Progress is being made on the new six-acre Midtown Superblock, which will include a public park, retail space, and a seven-story apartment building, according to Houston CultureMap:
After eight years of delays, the long-anticipated urban renewal project known as the Midtown Superblock is official, with a groundbreaking tentatively set for fall 2013.
Camden Property Trust and the Midtown Redevelopment Authority (MRA) — which together own the narrow strip bounded by Travis, Main, Anita and McGowen — will create a six-acre development that includes a public park and retail space on the northern half and a seven-story apartment building on the southern portion. (The Houston Business Journal first reported on this development.)
The final piece of the Superblock came together in September when MRA purchased the last available lot, a shopping center at Anita and Travis housing the popular Thien An sandwich shop and two nightclubs. The redevelopment authority will swap its newly-acquired property with Camden in exchange for land at the northern end of the block.
“It’s always been a special piece of land because of its size and location,” Camden CEO Ric Campo told HBJ. “It’s such a big commitment because it’s such a large site.
“We really had to think through what the long-term plans would be and decide on the best use of the land.”
While Camden has been acquiring various lots on the block for more than a decade, Campo explained that the company felt the “market is right” to move forward with the project, especially considering the city’s strong multi-family real estate. Construction is expected to begin on Camden’s new 300-unit apartment building in about a year.
MRA executive director Matt Thibodeaux said his organization hopes to break ground on its three-acre park — which features 8,500 square feet of retail space and an underground garage — as early as March 2013
Houston Tomorrow (then the Gulf Coast Institute) first proposed using the site for a public park in 2002 with its call to transform the superblock into McGowen Green. That concept used the entire site for the park, which would have become a major urban amenity. Ian Rosenberg proposed the idea of using underground parking to help finance and support the park, and many others worked on the project, including Kevin Shanley with SWA Group and Dan Barnum, then chair of the Midtown Management District’s Urban Design Committee. Eventually, that idea was used instead to create Discovery green across from the George R. Brown Convention Center.
“This new park on the Superblock will transform that part of Midtown into the truly urban space it always wanted to be,” said Houston Tomorrow president David Crossley. “With a light rail station right there, this is going to be a huge advance for walkable urbanism. While it’s not as big as the park we and others proposed, it’s a real advance nevertheless.”