Feature Illustration (above): South elevation of the planned Maison Robert Hotel in the Houston Heights. Courtesy: Wood Lane Partners Ltd.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Houston (Harris County) — Robert G. Ackerley, co-founder of N.F. Smith & Associates LP, is dabbling in a real estate venture that will bring a boutique hotel to the Heights.
Robert G. Ackerley, co-founder of N.F. Smith & Associates Ltd.
Ackerley is better known as a very successful entrepreneur in IT and electronics. Smith is a multinational global firm that provides procurement and a custom supply chain of electronics to companies in many industries, including aerospace and defense, data centers, solar, oil and gas and medical.
The finance and oversight of an eclectic hotel project isn’t the sort of venture one might expect of Ackerley, but he is based in Houston and has a reputation for promoting corporate citizenship.
Ackerley created Wood Lane Partners Ltd. in 2003 for side projects and it is Wood Lane that is the developer of record for the Maison Robert Hotel, a proposed five-story new construction project to be located at 347 West 20th Street.
The project site is in a historic neighborhood on a lot where a two-story, 3,595-square-foot colonial home was built in 1904. The house had a market value of $1.67 million and in some cities it might have been saved, owing to community priorities about local architectural heritage. That didn’t appear to be a problem here; Wood Lane Partners bought the lot in May and demolished the house soon thereafter, according to a PaperCitymag.com report.
The colonial home built in 1904, as seen from Ashland prior to demolition. Image: Google Streets.
Ackerley has a request pending for a reduced building line. The request made it to the Jan. 8 Planning Commission agenda, but was postponed for a few weeks at city staff’s request.
The project site plan describes a 6,678-square foot, 37-room hotel in the center of the property.
Within the southwest sector of the lot, there will be a 1,484-square-foot gift shop with an outdoor patio at the very edge of the southwest corner; this helps ensure the 15-foot-square visibility realm for traffic at the intersection.
A prominent feature of the gift shop will be a rooftop terrace for the guests. It will be accessible from the hotel’s second floor as well as the courtyard below.
A small cabana, 348 square feet, will be built to the far southeast corner. Between the cabana and the gift shop and facing West 20th Street, the hotel will have a pool, a pool terrace, and a garden court.
The proposed site plan for the Maison Robert Hotel. Courtesy: Wood Lane Partners Ltd.
Access to the hotel will be from a 20-foot wide alley that connects to Ashland Street at the northwest corner of the lot. The rear surface lot will have 18 standard parking spaces and one handicapped parking space.
The architectural team is comprised of Darwin Architecture (Darwin McCredie) of Ojai, California, and blanchard A+D of Arlington, Massachusetts.
The Planning and Development Department, in its analysis of the request, noted that the lot is within a small area along 19th and 20th that has long been the commercial center of the Heights. Most of the older buildings are constructed close to the street, often on the property line or set back a short distance.
“The proposed five-story boutique hotel will be within easy walking distance of many restaurants and shops and even a nearby theater. A church and hospital within 750 feet of the site have written support letters in favor of this high-end hotel,” staff said.
The hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center in The Heights, is in fact cater-corner to the project site at West 20th and Ashland. Just west of St. Joseph, there is a well known adaptive reuse commercial retail project by Braun Enterprises known as the Heights Waterworks.
East side cross-section view of the hotel elevation. Courtesy: Wood Lane Partners Ltd.
“The hotel guests are expected to be visiting friends and relatives who live in or near the Heights and would prefer a place with special character rather than the more ordinary hotels and motels that line nearby freeways,” the staff report continues.
“While the main structure of the hotel will be behind the 15-foot building setback line applicable to thoroughfares with 80 feet of less of right of way, the hotel gift shop/flower shop will be 2 feet from the front property line to interest pedestrians and echo the character of the older commercial buildings.
“It will have windows facing 20th and a door to allow patrons who are not staying at the hotel to enter the shop directly. Awnings will project out to the property line over the windows and doors. There will also be a door into the hotel lobby.
“There will be a 15-foot pedestrian realm along W. 20th St., which will include a 6-foot-wide by 8-foot-high unobstructed sidewalk and landscaping.
“There are large existing live oak trees that will be preserved along West 20th and Ashland, as well as in the courtyard area. There will also be new trees planted within the pedestrian realm between the curb and the sidewalk. The courtyard, visible from 20th, will have a 4-foot-high open steel fence, creating a transparent pleasing view from the sidewalk and the street.
“A gate in the fence will allow direct access from the sidewalk. Beyond the courtyard, the pool area will have a 7-foot, 6-inch high masonry privacy wall creating an enclosed area for hotel guests.”
The hotel’s exterior materials are to include brick veneer cladding, precast parapet caps, a metal standing seam roof and metal hurricane resistant windows. The exterior color mix is white and black.
West side (Ashland Street) cross-section view of the hotel elevation. Courtesy: Wood Lane Partners Ltd.