HOUSTON – (Realty News Report) – The latest episode of The Ralph Bivins Project podcast an interview with Anna Deans, who, as vice president, investment and development for Houston-based Midway Companies, is overseeing the development of Midway’s new 150-acre East River project.
RALPH BIVINS: Welcome to the Ralph Bivins Project. We’re here today with – well, first, let’s start with a news announcement: The Realty News Report Project of the Year Award goes to East River, the 150-acre development at the eastern edge of downtown. It is a real beehive of construction activity on the ground with all kinds of uses there. We are really fortunate today to have with us Anna Deans. She’s at Midway, developer of that project, and she’s working in tandem with David Hightower. Midway is a Houston company that has done some very interesting projects. – like CityCentre on the Katy Freeway. Anna, welcome.
ANNA DEANS: Thank you for having me.
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RALPH BIVINS: Anna, we know this project is near downtown and on the bayou. Can you to speak to us about how and why this development is considered a transformative project?
ANNA DEANS: It truly is a transformative project. It is a 150-acre parcel which is the largest, contiguous undeveloped tract of land in the 610 Loop. And it is located only a mile east of downtown It is located in the historic Fifth Ward, which is an amazing, culturally rich neighborhood, and it is adjacent to the Second Ward.
The site has been inaccessible for the past 70 years. The property is the former Brown & Root campus. Engineers from Brown & Root were the ones who developed the Astrodome, NASA Mission Control and the first off-shore oil platforms. The site has a history and legacy of innovation.
But like I said, it has been totally walled off. When we started working on it, it was totally vacant – a blank slate. It also has more than a mile of water frontage along the Buffalo Bayou. The bayou here is more like a river. In fact, we have found historic maps which refer to the waterway as the Buffalo River, right on the map. This is where the name East River came from.
When you think about all of these things together, it really highlights how unique this opportunity is, not just for the East End and the Fifth Ward, but for all of Houston, because we have an opportunity to rethink, to step back and create a destination that will hopefully represent all Houstonians. It will also change the way that people perceive the bayou. This is one of the few locations where private development will be allowed to occur directly adjacent to the bike trail and the bayou. It will shine a light on what the bayou has done for the city, on what the port has done for our city and on what a rich maritime history Houston has – something not a lot of people are aware of.
Those are just a few things. The scale of this project is really something that’s difficult to wrap your head around. For context, 150 acres is equivalent to about 60 downtown blocks, which is one-fifth the size of downtown. This is a 15- to 20-year project and we have just started the first phase which will be about the size of CityCentre. When it is complete, it will cover an area the size of five or six CityCentres within this site. That’s a mini city.
RALPH BIVINS: Tell me more about being on the banks of Buffalo Bayou, which 150 years ago Texans called the Buffalo River. It’s been a big part of how Houston started back in the 1800s, that body of water. I don’t know if it has become all that it should be. What else do you think is going to happen there?
ANNA DEANS: Actually, it’s pretty interesting, a lot of things are already happening on the bayou that a lot of people are not even aware of. We’d like to highlight that and amplify that. For example, there is the Buffalo Bayou Partnership Regatta, an event that draws about 300 kayakers and canoeists who travel about 15 miles annually. Hopefully, someday, we hope to bring all those boaters to the East River. I have done this a couple of times. It’s beautiful, and it’s a beautiful perspective on the city that most people have never seen.
Also, there are regattas of trawlers traveling from Kemah and Galveston on the way to Allen’s Landing. We are trying to connect with these groups in hopes of installing docks and connecting these different waterfront communities. Over time, I think you’ll start to see developments that have not historically embraced or acknowledged the bayou. We are trying to turn that around. It’s a lot like what happened in Chicago with the Chicago River, which was neglected, things were dumped into it and developers ignore it. Now, it is one of the features of the city. Obviously, there are a lot of differences between Chicago and Houston, but we feel the Buffalo Bayou could become a beautiful natural amenity that we will appreciate more than we do now.
RALPH BIVINS: With docks for boats?
ANNA DEANS: Yes, we are planning the next phase of the development now, and that is something we’d like to incorporate. The Buffalo Bayou Partnership plans to have a number of row houses a little further east of East River. Activating the water is definitely on our priority list. Even just the way we’ve designed the plan to enhance the use of water downtown. And the views across the water, the silos and the trail system, are really beautiful.
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Anna Deans’ biography
In her position as vice president of investment and development at Midway, Anna Deans primarily focuses on the East River project, the 150-acre, multi-phase, mixed-use development that will transform Houston’s waterfront east of downtown into a new economic center. Prior to joining Houston-based Midway, Deans developed mixed-use properties for Thor Equities and earlier in her career was a design architect for Gensler. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Texas, Austin, and is a LEED- (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited licensed architect in the state of Texas. Anna provides tremendous insight and perspective to large, complex projects. Her emphasis and expertise lie within efficiency of design, functionality and project management.
Jan. 24, 2023. Realty News Report Copyright 2023
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Photos credit: Midway