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Mid-Main Movement
Mixed-use Houston development builds on urban ideals.
Sited beside a light rail line, this project will be Houston's first transit-oriented development.
Courtesy Rogers Partners

As Houston begins to grow from the inside out, many developers are staking their ground in the Mid-Main district just south of downtown. Cultivating a culture of vibrancy, public transit, and neighborhood interaction are some of the goals of one new project located in this prime location along the METRORail light rail system. New York City–based Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers and local developer RHS Interests are planning to break ground in Spring 2014 on a mixed-use development located at the 3500 and 3600 block of Main Street. The privately funded project, which also enlists the help of architect and Rice professor William T. Cannady and Gensler Houston, is estimated to be complete by mid to late 2015.

Banking on the strengths of the location and seeking to attract younger tenants, the project includes 30,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, while 363 studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units fill out the levels above. The development team expects to lure students and young professionals who work in downtown or at the Texas Medical Center—both of which are accessible by the light rail—as well people who are tired of commuting from outlying areas of the city. The structure is complemented with three levels of parking, two of which are shared with the public and one that is dedicated to residents.

The apartment block is broken up to create a community courtyard that opens to Main Street.

“A key owner and designer decision was to abandon the traditional ‘Houston Wrap’ typology of apartments surrounding a parking deck, and instead develop a podium that provides street level activities to surround the site, while concentrating residences around a common open space,” said architect Rob Rogers of Rogers Partners. “Instead of a monolithic two-block wall, the pro-urban scheme acknowledges the street grid and massing, including placing the major public access point across from the Mid-Main rail stop.”

Rogers Partners’ design embraces the urban surroundings by opening the project’s central courtyard to the street. Activity on Main—whether it be passing vehicular traffic or pedestrians visiting the surrounding businesses—will be visible to residents, while passersby on the street will be able to see what is going on in the community spaces of the multi-level development. This permeability with the surrounding environment seeks to imbue the project with the excitement generated by Mid-Main’s many bars, restaurants, and retail shops, including such nearby Houston nightlife institutions as the Continental Club and Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge. In addition, the development is neighbor to MATCH, a forthcoming performing and visual arts center that will be home to some of Houston’s leading and emerging arts organizations.

The urban lifestyle is fostered inside the development through the communal courtyard area. The apartment blocks are broken apart to create this open space and to avoid long hallways on the interior, encouraging socialization among neighbors as well as interaction between retailers on the terrace level. A majority of units have balconies, while the street-side penthouse apartments cantilever out to cap the elevation.

“The project focuses on holding and activating the urban street edge, while making a vibrant, sculpted courtyard landscape within,” said Rogers. “The blocks are city scale, the courtyard residential and intimate. The forms are simple, modern, and efficient; it is critical that Houston’s first real transit-oriented development project embody progressive urban ideals and materiality.”

Meghan Hendley-Lopez