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Four Leaf Towers Condominiums At 5100 San Felipe St.


Do the Four Leaf towers still look new?  

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  1. 1. Do the Four Leaf towers still look new?



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"I remember when we met with Cesar Pelli (the architect) for the first time, we told him, 'we want you to help us design buildings that when people will drive by them 30 years from now, they'll think they're brand new,'" says Borlenghi.

http://blogs.houston...f_towers_30.php

http://pcparch.com/project/four-leaf-towers

First, how long did it take for these towers to become nearly fully occupied? I'm just a little surprised 30 years ago we could have built two tall condo towers and today we cannot. I'm sure there are factors as to why that I'm not aware of. I can't even imagine Houston building one, much less two 40-story condo towers these days.

Edited by lockmat
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30 years ago, Houston was a lot more of a "damn the torpedos" kind of town. Anything was possible - shoot for the moon. And my project is going to top your project.

Then $8 oil happened. And life sucked hard for about 15 years. I remember a client that was in real estate in the inner loop area about 1994-95. I read his annual year-end letter that he sent out and he was talking about the "great sucking sound" that was coming from the Houston real estate market even then. Those were his words. There was still nothing happening of any consequence.

A lot of people got burned big in Houston. They have long memories. Now a project has to almost be a slam dunk to get off the ground.

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I don't really understand that. I work in oil and gas, and although I'm not an engineer, I'm surrounded by them and they tell me oil is not going anywhere. The architecture firm we deal with solely works with our company and they are busy out the wazoo. I don't understand what all the fear is about.

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I agree. In the 15 years up to 1983, it seemed like outside investors considered Houston to be irresistable. Then came the 83 crash and we lost 100s of thousands of jobs. 15 years later, it finally seemed to be recovering, until Enron collapsed, the dot-com bubble burst, and 9/11.

I think the experience of Houston in the 80s has not been forgotten by developers and investors. That doesn't mean they won't come back, but they will be more cautious. Out local economy is more diverse than most outsiders think, but its still true that if the oil biz coughs, Houston gets a cold.

Regarding the Four-Leaf Towers, I do think they look a bit dated. However, as far as I'm aware, it's also the last major project here that put their parking completely underground and capped it with a parklike setting. It might have been this project, but I remember a developer saying that would never be done again, due to the cost.

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The fear is a LOT of money was lost. The Gulfton Ghetto was full of young swinging professionals at one time. It was a happening place to live for all the young single geologists, engineers, etc. that flocked to Houston to make the big bucks. Then the party ended. And all those miles of apartments became deserted overnight as everybody left. You couldn't get a U-haul to move your stuff from Houston. My wife had a friend from middle school whose dad was a geologist. After the crash he ended up driving a school bus. Did that till he retired - never went back to the energy industry.

Things started getting better in the 90's. Then the Thailand economy crashed and set off a chain reaction. The booming Asian econmies which were driving oil growth just cratered. Oil dropped again to something like $12 a barrel around 1997. I went to work for big oil service firm in 2000. They had just come through laying off about 10,000 employees about 2 years before. And merging.

And to top it all off - I read somewhere recently that the average price for to get a barrel of oil out of the ground now is either $38 or $48 - I can't remember. And it is projected to go up by about $20 in the next 20 years or so. The cheap oil is gone - no more J.D. Clampett methods of drilling.

I think all of this has also scared off lenders from Houston - they don't want to put big $ into massive projects unless they are sure of something. So we get smaller projects with better odds of success. How many S&L's did the RTC have to take over in the area back in the 80's and 90's? Banks don't want to be wiped out due to overexposure to the global oil market.

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And as far as you poll. I think they are in that awkward stage. Past the looking new and fresh stage. So they are starting to look a bit tired and "yesterday" They are still way too young to be classic. Give them a couple of more decades before and then they might be appreciated again.

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Regarding the Four-Leaf Towers, I do think they look a bit dated. However, as far as I'm aware, it's also the last major project here that put their parking completely underground and capped it with a parklike setting. It might have been this project, but I remember a developer saying that would never be done again, due to the cost.

Don't both Villa d'Este and Montebello have underground parking capped with a parklike setting?

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I don't really understand that. I work in oil and gas, and although I'm not an engineer, I'm surrounded by them and they tell me oil is not going anywhere. The architecture firm we deal with solely works with our company and they are busy out the wazoo. I don't understand what all the fear is about.

What if China turned out to be a Ponzi scheme?

Engineers and architects make poor economists. Your company's corporate finance professionals are also poor economists. Even the outside economic consultants that they are hiring aren't especially good economists. Kool-Aide comes in many flavors and readily masks the steamy aroma of BS.

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Aren't these the towers where, as the legend goes, Interfin reportedly paid for the site in full and in cash at some point prior to construction?

At around the time they opened, I do know they went a different route with marketing. In a Sunday edition of the Houston Post, they distributed copies of their leasing information. Based on what I remember seeing, they were formatted like circulars from stores or the weekend magazines, at least in terms of their size. Can't say I've seen that done here before, or since.

As for the topic - no they don't look new. They look like a good quality period piece, but there's nothing wrong with that. As mentioned earlier, I think it might take some time for them to be appreciated for their contribution to the overall skyline as well as their specific style.

Edited by ChannelTwoNews
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They are very unique, but the pink color screams 80's. Every movie from the 80's that has a luxury bedroom scene has this color on the wall. The panels on the glass give it more dimension. I agree that in a decade or two they will be more appreciated. I feel like the 70's are having their time, and as time progresses, the 80's will have their's too.

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You are right, there have been other complexes since Four Leaf Towers that have had some element of underground parking, although the scale seems to have been shrinking since Greenway Plaza, which was started earlier. (The quote I remembererd might have referred to GP, not Four Leaf Towers.) I think Montebello and Villa d'Est have a much lesser amount than FLT (I was in the latter a couple of times and don't recall the underground; one doesn't see much evidence from the street, which is good in any case.) I think Borlenghi and Interfin did hold up the flag in that area, while other developers had already given up due to the expense. The last tract that he/they developed thereabouts, Uptown Park, is an all-surface-lot development, which they sold off to TIAA/CREF, along with the Four Oaks office towers.

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Another amusing anecdote I remember about the Four Leaf Towers: someone quoted Pelli or his staff as saying the pink panels were intended to resonate (or something) with the colors of the southwest. As if Houston was somewhere in northern New Mexico or Arizona! :-)

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Another amusing anecdote I remember about the Four Leaf Towers: someone quoted Pelli or his staff as saying the pink panels were intended to resonate (or something) with the colors of the southwest. As if Houston was somewhere in northern New Mexico or Arizona! :-)

Very laughable.

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Does anybody else remember the fire in one of the towers, way back?

From Wiki:

At 4:15 AM on October 13, 2001,[5] a fire occurred in a fifth floor unit in the west tower.[6] Houston Fire Department firefighter Captain Jay Jahnke died while fighting the fire. Over 175 firefighters extinguished the fire.[5]

Edited by rsb320
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The buildings are a bit dated, but due to the location and the upkeep of the place, they are still one of the better high rise living options around.

McDugald Steele just did a massive renovation of the acres that surround the tower. The huge pool and sun deck were recoated, the tennis courts were resurfaced, a dog run was added to the North side of the property, and formal gardens were planted. It's a really nice "yard."

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Has bisnow been reading HAIF or what?

Mike McAfee (who may be in the process of separating from his body, hand first) says he aims to grow his real estate loan portfolio bydouble digits this year. He’s seeing multiple term sheets when pitching business, showing Houston is competitive, but we face an uphill battle. Many banks already have a lot of office exposure and aren’t too interested in increasing it despite great fundamentals. And large institutions have old guys that remember the ‘80s. (And not just from a TV show on VH1.) Until they retire, we have to fight the stigma that we’ll overbuild and bust. And banks HQ’d out of Texas are nervous that a drop in oil price could pause our economy at any moment.

http://www.bisnow.com/houston_commercial_real_estate_news_story.php?p=25380

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  • 3 years later...

Is anyone aware of new condo towers (not retrofits) in the South being built without balconies? These 4 leaf towers were built at a time when Houston planners and developers believed things like: encasing downtown in bridges of enclosed moving sidewalks was the best path forward. Really, who needs fresh air?

Today, we are spending buckets of money on sidewalks wide enough for street cafes and new high-rise and mid-rise residential structures all come with balconies.

As a result, the 4 leaf towers look dated to me.

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Is anyone aware of new condo towers (not retrofits) in the South being built without balconies? These 4 leaf towers were built at a time when Houston planners and developers believed things like: encasing downtown in bridges of enclosed moving sidewalks was the best path forward. Really, who needs fresh air?

Today, we are spending buckets of money on sidewalks wide enough for street cafes and new high-rise and mid-rise residential structures all come with balconies.

As a result, the 4 leaf towers look dated to me.

They were dated from the start. And you should see the interiors.

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  • 3 weeks later...
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  • The title was changed to Four Leaf Towers Condominiums At 5100 San Felipe St.

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