before you even walk inside The Star, look up. It would be criminal to miss the striking limestone arcades that announce the entrance to 1111 Rusk, the first dead giveaway that this is a building of historic prominence. The original Beaux-Arts-style wing of this downtown, pre-war landmark was designed by Warren & Wetmore, the same New York firm behind Manhattan's 1913 Grand Central Terminal.
It would also be criminal to tear this place down, but it wouldn't be unusual. Just look around—that's how most stories end for fabled dwellings of yesteryear, their former glory fading with each decade they sit vacant, shuttered, and bracing for the bulldozer.
It could have gone that way. The 13-story structure, built in 1915 for Texaco (though Texaco would be called The Texas Company until 1959), saw a 1936 annex and a 16-story addition by famed architect Kenneth Franzheim in 1958. Once Texaco left in 1989, the building's life ground to a halt, and it stayed vacant for nearly a quarter century.
Vacant, but still standing. In 2013 came a new lease on life thanks to Kip Platt of Provident Realty Advisors, who, after a chance tour of the building while investigating another nearby historic property, fought a nearly two-year legal battle for ownership to convert the 400,000-square-foot interior space into multifamily apartment units.
He succeeded, and The Star welcomed residents early last year for the first time in nearly three decades.
"There are so few opportunities to create something as magical as The Star," Platt said then. "Everything was worth the wait."
The 286 units in 22 different layouts—207 one-bed, one-baths and 79 two-bed, two-baths ranging from 730 to 1,730 square feet—plus 21,000 square-feet of street-front retail (coming soon: a restaurant and venue space and, hopefully, a specialty grocer) today occupies a full city block in the heart of downtown, bound by Rusk, San Jacinto, Fannin, and Capitol.
"We were fortunate to have found an iconic, pre-war building of this scale where a thoroughly modern makeover meshes so seamlessly with its timeless architecture," Platt said.
Enter Lauren Parsons, the force behind The Star's uniquely gorgeous interior design with an unorthodox hiring story. Parsons, who is not a classically trained designer but rather a marketing and development exec, was brought on to help with branding the new property, from logo design to signage.
To tell the story properly, she ended up going much deeper, albeit step by step—first, revising a model unit for a photoshoot, which impacted leasing enough for The Star's developer to trust Parsons with a lobby redesign. Then came hallway tweaks, and more model units, and, after Parsons moved into the building herself, plans for the unfinished basement and penthouse-level amenity floors. In the end, the developer tapped Parsons for the interiors, pool, and rooftop terrace.
And she delivered.
The chic, modern results are imbued with a thoughtful commitment to the iconic building's history, from the dark, moody, speakeasy-style basement game room filled with vintage Texaco memorabilia from the personal collection of a former employee to the large-scale, black-and-white portraits of Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters, and Albert Einstein re-imagined by James Glassman (the artist behind Houstorian) in the rooftop lounge—Holiday and Waters were born in 1915, the year the Texaco building debuted, and the year Einstein published his theory of relativity.
More nods to history converge with contemporary style throughout The Star via custom 3D porcelain floors in the lounge, a modern take on '20s checkerboard tile, and through Parsons' insistence on retaining and highlighting the building's original brass elevators, now a show-stopping focal point from which other design elements take their cues.
Beyond being steeped in history, The Star residents have perks like a dedicated poker room with a custom Texas Hold'em table and the thick, pleasant scent of leather; a resort-style pool with six waterfalls; a private movie theatre; a golf simulator; a doggie spa; a full gym; and, of course, that rooftop lounge—inside, a full commercial kitchen and dining area; outside, five distinct lounge areas with fire pits, a 15 chaise lounge-sun deck, commercial-grade grilling areas, and views of the Chase and Esperson buildings you can't put a price on (okay, $2,150/month, to start).