MainStreet America: a giddy ride for home design junkies.
by Karen Derr
While rollercoaster fans dream of the reopening of Astroworld, a theme park for the rest of us opened last February on I-45 in Spring, Texas. Leave it to Houston, with our penchant for all things real-estate-related, to have the nation’s first theme park focusing on home building and interior design. MainStreet America is a $20 million fourteen-acre model home park and design center. It’s also a furniture store, garden expo, restaurant, cooking school, and event center.
In fact, if it has to do with architecture, home and garden, or lifestyle, MainStreet America’s probably got a full-scale, fully functioning model or display of it. Everything is available for purchase, with financing available. And yes, there’s an app for all this—or actually a T.E.D., which stands for technology educational device. Pay the ten-dollar entry fee and you’re issued a T.E.D. to scan tags on literally everything in the park. This is where the fun begins. Individual items, whole rooms, or even backyards have tags to scan which then provide links to product information and specifications. This device, developed by MainStreet America, and the technology behind it is a key feature of the theme park experience.
Stepping out of the design center, visitors enter a quiet street lined with twelve model homes of various architectural styles. There is a hill-country stone house, a beach house, a Craftsman bungalow, a stylish contemporary, and more. Smooth jazz wafts from nowhere in particular. There is no traffic on this street, but gleaming luxury cars are jauntily parked in front of perfectly green lawns. It’s such a Zen experience that you may not even notice that the cars, all BMWs for the grand opening, are for sale and the lawns are a selection of Astroturf with various live grasses offered for comparison.
Unlike other model homes, MainStreet America homes are permanent. Each one is richly appointed with furniture and accessories, including dishes and linens. Whether you want to replicate a whole room or purchase just a piece or two, you can scan tags and get specifications or add items to a shopping cart. It’s a dreamscape of style, tasteful living, and lush decors complete with state-of-the-art technology. Adding to the surrealism of this idealized neighborhood is the absence of sales people. You may have heard of smart homes, but here you can see the technology installed and working. Interested in living off the grid? One model features solar panels and a sustainable roof by partner supplier Boral Building Products. Partners like Boral are excited to be a part of the theme park, where they can showcase products for comparison. Boral offers stone and tile products quarried and manufactured right here in Texas. Their clay tile roofs are truly lifetime roofs that compete very well in price with traditional composition shingles.
Other partners include G. E., Moen, Kohler, Bosch, Carol’s Lighting, and hundreds more. There are displays of swimming pools, sports courts, outdoor kitchens, pizza ovens, and beautiful landscape designs. Also included are glass-enclosed cross sections of state-of-the-art wiring, plumbing, and air-conditioning systems so visitors can see the workings inside the wall. There is even a fully handicapped-accessible bathroom displayed in one model. C.E.O. and owner Mike Feigin says the partners are excited that the homes will be changing often and new products can be presented. Exteriors, yards, and interiors will all be changed to present changing trends throughout the year.
If visitors need even more information than the T.E.D. supplies while they tour the homes, a consultant can be summoned on T.E.D. which transmits a shopper’s location in the park to customer service. Project lists and information compiled on the T.E.D. is eventually transmitted to the visitor via e-mail. The average visitor stays at the park for three to five hours, so a restaurant onsite is a necessity. The cooking school takes it a step further with do-it-yourself workshops designed to fulfill MainStreet America’s motto: “Inspire, Inform and Empower.”
MainStreet America is the culmination of the diverse interests of The Woodlands power couple Mike
and Barbara Feigin, owners of Designtech Homes. The seventeen-year-old homebuilding company has offices in Wimberly, Houston, and San Antonio. They also own a cooking school, a remodeling company, and Criterium Mortgage, a real-estate company that procures land for their design/build clients. If a MainStreet America visitor decides they want one of the homes or rooms presented, DesignTech can build it or MainStreet Renovations can provide the room in their existing home. They partner with long-time Houston designer Miriam Fatheree for the furniture offered at MainStreet America. M. Fatheree Interiors has worked in the north Houston and The Woodlands markets for thirty years.
The grand opening events included special receptions for builders, Realtors, and developers. Owner Mike Feigin predicts the theme park will be an important resource for these professionals and offers them professional access packages. Feigan says, “It’s a great place to bring clients who are still deciding what style they like.” When asked what role he sees the park playing with other builders in the Houston area, Feigin has high expectations. He confides, “I think every builder in the city will use this as a tool. If they don’t, they’ll be made to use it by all the consumers who come through and say, ‘I want this, why aren’t you using it?’” The professional and the family memberships both include a furniture discount.
MainStreet America is open year-round, seven days a week. Go to mainstreetamerica.com for upcoming events.
Karen Derr is a Houston-area Realtor and the founder of Karen Derr Realty, now Boulevard Realty. She writes and speaks about home and small-business topics.