The $7.5 million rehab of the old Witte building at 135 E. Commerce St. will include an aesthetic touch straight out of the South Pacific.
On Wednesday, the Historic and Design Review Commission approved 11 gas-fueled tiki torches for the tiki bar that’s in the works for the river level of the Witte building, aka, the former Chinese restaurant on Commerce.
Esquire Tavern owner Chris Hill has been rehabbing the circa-1890s Witte since last year to include an Asian restaurant on the ground floor, office and event space on the second floor and four micro apartments on the top floor
A new public staircase and elevator is part of the plans that will take pedestrians from the street level to the River Walk, and vice versa.
The torches will adorn the north and west walls of an enclosed tiki bar space next to the river, and will be made of one-inch thick galvanized steep pipe. Some of the seven-foot-high torches will shoot straight up from behind the wall, and others will make an X.
In an interview last year, Hill told the Heron he anticipates the building’s restoration would be completed in November of this year, around the same time he anticipates the 22-level Canopy by Hilton, another of his projects that’s under construction down the block at Commerce and St. Mary’s streets, is completed.
The Witte building restoration is receiving a portion of a $5.3 million grant from the Houston Street Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone. It’s also receiving a subsidy called the Riverwalk Capital Improvements Reimbursement Grant worth up to $1 million for the stairway and elevator. The rehab’s incentive package also includes $137,910 in SAWS impact fee waivers, $21,000 in city fee waivers, and an Inner City Incentive Fund Grant worth $800,000.
Tiki bar, Asian restaurant, apartments part of Witte building restoration
Heron reporter Gaige Davila contributed to this report.