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Midway CEO Jonathan Brinsden Discusses Urban Development in Houston's Fifth Ward

Published Aug 26, 2019 by Kelsey Seeker


Jonathan Brinsden
Jonathan Brinsden, CEO of Midway Cos.

Houston's historic Fifth Ward will be home to a new urban development from the same firm that created CityCentre - just four times the size.

East River will be a multi-phase, mixed-use development on the banks of Buffalo Bayou. The former KBR-site is approximately 150 acres with more than a mile of waterfront. 

We chatted with Jonathan Brinsden, CEO of Midway, the Houston-based real estate development and investment firm, to hear more about the East River development. Brinsden took part in a panel discussion of 5th Ward's evolution on August 28 as part of the Partnership's Regions & Neighborhoods program. 

The East River development represents one of the largest opportunities for inner-city, urban redevelopment in the country. Can you talk about why Midway was interested in this opportunity in this part of town?

Midway's purpose is to create enduring investments and remarkable places that enrich people's lives. The site represents the intersection of many things we look for in our work, including scale, adjacency to large employment centers, proximity to parks and green space, transportation access, and last but not least, the ability to positively impact neighborhoods and transform the urban landscape.

What are the benefits to having such a large tract under one primary developer?

Historically, urban redevelopment occurs in a patchwork fashion, with little quality control and many different timelines. With East River, we have the ability to develop within the urban core, but control the master plan, the timeline, and the quality. The control provides the ability to give prospective tenants, residents, and the community clarity about what will be created.  Additionally, we have a very unique opportunity to work with Buffalo Bayou Partnership to develop over a mile of Buffalo Bayou frontage within our master plan.

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What are the potential obstacles to successful redevelopment in this area?  

A big part of creating a large, master-planned, walkable, urban, mixed-use development is the infrastructure – we are essentially building a small city and stitching the urban grid back together.  The public-private partnership aspects of the project will be critical to the feasibility given the massive infrastructure investment.

How will the development potentially affect the surrounding community, and where do you see the area in 5-10 years?

We very much see an amazing opportunity to connect two wonderful historic neighborhoods, the 5th Ward and the 2nd Ward, to the bayou and to each other. The site has had a fence around it for many years and now we have the ability to open it up a bring people and the community together. 

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Resiliency is a major focus of development in post-Harvey Houston. How is Midway working to incorporate resiliency into a development that fronts Buffalo Bayou?

This has been a major focus of the collaborative planning process with the city, the neighborhoods, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Harris County Flood Control, the Port Authority, and our consultants. There are already a couple important preliminary infrastructure projects underway that will have a positive impact on the area.

Why is Houston a prime real estate development market right now?

Houston continues to be an incredible opportunity, both now and looking into the future. We are a city of diversity, culture, knowledge, entrepreneurs, leaders and people with an unbelievable can-do attitude. Our goal is to continue to create remarkable places that foster and support all Houston has to offer as we collectively make Houston one of the greatest global cities.

Learn more about the Houston region's 11 counties, which make up one of the largest and most diverse business regions in the nation. And find out more about joining the Partnership's Regions & Neighborhoods program.

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