Houston’s district council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) has announced its 2015 Development of Distinction Awards presented by Winstead Attorneys at the Rice Crystal Ballroom downtown. The awards are modeled after the ULI Awards for Excellence global competition, which has honored best practices in real estate development for more than 30 years.
In the for-profit category, the winner was Braeburn Village (Midway/AAI Affordable Housing). This 140-unit, affordable multifamily housing redevelopment project in southwest Houston was developed by Midway Companies through a collaborative partnership with AAI Affordable Housing. The complex is an attractive and affordable multifamily housing option for the community. Midway partnered with Hill and Frank Architects, Brownstone (the contractor), and Wong & Associates Landscape Architects. They redeveloped the existing property by first abating asbestos and demolishing all existing structures. The team removed the property from the floodplain, created community gathering spaces, and added additional green spaces for residents and new playground equipment for children. Braeburn Village is visually appealing, functional, and sustainable, while providing safe, affordable housing to families.
There were two winners in the not-for-profit category: Bethel Church Park (Houston Parks & Recreation Department) and New Hope Housing at Rittenhouse (New Hope Housing Inc.).
The goal of the Bethel Church Park project was to restore and preserve as much of the existing building (a historic Fourth Ward church) as feasible, as well as repurpose the church to retain its reverential character, while providing a functional space for passive recreation. Another important objective was to provide visual cues to the role the church played in a historical African American neighborhood that has since been redeveloped. This municipal park provides a welcome respite from the surrounding hustle and bustle. The project team consisted of Houston Parks and Recreation Department, Michael Lloyd of PGAL Architects, and J.E. Dunn Construction.
New Hope Housing at Rittenhouse, located in north Houston, serves adults who live alone on limited incomes. The site planning uses two- and three-story buildings connected at the corners with metal-screened encased stairways to avoid overwhelming the neighborhood with a single mass. The LEED Platinum–certified complex is situated around a courtyard featuring a mature grove of oak trees and a curved community wing with shared amenities. The development contains 160 studio apartments and inviting community spaces. Abstract stained glass presides over the tall, sunny foyer, and original art decorates the walls to help create a sense of place. The positive influence of Rittenhouse extends to the entire neighborhood, offering a beautiful building with intelligent landscaping, such as a detention pond that doubles as a prairielike park. Partners included Ernesto L. Maldonado of Glassman Shoemake Maldonado Architects; Camden Builders Inc.; and Asakura Robinson Company LLC.
The Lee Davis Library at San Jacinto College was named the winner in the heritage category. The library, built in 1966, was underused and in need of upgrading. Sustainability was at the center of design and construction. Original furniture and library stacks were restored and reused. Energy- and water-efficient mechanical, engineering, and plumbing systems contributed to better building performance. The renovation honored the spirit of the midcentury modern building and, through contemporary materials and modern technology, emphasized the social importance of learning and community outreach. The renovation has attracted many students and faculty, and the library is now open for public events, helping to strengthen the relationship between the college and the local, low-income community. Gensler was the architect for the restoration, and Tellepsen was the contractor.
The winner in the people’s choice category, and a finalist in the not-for-profit category, was the Monarch Institute Campus, which received the highest number of online votes. Located in Spring Branch, the institute was noted as a finalist for its innovative approach to sustainability for the entire campus and specifically for the Living Building Challenge (LBC) Classroom Studio, one of only six in the world and the first in Texas to achieve this level of sustainability. Overall, the school has a unique environmental design aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health. The outdoor campus supports acres of project work in environmental education. Students at the Monarch School, which educates people with neurological differences, will operate the building to meet the net-zero goals and will, in turn, train the Houston community in this approach. The project team included Jackson & Ryan Architects and Mission Construction.
“This year’s Development of Distinction Awards covered an amazing array of innovative and sustainable projects,” said Carleton Riser, ULI Houston chair and Transwestern Development Company president. “Each winner is a singular example of the ‘complete real estate project’ and has positively impacted their immediate community and Houston as a whole.”