The first rule of retail? Show the goods. And yet the Marq*E center, the entertainment complex near the intersection of I-10 and 610, sits at an awkward angle. From the freeway, all you see for the most part is windowless wall, with a colorful oversized sign to break up the empty space. It's as if visitors are sneaking up on it, while it was too busy drinking and playing games to notice.
But now the owners are taking steps to make Marq*E more viewer-friendly, according to the Houston Business Journal, tearing down 60,000 square feet of retail in the middle section—the space that now holds Drink Houston, Improv Comedy Club and Pump It Up—after building a new 50,000-square-foot section on the side to replace it, allowing the tenants to move without having to close temporarily.
The plans would equal a net loss of about 11,000 square feet of retail space, but would improve the visibility of Marq*E tenants and add about 230 parking spots.
The owners, Magic Johnson's Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund LP and Fidelis Realty Partners Ltd., have been attempting to enact these changes for some time. In January 2008 they entered into construction financing discussions with Marq*E note holder Bear Sterns that collapsed just two months later. Since then they've been waiting for federal approval. Last month the Federal Reserve extended and refinanced the center's loan. Construction is set to begin in January and scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010.