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Preservation and Soaring Into the Future Happily Meet in Houston’s La Colombe d’Or — One of America’s Most Anticipated New Projects Comes Into View

How a Historic Building and a Sleek 34-Story High-Rise Have Been Brought Together

A storied hotel and restaurant in the medieval town of Saint-Paul de Vence in the hills above the French Riviera gave both name and inspiration to its American counterpart, La Colombe d’Or in Houston’s Montrose/Museum District. (Read about the original La Colombe d’Or here.)

Now this historic Mediterranean-style property is getting a refresh and being brought into the 21st century, thanks to an innovative project that melds preservation, avant-garde architecture and design, nature, art and community.

With the addition of a sleek 34-story luxury residential high-rise, The Residences of La Colombe d’Or, the property stakes a claim as one of the most watched projects under development in the country.

It represents a joint venture between three key players: Houston-founded global real estate investment firm Hines, the Zimmerman family (which has owned the landmark 1923-era Fondren Mansion for four decades, transforming it into the boutique hotel La Colombe d’Or in 1980), and worldwide investment entity Nuveen.

The project broke ground in February 2018 and is set for completion this fall. (See scenes from its cocktail announcement party here.)

“The Residences at La Colombe d’Or will be one of the most unique residential properties ever delivered in Houston,” Hines senior managing director Kevin Batchelor tells PaperCity

“The project not only saves an old historic building that is very small in scale, but also adds to it a 34-story high-rise with a combined mix of uses, including a boutique hotel, a restaurant, residences, plus an art gallery and parks.”

The Best of All Worlds

This pedigreed building will be the opposite of prosaic, big developer architecture. Abutting the stately La Colombe d’Or mansion, designed by Alfred C. Finn in 1923 for oil magnate Walter W. Fondren, is a soaring residential skyscraper by Munoz + Albin, with interiors by Rottet Studio.

The Houston-based architecture and design teams are led by principals Jorge Muñoz, Enrique Albin and Lauren Rottet. Rottet Studio is also revamping La Colombe d’Or, a National Register historic hotel, from its restaurant and reception areas to five serenely appointed second-floor suites.

A third Houston firm is also involved: Gin Braverman’s Gin Design Group has been tapped to envision the interiors of the hotel’s nine new Garden Bungalows, which line the tropical courtyard.

Architecture firm Munoz + Albin is known for dramatic, elegant residential towers that stand as beacons of light and repose. Rottet Studio adds the human scale, carving out intimate spaces for gathering, fostering an evocative dialogue between contemporary modernism and the past.

Rottet is adept at including understated yet important contemporary artworks in its projects. Houston-based artist Troy Stanley, represented by Barbara Davis Gallery, has been commissioned for the calling card of the sky-rise’s lobby, a 140-by-225-inch site-specific wall painting.


The reception desk at The Residences at La Colombe d’Or features Troy Stanley’s “Nom de Plume,” 2020. Curated for the space by Rottet Studio’s Lauren Rottet, Troy Stanley is a Houston talent represented by Barbara Davis Gallery. (Rendering courtesy of Rottet Studio)

“We liked that this piece would be a permanent fixture on the wall — a part of the architecture and design and not applied,” Rottet says. “Troy is well educated and well trained in the creation of art and he is a creative holistic thinker. He looks beyond the predictable to the beautifully unimaginable to create objects of at that are thoughtful, unique, and compelling. I never tire of looking at his work – it is inspiring.”

Stanley says that the work was “inspired by the views of the vast concrete city. . . and shadows of leaves upon the ground.”

The Present Salutes the Past

Preservationist Anna Mod weighed in on issues of tax credits in the project’s delicate dance between the 1920s and today’s investment in this prime one-acre lot in the heart of one of Houston’s most desirable neighborhoods.

Jorge Munoz says of the amenity-filled 265-unit apartment tower his firm is designing: “The base of the building responds to the existing mansion using a traditional approach, including fenestration, limestone, and highly articulated detailing, bound together with a lush greenspace and garden [a new 14,000-square-foot private pocket park] inspired by French landscape design. . . The apartment portion of the project emerges as a vertical statement of modern architecture, composed of a vertical-box volume with a series of floating planes encompassing it.”

Lauren Rottet’s firm designs both La Colombe d’Or mansion’s hotel rooms, renewed lobby, dining room, and bar, as well as signature interiors in the tower: its entry/reception desk, 18 guest suites, ground-floor living room and the 10th-floor indoor/outdoor spaces encircling the pool.

“We saw this as the perfect opportunity to combine the charm of old-world Houston with the grace and elegance of contemporary architecture,” Rottet tells PaperCity.

“We developed a strategy where neither old or new would be watered down or made ‘transitional.’ We chose to celebrate the historic and the new in their pure forms with the landscape being the uniting element.”

The Residences at La Colombe d’Or’s light-washed gallery connects the new tower lobby with the historic mansion hotel. (Rendering courtesy of Rottet Studio)

Rottet adds of her firm’s nuanced handling of architectural features at The Residences: “The ceilings and spatial surrounds in La Colombe d’Or could be considered art as planes fold and undulate and raise and lower in an artful way like a dance or a musical score leading one to the culmination or pivotal moment.”

This ambitious Museum District pairing of the 1920s and the 2020s wouldn’t have been possible if Steve Zimmerman hadn’t saved the neglected mansion in 1979, buying it directly from the grandchildren of Walter and Ella Fondren, then birthing the hotel the following year.

Al fresco dining at the refreshed La Colombe d’Or Hotel, reopening Fall 2020 in the heart of Montrose and the Houston Museum District. (Rendering courtesy of Munoz + Albin Architecture & Planning)

Dan Zimmerman, who originally reached out to the development office at Hines in 2014, and his family have been the drivers of the new La Colombe d’Or, with Zimmerman even introducing Rottet to the Hines team to realize both interiors for the hotel and the new tower.

When it unveils (which is still scheduled for this fall), The Residences at La Colombe d’Or will become an exemplary model for preserving the past while striding confidently into the future.

—PAPER CITY: Story by Catherine D. Anspon