a chip off the blocks
Visionary new EaDo development upcycles warehouses into mixed-use hot spot
A potentially game-changing new plan aims to dramatically transform a forgotten East End industrial complex into a dynamic, bustling, mixed-use hub in one of Houston’s most promising neighborhoods.
Dubbed East Blocks, this new mixed-use development — jointly masterminded by two local real estate firms — will adapt a slew of mid-20century warehouses into a district of walkable restaurants, shops, offices, and green space. This walkable development, planned and launched via a partnership between Pagewood and Wile Interests, will begin at McKinney Street and Hutchins Street and extend 10 city blocks.
EaDo residents and regulars will recognize the first two retail tenants: the popular 8th Wonder Brewery, an East Downtown beer brewery, and favorite urban beer garden Pitch 25. Construction is slated to begin in the second quarter of 2024.
“We know EaDo deserves a dynamic destination with a unique mix of the best shopping, dining, and office available in the city,” Pagewood founder and managing principal Paul Coonrod remarked in a statement. “East Blocks, a project that is 50 years in the making, will be a pedestrian-friendly hub full of chef-driven restaurants, unique retail boutiques, creative office space, and parks with art for the local community and those visiting downtown and the nearby stadiums to gather.”
Top-flight dining, retail, and entertainment will mark the mixed-use hub.Rendering courtesy of Pagewood and Wile Interests
By the numbers, East Blocks will encompass nearly 513,000 square feet of mixed-use space, including 196,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and 112,000 square feet of office space. As parking is always a concern, East Blocks promises 205,000 square feet of parking with roughly 650 parking spaces, per press materials.
Addressing Houstonians’ demand for nature in urban settings, the development will bloom with more than four connected full city blocks of green space and activated gathering and event promenades, which will grow from former industrial railways.
Theme-wise, East Blocks’ design will hark to its industrial hub and railway roots. Noted architecture design firm Gensler incorporated the existing warehouse steel, brick, concrete, glass, and stucco. State-of-the-art office spaces with sweeping downtown views sit on an overbuild, while an open-air alleyway concept connects three of the buildings along Hutchins and McKinney Street.
Retail and restaurant storefronts on the ground level are envisioned with new glass storefronts and natural light to work the street scene in, as are the outdoor patios, which are also meant to foster an “all-day café culture,” per press materials.
Stroll and cycle
A pedestrian-minded approach fueled the design of a dedicated walking and biking loop, which connects the district to downtown and EaDo’s Colombia Tap hike & bike trails. Cyclists can rely on plentiful bike parking.
East Blocks design, spearheaded by world-renowned landscape architect and urban designer, SWA, creates an urban experience with over-sized walkways, shaded awnings, copious trees, street lighting, and assorted seating areas. Walkways adorned with native plants along with the existing Bastrop promenade will create a lush greenspace meant for picnics, farmer’s markets, fitness classes, children’s events, and more.
Reusing vs. razing
A study in adaptive reuse, East Blocks reflects the developers vision of upcycling over razing. “By almost every measure, it would be easier to demolish and redevelop these blocks from a clean slate,” Randolph Wile, president of Wile Interests, noted in a statement. “Instead, we, along with our architects, engineers and land planners, chose to embrace the charm and authenticity that is EaDo, and adapt the 80-year-old warehouses to meet code requirements and the desired uses.”
Once complete, East Blocks could potentially redefine a cast-aside part of the downtown area and mark a true first for the area. “Our teams are working diligently to infuse the diversity and personality found across Houston at East Blocks,” Coonrod added, “while also making it a truly walkable and bikeable destination the city has yet to see.”