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

 
 

As of this week, Lara Cottingham is the chief of staff at Greentown Labs. Photo via LinkedIn

The country's largest climatetech startup incubator has made a strategic new hire.

Lara Cottingham is the new chief of staff for Greentown Labs, a Boston-area company that opened in Houston earlier this year. Cottingham previously served as the city of Houston's chief sustainability officer and the chief of staff for the city's Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department for the past seven years. In her new role, Cottingham will oversee the day-to-day operations and communications for Greentown's CEO Emily Reichert, along with key stakeholder engagements and strategic initiatives for the incubator.

"Lara brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience to our team from her dynamic leadership role at the City of Houston," says Reichert in a news release. "Her breadth of knowledge in sustainability, climate, and the energy transition, and her expertise in regulatory and stakeholder aspects of the energy industry, will be incredibly valuable to our team and community."

Under her leadership at the city of Houston, Cottingham was the chief author of Houston's Climate Action Plan, an initiative aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Houston, and getting the city to a point where it meets the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Cottingham helped the city move to 100 percent renewable electricity, according to the release, and helped turn a 240-acre landfill into the nation's largest urban solar farm.

"In leading the Climate Action Plan, Lara helped spark Houston's leadership in what has become a global energy transition and was a passionate advocate for climate action in Houston," says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in the release. "While she will be missed, this new role will only strengthen our partnership with Greentown. I look forward to working with Emily, Lara, and the Greentown team to meet our climate goals and make Houston the energy capital of the future."

Before her work at the city, Cottingham worked at Hill+Knowlton Strategies' Houston office range of clients across the energy sector. Earlier in her career, she served as communications director for two congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives. She began her work with the city in 2014.

"In working with Mayor Turner and Climate Mayors across the U.S., I saw how important partnerships are to helping cities decarbonize," says Cottingham in the release. "There is no better partner or place for climate action at work than Greentown Labs. Greentown is 100 percent committed to attracting and nurturing the energy companies of the future and making Houston the energy transition capital of the world. I'm excited to join the team and see how climatetech can help cities reach their climate goals."

Greentown Labs first announced its entrance into the Houston market last summer. The new 40,000-square-foot facility in Midtown across the street from The Ion opened its prototyping and wet lab space, offices, and community gathering areas for about 50 startup companies opened in April. Greentown was founded in 2011 in Somerville, Massachusetts, and has supported more than 400 startups, which have raised more than $1.5 billion in funding.

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