Houston, like many North American cities, experienced growth that coincided with the automobile age. As a result, parking lots and garages dot the downtown core while large suburban homes dominate the periphery. Now that cities are looking for ways to revitalize their urban centres and congestion is making transit a more attractive option for many, a number of major developments have been proposed in Downtown Houston. Unsightly parking lots are the victims in many cases.
According to downtownhouston.org, the 26 projects under construction today represent $2.2 billion of investment in the city centre. Though the core has traditionally been populated by office towers, one third of the new projects underway are residential. The renovation of Market Square Park and the 2008 opening of Discovery Green have spurred activity and contributed to Downtown Houston's resurgence.
The tallest project currently under construction is Hines' 609 Main at Texas. With over one million square feet of office space in a 48-storey glass tower designed by Pickard Chilton, the building adds to Houston's eclectic mix of commercial skyscrapers. When complete in 2017, the 752-foot structure will become the sixth tallest building in the city.
Chevron has already occupied space in two buildings at 1500 Louisiana and 1400 Smith, but are now also planning a 50-storey tower for 1600 Louisiana. The HOK-designed office building would rise 832 feet and add 1.7 million square feet of space to the complex.
One of the largest residential towers in Houston's history is now under construction. Woodbranch Investments Corp and Jackson & Ryan Architects have joined forces to build the 40-storey Market Square Tower. A range of amenities are being offered, including an indoor basketball court, screening room, golf simulator, and a pool-equipped outdoor deck. Another pool situated on the roof cantilevers slightly over the edge of the building for a vertigo-inducing experience.
Just one block away at Travis and Preston Streets, Aris Market Square by Hines and Ziegler Cooper Architects promises to bring even more vibrancy to the historical neighbourhood. The at-grade parking lot has disappeared and the 32-storey building is now rising in its place. Resident parking will be housed within the eight-storey podium which also contains retail space. Atop the podium, an outdoor pool is situated beside the indoor fitness centre, club room, and lounge. The building incorporates a number of materials, including glass and brickwork, helping it adopt the area's charm.
Construction of Skanska's Capitol Tower by internationally recognized architects Gensler has advanced a few storeys above ground. The parking levels of the 35-storey office tower are currently being built, but construction of the tower portion will wait until Skanska has leased more space.
Midway Companies and Valencia Group have partnered on the Hotel Alessandra project, also designed by Gensler. The hotel will hold 225 rooms in a 21-storey frame with a rooftop pool and bar providing expansive views for guests to enjoy. A controversial redesign has lopped four storeys off the tower and exchanged a contemporary, fluid design with a more traditional look in keeping with the surrounding area. The project is targeting a late 2016 completion date.
The Marriott Marquis Convention Center Hotel by Rida Development Corporation is adding even more accommodations — 1,000 rooms — for visitors. A skybridge will connect the Morris Architects-designed hotel to the neighbouring George R. Brown Convention Center. The 30-storey Marriott Marquis will also boast Houston's largest ballroom, over 100,000 square feet of meeting space, a fitness centre, a spa, an infinity pool, and a swanky Texas-shaped lazy river. Construction has progressed quickly — one crane has already been dismantled from the project — and the hotel is scheduled to be ready by this time next year.
Though a swath of new developments is coming online, some existing buildings are going through extensive retrofits. The 44-storey tower at 800 Bell was constructed in 1962, becoming the tallest building in the western United States at that time. ExxonMobil vacated the space in 2015 and Shorenstein Properties jumped at the chance to update the property. In addition to the exterior curtain wall-clad makeover by Ziegler Cooper Architects, the building's interior will house a fitness centre, food area, conference centre, and courtyard.
There are numerous other projects scattered throughout Houston with various statuses, including the 40-storey 2929 Weslayan, the 41-storey Theater Square, the twisting Tower at Hermann Place, and a concept proposal by Springwoods Realty Company and HOK for 7200 Main. All of these projects are indicative of Houston's rapid skyward ascent in the commercial, residential, and hotel sectors, proving that the downtowns of many American cities are bouncing back with increased economic, social, and cultural investment.
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