Published Oct 11, 2021 by A.J. Mistretta
A growing number of new developments across the metro region are incorporating multiple uses—from retail and office to residential and even hotels—in more pedestrian-centric designs. Developers recognize that more residents and workers want to feel connected to the spaces where they’re spending time instead of pulling up directly to a storefront in their car. That’s led to large-scale mixed-use projects, particularly in the urban core. Here are just some of the projects that are helping reshape the look of Houston.
1550 on the Green and Discovery West
Global developer Skanska has assembled a prime three-acre site in Downtown Houston overlooking Discovery Green. The company began construction in summer 2021 on 1550 on the Green, a 370,000-square-foot office tower that includes 7,000 square feet of ground-level retail and restaurant space. It’s the first phase of a master plan for what the company calls the Discovery West district, which will include additional retail, restaurant, and green space, creating a new destination adjacent to the iconic 12-acre park.
East River will feature roughly 1 million square feet of commercial and residential space to be developed by Houston-based Midway in phases over the next 20 years. The first 26-acre phase of the East End project broke ground this year and will feature 360 apartment units, 250,000 square feet of office space and another 110,000 square feet of street-level retail. Amenities will include a golf course, green space, a plaza and access to hike and bike trails along the bayou. The project’s developers and community leaders believe East River will be an economic catalyst for the previously industrial site and the East End neighborhoods that surround it. They also hope it will become a communal gathering place with special events, festivals and other activities for both residents and visitors.
In November, Post Houston opens on the northern edge of downtown with restaurants, an international market, creative workspaces and a 210,000-square-foot rooftop park and garden. Lovett Commercial says future additions to the 550,000-square-foot former post office will include a concert venue and a possible hotel. Post Houston could prove to be a catalyst for additional projects on the northside along Buffalo Bayou, an area that has not experienced the same level of redevelopment activity as other parts of downtown. It could create a synergy with the nearby Theater District and reimagined Bagby Street corridor.
Aiming to capitalize on the exponential growth of the Katy area, the new Katy Boardwalk District will blend multifamily residential, office space, the community’s first full-service hotel and retail and restaurant space to create a unique entertainment district set on a 90-acre lake. The project is going up on 169 acres just south of I-10 at Kingsland Boulevard, and partners say the first tenants will be announced in early 2022. The yet-unnamed hotel will include a conference center and ballroom with an estimated 304 rooms. Katy Boardwalk will only add to the retail draw of the community that’s already home to Katy Mills outlet mall and Bass Pro Shops.
Rising between Downtown and Montrose along Buffalo Bayou, The Allen is a 1.3 million-square-foot project spanning multiple high rises. The development includes a 42-story hotel and condo tower along with a 22-story, 340,000-square-foot office building and a large-scale retail pavilion all set on a landscaped campus. Thompson Hotels, which operates luxury properties in the U.S. and Mexico, will run the 180-room hotel—a first along Buffalo Bayou Park. The whole six-acre project is estimated at $500 million.
Further west along Allen Parkway, Hanover Company’s Autry Park promises to be an “urban village” complete with more than 1,400 residential units, 350,000 square feet of office space and 100,000 square feet of high-end retail—all positioned around a central green space. The 14-acre development is set to open in three phases, with the first phase slated for completion late this year. Along with The Allen, Autry Park is one of several high-density developments materializing west of downtown along Buffalo Bayou that aim to take advantage of the waterway and its linear park.
Midtown Innovation District
Expected to become the epicenter of Houston’s burgeoning innovation ecosystem, Rice University’s Innovation District in Midtown is beginning to take shape. Major construction is now complete on the campus’ primary anchor, The Ion, and tenants including Chevron Technology Ventures and Common Desk have moved in. The 288,000-square-foot facility located on Main Street in Midtown is offering rentable coworking space for startups, as well as office space for corporate partners and more advanced startups. Ground level restaurant spaces will start filling up later this year. However, the bigger picture for the 16-acre district includes residential, retail, office and other uses built out in collaboration with development partners in the years to come. The innovation district has the potential to become a destination for both companies and individuals looking for a dynamic, pedestrian-oriented urban experience.
Following the demolition of an aging retail strip center and a Kroger grocery store near the intersection of Montrose and Westheimer, developer Skanksa has divulged few details about the future project. The sheer possibility for the three-acre site on the southwest corner of this prime intersection makes this a transformative project. The smart money is on a multi-tower, mixed-use concept that’s likely to include residential and plenty of ground-level retail. Office space or even a hotel are also within the realm of possibility considering the size of the opportunity. Real estate watchers say whatever is planned would need to be timed with the inevitable, and long overdue, rebuild of Lower Westheimer.