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Update On The Casa Vilora HQ

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

I was sure by now we would have been moved into our new building and pumping out our amazing projects. But alas, that is not the case at the moment.

I have been pretty low-key about the updates lately simply because there isn't much to report with the super slow progress. But I know that Many of you have been following along and encouraging us on this journey, and deserve a thorough explanation of what's causing the delays.

These days, any construction project will be delayed, but our delays go a bit further.

Let me explain from the very might want to grab your coffee for this rollercoaster ride. Hahaha

When I signed the contract to buy the building back in 2020, it was just dirt. They weren't even remotely close to starting the build, but I was just excited to be owning a building versus leasing, and was happy to wait. You may have read in previous posts that it is very rare to see new construction office/warehouses in this area, so for me, this was meant to be.

I had the option then to have the developer do an interior build-out for me for an additional $70,000 or just buy the shell and do it myself after closing. I of course opted for the latter, as there was no way to customize the build-out provided by the developer.

Their interior buildout was not a good use of the space. The ceilings are 23' high, and it was a waste of a good space to just do a drop ceiling and close up all that real estate. So I decided to build a 2 story office and use the upper level as an investment (co-work and meeting spaces). Seems easy enough right!

Here's what I would have gotten if I had chosen the developer's build-out package.

You will also see that the warehouse portion was larger than I needed, and I wanted a larger office space.

If I had gone this route, we would have been long moved in back in January. But as they say #NoRegrets.

With the interior buildout, I hired a building designer here in the Katy area to create the building plans for me for permitting. At that point, the building was not even up yet, so he based his design on a basic floor plan the developer gave us. They refused to give us a full set of plans. I would find out later that his plans were sorely lacking, but that's another story for another day.

Following the advice of my banker, I decided to go the Small Business Administration (SBA) loan route for the interior buildout because the appraisal didn't come in as expected for a conventional loan.

What I didn't realize is how much is involved in working with the SBA on a construction loan. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of paperwork and verification. But finally, I had my Commitment Letter in hand for a sizable loan amount that would accomplish everything I had set out to do.

By this time, I had gone through about 5 different GC's who would disappear after our first meeting. I managed to get two of them to bid on the job and they were both way too high.

I finally onboarded a GC that I liked, but when she found out that the SBA requires a ton of paperwork from her, including her business financial information, references, and verification of past, current and future work, she decided to not move forward with me. Maybe I dodged a bullet? Not sure!

It took several weeks to get a new GC onboard who knew how to work with SBA loan requirements. It took another few weeks to get estimates back. I almost passed out when I got their first bid back. But this time, I didn't have the flexibility to be so picky with GC's. I had to make it work. This meant scaling back.

To add to that, the city permitting department kicked back the plans with a laundry list of notes for correction.

I decided to scrap those plans and start over: 1) because I needed to scale back quite a bit anyway and 2) I had to make some corrections and it made sense to just start over.

I brought in a good friend of mine who is a building designer to create new plans. This time, the second level is marked as storage (for future development), but we have factored in rough-ins, mechanical and structural stuff for building out the upstairs in a year or two.

One of the biggest things that also had to go to reduce cost is the large display/chef's kitchen (see former plans HERE). This has been replaced with a smaller kitchenette that will still highlight some of the appliances from my brand partner. I was also being comped all the countertop materials (not including fabrication), and had to scale back some of those plans as well to reduce labor costs.

Because we are not developing the upper level in phase 1, I had to create an office on the lower level for Courtney, my daughter and Office Manager extraordinaire. I also had to create a double staircase that can be accessed outside of our main working area, so that future work will not disrupt our office and work.

We have now taken over a bit more of the warehouse space than I wanted to do, but I plan to build up with a shelving system for all the furniture storage we will need.

So where are we now with everything?

We just got the final plans back from the building designer. We have submitted them to the structural and MEP engineers, as well as the TAS Inspector for review. We should be getting everything back by end of July and can then submit again for rebids and permitting.

In the meantime, the loan docs are with a third party SBA verifier, who thoroughly checks everything. I am literally so burnt out from all the paperwork they need, plus all the money each of these different steps is costing me, but we a re on track and nothing of concern in this area, thank God.

We expect to begin construction late August to early September, and I am told it should be very quick from there.

I am planning not to even mention being in the new building before January 2023.

But added to all that DRAMA, our lease has been up for a couple of years now and we have been asking for extensions. We have the final extension that will run out at the end of August. This means that we will be homeless. The plan was to build a shed in my backyard to accommodate our work space and at least some of our samples in the meantime, but for that we also need HOA approval, and that is taking forever.

This is what I have planned for the shed in my backyard, but cannot start without HOA approval.

Backyard Studio Office Space

The backyard needed some loving anyway so this is not too far-fetched for us to do now. Plus great marketing potential here.

Backyard Studio Space

Worse case scenario, we will work from the house. At least both my employees, who happen to be my children live there and it won't be too much of a HR nightmare. Haha

And if those weren't enough curveballs - our office AC unit is pretty much dead, and we are responsible for replacing it. I definitely have no plans to buy a new AC unit on my way out, so we sat through this TX heat for about two days before I caved and called an AC guy in. I was fortunate that he had an older unit that he sold to us for $700 including installation. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will hold up until we move.

The move itself will be crazy. Lots of stuff to put into yet another storage unit. That will make 4 storage units!

I welcome your prayers as we continue to go through this process, but honestly, we are not stressed one bit. I realized in the beginning that I was forcing things to happen out of the natural sequence, and not only was it stressful on me, it was creating more issues. So I am organically going through the motions and I know that at the end of this I will have a new office. I leave it all in God's hands and following His Will.

The fact that interest rates are rising was also a source of worry, but I decided not to worry about things I cannot control. I have asked my bankers to lock me in as soon as they can and I leave the rest to God.

In the meantime, we are busy with some of the most amazing projects and wonderful clients, and that is where our attention is right now.

You too can get on our schedule.

I look forward to our grand opening in 2023!

Comment below what surprised you the most about this update. I would love to know. Feel free to ask any questions as well in the comments, because there is so much I couldn't cover int his one post.

I will most likely do a video all about this in the future.

Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration!


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