Houston (Harris County) – The Planning Commission approved plans to make more pedestrian friendly the proposed development of a new Otto’s BBQ & Catering.
Otto’s BBQ & Hamburgers, a Houston area institution since 1951, is in the process of building its newest location along the Washington Avenue corridor north of Hyde Park.
The project site is bounded by Durham Drive, Lillian Street and Sandman Street. Luke’s Icehouse, recently demolished, was the former occupant of the half block, which is also across Lillian from Fuego’s Saloon.
The location will consolidate Otto’s catering kitchen onto a single site and serve downtown and the west side. An Otto’s BBQ restaurant will be in an adjacent space.
The owner sought a variance to reduce the building setback from 25 feet to 10 feet along Durham and from 10 feet to 5 along Lillian.
South elevations of the Otto’s BBQ restaurant and catering kitchen. Courtesy of Phil Shawe.
A project narrative by architect Phil Shawe stated that, “Concern about visibility prompted the idea to create a recognizable Pit Room at the corner of Durham & Lillian, expressing architecturally the image of a large Texas BBQ pit. The pit room is designed as point of interest for the area as visual display for the meat smoker.”
Shawe told the commissioners that there will be three large smoker pits and at full capacity they can cook 20,000 pounds of meat.
“This will create a landmark for the area intended to entice both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Also, in order to preserve a 26-inch caliper specimen pecan tree in the center of the site, a portion of the building is shifted into the 10 foot setback along Lillian Street to the south.”
As a trade-off, Otto’s offered to provide enhanced sidewalks and landscaping along all three streets–an 8-foot wide sidewalk along Durham, and 6 feet along Lillian and Sandman. There will also be a rows of 3 to 4-inch caliper trees along all three streets.
Site plan for the Otto’s BBQ project. Courtesy of Phil Shawe.
The development will also have a street courtyard with a specimen tree, seating & hardscape to enhance the pedestrian realm. At present, the site is heavily paved with asphalt. Another benefit of the project is that much of it will be removed, Shawe said.
An attorney for Fuego’s Saloon spoke against the setback requests, noting that during a major remodel during 2012-2014 they were refused requests for variances to bring the building closer to the sidewalk. They also claimed the preference to Otto’s would obstruct views of Fuego’s.
Commissioner Bill Baldwin said that thinking about pedestrian realms had changed since Fuego’s remodel and the commission is emphasizing site plans that encourage people to walk.
“It’s not designed to hurt your business. It’s designed to enhance the pedestrian realm,” Baldwin said. He added that he would encourage Fuego’s to take another look at their property and consider doing something, such as an outdoor patio, to also take advantage of the new emphasis on pedestrian connectivity.
The project site is on the lot that was formerly the home of Luke’s Icehouse at Durham Drive and Lillian Street. Image: Google Streets.
The catering kitchen at the corner of Durham and Lillian will have a floor space area of 1,722 square feet. The adjoining restaurant will have an area of 3,293 square feet.
The courtyard will be located in a corner niche between the kitchen and the restaurant, and facing Durham. The site plan also provides 38 parking spaces, in addition to a bike rack station for 16 bicycles.
Construction is expected to begin later this summer and be completed in 2019.
Southwest aerial perspective of the planned Otto’s BBQ Restaurant and Catering Kitchen. Courtesy of Phil Shawe.
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.