The front of the recently renovated building in downtown Houston features ornate brickwork, a balcony and a stylish, heavy-duty door.

Since it was built many decades ago, the building on the corner of Grand Avenue and Walnut Street in downtown Houston has been home to many businesses, including a household goods store, women’s clothing store and most recently several different eating establishments.

But after sitting vacant for an extended period following the closing of the last eatery, the building was purchased a little over a year ago by local attorney, Kimberly Lowe. Since then, the structure has undergone what is arguably the most comprehensive, unlikely and remarkable renovation of any in Houston, and now bears little resemblance to its prior appearance, both outside and in.

Lowe moved her practice into the space earlier this year, after spending the past few years in a substantially smaller building next door.

“Long story short, I’ve probably put 12 times more into it than what I bought it for,” Lowe said, “But it has been worth it.”

As well as a busy lawyer, Lowe also has an office in Waynesville. She is also a Christian music singer-songwriter with two CDs under her belt and a devotional author soon to have her second book published.

Virtually every move she makes stems from a devinely-inspired motivation, and her effort with the building is no exception.

“Ultimately, God told me to do this,” Lowe said. “We were growing out of our first building, and He laid it on my heart to pray about this one. I thought that was interesting, because I didn’t like the building – it was old and sketchy and didn’t smell good. But I was like, ‘OK, God.’”

Lowe approached former owner Jessie Neal with an offer and a deal ensued.

“I would never have done this on my own,” Lowe said. “This is all God.”

Like most on the block, the structure was previously one story. It had an exterior of mostly brick-and-mortar, with a glass storefront and door, while its interior was indistinct and utilitarian.

Now, the opposite is true. It’s a two-story building approaching 4,000 total square feet, with elegant, eye-catching features at every turn. The main demolition, redeveloping and expansion was handled by local contractor Jared Spencer and Spencer Construction.

Kim Lowe building interior

While not yet fully decorated, the interior of the building on the corner of Grand Avenue and Walnut Street in downtown Houston joins the exterior in bearing no resemblance at all to its past appearance thanks to a major makeover courtesy of attorney Kim Lowe.

Lowe steered the project toward a strategic combination appearance and functionality.

“I’m a firm believer in utility – getting the best beauty you can with as much utility as well,” she said.

The exterior features a look inspired by the Tuscany region of Italy, highlighted by ornate brickwork comprised of pavers from Kansas and St. Louis along with more than thousand bricks from the old Houston High School fine arts building that was demolished last year. The masonry work was spearheaded by Butch McNew.

“I was trying to combine those in such a way to achieve a certain color that would give it that old world style,” Lowe said. “Butch told me this was the most unique project he had ever done. He totally nailed it.

Kim Lowe project

Workers with Spencer Construction remove material last March during the beginning stages of the renovation of Kimberly Lowe’s building at Grand Avenue and Walnut Street in downtown Houston.

Done by Bulgarian native Dimo Divov, the exterior’s decorative stucco walls continue the old-Italy theme.

“I actually loved the way the exterior of the building looked before we started, because it was very rough,” Lowe said. “We were able to use existing stucco and just patch it.”

Ironwork graces exterior windows and arches, and the whole package is capped off with a big, heavy, almost Medieval door purchased from a Tuscany-oriented outlet in Memphis.

“Doors are always one of my favorite things,” Lowe said. “The front of the building was done carefully to accommodate the door.”

Upstairs

What will be done with the second story of the renovated building is still under consideration.

The building’s first-floor interior features numerous rooms with either wood and tile floors, including Lowe’s office, two other offices, a conference room, a client waiting room, two bathrooms and a large main room.

“It’s hard to imagine the way it used to look,” Lowe said.

Lowe currently has a total of eight employees, including three in her Houston office. The new building’s large upstairs space is still unfinished, but Lowe has ambitious plans for it.

“I would really like to do something involving youth – maybe helping them with their careers or college testing and things like that,” she said. “I think there’s a real need for Christian counseling and linking up young people with goals with people in the community who can help.

“But I know that whatever God has planned for this building is going to be amazing and wonderful. Right now we’re just enjoying it because of all the space, but if God had a plan for this building in general, I suspect He has a plan for that upstairs portion as well.”

It begins

Workers on the roof begin the process of renovating Kim Lowe’s building in downtown Houston early last year.

Lowe said that in all, the building’s makeover was about much more than providing her successful law practice a place to expand.

“When I opened my first office here, it was kind of an experiment and lots of people questioned it,” she said. “After I got more involved in the community, it became evident this was a place I was making a positive difference. Everyone I’ve come in contact with regarding the project has been positive and thankful that we beautified a corner of Houston.

“This isn’t just about making money, it’s about making a difference.”

Lowe said she couldn’t be happier with the project’s outcome.

“It’ beautiful – it turned out perfect,” she said. “Sometimes you have an expectation for something and it doesn’t turn out quite the way you want it. This was right on the money.

“You have a vision and ask God for guidance, and He just makes it happen. I love that.”

Second floor preparation

A crane lifts a truss into position last May as part of the addition of a second story to the building.

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