Houston: Public Library-Retail Concept for Montrose Sails thru Planning Commission
Feature Illustation (above): View of the proposed library with ground retail and a 2nd-floor patio. Courtesy: Radom Capital.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Houston (Harris County) — Finding a Starbucks at a Barnes & Noble is just expected, so why not have retail with a public library? The Planning Commission approved a variance with just such a concept this month.
The project known as Montrose Collective Building West, 1001 California St., made its way to the commission Oct. 17 for a reduced setback request–5 feet from California Street and Grant Street instead of the required 10 feet. The request was approved with little discussion.
The developer, Radom Capital LLC, has been in talks with the city for several months on a collaborative effort that would provide a ground retail use in the Montrose District for the developer, and a city library on the second and third floors.
Above: Grant Street elevation perspective. Below: The proposed site plan. Courtesy: Radom Capital.
The library would replace the Freed-Montrose Library, which is in a building that opened in 1946 and is in serious need of repairs.
This project site is a half block north of Westheimer Road at the southeast corner of California and Grant streets. At a third of an acre, the site’s current use is as surface parking for area businesses: Uchi, Southside Espresso, and the Hue Salon. A new eight-level parking garage, with one level being underground, will replace the surface parking.
The garage will have 589 spaces. Approximately 100 of those spaces will be open to the public and 25 will be free to library patrons.
A staff report to the commission elaborates, “Along with a few on-site parking spots, the majority of the off-street parking required for the restaurant and the library will be provided per City of Houston minimum requirement in a new parking garage to be constructed across from the property.”
Radom acquired the land in April and then approached the city about a combo retail-library concept. The city was in agreement and a site design process began.
Radom is working with Hector Moreno, the city’s General Services Division project manager, and with Houston Public Library project manager Stephen Chamberlain.
Parking lot (west) entrance side of library. Courtesy: Radom Capital.
The city required drive-aisle circulation around the building with minimal on-site parking. Traffic flow on the site plan is one-way and there are only six angled parking spaces.
“Moving the building closer to Califnoria and Grand provides an appropriately scaled, accessible and inviting pedestrian experience,” staff said. “There will be a 15-foot pedestrian realm on California Street and a 15-foot pedestrian realm on Grant Street. Both of the streetscapes will feature wide sidewalks, landscaping and street trees, and ground-floor retail that is designed capitalize on and engage with the public right-of-way.
“The building façade provides a large area of transparency on the ground floor which contributes to the interaction between the public and private space and contributes to create a safer environment.”
During a September public meeting with neighbors, Radom Capital founder Steve Radom said the library portion would have about 12,000 square feet. This includes 2,000-square-foot, second-story, open-air patio where children can play.
California Street elevation perspective. Courtesy: Radom Capital.
A second retail/office building is part of Radom’s project but that is on an adjacent block and not a facility that the Planning Commission had to take action on. In a July 12 report to the state, Michael Hsu stated the second building–Montrose Collective, 888 Westheimer Road, would be a six-story mixed use building with office spaces in warm, dark shells, and restaurant and cafe spaces in cold, dark shells:
Retail suites A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, V and W will be ‘white box’ finish outs. Retail K and L will be cold, dark shells.”
That building as a gross area of 388,202 square feet and comes with an estimated cost of $35,090,740.
Corner view of the Montrose Collective Building West. Courtesy: Radom Capital.
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.