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Tree-wrapped Houston condo complex: 'a cornucopia of the good life'

In the wide-open spaces of the Lone Star State, the high-rise condominium is in bloom. And life styles among upper-crust Texans have been soaring as a result.

An example of this was on view recently in Houston when the city's finest, immaculately turned out in tuxedos and couturier gowns, gathered at the Houstonian, a 28-story condo set on 20 wooded acres.

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''This is a cornucopia of the good life,'' explained attorney Frank T. Abraham, there with his wife to decide whether to buy one of the few remaining $ 500,000 to $800,000 units.

Ten years ago the Houstonian's founder and chairman, Tom J. Fatjo Jr., and a few Houston friends dreamed of building ''an executive renewal center'' for top corporate leaders. Today, the soft-spoken former accountant presides over a $120 million complex of buildings generating $50 million in annual revenues and, he says, ''several million a year in profits.'' The complex contains a 300-unit hotel, a 153-unit condominium, a conference center, and an exercise club.

Seated in his office - one of the complex's smallest - the blue-jeaned young entrepreneur explains that his original plan was to set up a nonprofit organization dedicated to toning up executives with regular exercise and toning up American business and government with help from a resident think-tank of experts. But his quest for donations failed.

As the Abrahams and 600 other guests celebrated this deluxe condominium's official opening, they carried gilded menus that helped them find their way through the triple-tower complex. Rising from a constantly replenished poolside display of rattlesnake and seafood hors d'oeuvres, guests took one bank of elevators to an apartment featuring a country-music band and tables of roast venison.

More elevators, manned by polite young men in dinner jackets, whisked visitors upward for a wrap-around view of Houston's glittering tower-scapes stretching far into the clear evening sky.

Will all this genteel opulence wither away if oil prices continue to tumble? Don't count on Houston's ''decline and fall,'' the Houstonian's residents reply. Stockbroker Venita Van Caspel, auto-dealer Don McGill, or Mr. Fatjo himself have made the climb to the high-rise life from tiny Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma farmsteads.

For Miss Van Caspel, a prominent economist, stockbroker, and author whose Houstonian-complex apartment glows with the added touch of fresh-cut flowers, the Houstonian represents the best of what America's free-enterprise system can accomplish. She doesn't consider her high-rise life in the security-gated Houstonian complex an elitist escape from the outside world.

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Don McGill, an Arkansas native whose stable of companies includes a six-city network of car dealerships, an insurance agency, and oil and gas operations, is an enthusiastic backer of ''this Houstonian concept of creating a total life style.'' He likes the complex as a base of operations because it combines living , working, and recreational facilities.

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