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  • Pearl Whole Foods - Elgin Street perspective.

Whole Foods & Morgan Group Near Start on Grocery-Apartment Building

Texas Construction News from Virtual Builders Exchange

Posted 1-21-2016, 4:46 p.m.

by Adolfo Pesquera

Houston (Harris Co.) – A Whole Foods Market and apartment community eight-story building will be considered by the Houston Planning Commission in February.

Known as the Pearl Whole Foods project, this is a 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods that would be at the ground level of a building with four stories of apartment units at the top. In between, would be resident parking on Levels 3 and 4, and below the store would be another two levels of basement parking for Whole Foods customers.

The Morgan Group collaborated with Whole Foods to bring this project into Houston’s Midtown TIRZ, which has given the project its support. The residential portion is called Morgan Smith Street, and the property is bounded by Smith, Elgin and Brazos Streets. It was first announced in May 2015 and has been going through the design process since.

Cross-section view of the Pearl Whole Foods Building

Cross-section view of the Pearl Whole Foods Building

Ziegler Cooper Architects and Kudela & Weinheimer Landscape Architects submitted the elevations and site plans used by the Planning Commission in November and December.

The project site takes up the whole block bounded by Smith, Elgin, Brazos and Rosale streets, and occupies the southern portion of the block north of Rosale Street, which requires abandonment of Rosale Street between Smith and Brazos streets.

The majority of the site today is occupied with street level parking. There is also a one-story block-long building that will be demolished.

The project arrived on the Jan. 21 agenda to consider two variances. However, at staff’s request, the case was moved to the Feb. 4 meeting to allow for further review. One variance request is to reduce the building setback on Smith and Brazos streets to zero, and to reduce the setback to 2 feet along Elgin.

Morgan Group also requested it be waived from the requirement to create visibility triangles on Elgin and Brazos streets. Ordinance requires a visibility triangle of 15 feet from the corner of any intersection.

Staff commented that visibility triangles “are intended to allow drivers to see vehicles approaching at right angles to them. There are very few one-way streets within the city and no special provisions were made for them even when the opposing traffic is on the opposite side of the street, allowing for adequate visibility.”

Pearl Whole Foods site plan

Pearl Whole Foods site plan

Other staff comments:

“The project plan for Midtown … called for new buildings to be constructed close to the street in order to create the kind of dense urban environment often found in sections of older cities in this country and abroad. Mixed use was also sought so that residents might be able to walk or take transit to restaurants, shops, museums, and places of employment rather than being totally car-dependent.

“Most of the development to date has been mixed horizontally rather than vertically, as proposed in this project. Constructing the buildings close to the street is seen to be a major factor in creating a pedestrian-friendly streetscape – one which makes pedestrians feel safe and welcome and which is interesting and pleasant to walk along.

“If the Commission grants the requested variance, this project will have a pedestrian zone on all three sides with enhanced paving materials, wider sidewalks, and larger street trees. Windows on two sides will give the pedestrians views into the grocery store and the entry/public area of the apartments.

“The pedestrian area along Smith will be 14 feet-11 2/3 inches (the building will be 7 inches from the property line at the ground floor). Along Elgin, it will be 19 feet-8 inches from the curb (5 feet-8 inches from the property line on the ground floor). Along Brazos, it will be 15 feet-8 inches (1.5 inches from the property line).

“All streets will have enhanced paving to further make things more interesting for pedestrians. A mural is proposed on the Smith Street wall and a special material pattern on the Brazos ground floor facade. Windows will line the Elgin ground level. New street trees will be planted.”

Pearl Whole Foods - Smith Street level sections

Pearl Whole Foods – Smith Street level sections

A Pearl Luxury Project

Morgan Group previously reported that Ziegler-Cooper designed the structure to provide 260 rental studio, one- and two-bedrrom units with an average area of 820 square feet, and rents of about $2.40 per square foot. That is more than $1.30 per square foot above the current average market rate for a Houston apartment.

Premium amenities will include Bluetooth sound systems, a sky lounds, state-of-to-art fitness center and a resort style pool courtyard.

Development Vice President Philip Morgan said in the prepared statement, “We’re focused on providing a great sense of community, comfort and convenience at all of our Pearl developments, not only with the amenities and finishes within the development, but also by tying them into the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

“There is no better amenity for our residents–or better enhancement to the Midtown neighborhood–than an urban grocery store like Whole Foods Market.”


adolfo@virtualbx.com

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About the Author:

Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.

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