Buffalo Bayou-Area developers face challenges building on Houston’s oldest lot

Hanover Co. and Lionstone Investments designed the new mixed-use Autry Park with office, multi-family and retail properties as an “urban village”. The 14-acre project along Buffalo Bayou will include restaurants from hip Houston operators, several apartment buildings, a hotel and other office space. But that bayou view comes at a cost: It’s also next to a busy section of Allen Parkway and Shepherd Drive. Hanover is spending around $30 million on infrastructure, in part so that development partner David Ott no longer has to get off his bike and guide children across the street.

Bisnow/Lane Gillespie

John Moody Jr. of Moody Law Group, Scott Ziegler of Ziegler Cooper Architect, David Ott of Hanover Co., Acho Azuike of DC Partners, Lisa Helfman of HEB

“There will finally be a pedestrian signage at [the] Crossroads Allen, Kirby and Shepherd. If someone tried to cross on the ground floor, it’s like a game of Frogger. It’s very scary, especially with kids,” Ott said.

New developments, both mixed-use and residential, are rapidly occupying the land surrounding Buffalo Bayou. The bayou, with inherent green space and offering a quick trip downtown, is proving trendy for developers, but in a March 24 bisnow event, Building on the Bayou, developers discussed the challenges of building infrastructure and respecting neighboring communities as they build on Houston’s oldest piece of land.

In an effort to make the Autry Park area more accessible, Hanover cut about a 25-acre block of sidewalk into more passable blocks, creating Buffalo Park Drive and continuing or creating other streets, Ott said. Buffalo Bayou Park is a popular recreation spot, and Hannover has expanded crosswalks and other connections.

“Houston’s culture in this area is based on physical activity, exercise, the outdoors, nature and in addition a food and beverage program that is [today] sort of limited,” Ott said.

The bayou area is also closely tied to the Fourth Ward to the east, a predominantly black historic community. Acho Azuike, chief operating officer and managing director of DC Partners, which is building the nearby mixed-use The Allen project, said his team is working with area leaders to incorporate the history and culture of Freedmen’s Town. , a Fourth Ward community built by freed slaves.

“Something that excites me is how to incorporate some of the tourist history of Fourth Ward?” Azuike said.

Reserved area

Bisnow/Lane Gillespie

David Ott of Hanover Co.

Scott Ziegler, senior principal at Ziegler Cooper Architects, said his firm’s Inner Loop projects primarily relate to neighborhoods that have historically been or are currently primarily single-family homes, and the firm capitalizes on that. He raised The Driscoll at River Oaks, a Ziegler Cooper-designed multi-family skyscraper in the 85-year-old River Oaks Mall.

“When we were asked to design The Driscoll, we had to be respectful of what was there. on street level retail We replaced all of the retail we demolished, installed a few layers of underground parking lots for future retail parking lots and retained the aesthetic and design of the building. ‘entire mall,’ Ziegler said.

Other unique challenges come from the very dense and desirable land around the bayou. Developers have to deal with the density and cost issues inherent in Inner Loop development, Ziegler said. Instead of his usual mid-rise multi-family, Ziegler Cooper has embarked on designing what Ziegler calls super-mid-rise buildings, buildings that are up to about 14 or 15 stories tall, but have double the density. , from 125 units per acre to 250 units per acre, which he says allows the company to design a building on much less land.

“When you talk about challenges, I think the design challenges that you face are, technically, how do you adapt to the lifestyle and the uses that we’re trying to put in these buildings, sites that are becoming more and more narrower, buildings that keep getting taller?” says Ziegler.

Between the price of development around the bayou and high construction delays and prices, costs for tenants and residents are rising, but Azuike said that’s not scaring them away.

“It’s been crazy activity. At The Allen we’re currently selling close to 60% condominiums. The numbers we see, I’m shocked every time a subcontract comes across my desk for what people are paying and prices,” says Azuike.

Azuike said strong demand means that, despite the costs, he can keep prices relatively low for renters and residents.

“All of the projects on Allen Parkway, it’s healthy competition to where the commercial tenants come to town, they see all that activity. It’s proof that we all made the right decision by developing where we let’s develop.”