ULI Houston Developments of Distinction Awards 2024

HOUSTON – (Realty News Report) -Development and open space projects with significant community-building impact and responsiveness dominated the 2024 Developments of Distinction Awards, bestowed by Urban Land Institute’s Houston District Council.

The 2024 awards event was held Feb. 6 at Armadillo Palace and presented by Wilson, Cribbs + Goren. The Houston program is based on ULI’s Global Awards for Excellence. Attendance was a lively 300-plus.

ULI Houston’s centerpiece awards highlight compelling, emulation-worthy projects that exemplify the best practices in design, construction, economic viability, healthy places, marketing and management.

Judges explaining their choices in a video highlighting finalists often pointed to how project elements were not only breath-taking, well-rounded  and well-managed, but affirming of their role in a greater community, even if that community was the natural world.

The Moonshot Award

This year’s recognition event launched a new category:  The Moonshot Award, dubbed “the Apollo 11 equivalent for real estate efforts.” It spotlights big, audacious ideas that “seem nearly impossible but can be achieved through extraordinary effort and innovation,” event materials explain.

While these projects aren’t yet fully developed, big ideas, when (not if) achieved, “would positively affect the region’s quality of life or change the way we conduct business.”

Buffalo Bayou East

Buffalo Bayou East is the inaugural award’s first recipient. The project is notable as an extension of the thriving Buffalo Park and trail network along the city’s historic waterway. Its master plan encompasses a four-mile waterfront that, when complete, will bring quality green space, trail connections, pedestrian bridges, mixed-income housing and distinct public amenities to the Greater East End and Fifth Ward, both communities currently underserved in terms of quality public spaces. Buffalo Bayou Partnership and co-developer Brinshore worked with housing consultant Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and HR&A on the project as well as local government and Kinder Foundation.

Moonshot Award: Buffalo Bayou East is the inaugural award’s first recipient. The proposed  project is notable as an extension of the thriving Buffalo Park and trail network along the city’s historic waterway. Its master plan encompasses a four-mile waterfront that, when complete, will bring quality green space, trail connections, pedestrian bridges, mixed-income housing and other features.

Award categories and 2024 recipients included:

Large-Scale For-Profit Award: Giorgetti, a high-end condo development in Upper Kirby by Stolz Partners with architect Mirador Group. Judges said the elevated aesthetic and attention to detail blends nuanced design, meticulous craftsmanship and high-end materials, and epitomizes the uniqueness of the Giorgetti brand, a top European furnishings venture with which the project collaborated.

Large-Scale Non-Profit Award: Texas Southern University Library Learning Center, noted for its bold, modern geometry and its multi-faceted purpose as a museum, gathering place and beacon for those at or near the campus. It meets current and future needs of the students and fosters an engaging learning environment. The project team was a coalition of students, faculty, administrators and community members with architecture by Moody Nolan, selected to plan, program and design the center, and landscape architect Pacheco Koch.

Small-Scale For-Profit Award: The Better Generation X PJ Tucker, which transformed a patch of asphalt on Washington Avenue into a one-of-a-kind community-building destination that blends exercise, style and food. The site’s rejuvenation comes through re-use, adaptation and participation. Developer John Davis worked with BRAVE/architecture and landscape architect Asakura Robinson on the project, which incorporates renovated shipping containers and a half-court basketball court.

Small-Scale Non-Profit Award: Alief Neighborhood Center & Park, a multi-use building and environment that combines three City of Houston departments under one roof for synergy between health, parks and library services to benefit residents. Its covered porch, touted as “the Biggest Front Porch in Texas,” is a gathering place for a diverse community and creates a heart for civic engagement. The City of Houston General Services Department worked with SWA Group for design and landscape architecture.

Open Space Award: Memorial Park Land Bridge & Prairie is an iconic new destination and point of civic pride, judges found. At 100 acres, the decade-long project is expansive and unique. It also provides the public with an opportunity to connect with significant native ecologies and to seek peace, rejuvenation and recreation. The City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department and Memorial Park Conservancy collaborated with architect and landscape architect Nelson Byrd Woltz on the plan and plantings.

Historical/Adaptive Reuse Award, a category expanded this year to reflect the rise in revitalization projects, not just historic ones, went to The Ion. The project is the namesake centerpiece of Houston’s innovation corridor and district-wide vision to advance and sustain Houston’s economic resilience. The project re-envisioned and revived an iconic 1939 Sears showroom into a modern, sunlit structure of steel and glass. Inside and out it is a hub for the city’s entrepreneurial, corporate and academic communities. Outreach also incorporates job training and housing initiatives. Owner Rice Real Estate Co. tapped a team including Hines, Gensler and landscape architect James Corner Field Operations.

Trailblazer Award: Chrysalis Lake Bridgeland brings a 40-acre habitat and 22-acre lake setting to the master planned community. Designed to improve stormwater management and air quality, it ultimately enhances biodiversity and quality of life for its inhabitants, which include residents, insects and animals. The development project exceeded what is expected when meeting ecological and environmental challenges. This award is bestowed at the judges’ discretion. Howard Hughes Holdings worked with SWA Group on the project.

The People’s Choice Awards, handled online, were park-themed, and went to Memorial Park Land Bridge & Prairie and to Buffalo Bayou East.

The 2024 finalists also included Hanover Autry Park, Houston Endowment Headquarters, San Jacinto College Anderson-Ball Classroom Building, Aggie Park, Loro Asian Smokehouse & Bar, Indigo, and The Plant at Second Ward. Holcomb Family YWCA was the nomination panel’s honorable mention.

A jury of national real estate experts evaluated all finalists, announced in October 2023. Participants included Anne Cummins, co-founder and operating officer of Gattuso Development Partners; Rachel Lee of Kairos Asset Strategies; and Edward Henley III, founding principal at Pillars Development.

Feb. 6, 2024 Realty News Report Copyright 2024

Images: Courtesy of ULI.

Caption Feature photo: Memorial Park Land Bridge & Prairie

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