Posting up

Houston to be home to one of the world's largest rooftop gardens after downtown post office's renovations

Post Houston will be site of one of the world's largest rooftop gardens. Photo courtesy of Lovett Commercial

Downtown Houston will soon have one of the largest rooftop gardens and farms in the world, thanks to the innovative reimagining of a forgotten structure. The Barbara Jordan Post Office, the massive government building nestled in the Theater District, will be transformed into a bustling, dynamic, mixed-use complex that's meant to become the city's new urban ecosystem.

At an official groundbreaking, Lovett Commercial revealed the plans for the more than 550,000-square-foot building, which was formerly the epicenter of the city's mail system from 1936 to 2014. The post office will fittingly become Post Houston and will house a concert venue, retail and office concepts, restaurants, bars, an international market hall, and a flexible co-working space.

What's sure to be a buzzworthy draw are the Buffalo Bayou and downtown views from Skylawn, the sprawling five-acre rooftop park and sustainable organic farm that calls to mind downtown rooftop green spaces in New York City. The park is designed by Hoerr Schaudt, the landscape architects behind McGovern Centennial Park in the Museum District.

Foodies, take note: The rooftop farms offer a chance for in-house restaurants to source ingredients and create a farm-to-table experience.

Photo courtesy of Lovett Commercial

The roof promises striking downtown views.


Design-minded guests will delight in the three new atriums; the building will be surgically punctured to create the spaces to draw in existing light utilizing an ETFE roof system — the first in Houston. Each atrium will feature with a unique monumental staircase that will mark the space as coworking, culinary, or retail.

As a nod to Houston's booming arts and cultural scene, the building will house installations and exhibits by local and international artists and will host events, according to a release.

The complex is designed by the world-renowned architecture firm OMA along with partner Jason Long in collaboration with Houston-based Powers Brown Architecture. Diversity is a key theme, with myriad design elements and purposes — and it's apropos that the building is named for Barbara Jordan, Houston's beloved first African American modern-day state senator.

Other than the Day for Night festival, the site has been of interest to architecture and design circles, but has largely been an afterthought. But now, the shuttered post office could become one of Houston's most vibrant destinations with its ideal strategic location.

"This forward-thinking development is breaking away from the traditional model by creating a cultural epicenter that brings local and international cuisine, retail, art, music and innovation to our theatre district," said Mayor Sylvester Turner, in a statement.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Kyle Judah is executive director of Rice University's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Photo courtesy of Lilie

When Kyle Judah accepted his position as executive director at Rice University's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, he had spent less than 48 hours in the city of Houston. In fact, his first two months in the role have been spent completely remote and out of town.

Still, his limited in-person interaction with the city and with Rice made an impact.

"One of the things I found so exciting about what's going on in Houston right now that, quite frankly, was incredibly attractive about the opportunity to come and join Lilie and Rice was that Houston has these big pillar companies in energy and health care and all these critical areas that the world, the economy, and the society needs," Judah says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "That's all in Houston right now."

Judah and Lilie's goal is to help identify the innovation happening on campus at Rice and bring it to the world. And, he says, Rice as a whole has a huge place in the greater Houston innovation ecosystem. The challenge is identifying what industries Houston and Rice have an opportunity to disrupt.

"We can't just copy and paste what works for the Bay Area or what works for Boston," he says. "We have to figure out what is going to be the authentic right sort of centers of excellence for Rice and for Houston — areas like energy, health care, space. It just so happens that these areas that Houston and Rice have historically done better at than anyone else — those happen to be the most grand challenges for all of humanity."

Another priority Judah has leading Lilie, which was founded at Rice in 2015, is to make sure opportunities are available for everyone. This month, the university launched the Rice Experiment Fund — a $500 semesterly stipend available to all students. The funds are meant to be used on early market testing and experiments, which can be prohibitive obstacles for students.

"We want to make sure that the diversity of entrepreneurship at Rice speaks to the diversity of the city in our backyard," says Judah, adding that diversity and inclusion is at the top of mind for programs like this.

Judah shares more on where he plans to lead Lilie and his early impressions on Houston's startup scene in the podcast episode. Overall, he's found it extremely welcoming.

"I found that everyone here wants Houston to win," he says. "We're really playing as a broader collective, and that's incredibly special."

You can listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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