EaDo Has Come A Long Way, But It's Just Getting Started
Six years ago, East Downtown Management District executive director Anton Sinkewich was selling a vision. Today, Anton doesn’t have to rely on imagination or renderings. When speaking about the growth and potential of EaDo from the historic Cheek Neel Coffee Building, he can simply point to the progress outside the window.
At the center of the neighborhood’s transformation has been the Houston Dynamo. At Bisnow’s Future of EaDo event yesterday (above, 350 rapt attendees), Houston Dynamo president Chris Canetti said the decision to come to EaDo was essential to the development of the organization. Many areas were trying to court the Dynamo, particularly suburban locations. (Sugar Land practically threw everything at it except the kitchen sink, Chris says.) Chris says the club knew going into Downtown was going to cost a pretty penny, but it was important not to isolate fans by being so far out of town. Of course, having the Astros and Rockets close by helped. In the last 16 or so years, the area has transformed into Houston’s sports mecca.
Chris (speaking above) said the success of the decision really hit him last year, when BBVA hosted a sold-out Ed Sheeran concert on a Thursday, followed by a sold-out international soccer game on Friday and a sold-out college football game between TSU and Prairie View A&M on Saturday. It’s easy to convince people to come to EaDo these days; now the issue is parking.
Legacy Bank SVP Richard Miller (speaking above) sees the submarket's future as primarily residential. Only 9.5% of the area is residential—there are 73 plotted townhomes along with a couple of multifamily units—30% of the area is industrial, and (good news for developers) 17% remains vacant. With 5,000 jobs and 6,000 residents, the area is still ripe with opportunity, and Richard thinks it's only a matter of time before someone like HEB or Kroger makes a big move in the area.
One project tapping into the potential is Sampson Lofts, developed by Caspian Enterprises. Natasha Azizi (speaking above), whose first memory of EaDo is walking to the Merkel Steel Building and wondering what its vastness would become (condos), moved back to the area specifically to help with the project. As a Millennial living in EaDo, Natasha says the appeal of EaDo is instantly recognizable to out-of-towners because it's similar to what's happening in most major American cities. Whether it be Miami, Portland or Chicago, there's a near-Downtown post-industrial area that’s reinventing itself. Natasha said Caspian is maintaining that funky vibe by keeping much of the graffiti around the new 80-unit multifamily project at the corner of Samson and McKinney.
Another Millennial desire: walkability. And because the area is considered CBD, developments can be more dense. There’s been a push to increase the setbacks but it’s not likely to happen as developers see the lack of setback as essential to maintaining the urban appeal of the submarket and increasing its walkability.
Peoples Trust Federal Credit Union CFO Steve Branstetter’s firm just moved into new offices in EaDo. The area was a perfect match, he told the crowd, because many of the employees didn’t want to move to the suburbs. The decision to move to EaDo came down to three things: its central location, the availability of public transit, and free parking. Steve said so far it’s been a great decision.
Pictured: The Cheek Neal Coffee building, which hosted us yesterday.
Bayou Vista managing director Alan Atkinson (above with Lisa Atkinson, Florencia Vial and Valentine Atkinson) says a small but important factor in setting up EaDo as an attractive office market was dealing with the train lines running through the area. 42 trains pass through a day, and used to blow their whistle at 150db while doing so. Since office workers would rather not have their work interrupted and eardrums rattled 42 times a day, Second Ward developers took matters into their own hands, privately establishing a railroad quiet zone.
The quiet zone will also benefit the historic Cheek Neal Coffee building at 2017 Preston. David Denenburg purchased the building and saved it from TxDOT bulldozers looking to redevelop highways Downtown. The Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission recently made the building a protected landmark, the highest level of protection for a historic property. In recent months, David has been focused on restoring the building rather than finding tenants. But now the gorgeous building is ready for its close-up. The five-story building offers 55k SF of the best post-industrial space in the city.
Above: Clark Condon Associates' Sheila Condon, Cushman & Wakefield's Dave Cook, Houston First's Peter McStravick, Denenburg Development's David Denenburg and Genesis Park's Steve Gibson
Ancorian founding partner Mike Sperandio (speaking above) is doing his part to reinvent the neighborhood as well. East Village is a two-block mixed-use project planned along St. Emanuel and Hutchins between Polk and Lamar. The two buildings will have space for 10 to 15 retail and commercial tenants. Mike says the space will be 65% leased before construction even begins. One tenant is sure to get the party started; Omar Afra and Dutch Small have joined forces to open a Houston branch of the global Our/Vodka project.
EaDo Management District managing director Anton Sinkewich (above with Caspian Enterprises' Mir Azizi) shared progress on the major infrastructure work that will begin on Polk, Dallas, Lamar, Hutchins and St. Emanuel in conjunction with TIRZ 15. The utility infrastructure will be reworked, then covered by a new, Class-A streetscape. The Houston International Promenade, a five-block abandoned street-turned-park is getting a new section, a dog park south of BBVA Compass.
The future of EaDo looks bright, and that’s not just the orange hue.