Houston may be getting a new High Line-esque signature park space, as an ambitious reuse of the city’s abandoned central post office aims to build a massive rooftop garden atop an office and entertainment center to the edge of downtown.
This new vision for Houston’s Barbara Jordan Post Office, to be called POST Houston, will be one of the city’s largest adaptive reuse projects. The mixed-use facility will boast one of the world’s largest rooftop farms, a concert venue, and a mixture of retail and office space including restaurants, bars, an international market hall, and flexible coworking spaces.
Lovett Commercial, the Houston-based firm that purchased the 15-acre site in 2015, will use the historic tax credit as part of a broad plan to overhaul the site. They haven’t announced how much they plan to spend on the project.
“Houston is the country’s most culturally diverse community,” said Frank Liu, President of Lovett Commercial. “We hope POST Houston will become a destination for Houstonians and travelers and we are determined to create a one-of-a-kind urban ecosystem that will showcase the vibrancy of our great city.”
The cavernous 550,000-square-foot concrete campus, which features a two-story warehouse connected to a five-story administration building, was designed by the firm Wilson Morris Crain & Anderson in 1962, and recently had a second life as a concert venue, playing host to the annual Day for Night music and arts festival.
The project calls to mind other large-scale reworking of 20th century commercial infrastructure, such as the old Chicago Post Office (which may eventually be home to a new Uber office), as well as Memphis’s Crosstown Concourse, a massive Sears warehouse turned “urban village.” Combining large floorpans and centralized locations, these structures have found new life recently as centers for commerce and innovation.
The design for the space, a collaboration between Jason Long, a partner at architecture firm OMA, and Houston-based Powers Brown Architecture, will see the expansive facility broken up with a series of skylights, atriums, and horizontal passages to create thoroughfares and bring light into the building. The project aims for LEED Gold certification.
Each of the three atriums will be covered in EFTE roof systems (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a translucent material that aids in insulation), which will open up to a planned 210,000 square-foot rooftop park with views of the city’s skyline.
The five-acre organic rooftop farm called Skylawn will be designed by Hoerr Schaudt, the Chicago-based landscape architects behind Houston’s McGovern Centennial Park. The large outdoor space will feature dining and event venues, allowing for outdoor shows and “rooftop-to-table” dining.
“In a city that is constantly reinventing itself, it’s an incredible opportunity to transform a building of such solidity and sheer scale,” said OMA’s Long in a statement. “Lovett’s vision to preserve this structure from Houston’s past allowed us to design a multi-layered, interconnected platform for the city’s cultural and commercial future.”
Developers hope to take advantage of the location of the POST Houston complex, at 401 Franklin Street near the city’s Theatre District and planned Innovation Corridor, by including a number of art installations, exhibits, and performance spaces, as well as coworking and collaborative maker spaces for businesses and entrepreneurs.
POST also connects to the city’s Buffalo Bayou Park, and is within blocks of many corporate and residential high-rises. Lovett says renovations should be finished by 2020.