Real Estate Round-up
Divine art is headed to Rice Village and Shell starts a downtown real estateshuffle
”So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
Something divine is coming to Rice Village. And it’s not a church, synagogue or a Mosque.
It will bring a lot more artists to the Village.
So if you care about murals in office buildings, sculpture, commissioned portraits, art galleries or even custom faux finishes on your Sheetrock, listen up.
Imago Dei (which means ‘image of God’ in Latin) is relocating to the Rice Village.
A group led by the founders of Imago Dei gallery bought a two-story building at 2525 Robinhood in the Rice Village, just off Kirby Drive.
The Imago Dei gallery will do a lot more than just hang art work on its walls. Imago Dei provides a lot of design services and art-related products to the construction industry — both residential and commercial real estate — in addition to a variety of other art projects. And there will be space for other creative people to ply their trades in the building.
Plans call for a two-story glassed-in studio to be constructed, enabling passersby to stand on the front sidewalk to watch artists paint 30-foot murals and create mosaics or sculptures.
Village Design Suites
But Imago Dei says there’s more than a gallery and a studio in the works.
A portion of the Robinhood Street building will become the “Village Design Suites.” The suites will be similar to executive office suites where sole proprietors share a secretary, a coffee bar and a board room.
The Village Design Suites will be marketed to attract creative types, such as interior designers, graphic artists and architects, says Imago Dei’s Jeremy Wells. “This will be Houston’s only executive suite dedicated to creative professionals,” he says. In other words, Village Design Suites won’t house accountants, but it will have artists.
Imago Dei was founded by Jeremy Wells and his wife, Jamie Wells, a pair of artists, in 2001.
Imago Dei, which also has an operation in Austin, had been leasing space in northwest Houston before buying the building in the Village. The 7500-square-foot building in the Village was purchased from Beth Carls and Amy Looper. (Deal details: The seller was represented by James E. Foreman, Louis “Beau” Kaleel and William “Cape” Bell of Cushman & Wakefield, along with Larry Martin of Larry Martin Realtors. The buyer was represented by Bonnie Assad of Jim Assad & Associates.)
And the name of the gallery? Yes, “Imago Dei” is Latin for “Image of God.” In the Bible’s Genesis creation story of Adam and Eve, we read that God created humans “in his own image.” For the founders of Imago Dei gallery, this means the christening of the studio “goes back to a historic Judeo-Christian belief that all men and women are created in the image of a creator and as such have an infinitely deep well of creativity to draw from,” according to group’s website.
Imago Dei will create another interesting element in the collection of businesses in the Village.
Gig ‘em, Realtors.
The housing market has been struggling and it may be months before good times return, according to an analysis by Dr. James P. Gaines, an economist with the Texas A&M Real Estate Center in Aggieland.
“The second half of 2010 holds significant challenges for the housing market,” Gaines says in a Texas A&M research paper.
The federal tax credits juiced the housing market heavily before they expired in April. In order to obtain the sizable tax benefits, people accelerated their plans to buy homes. People who would have bought homes this fall bought homes in the spring before the tax credits expired.
“It appears that Texas housing sales, like U.S. sales, peaked in May rather than the typical June or July cyclical high. Sustaining the momentum from the first half of the year into the second half may be difficult,” Gaines says.
Mortgage interest rates are exceptionally low — less than 5 percent. That does help the market. But tighter requirements and underwriting scrutiny by mortgage companies have made it harder for homebuyers to get a home loan.
A couple of years ago, mortgage companies were too loose with underwriting requirements. Anybody could get approved for a mortgage. Today, lending requirements are too restrictive. The pendulum went too far. Underwriting is too tight.
Gaines believes the next two months will be telling. If home sales hold steady or register only small declines in October and November, then the housing market may actually be headed for a real recovery. If this fall brings horrific results, the housing market may be in for a long, bumpy ride.
Shell’s Downtown Shuffle
CultureMap told readers in January that Shell Oil was quietly looking at making a big move on Main Street in downtown Houston. That deal has come together.
Shell Oil has leased 300,000 square feet in the skyscraper at 1000 Main building. Shell, represented by Tim Relyea and Joe Peddie of Cushman & Wakefield, will relocate its trading floor from the Two Houston Center on Fannin into the 1000 Main building, which has been called RRI Energy Plaza.
Shell Oil has been regarded as a key piece on downtown’s corporate Monopoly board. Shell has more than 10,000 employees in Houston and the firm has announced a major corporate downsizing that is expected to shrink the Houston work force.
Shell, the largest tenant in the 1.6 million square-foot One Shell Plaza in downtown, is like a huge battleship that makes a large wake in the office market. Shell still has a long time left on its lease, but if it empties a large chunk of office space, it will have an impact on many downtown landlords and tenants.
Shell spokesman Theodore Rolfvondenbaumen says the firm is continually evaluating its operations and leases, seeking to become more efficient. But Shell declines to comment to questions about possible moves and future decisions.
The Shell units moving into the 1000 Main building are: Shell Energy North America (US), LP, Shell Trading (US) Company and Shell North American LNG.
Ralph Bivins, former president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors, is editor-in-chief of RealtyNewsReport.com.