20,000-square-foot lot touted
New retail development already emerging from the ashes of the latest fire nextto Agora
Only one day after the catastrophic fire that devastated the neighboring vacant art gallery, coffeehouse Agora was back to business as usual. On CultureMap's visit, a dozen espresso savants and bookish Montrosians populated the café's digs, which underwent a significant restoration following an early morning fire on Halloween 2010 that destroyed its western neighbor, Antiques Warehaus.
The quaint atmosphere at Agora stands in sharp contrast to the heaps of burnt rubbish lining the sidewalk of Westheimer Road outside Galerie Mado Chalvet, which had been vacant for one and one half months. Nobody was onsite, but the front doors were left open to the elements, providing a view on the gallery's toasted skeleton. Pipes leaked from above the showrooms, saturating the debris below.
Edge Realty Partners broker Jed Mandel tells CultureMap that the gallery site's property owner, SFT Investments, also holds the neighboring antique store that abuts Dunlavy. Edge and SFT are collaborating already on a new development that would involve razing both properties and building a new, multi-tenant building with enough parking spaces for retail.
The quaint atmosphere at Agora stands in sharp contrast to the heaps of burnt rubbish lining the sidewalk of Westheimer Road outside Galerie Mado Chalvet, which had been vacant for one and one half months.
"We're already talking with a few different groups who've expressed interest in becoming tenants, either as restaurants or traditional boutique retail," says Mandel of the 20,000-square-foot lot. Mandel has interviewed several architects, but he assures that design and construction will not commence until tenants are signed, and that the project will "maintain the spirit of the area."
Of course, no changes can be made to the property until the HFD arson investigation is closed and the neighboring antique store terminates its month-to-month lease.
Mandel was interviewed onsite after the fire by HFD regarding arson allegations. "We haven't been given any indication that there was any foul play," he says. "Maybe the investigators think that the fire on the other side of Agora was related."
An electrical fire at the gallery seems unlikely, as the space's utility service had been discontinued when Galerie Mado Chalvet vacated.
Several neighbors heard an explosion immediately before the fire began, according to KTRK Ch. 13. The incident is currently under investigation by the Houston Fire Department Arson unit. At the time this story published, HFD had not responded to phone calls from CultureMap seeking further comment.
Agora owner Michael Sotiropoulos is summering in Greece and unavailable for comment on the fire's cause. Following the 2010 fire, Sotiropoulos bought the former Antiques Warehaus property and flipped it into a food truck-friendly parking lot that offered greater street visibility for Agora.