Feature Photo (above): Art Supply on Main as seen from Main Street. The owners sold to Caydon USA and are relocating. Image: Google Maps.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Houston (Harris County) — Art Square Studios and Art Supply on Main are about eight months away from relocating to a new building in the Museum District.
Caydon USA’s 27-story high-rise project, 2850 Fannin St, has generated its share of noise and community buzz in the Midtown District since construction began in 2017. Not as noticeable has been the disruptive effect on its immediate neighbors.
When Caydon, an Australian-based developer, launched its first project in the United States, it also bought the block that has been home to an artists’ community for 20 years.
Ben Russell and Vikki Trammell bought a 1940s-era New Orleans style two-story commercial building at 2711 S. Main St. in 1997 and over the next couple years remodeled it as an art supply shop with adjacent live/work studios for artists.
Being in Midtown, with the Main Street Metro rail right by the curb, it’s been a convenient location for artists. Maybe too convenient.
Caydon’s project followed a trend of higher-density, high-end development spreading from downtown into the adjacent districts. When Caydon acquired the Art Supply and Art Square Studios’ block as part of a three-block master planned development, Russell and Trammell had to make moving plans.
“What I understand is they’re going to put a hotel on our site,” Trammell told VBX, adding she was passing on an unconfirmed rumor. There have been reports that Caydon bought land next to the 2850 Fannin site, including a parking lot next to the Greensheet Building, for future development.
When considering where to relocate, Trammell said they wanted to stay close to the Midtown and Montrose art scene. They settled on a location less than 2 miles south of their present home, 5301 Almeda Road at the corner of Oakdale Street.
The Oakdale and Almeda elevations for Art Studio Almeda as they might appear viewed from the opposite corner of Oakdale Street and Almeda Road. The image is a conceptual approximation and not to scale. Elevations courtesy of City of Houston public records.
They contracted with Wycoff Development & Construction LLC, a turnkey operation that designs and builds commercial structures, usually office/warehouse or office condo facilities.
The new building will be on a vacant lot that is just over a half-acre in area. They will move into a 20,596-square-foot, two-story building, with a surface parking lot to the rear that can hold 22 vehicles.
Trammell said the space is a little smaller than what they have now. But since it is a custom project, there will be more efficient use of space.
A couple weeks ago, a land planning consultant working with Wycoff obtained a variance from the Planning Commission to reduce the required 25-foot building setback on Almeda to 10 feet.
Attached to their application was a letter of recommendation that held high praise from the Midtown District’s executive director, Theola Pettaway. Russell and Trammell were instrumental in getting Midtown designated as an official state Cultural Arts and Entertainment District.
“Since moving to Midtown in 1998, they have been key stakeholder supporting our vision for a well-rounded community that includes not only an enhanced pedestrian realm, working to keep the area clean and safe, but a strong cultural arts presence,” Pettaway wrote.
“They single-handedly organized the first cultural arts tour in Midtown in 2000, which grew from 3 groups to 23 groups before it ended in 2011.
“They have been wonderful cheerleaders not only for Midtown, but for Houston as a whole. This Midtown Community will miss them.”
Excerpt of City Staff Report:
A down-sized version of The Art Supply at 2711 Main Street will be relocated to the proposed site resulting in a smaller area building, while maintaining the same mixture of uses of their current store, including art studios and living spaces.
Like the current location on Main Street, they intend to create a building that will be attractive to those driving or walking. To accomplish this objective, the vehicular parking will be moved to the back (east) side of the building with vehicular access from Oakdale and an existing 12-foot wide alley on the south side of the site.
This can only be accomplished if a reduced building setback along Almeda is approved.
The developer will offer the following enhancements:
- The developer will close the two existing driveway openings along Almeda and reconstruct the street curb to be continuous along Almeda and will re-construct the existing sidewalks along site frontage of Almeda and Oakdale Street. The developer will construct an 8 feet wide sidewalk (2 feet wider than the minimum required) adjacent to the property line, leaving an approximately 4 feet wide planting area between the sidewalk and the back-of-curb for new street trees and shrubs. The developer will construct a 6 feet wide (the minimum required is 5 feet) sidewalk along Oakdale Street.
- The developer will provide 3 larger (minimum 5-inch caliper) new trees to be planted along Almeda to better fit with the two existing 7 inch and 9 inch trees and a minimum caliper diameter of 2 ½ inches for new trees along Oakdale Street (minimum 1 ½ inches caliper required).
- To encourage more pedestrian and bicycle users, the developer will provide a permanent bench at the Art Supply entrance on Almeda along with 12 bicycle rack slots near the same entrance on Almeda.
Site plan of Art Studio Almeda. Courtesy: Wycoff Development.