Heights: Out With the Old, In with the Retail

HOUSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL

After moving to Houston, one of my first excursions into the Heights included an exploration of the 19th and 20th streets area near Yale.

As I drove by, an enormous half-cream, half-orange structure stood out to me — with its crumbling walls, broken windows and dripping rust stains.

Rather than chalking it up to historic-area, historic-building normalcy, I took a closer look at the sign. In front of what appeared to be one large property at 230 W. 20th St., the sign read “Baptist Temple Church.”

As it turns out, the century-old property includes worship, classroom and office space that once drew more than 1,500 worshipers. But by the 1960s, the congregation had dwindled to fewer than 300 members, making its gymnasium, school, office building and two sanctuaries superfluous.

Earlier this month, the church finalized a sale of two buildings on the property that will facilitate a $3 million renovation to the remainder of the premises.

Developer Houston-based Braun Enterprises plans to demolish the two structures it purchased and transform the area into a place for retail and restaurants.

“The area around 19th and 20th streets has not changed much in the last 20 years,” said Dan Braun, president of Braun Enterprises in a statement. “But we love the demographics and the neighborhood.”

With the money from the sale of the two buildings, the church plans to renovate a 65,000-square-foot part of the structure, which was built in the 1950s as a fall-out shelter, into a new 300-seat sanctuary.

The church will get a new entrance, foyer, play areas for children and other modifications that will bring the structure up to city codes.

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