Houston: Planning Commission Sees Apartment/Retail Mid-Rise Proposal in Memorial Park Neighborhood
by Adolfo Pesquera
Houston (Harris County) – A mixed-use mid-rise apartment/retail building is proposed off the Washington Avenue corridor in the Memorial Park neighborhood.
A variance is being requested of the Houston Planning Commission that would reduce the building line from 25 feet to the curb to just 5 feet on Shepherd Drive and to 10 feet on Durham Drive. The developer also wants a reduced building line of 7 feet on Center Street rather than the required 10 feet.
The site occupies an entire city block and its northern boundary is Nett Street. The site was formerly occupied by the Bethel Church United Church of Christ, 1107 Shepherd Drive, which was built in the early 1950s and is currently being demolished.
The former Bethel Church UCC at 1107 Shepherd Drive was put on the market by CBRE and sold in January. Image: Google Maps.
The congregation sold the church and relocated temporarily to Heights Christian Church. The land transfer closed January 6, according to a church news blog. The developer, however, has revised the street address to 1111 Shepherd Drive.
Steinberg Dickey Collaborative LLP, the architect, stated on working documents submitted to the city that the retail portion of the project has the working title of Shepherd at Center, and was prepared “for Hunington Residential.”
The apparent developer would be Hunington Properties Inc., although the documents submitted to Planning Commission do not so state, and the county appraisal district real property records have not updated since the land sale.
The apartment complex project name is The Interpose.
City staff comments from the brief submitted to the commission were favorable, however, staff requested that a decision on the variance requests be deferred for two weeks in order to obtain more clarity on the pedestrian realm where the sidewalks meet the two outdoor cafes on either corner of Center Street.
The commission agreed to defer at its Thursday afternoon, April 12 meeting. This was the project’s second deferment.
Commissioner Lydia Mares said, “The traffic is very concerning in that area. I’d be very cautious of putting patios close to the roadway.”
Staff comments in favor of the concept noted that, “It is to be redeveloped for vertical mixed-use appropriate to this inner city area, which has been experiencing substantial redevelopment.”
A luxury apartment building, The Azure Houston, went into construction in early 2017 directly across Durham from the proposed Hunington development, and is near completion. Cater-corner to The Interpose, on the northeast corner of Nett and Shepherd, a CubeSmart Self Storage low-rise was completed in 2017.
The view in December 2017 from the recently completed CubeSmart Self Storage. Bethel Church can be seen to the left and The Azure Houston apartment project under construction behind it. Image: Google Maps. Architectural rendering (below) of The Azure Houston Apartments / courtesy of The Azure.
The planned building height for The Interpose is about 80 feet.
The layout of The Interpose provides four tenants spaces totaling about 20,000 square feet on the ground floor, with two spaces facing Shepherd and two facing Durham. Apartment units will be located on floors two to six and there will be amenity decks on the second floor and above the sixth floor.
The retail and apartment spaces will wrap around a seven-level garage, however, the lowest level of parking is in a below-grade basement.
Cross-section, looking north, of The Interpose building. Source: City of Houston public records.
“The active uses will surround the parking garage in the center of the block, shielding the garage from view on three of the four streets. On the fourth side, Center Street, the garage view is blocked at the corners by retail space, but the central section allows customers and residents to see the garage parking (entrance/exit),” staff said.
Site plan for The Interpose / Source: City of Houston public records.
The entire ground level will be paved from the retail storefronts to the curb with concrete and pavers, but there will be leave-outs to plant the city’s required number of streetscape trees.
“The enhanced streetscape will also encourage pedestrians and cyclists from other nearby areas. Having the glass-fronted retail close to the street will encourage pedestrian activity, making the people feel more secure and interesting,” staff said.
Staff also noted that locating retail and dining at street level will allow future residents of this project and of The Azure to be able to dine and purchase goods without having to use their cars.
Designated pick-up and drop-off areas will be set aside on Nett and Center streets for Uber and other ride-share services. This is to discourage drivers from stopping for passengers on the two major north-south thoroughfares.
The entire block will be circled by a minimum 6-foot sidewalk. There will be a minimum distance of more than 15 feet between the face of the building and the curb on all sides: 19 feet along Shepherd; 18 feet along Durham; 21 feet along Center; and 19 feet along Nett, staff claimed.
Kimley-Horn is the project’s civil engineer. Vernon G. Henry & Associates Inc. represented the developer before the Planning Commission.
Illustration by Steinberg Dickey Collaborative LLP. Source: City of Houston public records.
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.