Jump to content

POST: Mixed-Use Development At 401 Franklin St.


Recommended Posts

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):





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. 



Edited by CrockpotandGravel
  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

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





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.

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

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. 






  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

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. 






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

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
  • The title was changed to POST HTX: 401 Franklin Post Office Site Redevelopment
  • 2 weeks later...



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 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.

  • Like 8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...
  • The title was changed to Downtown Post Office For Sale
  • 2 weeks later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...