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POST HTX: 401 Franklin Post Office Site Redevelopment

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On 8/1/2018 at 7:41 PM, Purdueenginerd said:

 

There is a portion of the building towards the front that was designed and constructed in the 1930's. If you look at the curved drive-in ramp of the structure, you'll see the original 1930's portion of the structure. Ive attached a screen shot of the site from 1944 to 2017. You'll see the original 1930's building in both images. 

 

 

1944 v 2017.png

 

 

Sorry @H-Town Man,  I was off by a few months. 

Edited by Purdueenginerd
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12 hours ago, H-Town Man said:

 

It does not have red brick, arched windows, keystones, wood timber beams, or detailed stonework. However, the giant concrete columns will be a sight to behold in our era of cheap disposable construction. I know, I know - concrete. Not the most poetic material. But think of the cistern on Buffalo Bayou. It has a certain "pillars of the earth" quality. The fact that this thing is strong enough to hold a rooftop garden with public gathering is pretty remarkable - no modern distribution center roof is built so strong. They didn't mess around when they built post office buildings. Even neighborhood post offices are a nightmare to tear down. There was a certain "we are the new Rome and we're going to build like Rome" mindset in the USPS in the 20th century. This may not have the Beaux Arts classicism of the Farley building in NYC but where it counts, in durability and utility, it evokes something of a classical spirit.

 

I think Tadeo Ado and probably Luis Barragan would like to have a word with you regarding concrete not being the most "poetic material" (not the only good examples too).

 

On 7/3/2019 at 2:10 PM, cspwal said:

I don't think they need to make it pedestrian only, just work on improving the sidewalks - you could remove one lane of traffic and widen the sidewalks enough to included benches and trees.  Something like that could make a real difference to the walk

 

On 7/3/2019 at 12:42 PM, H-Town Man said:

A thought occurs to me while Google Earthing this. They should petition the city to make the Congress Street bridge pedestrian-only. It seems like a redundant bridge. Turn it into a park/promenade with brick paving and trees and gardens, with stairs down to the bayou. Brick-pave the intersection with Franklin and then continue the promenade up to Post. They can offer to pay for it in an agreement similar to how Main Street Square was done. This will tie the development in with downtown and make it a lot more comfortable, even enjoyable for people to walk there and back.

 

 

While doing some digging in the Downtown subforum for things to put on the development map I ran into this. Seems like we completely forgot that Bagby street is suppose to get a make over, and this upgrade will revamp that bridge to make it more pedestrian friendly. Presentation in the link:
http://www.downtowntirz.com/downtownhouston/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/180507_Bagby-Street-Improvment-Plan-FINAL-Report-Web.pdf

I'm sure they took this into account at some point when deciding to pull the trigger on this. This soon to be beautified street is basically going to lead straight to this developments front door.

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1 hour ago, Luminare said:

I think Tadeo Ado and probably Luis Barragan would like to have a word with you regarding concrete not being the most "poetic material" (not the only good examples too).

 

I thought I was being pretty generous to concrete. If only a few architects have realized its possibilities as a poetic material, then it is probably not the most poetic material. Still a poetic material in certain hands.

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23 hours ago, Subdude said:

 

I'm all for historic preservation, but the old post office hardly strikes me as architecturally or historically significant.  

 

23 hours ago, H-Town Man said:

 

It does not have red brick, arched windows, keystones, wood timber beams, or detailed stonework. However, the giant concrete columns will be a sight to behold in our era of cheap disposable construction. I know, I know - concrete. Not the most poetic material. But think of the cistern on Buffalo Bayou. It has a certain "pillars of the earth" quality. The fact that this thing is strong enough to hold a rooftop garden with public gathering is pretty remarkable - no modern distribution center roof is built so strong. They didn't mess around when they built post office buildings. Even neighborhood post offices are a nightmare to tear down. There was a certain "we are the new Rome and we're going to build like Rome" mindset in the USPS in the 20th century. This may not have the Beaux Arts classicism of the Farley building in NYC but where it counts, in durability and utility, it evokes something of a classical spirit.

 

 

 

I think cities should preserve a certain (small) number of these kinds of buildings so we don't forget just how ugly they are, lest someone someday decide it's a good idea to build in this style again.

 

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While this building hasn’t been recladded, its exterior style is reminiscent of the architecturally beautiful buildings that were “modernized” with recladding of ugly sheet metal in the 50’s/60’s. Regardless of its supposed concrete structural integrity, I don’t think its facade is architecturally or historically significant. It’s mind boggling that the city sees some kind of historical significance in this plainly put, beige warehouse and not in the many historically beautiful buildings that have since been torn down and still are to this day. Very backward priorities. 

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Wasn't up to the city. This is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so it's historic-ness was determined by the Texas Historical Commission (and the feds agreed.)

 

 

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3 hours ago, Texasota said:

Wasn't up to the city. This is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so it's historic-ness was determined by the Texas Historical Commission (and the feds agreed.)

 

 

Is there some private entity that has to request that a building be deemed historically significant and, thus, protected?  Or, does the Texas Historical Commission move on its own?

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2 hours ago, Texasota said:

Wasn't up to the city. This is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so it's historic-ness was determined by the Texas Historical Commission (and the feds agreed.)

 

 

 

Well no wonder. Thanks for the clarification. The feds probably only approved the listing since it was a historically government owned building.  Regardless what the commission/feds think on its “historic-ness”, I have to disagree on this one. Maybe I can see the listing for the administration building only, even as butt ugly as it is (really? facade modifications aren’t allowed?!), but not for the surrounding distribution warehouse portion. That’s purely ridiculous if so. Guess this means I am not as pro-preservation of “historic” buildings as I thought I was. Lol. Oh well. 

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1 hour ago, MarathonMan said:

Is there some private entity that has to request that a building be deemed historically significant and, thus, protected?  Or, does the Texas Historical Commission move on its own?

 

Basically that determination is made any time there's a federal "undertaking." That could include federal funds, but in this case it probably happened when the property was tranferred out of federal ownership. I *believe* that selling a property (in particular a post office) to a private entity also includes a covenant which requires the new owner to adhere to federal guidelines for the treatment of historic properties.

 

Most of the time, a National Register-listed property *doesn't* have a covenant, so restrictions would only come in to play if the owner was applying for grants or tax credits. If he used private funds he could do whatever.

 

Otherwise a private entity can always submit a nomination to THC, which could result in listing but typically not a covenant.

Edited by Texasota
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5 hours ago, CrockpotandGravel said:

Also on the Loopnet listing is a site plan showing the location of the hotel and other portions for Post. This isn't in the marketing brochures. From the site plan, the  boutique hotel will be 52,000 sf.
 

oEDym70.jpg



 

 

I would have thought that a lot of the white area on Level I would have been retail. Do we know what it is, exactly? The areas devoted to retail don't seem that big, considering the grand market hall concept. Maybe they are just doing it in phases since that is a lot of retail space to fill all at once.

 

Edited by H-Town Man
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1 hour ago, H-Town Man said:

 

I would have thought that a lot of the white area on Level I would have been retail. Do we know what it is, exactly? The areas devoted to retail don't seem that big, considering the grand market hall concept. Maybe they are just doing it in phases since that is a lot of retail space to fill all at once.

 

 

Also the portion on the right/east on level 1+2 is the proposed concert venue, I believe. 

Is the basement usable space? 

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6 minutes ago, Texasota said:

I think a lot of it is the market hall itself. This listing seems to be for more permanent separate spaces.

 

Yes, I'm seeing that now. The white section next to the blue section on the left looks like it has a lot of kiosks and small vendor spaces, while the central section where you enter seems like it has maybe larger vendor spaces. You can also see the skylights outlined, which are really like wells going through all floors of the building. The office people will be able to look down and see the market hall below. I'm looking forward to this!

 

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We have gone from having relatively few public recreational areas to having so many on the drawing board that I shudder to think of the long-term implications regarding upkeep. (Not necessarily with this one, as it will be privately operated, but in the same vein I question their business model.)

 

With all that is conceptual on the drawing board for downtown and environs, I hate to say it but it seems like total overkill. Some concepts include cap parks from 45-10/59 interchange to the Spur, along with a “High Line” on the Pierce Elevated. And the downtown master plan includes the “Green Necklace” (or whatever it’s called) circling the inner core of downtown. And whatever East River is going to try to do. Certainly looks beautiful on paper but good Lord (1) how will such acreage be “populated”; and (2) who the hell is going to maintain it?

 

I guess, though, if I had to choose between this and how things were 20 years ago in re lack of imagination, I’d choose now. 

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While we have a number of parks, many of them are over-programmed as is and so adding more could spread that programming around.  Market Square Park basically only opens their lawn for events now which sucks if you want to just enjoy it as a neighboring resident.  With a few less events (and maybe smarter programming) they could leave it open more of the time.

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There is plenty of room to build dense and any development that embraces green space is planning for the future and trying to set a better example. I want a couple of world class green spaces to add to downtown area. 

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On 8/14/2019 at 11:26 AM, H-Town Man said:

 

I think this is only an issue if they are all developed too quickly, i.e. if the whole Pierce Elevated were torn down today and made into a park, you would definitely have some homeless inhabitation. But as a longterm vision I do think we need lots of green around downtown, esp. as Houston is perceived as such a "concrete" city. Chicago, Boston, and Austin are examples of cities where the parks really grace and enhance the center city. Houston needs it all the more due to the lack of a waterfront.

 

 

May have a waterfront in about 10 years lol jk

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A bunch of content, posts, renderings posted in this thread from me over the years were removed in the mass deletion of over five years worth of content from me. I wasn't able to save much from this thread, but did save this post I made back in March.


The post speculated  a restaurant from Paul Qui is likely opening at Post HTX or Post Houston ( or maybe  it's  Post). This is the site of the former Barbara Jordan U.S. Post Office at 401 Franklin St in downtown Houston. I later posted in May about a Qui & Kirby Lui (developer with Lovett Commerical) out together and it could be a sign Qui is signing on for a spot at Post HTX (a post Eater Houston picked up and reported):


jfm79m1.jpg


9AgelzI.jpg


KoR2Ecw.jpg


 



Well, I was right. Qui announced on Instagram yesterday of plans to open a new restaurant at Post.




Here's more from Eater Houston this morning:

 

After months of rumors that Paul Qui’s had a comeback in the works, the embattled chef has officially announced that he’ll open a new eatery at the forthcoming Post HTX food hall.
 

Qui made the announcement on Instagram on Thursday, but didn’t provide a whole lot of insight into what the restaurant will look like. At this point, all that’s known is that he’s working on a concept for the forthcoming 550,000 square foot Post HTX food hall project that’s currently under development inside the Barbara Jordan Post Office building in the Theatre District. That said, when Qui closed his Montrose restaurant Aqui in December 2018, the chef promised that he’d be back, and announced plans for a forthcoming restaurant that will serve “Filipino bites to be shared among friends.”

Back in May, Qui was spotted dining around Houston with superstar chef Alex Atala and developer Kirby Liu, whose company Lovett Commercial is helming the Post HTX project. When Post HTX was announced in June, Lovett Commercial didn’t share any details on which chefs would be involved, but rumors that Qui was involved with the project persisted. 


...Beyond “coming soon,” Qui hasn’t announced a timeline for the new restaurant’s arrival. 


https://houston.eater.com/2019/11/15/20966040/paul-qui-opening-houston-restaurant-post-htx-food-hall


 

Edited by CrockpotandGravel
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I don't know that there's much new here, but it gives some info on the funding mechanisms used to do this project:

 

https://ntcic.com/news-blog/post-houston-closing/

 

Quote:

To capitalize the development, which anticipates completing construction in late 2020, the project sponsor used a variety of financing tools, including $23.7 million in federal HTC equity supported by NTCIC, additional state tax credits, Opportunity Zone equity, and low-cost EB-5 debt. Project financing also included NMTC allocation provided by Capital One Community Renewal Fund, PeopleFund, MBS Urban Initiatives CDE, and Prestamos with Capital One, N.A as NMTC Investor.

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Insane to think my father in law as many others walked these halls for many years sorting mail now this will be happening. Cant wait to see it once it is complete.

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On 8/1/2018 at 7:41 PM, Purdueenginerd said:

 

There is a portion of the building towards the front that was designed and constructed in the 1930's. If you look at the curved drive-in ramp of the structure, you'll see the original 1930's portion of the structure. Ive attached a screen shot of the site from 1944 to 2017. You'll see the original 1930's building in both images. 

 

 

1944 v 2017.png

 

Found this old aerial of Grand Central. I can't make out that old post office building in this photo. If it was built back in the 30s, it should be visible in this picture, slightly to the east and right behind that other building. 

 

3kufSF7.jpg

 

 

 

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20 minutes ago, Sunstar said:

 

Found this old aerial of Grand Central. I can't make out that old post office building in this photo. If it was built back in the 30s, it should be visible in this picture, slightly to the east and right behind that other building. 

 

3kufSF7.jpg

 

 

 

It would be far enough to the right to be off of the picture.

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moo.  doesn't look like much.

Edited by htownbro
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19 minutes ago, Avossos said:

they really need a 8-12 story residential building here...

The residence would have a great skyline view, a park, and close access to the Theater district.

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On 1/30/2020 at 9:12 AM, Twinsanity02 said:

The residence would have a great skyline view, a park, and close access to the Theater district.

And connect the amenity deck to the roof top park for direct access for the residents

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https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/article/Frank-Liu-s-big-bets-on-urban-living-pay-off-15053303.php?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HC_AfternoonReport&utm_term=news&utm_content=headlines#photo-19026905

 

Frank Liu had an opportunity in 2001 to buy 109 acres in a working class section of Spring Branch for an enviable price: just over $1 per square foot. Yet he wasn’t immediately convinced the then-rough-and-tumble neighborhood — far off the radar of most Houston builders — would be the right spot for an upscale residential development.

So he got in his car, day after day, and drove the area, passing overgrown lots and rusty warehouses.

“At first I just didn’t quite fully get it,” Liu said on a recent tour of the property. “But then all of a sudden I realized when you have 109 acres it helps create that sense of community — even in a transitional area.”

 

He bought the land, waited several years, and started developing it slowly and in phases. He hired a prominent architect to design a plan for the property and a “modern farmhouse” aesthetic for the homes, which have porches in the front and garages in the back, accessible by alleys. The first homes there sold for around $200,000 less than a decade ago.

On HoustonChronicle.com: Former Barbara Jordan Post Office to be reborn as mixed-use project

There are about 190 homes on the site today, selling for as much as $600,000 in the newest phase of the project.

Liu, 63, has repeated this formula in other parts of town. He’s focused on neighborhoods in and around the 610 Loop where he could buy large enough parcels, by urban standards at least, to fashion miniature master-planned communities complete with dog parks, jogging trails and swimming pools.

 

Over the past two decades, his company, InTown Homes, has built thousands of three- and four-story homes and townhomes in EaDo, South Main, Cottage Grove, Spring Branch and other close-in neighborhoods. Liu was often the first to go into these areas with new housing that pushed the limits on prices Houstonians had historically been willing to pay.

“Really it’s Frank more than anybody else that convinced people we could have the kind of urban real estate environment we have today,” real estate analyst Scott Davis said. “He was the one who convinced people it could work at scale.”

College ties

Born in Taiwan, Liu, who owns a trio of real estate companies — InTown Homes, Lovett Commercial and Lovett Homes — moved to Vietnam a few years later when his father took a job as a textile engineer. He came to the United States in 1971 and to Houston two years later. Liu attended Rice University, graduating in 1978 with a civil engineering degree.

In 1980, Liu and his college roommate started Lovett Homes, named after their dormitory at Rice. Lovett Commercial was founded in 1995 followed by InTown Homes in 2003 to focus on high-density housing in emerging neighborhoods.

 

The companies have developed upwards of $3 billion in projects, including housing, shopping centers, offices and industrial buildings, throughout Texas.

Chris Weekley, executive vice president at David Weekley Homes, which builds in many of the same markets as InTown Homes, began working in Houston’s urban real estate market about a decade ago. At that time, he recalls, the big names were Perry Homes and Frank Liu.

“I would say there’s no doubt Frank and his team opened up various parts of the city and proved up areas,” Weekley said.

He also noted Liu’s vast amount of real estate holdings and his ability to hold property for future development.

 

“Through whatever means, he’s been able to hold land over the long term,” Weekley said. “We are buying something in today’s prices hopefully to sell homes in a year.”

Top hits: Get Houston Chronicle stories sent directly to your inbox

In an industry known for promoters and big personalities, Liu’s style is comparatively modest. He often speaks to student groups but rarely gives interviews, preferring to stay out of the public spotlight.

“The young people talked me into doing this,” he said of a recent interview during the tour of his Spring Branch project, called Kolbe Farms.

 

It’s gotten harder in recent years to keep such a low profile. In 2016 his family’s philanthropic foundation donated $16.5 million to Rice, launching the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The lab is an on-campus collaborative workspace space for students, faculty and staff that hosts lectures, competitions and workshops.

Expanded ambitions

In 2015, he was the winning bidder on the downtown post office property, a 16-acre complex on the north edge of downtown that’s being transformed into an array of mixed uses: culinary market, shops, coworking space, concert venue, hotel and rooftop farm. By repurposing the 57-year-old building, a state historical landmark, Lovett was able to earn federal and state historic tax credits.

It’s likely Liu’s most ambitious project yet. He tapped OMA, an international architecture partnership founded by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas, and Hoerr Schaudt, the Chicago-based landscape architects behind Houston’s McGovern Centennial Park, to design it. Liu’s son, Kirby Liu, is leading the project, called POST Houston.

The developer’s more recent investments have made headlines too.

 

Listen on HoustonChronicle.com: The Loopie Awards reveal the best and worst of Houston real estate

He spent $10 million late last year to buy the Farmer Brothers coffee plant in the East End, just south of Navigation where Turkey Bend curves off Buffalo Bayou. Liu hasn’t revealed what his plans are for the six-acre site, but it’s likely a ways off. The coffee maker stuck a deal to lease back the property for three years.

The timing could align with the planned revitalization of Buffalo Bayou east of downtown. The Buffalo Bayou Partnership last fall announced a master plan for the eastern section of the waterway. Turkey Bend, near the coffee plant, is one of several sites the Partnership plans to repurpose into an arts and events facility, a boating center and gathering spaces.

Spring Branch boom

Back in Spring Branch, InTown Homes has broken ground on another large project called Avondale. The development has been designed to include 165 homes, each with a contemporary architectural style.

The homes, which start in the low $300,000s, have flat or metal roofs with large overhangs, oversize picture windows and brick, stucco, cinder block and corrugated metal siding.

 

Liu is hoping the modern designs will be attractive to Houstonians. A similar project in Austin, he said, was one of his most successful.

Spring Branch has boomed over the last five to 10 years and competition has picked up among builders adding new homes catering to families and millennials who can’t afford inner-loop real estate.

Prime Property: Get Houston real estate news sent directly to your inbox

Liu said he emphasizes design as a way to set him apart.

 

“Warren Buffet always says you don’t want to be in the commodity business. The commodity business is basically dog eat dog. You just compete on price,” he said. “You want to have something a little bit different. If someone really likes this feel, guess what, there’s not too many choices for them out there.”

Competitive advantage

Liu’s flexibility has offered other advantages.

In 2010, he negotiated a deal with the city of Houston to be reimbursed $20 million in public infrastructure improvements to three future residential sites, including Kolbe Farms. The agreement was part of a statewide economic development program in which reimbursement dollars come from the the incremental property taxes the projects create. So if the homes are never built or enough taxes aren't generated, the developer is not reimbursed.

Those kinds of deals take time and patience most builders don’t have, Weekley said.

On HoustonChronicle.com: Architect Jon Pickard on how Houston could be better

Davis, president of Houston-based Location Strategy, has followed local builders for much of his career. He compares Liu’s vision to that of Houston real estate legends whose careers were defined by their some of their biggest professional risks: George Mitchell, founder of The Woodlands; Frank Sharp, developer of Sharpstown; and Ed Wulfe, who transformed Meyerland Plaza.

“There’s the kind of developer we refer to as a promoter; someone who has crazy ideas no one think will work but by their sheer will they can get it done. And Frank is not that kind of guy,” Davis said. “Frank’s projects are organized and planned and reasonable. There are no smoke and mirrors.”

‘Uniquely Houston’

Angela Blanchard, president emerita of BakerRipley, a community development organization, got to know Liu when he developed the group’s new home in the East End.

She said his story is uniquely Houston.

“He didn’t arrive with a trust fund or somebody that was going to bankroll anything he came up with,” she said.

Blanchard, a senior fellow in International and Public Affairs at Brown University’s Watson Institute, invited Liu to speak at Brown last fall. The presentation was called Urban Social Policy Meets Real-World Capitalism. In an environment where society’s capitalistic ills are heavily scrutinized, she said, Liu’s talk was well received.

“I’m sure he has his critics, every developer does,” Blanchard said. “But his is a true Houston entrepreneurial story — capitalist at its core. A man and a company evolving in response to a fast growing, dynamic region.”

nancy.sarnoff@chron.com

twitter.com/nsarnoff

Nancy Sarnoff covers commercial and residential real estate for the Houston Chronicle and the paper’s two websites: Chron.com and HoustonChronicle.com. She also hosts Looped In, a weekly real estate podcast about the city’s most compelling people and places. Nancy is a native of Chicago but has spent most of her life in Texas.

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