Houston, Texas [The Heights]
Heights Clock Tower is a former industrial complex located in the Houston Heights Historic District and has continued to be an anchor to the community since its conception in in 1894. This historic landmark once celebrated innovation through manufacturing and is now a mixed-use property home to a variety of office and destination retail tenants. Kraftsmen Baking one of the neighborhoods most known retail amenities and has anchored the corner of W 22nd Street and Lawrence Street for over 20 years. Clock Tower was awarded a Development of Distinction Award by Urban Land Institute in early 2016 for building renovations completed by Heights Clock Tower LLC. The property purchased several years later by Radom Capital who executed the next phase of renovations.
"How can property owners within a changing neighborhood work with other owners and community members to create a more walkable community? "
A Community Landmark
Creating Legible Connections
This site has been surrounded urban redevelopment which unveiled the opportunity to create more vibrant, well-connected property, and neighborhood. This was achieved by introducing walkways, intimate courtyards, signage, and public realm improvements at critical edges of the site. This 3.5-acre Heights property consists of The Clocktower Building, a small office building, a carriage house, parking garage, and a freestanding commercial building now home to a local gym. CultivateLAND partnered with Michael Hsu Office of Architecture to explore how to unify the entire site while visibly and physically while promoting a more walkable neighborhood.
Placemaking via Preservation, Materiality + Activated Edges
The design team collaborated to re-envision how the key spaces around the site could be more connected, legible, and better utilized. The areas identified included the arrival at the Motor Court, and courtyard like spaces now called the Smokestack Garden, Secret Garden, and North Paseo. It was important these enhancements had a certain industrial “patina” to compliment the richness of the building. This was achieved by using textured materials like aged pavers, weathering steel, and rock-salt finished concrete. The pavers in the Motor Court are reminiscent of an old brick road. The weaving of a fabric-like paver pattern at the patio is a nod to this historic textile mill. New steel fences, signage, and planters feel as if they were always part of this industrial landscape.
Soft hedges create a series of private outdoor rooms at the newly renovated public patio at Kraftsmen Baking and interior tenant courtyards. The Smokestack Garden celebrates an existing iconic six-story concrete smokestack and links to tenant offices that open into the courtyard space. The edges of the courtyard are activated by small intimate seating and meeting areas that overlook a central lawn. The relationship of these elements make the space comfortable and versatile for users through the used of movable furniture and existing shade canopy. Both the Secret Garden and North Paseo provide the same offering but cater to a single tenant. All of these outdoor placemaking elements create value for the owner and tenants by creating well connected, meaningful spaces.
A Connection To The Past
The Houston Heights is Texas’s oldest planned community and was founded on principles of Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND), but overtime has catered to the needs of vehicles over pedestrians. TND’s celebrate housing variety, well connected streets/alleys, and community amenities within walking distance of residents. Properties in the Heights have continued to appreciate as more businesses and people invested in the community. Raising land costs and expectations now encourage new development to become denser and people-centric which allows for better connections between residents and community amenities. Over the last few years, used car lots and underutilized land adjacent to Heights Clock Tower have been replaced with restaurants, an HEB, and other neighborhood services. Public realm improvements like sidewalks, and signage at Clock Tower not only highlight the businesses there, but also allow residents of the to walk and bike to these new neighborhood amenities.