HOUSTON – Lovett Commercial, a Houston firm led by veteran developer Frank Liu, has acquired the downtown U.S. Post Office property, a key 16-acre redevelopment site overlooking Buffalo Bayou.
Lovett is expected to develop a mixed-use project with retail, residential and office on the Post Office site, 401 Franklin Street.
The Post Office redevelopment is the most important project ever tackled by Lovett and its leader Frank Liu, who has a decades-long history of finding pockets of redevelopment opportunity in places overlooked by other developers.
The Post Office redevelopment is expected to be a legacy project for Liu, who will seek to make a lasting mark on Houston with the Post Office development, the crown of his long career as a developer and builder.
“This is one of the most important tracts of land in the City of Houston,” said Ann Taylor, Executive Director of Urban Land Institute (ULI) Houston.
Michael Hassler of CBRE represented the U.S. Postal Service, which has closed the downtown facility as part of an overall effort to liquidate under-utilized real estate.
The Lovett organization paid about $40 million for the site, although the sales price was not disclosed in Lovett’s press release.
A partnership including Lionstone and Midway Cos. had the Post Office site under contract months ago, but that deal fell through after due diligence inspections uncovered underground “tie-backs” or buried cables that anchor the retaining wall along the banks of the bayou.
The deal was re-bid and Lovett offered around $40 million to come in as the top bidder.
“It’s extremely rare to find a downtown site with direct, easy access to I-10, I-45 and numerous adjacent neighborhoods in Houston,” said Burdette Huffman, Vice President for Lovett Commercial. “Our goal is to create a very special mixed-use development that leverages the Bayou, the theater district and the significant scale of the property.”
The Post Office, built in 1962, has 517,000 square feet of buildings, including a five-story office building that may be redeveloped by Lovett into office space or lofts.
The Post Office site, considered the largest redevelopment parcel in downtown, was the subject of a ULI urban design competition for graduate students a few years ago.
“During the ULI + Gerald D. Hines urban design competition in 2012, more than 695 graduate students from 64 universities in the United States and Canada proposed their ideas to redevelop the site,” said Taylor of ULI.
“We hoped a visionary developer also would embrace the opportunity to transform this property overlooking Buffalo Bayou into a vibrant part of the cityʼs urban fabric. Now itʼs exciting to see that Frank Liu intends to make such a positive impact and reuse the structures in a mixed-use redevelopment.”
Lovett Commercial, founded in 1984, specializes in retail and mixed-use projects in urban and suburban areas in and surrounding Texasʼ major markets, including Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Houston. The companyʼs portfolio includes neighborhood retail properties, urban redevelopment projects and large grocery-anchored shopping centers.
Lovett has a significant residential arm, which has developed thousands of town homes and single-family houses in the Inner Loop of Houston.
By Ralph Bivins, Editor, Realty News Report