With more than 140,000 office workers, downtown Houston is one of the city's most thriving daytime locales during the week. The Downtown Management District hopes to tap into this regular activity with plans for a pedestrian-friendly shopping corridor linking the retail-heavy blocks around Main and Dallas with the convention center area.
At the center of the proposed plan led by urban design firm AECOM, two iconic Main Street structures face major revitalization: the Foley Brothers building which houses Macy's and the marble-clad Sakowitz department store, used as a parking garage since the mid-1980s.
"The Foley's building used to be the company headquarters and maintained several levels of office space," said Angie Bertinot, director of marketing and retail development for the Downtown District. "Macy's didn't need the upstairs offices when they took over the department store space [in 2006] and much of the building has remained empty ever since."
Bertinot said the redevelopment project began as the Downtown Managment District sought ideas to incoporate the underutilized space above Macy's into a mixed-use schema. From there, the organization looked across the street to the Sakowitz building, convincing the owners to restore the first floor parking level to retail space. In the end, Bertinot said, the intersection will form the center of a new urban shopping district.
"Phase one of the new plan is the Macy's renovation," Bertinot said, indicating that discussions with the building's owners are well underway. "Phase two, the retail level in the Sakowitz, is also in negotiation with building developers. Future phases focus on major sidewalk and retail improvements along Main, Dallas and Lamar."
"This is a very unique plan, because owners were part of the process since the onset," she said. "They're already onboard."
The ultimate goal, according to the proposal, looks to a mixed‐use residential neighborhood stretching from Discovery Green to Main along Dallas and Lamar.
The Houston Downtown Management District will work with area property owners to fund the projects. Existing stores like Macy’s, Forever XXI, BCBG, Books-A-Million and Tipping Point are included in the new plans, although Bertinot suggested that higher-end retailers will be considered as well.