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80-Year-Old Landmark Office Building Downtown To House Luxe Apartment Units

Owners of the nearly century-old downtown Esperson building will convert parts of its office space into multifamily units, part of the greater trend of repurposing old office space as tenants flock to newer, highly amenitized buildings. 

Rendering of the upcoming pool at the Esperson Building

The building at 808 Travis St. was first built in the 1940s, and was the largest office building built during the Great Depression, as well as the first Houston skyscraper to have central air conditioning. The renovations, designed by Gensler, will add multifamily units as well as an amenity space on the 17th floor, available to both residents and office tenants.

Plans for the amenity space call for removing the roof on the northwest corner of the 17th floor to create an outdoor-indoor space, with a rooftop swimming pool, a dog park, a speak-easy, a wellness facility, indoor and outdoor lounge areas, and a space for catered meetings.

“Removing the roof of the northwest corner of the 17th floor, bringing back the unique terrace where [original owner] Mellie Esperson entertained friends, and adding the outdoor lap pool will create a dynamic space unlike anywhere else in downtown Houston,” Cameron Management President Dougal Cameron said in a release. “In fact, we’ll have three different roof decks accessed from this level, with appealing amenities for both residential and office tenants.”

Owner Cameron Management will decide how much office space to convert based on market demand, so an official square footage and number of units is yet to be determined, according to a Gensler spokesperson. Construction will begin in the first quarter of 2023; renovations are estimated to take a year.

“While many owners of older office buildings are contemplating complete conversions to residential in response to a post-pandemic and hybrid work economy, Cameron Management’s pioneering approach of entrepreneurs living and working together in the historically significant Esperson is truly unique,” Gensler Houston principal Dean Strombom said in the release. “The new amenity level offerings will create a buzz downtown and foster a community experience.”

Amenitized office buildings are where large office deals are taking place, in an otherwise sluggish local office market.

For older buildings without the newest conference centers and chic bars, developers have funneled major cash into renovations. And with hybrid work having taken hold, architecture firms are in high demand to renovate and update aging offices, Bisnow reported previously.