The century-old Houston Club is vacating its home of more than six decades.
The building at 811 Rusk — built specifically for the private members-only club in the 1940s by Houston business mogul Jesse Jones — has been acquired by multinational development company Skanska. A fixture among the city’s classic buildings, the Houston Club maintains five unique entryways to the downtown tunnel system.
“Generally, we’re saddened to leave the building,” current club president Thomas Bett of Prator Bett tells CultureMap. “At the same time, though, it’s exciting to find a new spot.”
“Our current 100,000 square-feet is simply too much space,” says Nadia Eloufir, the club’s chief operating officer and general manager. “We maintain leased space for offices and even a barber shop, which is not really the business we’re in as a private club.”
“Our current 100,000 square-feet is simply too much space,” says Nadia Eloufir, Houston Club's chief operating officer and general manager.
Although the club's lease would have ended in May 2015, plans to relocate began when the Rusk building — then owned by Cameron Management — went into foreclosure last year. Skanska’s offer to buy out the remaining 27 months on the Houston Club's lease for just over a million dollars was “just perfect,” according to Eloufir.
The club is currently working with an as-of-yet unnamed architect to explore three nearby building sites, also undisclosed. The relocation is set for early 2013.
“I took this position a year ago excited to work on the relocation project and reinvigorate our vision,” Eloufir said. “We hope to find a space in the central business district, the closer to our current location the better. We’d like a building that matches the historic nature of the organization and allows us to expand our amenities.”
In a recent club newsletter, The Clubber, Elfouir described wanting to shift from a meal-centric model to a more all-day format that supports longer member visits.
Established in 1898, club has maintained a member roster of prominent business and political figures such as George H.W. Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker. In recent years, however, the club’s 1000-plus private membership has been more representative of Houston's diversity and the club continues to expand. Club officials say 75 percent of its new members are under the age of 45.
Skanska, meanwhile, sets its sights on the Houston to expand its commercial building interests. Known for high-profile construction projects like Norman Foster’s Gherkin building in London and the upcoming Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York, Skanska is one of Sweden’s largest companies and one of the top contractors in the United States.
“There’s a terrific story going on in Houston with its dynamic economics and continued growth,” said Michael Mair, executive vice president and regional manager of Skanska USA Commercial Development.
A major proponent of green building practices, the company announced plans last fall to construct a LEED-certified office building at 3009 Post Oak. Designed by Houston firm Kirksey Architecture, the 20-story glass building will feature high-performance chillers, an energy wheel and an advanced carbon dioxide monitoring system.
Though it planned to start construction earlier this year, Skanska has yet to break ground.
Michael Mair wouldn't comment on future plans for the company’s new-acquired Houston Club building and the full surrounding city block, which it also owns. There has been speculation that the old building will be demolished in favor of a new tower.
Real estate expert and CultureMap contributor Ralph Bivins suspects Skanska will redevelop the site to maximize this “dream location” downtown, which includes access to the METRORail South East line currently under construction.