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The SCENE Magazine

A Little Local High-Rise History

Sep 10, 2018 05:07PM
While it wasn’t the “Space Race” of the ‘60s that directly resulted in the growth of our area — the home of U.S. Human Spaceflight, there once was a local race into the sky and the winner remains visible from miles away.

In 2007, Robin L. Parsley’s Endeavour Holdings Inc. beat out a number of other developers hoping to be the first to the Clear Lake high-rise marketplace with the completion of the 30-story Endeavour Clear Lake condominium tower in Pasadena. The tower (which was completed behind the original construction schedule just as the national real estate market collapsed and has since changed hands) is one of roughly 20 towers once envisioned to rise up from the Clear Lake shoreline. Obviously our area’s transformation into a miniature South Beach (Miami) never happened as the market crash of 2007 changed everything and only the Endeavour stands today.  But recent conversations about and confusion regarding this area’s flirtation with the high-rise real estate market suggested to me it was time — a dozen years since its “height” of excitement — for a review. Especially since ramifications from many of the large waterfront real estate purchases and the demolition of venues such as the Parkside Marina, Seabrook Beach Club, Studio 54 and Lake House apartments that immediately followed are still visible today.

 

The lonely tower currently standing was only the first of five high-rise towers planned to be built under the Endeavour brand.  

Located just a football field away from Endeavour Clear Lake in the same, small stretch of Pasadena that reaches Clear Lake’s shores, Endeavour Parkside was announced in August 2006 and originally scheduled to be completed by late 2007 in the still vacant former home of the Parkside Marina near Clear Lake Park. The $55-million, 34-story residential condominium tower would have been even taller and more upscale than its older sister when completed, featuring a 24-hour fitness center, rooftop lounge and condos priced to $3 million (in 2007). At the same time as the first Endeavour was being completed and the land for the second tower (Endeavour Parkside) was being cleared, Endeavour Holdings partnered with Sun Resorts International, Inc. to buy the Marker 1 Marina in Seabrook and renamed it Endeavour Marina. Today home to many businesses including Sam’s Boat, Bullock Marine, The Admiral on Clear Lake and Jet Ski Houston among others. 

The contiguous waterfront parcel was soon increased to more than 15 acres following the purchase and demolition of the Lake House apartments and two popular waterfront venues including the Seabrook Beach Club. The plan was a mixed-use development that would include three high-rise towers. One was planned to house an “international luxury hotel” and 50 condominiums totaling 100,000 square feet.  Another would be a high-rise office building with 200,000  square feet of Class A space overlooking Clear Lake. The third was to be a condominium tower, branded separately as the Endeavour Lofts on Clear Lake, with 200 units averaging 1,500 square feet per unit. The plan also called for 500 new wet slips, public waterfront boardwalks and both high-end retail and fine restaurants, all to be built to the west of the current indoor dry-stack marina and facilities that is today’s Endeavour Marina.

One reason for this article was the confusion about the shoreline in El Lago that will become the future home of the brand new, relocated Outriggers once the popular waterfront restaurant is forced to close as a result of the on-going HWY. 146 road construction. 

Roughly 15 years ago, I had a chance to visit with developer Garson Silvers who literally bet his farm on building the first high-rise tower along Clear Lake. Silvers mortgaged his Tomball-area farm to buy the eyesore that was the El Lago Marina (before Hurricane Ike wiped it out) and build the El Lago Marina Condos. The project was to include a 144-unit luxury high-rise condo, a 44-suite boutique hotel and 10,000 square feet of retail space including a restaurant and spa.
Unfortunately for Silvers, there was quite a political uproar caused by a very vocal minority of waterfront home owners in El Lago who feared their waterfront view might be compromised and the plan was put on hold awaiting a zoning change to remove height restrictions in the city. The restrictions were changed but not before Silvers was forced to lease out the property to generate revenue.  He remained loyal to his plan to develop the marina as well as another El Lago high-rise project, The Lighthouse at 4011.  But I remember Silvers explained at the time that, “The high-rise market is all about timing.” Indeed it was.  The combination of losing the race to be first immediately followed by the untimely financial crisis of 2007 and its effect on the real estate market and financing industry put a stop to the local flirtation with high-rise development. 

The Lighthouse at 4011 in El Lago was to become the first LEED-certified high-rise condominium project on the Texas Gulf Coast. Plans for the 19-floor structure originally included parking on the first four floors with residential units ranging from $500,000 to $2.9 million starting on floor five. But because of the turmoil in the financing industry, plans changed for the building to become a hotel with a limited number of condos at the top.

Plans also changed for the Beacon Island development on the former Lighthouse Island across from the South Shore Harbour Resort in League City. Purchased in December 2006 by The Verandah Companies and Crow Holdings, Lighthouse Island was cleared of trees and renamed Beacon Island. The original plan was for a 35-acre development including a gated community of up to 800 luxury residences featuring Carolina-inspired architecture and a grand bridge entrance. Two 25-story high-rise towers, two 14-story mid-rise buildings and two 6-story condominiums plus additional townhomes. While there has been residential development on Beacon Island in recent years, it’s been a slow process and far short of what was originally planned (6 buildings totaling 90 stories and 800 luxury residences). 

Further east from Beacon Island along the south shore of Clear Lake in Kemah, there were plans to bring a “new era of high-rises to life” with “Luxury, Country Club Condominium living” at a project called Laguna de Levine. Located beside the Star Fleet Marina and behind Portofino Harbour Marina, Laguna de Levine was to include both a high-rise and mid-rise tower connected by retail shops and a rooftop pool. Plans called for the taller tower to feature the “Sky Bar” on the top floor overlooking the lake and bay. Across the channel in Seabrook, twin 20-story condominiums were proposed for Jennings Island near the Seabrook Shipyard and an 8-story, 99-unit mid-rise was once planned for The Point in Seabrook across the channel from the Kemah Boardwalk. Other planned projects never to get off of the ground locally include the Amstel in League City across the marina form the South Shore Harbour Resort where the Marina Village custom home development is today, the Launch at NASA in Nassau Bay and the Apollo in Seabrook was to be built where the Turtle Club (Barge 295 today) was docked.  

But fear not, if waterfront, high-rise living is calling you as there are units available on the 22nd, 21st, 19th and 18th floor of the Endeavour High-rise overlooking Clear Lake. Call one of the two top Realtors in the area (Kimberly Harding: 281-554-7653 or Priscilla Ennis: 281-204-1001) to tour one today. 

- John Ennis