The successful concert promotion group behind Houston’s Free Press Summer Festival has secured land just north of downtown Houston to build a three-stage music venue complex with two indoor stages and an outdoor stage.
Pegstar Concerts head Jagi Katial said Monday the project has been two years in gestation. Plans for the development at 2915 N. Main and North Street were leaked onto Houston’s Reddit outpost Saturday afternoon in part from a resident who attended a meeting about the development, which lead to Katial wanting to clear the air on some details that were bandied about.
This new venue would call for Pegstar to leave its current digs at Fitzgerald’s music venue on White Oak Boulevard, and set up shop at the new site five minutes away. This new complex as of now does not have a name, Katial says. He predicts that the doors could be open by late 2015.
“It’s very much a work still in progress,” Katial says, surveying the grounds late Monday afternoon. As of now there is nothing on the property aside from a real estate sign, trees and a concrete slab. A group of tight-knit investors has been working on the nuts and bolts for some time, he said.
The property backs up to what is called Little White Oak Bayou. Katial says engineers have said that flooding should not be an issue. It’s located just a few blocks from Metro’s North rail line, which could make it easier for concert-goers to commute to the venue.
There are a handful of vacant homes on the western end of the property which will be converted into other things, like parking, farmer’s markets and storage. He wants to get Houstonians acquainted with the area when they aren’t there for a show.
Sarah Fitzgerald, who has owned the Fitzgerald’s venue since 1977, said Monday that Pegstar’s lease is up in September 2015.
Pegstar has leased it from her since September 2010, when they remodeled the venue and began booking live music and comedy on the two stages, downstairs and upstairs, most nights of the week. The revitalization of the building has been a boon for development on White Oak Boulevard, which now has a number of bars and restaurants that are full almost every night.
“This is a bittersweet thing for me, straight up, because I love Fitzgerald’s and the idea of me being a concert producer was forged at that venue years ago,” says Katial. “I’ve seen some of the best shows that I will ever see there.”
But he sees this as the next logical step for Pegstar, which has blossomed between organizing the annual FPSF and booking shows across Houston into a true booking power.
Katial sees Fitzgerald’s living on after Pegstar leaves and would like to continue booking shows there once this new complex opens.
“Fitz was there before we came around, and it will be around after us,” Katial says.
There will be two stages indoors and one outdoor stage at the new spot. Katial could not give an exact number on the capacity he is expecting to accommodate, but says it will be in line with what Fitzgerald’s serves now, albeit with a little more shoulder room for concert-goers.
The capacity for the outdoor venue is still up in the air. Existing Austin venues like Stubb’s and Scoot Inn are close to what Pegstar is planning.
Pegstar books bigger shows at Warehouse Live and House of Blues, and Katial says he plans to continue booking shows at those venues, even when this new complex is in place.
“This doesn’t mean that any love is being taken from anywhere else (we book). We make our decisions based on what is best for the artist and the crowd coming to see the shows,” says Katial.
“We’re still a boutique company that does a venue, a festival and maybe one day we’ll have a second venue,” Katial says. “This venue is just another home base for Pegstar.”
The renderings that Pegstar and Katial supplied of the new venue show it to have a view of the downtown Houston skyline. An ice house is also planned that would be open seven days a week, not just when there are shows on deck.
“The ice house will be a place for people to come by before or after work, before or after a show, to grab a coffee or a beer. If you look at the neighborhood there isn’t a place for that right now,” Katial says. “The music venues will be music venues and the ice house will be the ice house.”
He already has a germ of an idea of the band lineup for the first few weeks of business at the new venue, suffice to say, it would be memorable and very Texas.
For Katial, this new venue is another milestone in the catalog of work that Pegstar has done these many years in town since Katial began booking club shows in Houston in November 2001, the first at Numbers in Montrose. The name Pegstar was a nod to one of his pet cats. His first show was a fundraiser for the Red Cross in the wake of 9/11, and he got bit by the booking bug as a music fan and the rest is history.
The meetings with the neighbors have gone well, he says, and Pegstar has already held sound tests to get a feel for what an outdoor concert would sound like. He wants the neighbors to be involved in planning and wants their input along the way. He didn’t get to attend the latest neighborhood meeting, which was where the Reddit leak originated from.
The city of Houston is supportive, he says, and the council member for the area, Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez, is on board with Pegstar’s plans.
“I think it’s an interesting concept and I am glad to see interest in the area as it has been rather desolate for some time,” says Gonzalez, who grew up not too far from the property. He remembers a few decades ago there being a used car lot on the current site.
“It’s always good that we are mindful of neighbors and they seem to be doing that,” he said. He does note that the infrastructure right now leaves something to be desired but he understands the project is still in the earliest stages.
“I do hope that there is some beautification along that part of the bayou, and we’ve already been doing a lot of work in redeveloping the nearby Woodland Park area,” Gonzalez says.
“Our intentions, even at Fitz, were to always be good neighbors,” Katial says, recounting the issues that Pegstar had with noise ordinance issues over the years. As he says this he drives by Fitzgerald’s, where the night’s musical acts are loading in. He hopes to be able to shed light on an underrated part of the city with the new development.
“If you look at the neighborhood, it’s a really cool spot. There is history that is here that has been hidden,” he says.
Fitzgerald’s was the impetus for the new development on White Oak, so it is not a stretch to say that could happen here.
He laughs nervously at the prospect of being waist-deep in constructing a venue and also putting together a huge music festival next summer.
Johnny So, his business partner at Fitzgerald’s and the new site, also is helping iron out the details for the complex, among other things, so he will still be tending to festival duties while hammers swing across town.
Planning for FPSF’s 2015 edition began the Tuesday after the festival ended. He’s listening to the Cure on the car stereo but that’s not a hint for FPSF 2015, at all, he says.
He puts on FPSF with Free Press Houston head Omar Afra, who is concentrating on the 365-day job that is planning FPSF and opening up his second bar/restaurant hybrid after Lowbrow in Montrose, in addition to publishing the monthly alternative newspaper.
Katial is very excited about where he sees Houston going in the future, mentioning a recent Forbes piece, along with all the other accolades that come with a boom city. With the influx of young people moving to the city for high-paying jobs, he’s in the right business, offering them up entertainment options for when the workday ends.
“My job is to make sure our option, the live music option, is their best choice,” he says.
Originally Published by Chron.com