, [board president Ken Bakenhus] said.

But there was some progress at the meeting: The congregation did vote to reject local artist and engineer Gus Kopriva’s proposal to lease the sanctuary and turn it into an art museum, the Chronicle‘s Allan Turner reports.

Bakenhus told Turner late last year that the board was “’99 percent’ in favor” of spending $60,000 to demolish the 1932 brick building. The church has a signed contract to tear down the structure this summer.

Photo: Heights Blog

01/07/10 1:05pm

The 3D documentation artists who’ve been scanning the facade of Immanuel Lutheran Church’s unwanted sanctuary building at 1448 Cortland St. in the Heights issue an important caution to those appreciating their craft:

Once archived, the data file’s full-scale scan and related imagery becomes a resource for preservationists, conservators, architects, engineers, site managers, or others needing access for a variety of purposes, from maintenance to insurance to historical reference, explained the team from Smart GeoMetrics, a division of Smart MultiMedia. The venture’s principals are Richard Lasater and Doug Smith of the Rice Village area. . . .

Lasater said — with emphasis — that digital documentation is an archival tool, “not a replacement’ for a building.”

Image: Smart GeoMetrics

01/04/10 12:32pm

HOLIDAY FIRE ROUNDUP A former auto parts store converted to a house of worship for the local congregation of a Nigerian-based church burned in the early hours of New Years Day, in a fire begun from a candle at the altar. The facility at 9430 West Bellfort, which backs up to Braeburn Valley West, was completely destroyed, except for some metal siding. Congregants, who are now holding services in a northside restaurant, have vowed to rebuild. A few days earlier, in the gated enclave of homes just north of Rice University known as Shadowlawn Shadyside, another fire struck a $12 million mansion with some history behind it: “The home was designed by New York architect Harrie T. Lindberg for William Stamps Farish, the founder of Humble Oil, which was one of the companies that eventually became Exxon Mobil Corp. According to a biography of [Howard] Hughes, the mansion at 10 Remington Lane was where Hughes married Ella Rice, the sister of Farish’s wife.” [abc13; Reuters]

12/04/09 1:19pm

City officials are discussing a possible sale of the former basketball stadium now occupied by the nation’s largest megachurch, reports the Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff. When Lakewood Church took over the Compaq Center (formerly the Houston Summit) from the city in 2001, the institution prepayed the entire $12 million rent amount of the 30-year lease, and spent considerably more than that on renovations. The city won’t see any more income from the property for 22 years. According to the agreement, Lakewood has the option of extending its lease for a second 30-year period, for $22.6 million.

How much could the city get for the little church by the Southwest Freeway?


11/25/09 2:29pm

Some news from the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance:

The congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church has voted to delay until spring 2010 the proposed demolition of its Gothic Revival sanctuary on East 15th Street at Cortlandt in the Heights East Historic District.

In late October, the city Archeological and Historic Commission voted to deny the church a “certificate of appropriateness” for the demo, which meant the church would have had to wait a full 90 days anyway — until late January of next year — to tear down its vacant 1932 brick building.

Photo: Heights Blog

11/12/09 7:26pm

TAKE THE MONEY AND IRAN “Federal prosecutors are seeking to seize the Islamic Education Center at 2313 S. Voss, just north of Westheimer, as part of a move against the Alavi Foundation, nonprofit organization with suspected ties to the Iranian government: “Faheem Kazimi, chairman of the board of directors of IEC, said tonight that the center leases its building from Alavi Foundation. No other connection exists, he said. . . . The Center’s premises on South Voss is occupied by one of Houston’s largest Shiia mosques and Al-Hadi School of Accelerative Learning, a private Islamic school. . . . The mosque . . . will remain open while the forfeiture case works its way through court in what could be a long process. What will happen to them if the government ultimately prevails is unclear. But the government typically sells properties it has seized through forfeiture, and the proceeds are sometimes distributed to crime victims. There were no raids Thursday as part of the forfeiture action. The government is simply required to post notices of the civil complaint on the property. Prosecutors said the Alavi Foundation, through a front company known as Assa Corp., illegally funneled millions in rental income back to Iran’s state-owned Bank Melli. Bank Melli has been accused by a U.S. Treasury official of providing support for Iran’s nuclear program, and it is illegal in the United States to do business with the bank.” [Houston Chronicle]

11/11/09 11:56am

DOWNSIZING THE GALVESTON CHURCH Archbishop Daniel DiNardo details the demo list: “The St. Therese of Lisieux mission building on the Bolivar Peninsula already has been demolished. The new plan adds Our Mother of Mercy church, also on the peninsula, to the list to be torn down. Members of Our Mother of Mercy’s congregation, who have opposed the archdiocese’s plans through litigation, said via e-mail Monday that the church’s fate was still to be decided. They said there would be a mediation session on the issue Friday. Ancillary buildings, but not the main church structures, will be removed at both the Holy Rosary and Sacred Heart campuses. The lot and buildings at Reina de La Paz are slated to be sold. The buildings that comprise the St. Peter the Apostle site are all to be either destroyed or sold. Historic stained glass windows, sacred statues, artwork and other items of architectural or symbolic interest will be preserved, Auxiliary Bishop Joe S. Vasquez said. ‘The church intends to keep them. We won’t throw them away or sell them, and will reuse them locally if possible.’” [Galveston County Daily News]

07/06/09 12:10pm

The Facts reporter John Tompkins visits the 4-year-old non-denominational Biker Church in Manvel, which operates out of a strip-center wedding and event facility on Highway 6, just east of FM 1128:

Instead of shirts, ties and Sunday dresses, Biker Church members wear vests, leather pants and sport tattoos. And instead of coming to church in the family car, most participants roll into the Jordan Center, where the church services are performed, on motorcycles and line them up in front of the door.

“If you walked into our church with a suit and tie, people would look at you funny,” said the church’s pastor, David Wright.

Robert “Tree” Perot said he started attending Biker Church after a member saw him on the side of a highway praying by his motorcycle. The man handed him a necklace with a cross fashioned from nails and asked him to come to Biker Church.

Photo of Biker Church parking at Jordan Event Center, 20709 Hwy 6 in Manvel: Biker Church

05/04/09 3:15pm

Many of the buildings on the campus were completed last August, but this weekend marked the official grand opening of “one of the largest Buddhist developments in the nation,” just northeast of Hempstead. The American Bodhi Center, a new retreat on 515 acres off FM 2979 in Waller County, was created by the Texas Buddhist Association — in part to relieve crowding at the 1,500-family-strong Jade Buddha Temple in Alief.

Among the new buildings: the Memorial Hall pictured above. There’s also a new Meditation Hall:


04/20/09 11:37am

Art exhibitionist Mr. Kimberly visits that former Buddha Light Monastery ranch-house-plus-temple combo near 288 and Beltway 8 that was featured on Swamplot late last month, and reports:

The for-sale property had a big, unkempt lot, a cute house, a large garage/shed building, the temple structure and separate bathroom facilities. For a working artist with a desire to be removed from the Houston inner loop, this would be a great place to create far (but not too far) from the city and its distractions. Live in the house, make art in the garage, display it in yard or covert the temple to a gallery (easy!). When we stopped by, it looked like a black church congregation was looking at the property. It would be perfect for that too.

Photos: LoopNet

03/30/09 1:51pm

A little more than $40K has come off the asking price of this Texas Buddhist Temple off Almeda-Genoa, in the high northeastern crotch of 288 and Beltway 8. The 3-room, 1850-sq.-ft. building comes with an adjacent 3-bedroom, 2-bath ranch house and what looks like enough parking for several 18-wheelers.

Also on the 2.5-acre property: a 31×22 storage building and “bathrooms” behind the temple.


01/15/09 3:41pm

The new 3-level youth building on the growing campus of Chapelwood United Methodist Church on Greenbay St. in Piney Point Village is now open:

Tour members, most who were seeing the new construction for the first time, were visibly taken aback when entering the ground-level youth activity center Sunday, where they were greeted by loud music and kids enjoying the actiivites.

Complete with 13 video gaming stations, air hockey, foosball, ping pong and pool tables, a snack bar, tables and seating for hanging out, a small stage with a huge video screen for games, group study rooms, free wi-fi, and more.

Youth ministry offices are off to the side of the game room.

Drawing of Chapelwood United Methodist Church master plan and photo: Merriman Holt Architects

12/08/08 12:25pm

CHURCH OF THE SHEPHERD DRIVE-THRU The Christian non-denominational Succeed in Life Center near Shepherd and Tidwell has been offering drive-thru prayer service to members and non-members alike a couple of Saturdays a month since October, and pastor Damien Jackson tells Hair Balls the event has garnered praise from participants. ‘The reaction has been great. The people who drive by say everything from, “I’ve never heard of this, this is such a need idea, this is so helpful,”’ says Jackson, adding they regularly see between 20 and 30 cars an hour. Jackson explains that participants drive up to a window and fill out a request sheet, then drive to another window where they receive the prayer and a ‘quick word of encouragement’ from a pastor.” [Hair Balls]