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The RO: Mixed-Use Development at West Alabama and Buffalo Speedway

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If you really want to get technical, it is *considered* Greenway and River Oaks, but those are just lose terms since they really aren’t in either one proper. It’s not Upper Kirby because a representative with UK giving a talk was clear this project was outside their vision for UK. The border runs on the west edge of Buffalo speedway. As soon as you walk off of Buffalo onto the sidewalk by the RO site  you just left Upper Kirby.

 

Added a photo just because these man made borders are interesting.... UK red sign on traffic lights, regular COH green sign on sidewalk intersection (far left in photo)

 

On an unrelated note, saw a yellow crane (also in photo) getting set up in that direction and got excited. But it was on a small property just west of the RO site. Need to look up what that is. Lots going up in this area.BAB37640-5D2C-4D6E-98AD-C002F1FB41CB.jpeg.11376939e7c43a73899de5d4ef759530.jpeg

Edited by Geoff8201
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3 hours ago, Geoff8201 said:

If you really want to get technical, it is *considered* Greenway and River Oaks, but those are just lose terms since they really aren’t in either one proper. It’s not Upper Kirby because a representative with UK giving a talk was clear this project was outside their vision for UK. The border runs on the west edge of Buffalo speedway. As soon as you walk off of Buffalo onto the sidewalk by the RO site  you just left Upper Kirby.

 

 

So if you really want to get technical it is not considered Greenway Plaza or River Oaks (or Upper Kirby). It is not within the boundaries of any of those. It is near all of them so will likely be loosely (and technically incorrectly) referred to as being part of all three of those from time to time.

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16 hours ago, Houston19514 said:

 

So if you really want to get technical it is not considered Greenway Plaza or River Oaks (or Upper Kirby). It is not within the boundaries of any of those. It is near all of them so will likely be loosely (and technically incorrectly) referred to as being part of all three of those from time to time.


Yes, you are correct, but that’s why I used the term *considered*, and used it loosely. Not by any city planning entity, but just by people whom may or may not occupy the area. Makes this area complicated to classify, (hence our posts on the subject) but like you said they will probably be referred to by all three.

 

Upper Kirby does have a defined boundary you can physically see in the signage, Greenway and River Oaks not so much (at least none I have ever noticed). This is a gray area, where if you walk one block north, you’re in River Oaks, one block south, Greenway, and just cross the street east, boom you’re in UK.

 

I’ve been in this area a long time and have heard places not in the boundaries use “A River Oaks Address” and the always popular hyphenated “River Oaks - Greenway“. Upper Kirby is the newest and physically the closest but still catching on. Upper Kirby Plans to redo West Alabama from Buffalo Speedway on eastward and make the area more walkable, which will be some benefit to the RO.


Speaking of which, All one has to do is look at the project name to know which neighborhood they plan to say they are in. I don’t foresee that changing.

Edited by Geoff8201
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River Oaks has VERY distinct boundaries and this ain't it. There's no part of River Oaks South of Westheimer much less Richmond. But River Oaks has clout so developers love to stick that designation on projects from the Galleria to Downtown. 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Urbannizer said:

 

This is actually big time news (I don't believe we knew who the architect was). Knowing that the renders, previously shown, are from PickardChilton definitely gives me more confidence that what was shown is something that will actually be constructed. For those that want to see what they have done in the past look no further than the Exxon Mobil Campus. The dude loves cantilevers, so that one tall building with the top cantilever might actually be legit, and the material palette is also something that is consistent with PickardChilton.

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8 hours ago, Luminare said:

 

This is actually big time news (I don't believe we knew who the architect was). Knowing that the renders, previously shown, are from PickardChilton definitely gives me more confidence that what was shown is something that will actually be constructed. For those that want to see what they have done in the past look no further than the Exxon Mobil Campus. The dude loves cantilevers, so that one tall building with the top cantilever might actually be legit, and the material palette is also something that is consistent with PickardChilton.

Gensler had a big hand in that project! Pickard has produced better high rises in my humble opinion...but they do add more credibility towards the realization of this project. 

 

I wonder who the architect(s) of record will be?

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Michael Hsu is also involved:

 

Many other projects are still in the design phase, including a new Katz’s Deli location in The Heights, The RO mixed-use project and Zadok Jewelers in Uptown. In addition, Hsu said there are several other projects in the works that aren’t public knowledge yet.



Read more at: https://www.bisnow.com/houston/news/architecture-design/michael-hsu-is-happiest-in-your-neighborhood-103059?utm_source=CopyShare&utm_medium=Browser 

 

And I read somewhere that Preston Partnership is AOC for the residential high-rise.

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So the RO is still in design phase? Thought designs were just being finalized? Makes sense I guess as to why the groundbreaking hasn’t begun. The grass was starting to get a little tall, but yesterday groundskeepers were there with riding mowers keeping it from being an eyesore.


Mid 2020 was the scoop I heard before, but that’s 7 month old information. It is just days from March so seems like a more realistic time frame now. Will see.

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19 minutes ago, Highrise Tower said:

Parts of the site have low levels of contaminated groundwater. A Municipal Settings Designations (MSD) application was sent to the city.

https://www.houstontx.gov/council/committees/rna/20190117/msd.pdf

https://www.tceq.texas.gov/remediation/msd-certificate

 

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That's interesting. This could be why they haven't been able to start yet. Especially with what they are proposing (office/retail/residential mixed-use), contaminated ground water is actually a real problem. I'm also wondering if this is partly why its taken East River some time to really kick off as well. Old industrial sites, depending on what they were used for can be a challenge to clean up and prep for uses where people will actually live on the property. My knowledge is limited on this however, so someone who is well versed in this particular area please chime in. This isn't a death nail for the project or anything, but simply one that can slow it down. If this is the what they were told then they will have to do remediation of the site before they can begin construction. Unsure to what extent, and how that can be done. What I will say is that this could actually later on be flipped as a positive for the development if its able to kick off. The positive being that they could go the full LEED route, and get a lot of positive publicity for their remediation efforts, and improving the property/quality of life for the area.

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I’m surprised and also not surprised this popped up. Through the 90s and prior, before they built the Exxon Training Center, this corner was a Full Service Gas Station with Service Center and Convenience Store.

 

The Exxon Gas Station had Underground Storage Tanks that leaked. Next door it was apparent because the storm water coming into the storm sewer sump at the second sub basement, would smell like gas. A system was installed to filter this out and the water was directed to the sanitation sewer.

 

This system was removed several years ago, but you could still smell the gas odor. Apparently it was under the threshold of being a hazard after the last inspection by Environmental Services. After Harvey, there was so much water that almost all the lingering smells were washed away and seems like this wasn’t going to be an issue anymore, presuming this is what was found.

 

The next  issue I think they may encounter is an underground spring below the property. We get groundwater coming in non-stop into our sump. It can be 6 months of drought and the water still continues. Being that it picked up the gasoline concentration it is theory that it runs under the former Exxon property before us. It will be interesting to see if underground water causes issues when they dig out the foundation, and if the stream coming in our sump diminishes after construction.

 

Kudos to them for the voluntary clean up of what remains. 

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Going from postmodern architecture in Houston to postvernacular now?  I wonder what our city would look like, if that were to become a wave as widespread as the earlier ones.

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This has been a thing for a while now - you can blame (although I'm generally a fan) Lake|Flato for popularizing an attempt at a kind of post-industrial Texas vernacular (except architect-designed, so... not vernacular)

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It doesn't look that bright to me...

 

Either way, this is a rendering, and doesn't necessarily reflect how real sunlight will interact with real materials. I strongly doubt they're planning perfect white tiles with high reflectively.

 

Of course I could be wrong, but I imagine after the third or so person spontaneously bursts into flames walking across them, they will be replaced.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Texasota said:

It doesn't look that bright to me...

 

Either way, this is a rendering, and doesn't necessarily reflect how real sunlight will interact with real materials. I strongly doubt they're planning perfect white tiles with high reflectively.

 

Of course I could be wrong, but I imagine after the third or so person spontaneously bursts into flames walking across them, they will be replaced.

 

Speaking from experience with rendering. This is a reflectivity setting being set too high. Pavers, even white ones, aren't that reflective. Sometimes a render engine will make even things which aren't that reflective or glossy a lot more reflective or glossy than what they really are. Actually I was kinda put back by @Montrose1100 comment, but then I was like, "ok wait a second, I know clients that make the exact same statements even though its a render because they want to make sure what they are getting is what they are getting." So after taking a step back, and reflecting on it, I could understand why Montrose1100 would say that, and he does have a point. In this image it is way to reflective. I would say its probably not going to be that reflective in real life. I could be wrong. I have been before, but the only time you get a paver/brick that is that reflective is if its a glazed brick which you don't really ever put on the ground. Occum's Razor would suggest that its a flaw in the actual rendering of the material, and not a reflection of what it will actually be. It happens. I don't think its bright, but I can see why Montrose1100 says its bright, and its a comment to keep in mind. If he thinks that there might be others that think that as well.

Edited by Luminare
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Posted (edited)

Aside from small activity (utility work, generators getting fueled up, desks and furniture moving into the trailers) not much has happened (Yet).

 

Re-examining the groundwater impacts a few posts back; the areas marked would be the Phase 2 section of the project. The old gas station sat on where Phase 1 is going. If this was the cause of contamination it migrated south. I'm unsure if they would address this first, or go ahead and begin removing trees, busting up the old Exxon Training Center and parking lot concrete and begin setting footings for the new buildings.

 

Also Buffalo Speedway from West Alabama going North is undergoing the start of a Capital Project to replace wastewater facilities. Crews have been out this past week setting up, and big machinery is out ready to dig. The plan I heard, is to tunnel under the street to do the work without disturbing the esplanades and most of the trees that sit on them. The project will take 16 months to complete.

 

https://www.publicworks.houstontx.gov/sites/default/files/assets/001-project_Information_notice_r-000035-0012-4.pdf

https://www.publicworks.houstontx.gov/sites/default/files/assets/construction_phasing_map.pdf

 

Source with more informative PDFs:

https://www.publicworks.houstontx.gov/node/342

 

Furthermore, The project to improve West Alabama is still alive. The Upper Kirby info I've found for Buffalo Speedway - Shepherd is outdated, but hopefully there will be a new timeline. Eventually this Alabama Street improvement will go all the way east to Almeda.

 

Quote

As part of a bigger four-phase effort, the Houston has been responsible for two segments of improvements to West Alabama.

The Weslayan Street to Buffalo Speedway segment is scheduled for construction in 2021 and calls for new concrete streets with storm drainage, sidewalks, driveways, street lighting with water and wastewater updates. The project is scheduled for bids later this month. Construction is slated for spring 2021.

The segment from Buffalo Speedway to Shepherd is the responsibility of the Upper Kirby TIRZ, while the segment from Spur 527 to Chenevert is the responsibility of the Midtown TIRZ.

Timeline: spring 2021-TBD

Cost: $15.87 million

 

Source:

https://communityimpact.com/houston/heights-river-oaks-montrose/transportation/2020/07/07/improvements-are-coming-to-west-alabama-street-in-river-oaks-area-in-2021/

 

This intersection is going to look very different in just a few years.

 

Edit:


I rechecked the Upper Kirby District site and the West Alabama reconstruction from Buffalo Speedway to Shepherd is listed to happen in 2021/2022 for $22 Million.

 

http://www.upperkirbydistrict.org/index.php/the-district-at-work/district-projects/coming-soon

Edited by Geoff8201
Updated Information
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Thanks, good info. I wondered what they were doing to Buffalo Speedway. Guess we have a year of const to look forward to. Then years of R.O. const 🙃

 

It will be nice to get Alabama updated.

 

I noticed on the Upper Kirby project map, they show Richmond (inside B.S.) to be complete. But it's not, it's still ripped up and scraped down, but no overlay yet.

 

It's funny (actually, it's not), when they started scraping all the years of overlays from Richmond earlier this year, I thought "Great timing, there's no traffic on Richmond due to shutdown, what a perfect time to repave that street". So they scraped it from Kirby to Timmons several months ago, and... {crickets chirping} ...they have not done one single thing since.

 

Four months of the least traffic we will EVER see in Greenway Plaza, and it sits there untouched. Not one minute of work (that I can detect) in four months.

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After taking some time to observe the area, it looks like the two trailers and equipment are for the Buffalo Speedway sanitary sewer project I mentioned a few posts back, and has little to do with the RO.

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Apologies if this has been already covered, but what (if anything) is happening to the empty land north of RO? From Google Maps, it shows what looks like overflow parking for St. John, but I have to imagine this land is going to be super-valuable...

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19 hours ago, mls1202 said:

Apologies if this has been already covered, but what (if anything) is happening to the empty land north of RO? From Google Maps, it shows what looks like overflow parking for St. John, but I have to imagine this land is going to be super-valuable...


All the land to the north of The RO lot up to The River Oaks Condo Building belongs to St. John’s. There is a giant multi use field, parking garage, and temporary buildings with a parking lot the Urban Harvest Farmers Market currently uses on Saturday mornings.

 

It is my understanding that eventually this will become new buildings and athletic facilities for the school.

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"

  • The building has a cafe with a coffee bar, and a juice bar.
  • The property offers a fitness center with locker rooms along with a tenant lounge and green space.
 

These are the two "highlights" the article chose to emphasize....🤪

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17 minutes ago, samagon said:

right? we deserve less!

 

I don't mean that in a bad way it just seems like most designs in Houston are safe. I personally would love more interesting and bold designs.  Honestly I don't see why this isn't already the case with our mishmash neighborhoods, "no zoning", and lack of city wide NIMBYs.

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Just now, BeerNut said:

 

I don't mean that in a bad way it just seems like most designs in Houston are safe. I personally would love more interesting and bold designs.  Honestly I don't see why this isn't already the case with our mishmash neighborhoods, "no zoning", and lack of city wide NIMBYs.

 

I absolutely agree, I love traveling to Europe, not just to see the history in the place, but the edgy architecture is fun to look at.

 

I'm hopeful this comes through, and we get more stuff like this.

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45 minutes ago, samagon said:

right? we deserve less!

Careful...this has yet to be value-engineered.  We may yet get what we deserve!

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Looking at the old vs. new renders, it looks as if the pavilion-looking structure on the right side has been changed in favor of a more standard glass box.  Could just be a cropping issue, but I kinda liked the older look better.

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28 minutes ago, mls1202 said:

Looking at the old vs. new renders, it looks as if the pavilion-looking structure on the right side has been changed in favor of a more standard glass box.  Could just be a cropping issue, but I kinda liked the older look better.

Cropping that's just the base of the tower. 

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