Seeds planted

Historic Houston Farmers Market officially breaks ground on transformation project

Houston officially has an innovative culinary mecca in the works. Courtesy of Houston Farmers Market

The massive effort to transform the Houston Farmers Market into one of the city's leading culinary attractions finally has a timeline. MLB Capital Partners, the local investment firm that purchased the almost 18-acre tract at the corner of Airline Drive and 610 in 2017, broke ground on the project Tuesday, August 6, with a goal of completing the work by late 2020.

"As the country's fourth-largest city and leading culinary capital, Houston is long overdue for a world-class market," said MLB Capital Partners managing principal Todd Mason in a statement. "We are thrilled to reinvigorate this local landmark into an experiential destination for both Houstonians and visitors to enjoy."

MLB's changes to the property will include "new climate-controlled spaces, shaded open-air market areas, restrooms, and common seating areas," according to a release. Better traffic flow and expanded parking areas will separate commercial traffic from pedestrians, and expanded facilities will accommodate a host of new merchants and food vendors. The market will remain open during the renovations.

James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd is serving as a culinary consultant on the project and will open a new concept at the market, which shouldn't come as a surprising considering Mason is also Shepherd's partner in Underbelly Hospitality. Other participants in the project include landscape architecture firm Clark Condon Associates, Studio RED Architects, Houston-based consulting firm Gunda Corporation, and Arch-Con Construction.

"We'll be doing something here," Shepherd tells CultureMap. "As far as what that is, I've narrowed it down to about 50 things."

Renovations to the market will include new greenspaces. Courtesy of Houston Farmers Market


Shepherd is also working with Mason to identify the vendors that will occupy the market's new stalls. While some have expressed concerns about the market losing its character, Mason told CultureMap in 2017 that he wants to preserve what people like about the market while enhancing the overall experience.

"When you really start talking to people about what they like, what they like is there's a lot of different cultures and there are things you can get and see there that you can't get anywhere else," Mason said. "We'll keep those tenants. I don't think we'll have to charge them much if any more rent. We'll still have an open air market with vendors selling directly to you. All of that experience will still be there, but it will be a cleaner, safer environment."

For his part, Shepherd sees the project as a positive development.

"I think it's amazing what's going on," he says. "I think, 10 years from now, you're going to look back and be like this was the moment where we changed the city a little bit . . . It is one of those defining things that will bring a lot of tourism over here."

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Houston-based imaware, which has an at-home COVID-19 testing process, is working with Texas A&M University on researching how the virus affects the human body. Getty Images

An ongoing medical phenomenon is determining how COVID-19 affects people differently — especially in terms of severity. A new partnership between a Houston-based digital health platform and Texas A&M University is looking into differences in individual risk factors for the virus.

Imaware, which launched its at-home coronavirus testing kit in April, is using its data and information collected from the testing process for this new study on how the virus affects patients differently.

"As patient advocates, we want to aid in the search to understand more about why some patients are more vulnerable than others to the deadly complications of COVID-19," says Jani Tuomi, co-founder of imaware, in a press release. "Our current sample collection process is an efficient way to provide longitudinal prospectively driven data for research and to our knowledge, is the only such approach that is collecting, assessing, and biobanking specimens in real time."

Imaware uses a third-party lab to conduct the tests at patients' homes following the Center for Disease Control's guidelines and protocol. During the test, the medical professional takes additional swabs for the study. The test is then conducted by Austin-based Wheel, a telemedicine group.

Should the patient receive positive COVID-19 results, they are contacted by a representative of Wheel with further instructions. They are also called by a member of a team led by Dr. Rebecca Fischer, an infectious disease expert and epidemiologist and laboratory scientist at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, to grant permission to be a part of the study.

Once a part of the study, the patient remains in contact with Fischer's team, which tracks the spread and conditions of the virus in the patient. One thing the researchers are looking for is the patients' responses to virus complications caused by an overabundance of cytokines, according to the press release. Cytokines are proteins in the body that fight viruses and infections, and, if not working properly, they can "trigger an over-exuberant inflammatory response" that can cause potentially deadly issues with lung and organ failure or worse, per the release.

"We believe strongly in supporting this research, as findings from the field can be implemented to improve clinical processes-- helping even more patients," says Wheel's executive medical director, Dr. Rafid Fadul.

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