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Tradition continues as Hines tops off Montrose tower

Michael Edelmann, a quality control manager with Hines Urban Oaks, looks at the view of downtown during a visit to the 33rd floor of the La Colombe d’Or Hotel & Residences to mark the topping out of the building in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. The Developer Hines is building the 265-unit, high-rise luxury multifamily project next to historic La Colombe d’Or Hotel.

The construction tradition of hoisting a tree to the top of a building once the final beam has been placed or the last concrete slab has been poured, a practice some say dates back to Scandinavian Vikings, was given a French twist at the recent “topping out” ceremony for a new residential tower behind the La Colombe d’Or hotel on Montrose Boulevard.

The international custom typically involves the placing of an evergreen tree atop the structure followed by a meal for the construction workers. Last week, workers on the site were served a lunch of fajitas and lamb. “Lamb is a typical French meal, but it’s also the typical French way to do a topping out,” said Kevin Batchelor, senior managing director for Houston-based Hines, developer of the tower. “We thought we’d pay homage to the French connection.”

When completed late next year, the $140 million apartment building will be connected to La Colombe d’Or, the boutique hotel in the old Fondren mansion at 3410 Montrose. The five-room hotel — now 36 years old — is owned by the Zimmerman family of Houston. Former lawyer Steve Zimmerman modeled the property after small inn and restaurant in the south of France with the same name. The tree used for the topping out last week was a Magnolia, which matched the one in front of the hotel.

The hotel and 34-story tower will be known as La Colombe d’Or Hotel & Residences. The 1923 mansion is being renovated and the tower will include an additional 18 hotel rooms. The high-rise will connect to the hotel through an outdoor plaza and art gallery. It will have 265 high-end apartments, primarily ranging from 700 square feet to more than 2,000 square feet. Ten penthouse units on top two floors will be as large as 3,000 square feet. Rents are expected to start at $2,225 and reach $5,830, with penthouses priced upwards of $11,000 per month.

Amenities will include a private park, coworking space and access to hotel services. La Colombe d’Or Hotel & Residences is a joint venture with Hines, TIAA Global Asset Management and the Zimmerman family. Munoz + Albin is the architect, and general contractor Urban Oaks Builders, a Hines entity, is building the tower.

—HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Story by Nancy Sarnoff, Photo by Mark Mulligan