Real Estate / High-Rises

One More Gerald D. Hines Masterpiece — New La Colombe d’Or High-Rise Shows the Best of Hines and a Hotel Maverick

How the Skyline Changer and Steve Zimmerman Came Together and Set the Stage for a Groundbreaking Blend of the Historic and the State of the Art in Houston

BY // 04.21.21

It all starts with a simple phone call. With Hines senior managing director Kevin Batchelor reaching out to his boss, the real estate world legendary Gerald D. Hines, with what he terms “an interesting opportunity.” Batchelor is not quite sure how Hines is going to react. The skyline builder’s company has never done something quite like this. Certainly not in Houston.

“Consider Gerry is 90 at the time, plus or minus,” Batchelor recalls. “I tell him about La Colombe d’Or. ‘I love it. When can we meet? How about right now?’

“Gerry gets in his car — guy who’s 90 — at his headquarters office in The Galleria. Drives himself. In the rain. Pulls up and meets (La Colombe d’Or Hotel owner) Steve (Zimmerman) and they go on to talk about stories. After about two hours, Gerry gets up and says, ‘I love it! Let’s do it.’ ”

This is how The Residences at La Colombe d’Or, the new 34-story high-rise tower that is connected to the Zimmerman family’s renovated and revitalized historic hotel, got green lighted. Gerald D. Hines became personally intrigued and invested in the anything but conventional idea that a state-0f-the-art high-rise could be tied into the existing historic hotel in its shadow in a way that would not just work. But in a way that could be a groundbreaking and show-stopping point of pride for Houston.

In a city often most known for its teardowns, Hines would not only help make sure the Zimmermans’ hotel in the old 1923 Fondren mansion on Montrose Boulevard lived on. He’d kickstart the audacious project that helped make it more relevant than ever.

“No one knows how much Gerry cared late into his life,” Batchelor says softly. “It’s amazing.”

Gerald D. Hines would not live to see The Residences at La Colombe d’Or open — or the hotel itself reopen with the prettiest bar in Montrose. The multiple city changing developer died at the age of 95 on August 23, 2020. But with the high-rise and the hotel now open, it is clear that this one of a kind property is another part of his enormous legacy, too.

From the art-filled corridor that seems to catch the late afternoon light in all the best ways that connects the tower’s lobby to the hotel. To the towering 45-foot mural on the hotel side of the high-rise from famed French street artist Blek le Rat that leaves no doubt that this is a project that only winks at conventionality. To the striking lobby and amenity level scenes created by Lauren Rottet.

La Colombe d’Or-Ext-2021-Mabry Campbell
The striking mural on the side of the building helps connect the Hines high-rise to the La Colombe d’Or hotel. (Photo by Mabry Campbell)

“It’s unique to the city,” says architect Jorge Munoz, the founding principle of Munoz Albin, the Houston-headquartered international firm that designed the high-rise tower. “They will be able to deliver hotel quality services to apartment living.

“You’re looking at a very boutique-type hotel next door. The tower itself responds to that level of service.”

The Best of Both Worlds

Residents of the tower will have easy access to the hotel’s ambitious Tonight & Tomorrow restaurant (including eventually, perhaps even room service) and its striking green-hued bar, which is already turning into one of the places to drink (and be seen) in Montrose. In turn, guests at the hotel — those staying in the main historic house’s plush rooms and those staying in the new 18 tower level suites — get access to The Residences at La Colombe d’Or’s dreamy 10th floor amenity deck. Which includes a full pool, a sprawling outdoor space with views and a topnotch gym.

It’s the best of living at a hotel without the downsides of never feeling at home and the best of having your own apartment on the road without the uncertainty of what to expect from it.

With rents ranging from $2,365 to $6,630 per month for apartments that average more 1,300 square feet and from $7,495 to $13,245 per month for the 10 penthouses on the top two floors, this will be one of the most exclusive addresses in America’s fourth-largest city. Of course, these are anything but ordinary apartments. In fact, a Residences at La Colombe d’Or apartment is only linked to an ordinary apartment like a yacht is linked to a jet ski.

They may technically both be in the same orbit, but they are very different beings.

“This is one of the few projects in the city that offers for-rent apartments that have the quality of high-end condominium living available to residents and visitors,” Munoz says. “That’s very unique.

“And it’s due to the relationship between the Zimmermans and the Hines.”

Lobby at The Residences at La Colombe d’Or; Image by Eric Laignel Courtesy of Rottet Studio
The Residences at La Colombe d’Or’s lobby presents a striking scene. (Photo by Eric Laignel, Courtesy of Rottet Studio)

For Steve Zimmerman and his son Dan, this melding of high-rise and historic hotel represents the chance to keep the legacy of a hotel where everyone from John Glenn to Madonna to Rodney Dangerfield to Walter Cronkite stayed alive. And to build on it in all sorts of new ways they could not have on their own.

“My greatest pleasure comes in the three generations of people who enjoy this place,” Steve Zimmerman tells PaperCity. “People who got married here in 1980. Then, their kids come here and get married. Then, their kids’ kids have their bar mitzvahs here.”

The Zimmermans have built an artful lair — and the family’s impressive treasures are on display in both the historic hotel and the gleaming new high-rise. Interior design architect Lauren Rottet took particular delight in finding ways to draw attention to the Zimmermans’ collection, which includes paintings from French abstractionist Georges Braque and the sculptures of installation master Dan Flavin.

You’ll never mistake this for any other building in the world because of its design. But you’ll never mistake even its walls for another because of its art power.

The Residences at La Colombe d’Or’s World of Views

As much as it’s tied to the historic three-story hotel under its wing, The Residences at La Colombe d’Or is still a high-rise. Which means it needs to bring impressive views. One does not live in a high-rise to admire the lawn.

Thanks to the quirks of its Montrose location and the purposeful, ingenious way that Munoz’s team designed the 34-story tower so its view corridors would face away from the neighboring Hanover Montrose tower, The Residences at La Colombe d’Or does not disappoint in this arena. In fact, even on the 12th floor, one can see all the way to the Texas Medical Center and downtown and The Galleria. Plus, some unexpected golden domes — including the unmistakable gleaming top of the nearby Chapel of St. Basil.

“I don’t know any other high-rise in Houston where you can look out on golden domes,” Munoz laughs.

One of Houston’s most walkable neighborhoods — arguably its most walkable — has a way of surprising. So does a pioneering new tower linked to one of Houston’s most historic homes. Munoz + Albin have been working on Hines projects around the world for going on 24 years now.

But there is only one Residences at La Colombe d’Or.

The Residences at La Colombe d’Or’s apartments are only linked to ordinary apartments like a yacht is linked to a jet ski.

“We certainly haven’t done another project quite like this in the United States,” Batchelor tells PaperCity.

There are more Munoz + Albin-designed Hines residential towers in the works. Brava, a 46-story high-rise at 414 Milam Street, is about 18 months from completion. It will debut as the tallest residential tower in downtown Houston. Brava will be very different from The Residences at La Colombe d’Or. Just like the Hines’ Munoz + Albin-designed The Southmore in The Museum District is very different from the La Colombe d’Or tower.

But no matter what comes after it, The Residences at La Colombe d’Or will stand truly unique. This meshing of the very old and the very new does not break the mold. Because a mold for something like this never could have existed in the first place.

It’s very much part of a Montrose that is changing before everyone’s eyes.

“It’s starting to develop the Montrose area at a different level of quality and experience,” Jorge Munoz tells PaperCity. “It will be one of the most important parts of town in the coming years.”

Still, at one of the most basic levels, The Residences at La Colombe d’Or is all about the meet-up of Gerald D. Hines and Steve Zimmerman. Two Houston pioneers. Two very different characters. Hines, the ever-modest Purdue University engineering student turned city changer who used the same slide rule he did in college for much of his career. Zimmerman, the gregarious, over-the-top storyteller born in Brooklyn and largely raised in New Orleans who always dreamed big no matter who told him no.

“Imagine making a friend when I’m 75 and he’s 92,” Zimmerman muses of his unlikely bond with Gerald D. Hines.

The Residences at La Colombe d’Or is one of the last Houston projects that will have Gerald D. Hines’ direct impact on it. That means something, too.

“No one knows how much Gerry cared late into his life. It’s amazing.” — Hines senior managing director Kevin Batchelor.

“Gerry was my hero,” Steve Zimmerman says, nursing a drink at his hotel’s new striking bar. “He said, ‘I don’t want condominiums. I want apartments. I’m worried about my future.’ I said, ‘You’re worried about your future? You’re 92 years old.’ ”

Hines worried about Houston’s future, too. The Residences at La Colombe d’Or is a win in that department, another one of a kind notch for a master and the team he always pushed to do something special.

Connecting the inspired with the extraordinary

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