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For years the five-story red brick building just east of downtown, visible by all who travel U.S. 59 near the convention center, was a neglected eyesore amid a resurgence of development around it.
Located essentially at the front door of the trendy EaDo neighborhood, the old Cheek-Neal Coffee building is now in new hands. A group led by local preservationists purchased it this month after settling a property-related legal dispute that lasted several years and kept the building from being redeveloped.
The structure has been dilapidated for "probably 75 years," said David Denenburg, one of the new owners.
"Everybody that looks at it sees a piece of junk, but I look at it as a pile of gold," said Denenburg, who has restored old houses and recently transformed a historic Houston fire station building near downtown into an event space.
Denenburg and his partners aren't sure yet what they'll do with their new acquisition, 2017 Preston at St. Emanuel, but they've talked about restoring it as a boutique hotel or a hub for creative workers.
"Whatever it's going to be, it'll be something spectacular," Denenburg said. "I want it to be something that will be around forever that people can enjoy."
The group, which also includes Jon Deal, Todd Johnson and Steve Gibson, purchased the 55,000-square-foot building from Tour Partners Ltd., an entity affiliated with the Augusta Pines golf club and the Tour 18 golf franchise, according to Denenburg's attorney Brian Kilpatrick. He and Jarrett Ellzey represented Denenburg in a lawsuit that was settled earlier this year relating to the previous ownership and the property's title.
Built in 1917, the building served as a coffee plant that manufactured Maxwell House Coffee before those operations moved to a bigger plant on Harrisburg in the late 1940s.
After that, Denenburg said, it may have housed a few other manufacturing operations.
Joseph Finger and James Ruskin Bailey designed the reinforced concrete frame structure, according to Stephen Fox's "Houston Architectural Guide."
The new owners hope to use historic tax credits to redevelop the building, returning it to "exactly the way it was," Denenburg said.
He said power washers have already started cleaning up the building.