Editor’s Opinion — Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can keep Houstonians from squandering opportunities to make great places. Houston has lost of lot of historic buildings over the years and even the great Astrodome stands in limbo. Now, government officials at the City of Houston are veering off course with their real estate ambitions that could derail a major urban redevelopment.
The details: a prime parcel of land in downtown Houston – some 16 acres near Buffalo Bayou – is being sold by the U.S. Postal Service. The tract could be the site of well planned, mixed-use project with high-rise residential towers, office buildings and retail.
The city is bidding against private developers to buy the Post Office site, in order to transform it into a police and courts facility.
The unique Post Office site, on Franklin Street at Bagby, has a tremendous amount of potential. Two years ago, the post office site was the subject of a national competition, the Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition sponsored by the Urban Land Institute. The students envisioned things like an iconic pedestrian bridge over the bayou leading to a grand development where the Post Office now stands. A team from Harvard and the University of Colorado won the grand prize of $50,000.
Now, several bona fide developers are geared up to buy and redevelop the Post Office site. The bidders include Midway Cos., a Houston-based firm that developed the acclaimed City Centre mixed-use project on Beltway 8.
The city needs to drop its pursuit of the Post Office site and let private developers transform it into a great place. Houston already has a jail on the bayou frontage, a bonehead move that we will have to live with for decades.
A lot of effort has been made – and a lot of money spent- to improve the Buffalo Bayou frontage, to transform it into a linear park and a natural showplace. The Post Office land could become the downtown jewel of the bayou. The site certainly needs to be more than a cop shop.
– By Ralph Bivins, Editor