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ULI Development Of Distinction: Redevelopments Win Top Honors

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A theme of restoration and repurposing marked the finalists in this year’s ULI Houston Development of Distinction Awards. The organization annually convenes real estate leaders to identify projects that demonstrate quality design, public/private partnership, economic viability and overall industry leadership.

Three international jurors visited Houston—a first for each of them—to tour every project. They awarded Heights Clock Tower top honors in the for-profit category. The building was built in 1894 as a mattress factory. It served various purposes over the years before sitting vacant and neglected. The current owners began restoration in 2003; the building now houses offices, studios, a bakery and other retail space.

Other finalists in the category included Johnson Development’s Cross Creek Ranch, the restored JW Marriott Houston Downtown hotel from Pearl Hospitality, and South Heights Mixed-Use by RE:VIVE.

Jurors selected two honorable mentions in the not-for-profit category. KIPP Connect opened in 2014 to serve pre-K through 12th grade students on the eastern edge of Sharpstown. Architects economically converted the former Twelve Oaks Medical Center using materials like colorful vinyl tile, paint and graphics. The finished school was constructed for 15% to 20% less than a new Houston public school. Further east, the TMCx Accelerator also gave new life to an old building. The former Nabisco Cookie Factory now houses the bio-tech incubator in the heart of the Texas Medical Center, part of TMC's long-term plan. Entrepreneurs have access to all the necessary resources to take their research from the bench to commercialization.

The other not-for-profit finalist was the G.T. Mickey Leland Federal Building.

Recognizing what ULI Houston chair and Transwestern president Carleton Riser called a “renaissance” in parks, ULI created a new award this year for Urban Green Space (shown to increase property values up to 20%.) The inaugural Urban Green Space award went to the Navigation Esplanade. Modeled after La Rambla in Barcelona, the Greater East End Management District developed this three-block stretch of Navigation Boulevard to be a community socializing spot and a walkable gateway to public transportation. The Esplanade runs between St. Charles and the original Ninfa’s. It has space for up to 40 food trucks and includes vendor stalls, retail kiosks and two street cafés.

Cross Creek Ranch won the final award, in the People’s Choice Category. The new master planned community in the booming Fort Bend County outcrop of Fulshear is designed as a low-impact community. The natural landscape is used to filter runoff water and preserve the surrounding watershed. Almost 98% of open spaces within the community are irrigated with reclaimed non-potable water.