Houston: Center for Pursuit New Campus Awaiting Planning Commission Decision
Feature Illustration: Closeup view of a Gensler 3D concept of the Harrisburg/Eastwood corner of the proposed Center for Pursuit campus. Courtesy: Center for Pursuit.
UPDATE: 7-1-6-2019 — At the July 11 Planning Commission session, the commissioners approved the requested variance for an 8-foot building line. The approval included a staff condition that 3-inch caliper trees be used in the streetscape instead of 1.5-inch caliper trees. The project also received support from the East End Management District.
Originally Posted: 6-25-2019
by Adolfo Pesquera
Houston (Harris County) — The non-profit organization Center for Pursuit is awaiting a decision from the Planning Commission on its site plan application for the new campus.
The Planning Commission on June 20 deferred the case for three weeks at staff’s request to allow Center for Pursuit to revise information and coordinate with other city agencies to discuss its intentions concerning on-street parking, a landscape plan, and the pedestrian connection to the Greenline light rail station in the 4500 block of Harrisburg Boulevard.
Center for Pursuit provides transitional housing and programs for special needs persons. The land was chosen in part because it is directly across Harrisburg from a light rail station.
The project site is about five acres of commercial property that is completely paved over by a previous development. It is located southeast of the intersection of Harrisburg Boulevard and Eastwood Street in Houston’s Second Ward.
Proposed new campus site plan. Courtesy: Center for Pursuit.
The site plan proposes an unobstructed sidewalk width ranging from 8 to 15 feet with a proposed pedestrian realm ranging from 18 to more than 20 feet.
“In addition to this, the proposed development will include open spaces for people to enjoy and active ground floors. This development will give service to the community and will be an addition to the urban fabric of the area,” according to the project description in the case file.
The organization is also seeking variances to reduce the building lines to 8 feet along Harrisburg instead of the required 25 feet.
The staff report states, “The proposed facility capitalizes on the proximity to the Metro Rail on Harrisburg and includes a truly mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly design that engages the street scene. At the proposed 8-foot building line, balconies are oriented toward Harrisburg Boulevard but do not encroach more than 30 inches into the setback.
“The residential, administrative, and retail elements are joined by heavily landscaped open areas and pedestrian realms. However, because the building mass does not meet the strict frontage requirements of the Transit Corridor Development regulations, the development cannot opt-in to the reduced building setback allowances.
“The requested variance would grant a reduced 8-foot building setback along Harrisburg Boulevard and enable the applicant to provide this much-needed facility to the community.”
Gensler 3D concept rendering of the proposed Center for Pursuit campus. Courtesy: Center for Pursuit.
Center for Pursuit plans to construct four buildings–a residential hall, an administration building, a program building and a parking garage. The site plan also notes a space on the east end of the lot for a future fifth building.
The parking garage would be near Eastwood and adjacent to another parking garage to the east that was recently constructed for a separate social services development; BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers Inc.) recently relocated its Houston headquarters, BakerRipley Central in a new office building on the adjacent lot.
The new BakerRipley headquarters for Houston (buildings to left behind the Greenline station) recently opened next to the future site of the Center for Pursuit campus. Image: Google Streets/Dec. 2018
Gensler is the project architect, however, Windrose is representing Center for Pursuit on the variance requests and site plan approval.
In 2017, Center for Pursuit suffered catastrophic flood damage from Hurricane Harvey and soon after announced plans to sell its property at West Dallas Street and Marston Street and begin the search for a new home. The Center came to terms with a buyer in 2018 and entered a short-term lease to relocate some of its operations at 9310 Kirby Drive.
Gensler concept street level view of the campus, looking south from across Harrisburg Boulevard. Courtesy: Center for Pursuit.
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.