Repurpose, Reposition, Rehabilitate
CLIENTS: Brookfield Properties, Hines, Capridge Partners, Lincoln Properties, Confidential Client
PROJECT: Houston Center, 717 Texas, San Voss, City North, Project Blue Lake
The reimagining of underutilized landscape spaces into new amenities plays a large part in attracting tenants to properties and employees back into office spaces.
Throughout the past 18 months, the workplace environment has been questioned and studied with remote work coming to the forefront. Building owners are rethinking how their properties attract building tenants and fill the voids of a limited in-person work force. Clark Condon has worked in conjunction with multiple clients recently to transform the landscape of workplace environments into highly programmed, work-enabled spaces.
Downtown Houston has been at the center of the workplace revitalization, not only with new construction, but the repositioning of existing, historic, and embedded sites. The recently opened Houston Center serves as a center piece of the repositioning movement and thought process. Consisting of five blocks in the heart of Downtown, the project serves as a beacon for the effort to re-energize the pedestrian realm in the heart of city. This sentiment is echoed in the Downtown landscape refresh at 717 Texas. The establishment of an interior food hall served as a catalyst to draw people to the area, while Clark Condon (CCA) freshened the public exterior spaces to reflect the hospitality aesthetic and function sought by users in the current climate.
Campuses and buildings outside of the city core have also experienced a revitalization to attract tenants with the movement of the workforce towards rural areas. CityNorth (CN) is a prime example of real estate utilizing exterior spaces to make the most of its location close to a major airport. The former Exxon Mobile Campus is unique in the fact that the office buildings are fronted by a retail component of shops and restaurants. This combination leads to a variety of challenges and opportunities, primarily the meshing of public and private programming and spaces. CN embraces this split and developed an environment that is energized by constant public use, while providing expansive amenities for office tenants. Alternately, Project Blue Lake is a private campus which focuses on tenant recruitment and retention. The existing, multi-building campus features an existing lawn space and detention pond, but lacks tenant spaces on the exterior. CCA is working to connect revamped interior spaces with complimentary outdoor spaces through unique shade structures, water features, art, diverse and other program elements.
For these types of projects, we find that starting at the end is typically the best beginning. By understanding the end product the Client is requiring, we can work in conjunction to develop concepts for their unique site with a full understanding of the end goal. This is crucial in projects such as Houston Center where the pedestrian experience into and through the site was at the forefront of the design goals. With this is mind, CCA and Team was able to work with the city to remove a lane of traffic on McKinney Street to increase safety and encourage pedestrian movement throughout the site. Alternatively, projects such as SanVoss and Project Blue Lake are much more internally focused and have goals of providing a specific, private amenity for tenants.
Thorough conversations with the Client groups we’re able to find the proper level of program for the site, not only from a tenant satisfaction perspective, but also a daily operations/ management perspective. Many projects have the aspirations of highly active landscapes with water features, lawn games, diverse seating, etc., as seen in CityNorth, but fail to account for the daily upkeep that may require. Our thorough process at the front end of all our renovation projects helps to inform our design process to properly pinpoint the final programming to assure the project is successful at day one and day 1000.
Understanding the interior spaces is an integral part of the development of the exterior environment. Seamless transitions between the interior and exterior allows for a multi-dimensional work environment and encourages the utilization of the spaces. On CityNorth, we worked closely with the interior architects to connect the interior conference and tenant amenity center with our more programmed space to create the opportunities for people to flow in and out, finding multiple opportunities for work and play. Similarly, the interaction between complimentary indoor-outdoor spaces can be noticed at Houston Center. The upper, more private level is programmed to focus on co-working spaces and dining, while the mid-level is a fitness-oriented landscape to compliment the indoor fitness center adjacent.
In the end, our repositioning projects and revamping of the outdoor environments have proven to increase user engagement, increase building occupancies and improve tenant satisfaction. Our diverse portfolio of site reimagining and rehabilitation allows us to see each site in its unique context and potential, highlighted by the range shown below.
Houston Center, a five-block complex built in the 1980s, was redeveloped into a vibrant destination in the heart of downtown Houston. Clark Condon worked with Gensler, Brookfield Properties, and the design team to transform the space into a park-like setting. A new arrival experience was created through a reimagined central plaza and greenspace, including an iconic spiral staircase that connects the plaza to landscaped terraces above. Connectivity and circulation were prioritized to create a pedestrian-focused, walkable environment with highly amenitized, unique spaces for working, relaxing, or socializing. The central plaza features a digital water wall, seating, and flexible entertainment space with seamless street-level access. Roof deck terraces offer outdoor co-working spaces to foster collaboration and extend the traditional working environment to the outdoors. Through a combination of sustainable amenities and a park-like atmosphere, Houston Center added 162 trees and nearly 24,000 square feet of greenspace to the urban fabric of downtown while creating places for people to gather and setting the stage for the future.
Clark Condon worked with Hines to renovate a private 14,000 square foot terrace on the twelfth floor of 717 Texas in downtown Houston. The formal design has lighted circulation paths leading to a central gathering space. The event space is anchored by two shade structures with artificial turf and flexible seating. Native and adaptive plants, relocated trees, and planters are arranged to create a formal grid throughout. Ample space and downtown views create an engaging outdoor terrace for respite and private events.
Alongside Lincoln Property Company and Ziegler Cooper Architects, Clark Condon transformed 70,000 square feet of the former Exxon Mobil Campus into a vibrant retail corridor, dubbed CityNorth. The extensive landscape improvements include expanded public green space, outdoor lounge areas, and flexible event lawns. Outdoor work-enabled spaces provide campus tenants with areas for mobile work, remote meetings, and group presentations. The revamped dining opportunities feature dining terraces and water features to enhance the user experience and activate the campus during and after business hours. We worked closely with the client and contractor to utilize as many of the large, existing trees on site as possible to provide an instant impact. Useable spaces were created by removing a lane of traffic and parking. By reclaiming this space, the design team was able to activate approximately 1,000 linear feet of storefront and provide the tenants with valuable space immediately adjacent to their front door. Circulation was carefully considered to increase access to the retail frontage and office towers while also creating a vibrant public space to attract and retain users. Additionally, we strategically placed event spaces to provide the client with opportunities to expand the number of programmed activities throughout the year and increase pedestrian traffic to provide further incentives for corporate tenants. The project opened to the public in November 2019.
SanVoss is a 20,000 square-foot courtyard amenity space for a two-building office campus in West Houston. CCA worked with Capridge Partners and Abel Design Group (ADG) to reimagine an underutilized, outdated courtyard area. ADG revitalized the interior spaces while working with the landscape team to connect a new café with an outdoor dining terrace. Along with the dining space, CCA implemented a variety of seating typologies for outdoor leisure and workspaces. A one-of-a-kind shade structure serves as the center piece of the courtyard and provides a place of respite from the heat and a jewel piece visible from the adjacent offices at all levels. Plant materials were carefully selected to reflect the unique sun/shade and wind challenges, while drainage strategies carefully move water around the site through swales and landscape areas.
Project Blue Lake is an 11-acre campus in West Houston composed of two iconic office towers adjacent to the Sam Houston Tollway. CCA is working in conjunction with Gensler to update the campus into an innovative, multi-dimensional corporate environment which will serve as an example for future workplace developments.