2020 Bisnow Houston Architecture & Design Summit: Mixed-Use Holds the KeyFebruary 11, 2020 | By Wayne O'Neill
Driving down I-10 to West Houston, you’ll see cranes and construction projects at nearly every freeway exit. Led by innovative commercial real estate developments such as luxury apartments in shopping mall parking lots and mixed-use office and residential projects replacing outdated retail space, West Houston is booming with new construction that is attracting a younger demographic.
What we’re seeing with our eyes is also what we’re hearing with our ears. At the 2020 Bisnow Houston Architecture & Design Summit on January 29, the conversation focused on where to find more opportunities for mixed-use projects throughout Houston, and how to better monetize existing sites.
Ultimately, what’s happening? As the demographics have changed, so have the expectations for community-like spaces. Commercial real estate stakeholders need to adapt by creating more mixed-use spaces where residents can work, live, and play.
What’s the angle for the business community? There is a significant opportunity to leverage parking, mobility, retail, fitness, and especially design to captivate this younger demographic.
The Challenge: Getting People Out of Their Place
The driving force behind the conversation for Houston real estate design and development is creating spaces that people want to be part of.
There is a headwind of the younger demographic having everything available at the click of a button. Deliveries, food, groceries, and even medicine can be ordered on a tap and delivered directly to a person’s door. The younger demo also desires — and expects — work-from-home opportunities where they can complete their work tasks without leaving the couch.
Door-to-door service and work technology have made it possible for people to never leave their home or apartment — no joke. This has made it increasingly challenging for retail, restaurants, and offices to attract dollars at their physical space.
One of the first innovators in this area was Scott McClelland, president of HEB. Driving toward West Houston, you may be tempted to stop at the destination point of HEB on Bunker Hill. Thousands of customers flock to this spacious HEB on a given weekend afternoon for grocery shopping, food sampling, and an experience.
Then, HEB took it a step further in October 2019 when they opened their first mixed-use supermarket/office building/apartment complex in The Heights. This was a landmark moment for a major brand like HEB to embrace the opportunity for a “live, work, play” site appealing to Houston’s younger demographic.
It positioned HEB as no longer just a grocery store, but a major player in Houston’s commercial real estate market. Having a name attached to the mixed-use site also highlights the importance of a branded experience.
Branding: The Unheralded Key to Mixed-Use Success
An important topic of conversation during the Bisnow Houston Architecture & Design Summit was the importance of branding for mixed-use sites.
A great illustration is looking at who is involved in the development of mixed-use sites. It’s no longer just facility managers; it’s brand managers who are thinking about the psychographics of how to get people out of their houses.
The main questions being asked are: what would cause consumers to visit a hotel, restaurant, or retail location? What would cause talent to want to work for a company with an office in a mixed-use site?
The answer is co-branding. A mixed-use site needs to feel cohesive to create the desired experience to attract consumers — and their dollars.
- A retail location should not feel completely different than the adjacent hotel.
- A cafe on the first floor should feel the same as the office space on the second floor.
- A fitness center should be aligned with — not separated from — the main site.
- Parking and mobility should be prioritized in the design — not shoehorned in.
Brand managers are adding value to the site development by strategizing co-branded opportunities between the stakeholders involved in mixed-use projects.
Then, there is a new crop of architects that are bringing innovative ideas and concepts to the table to create the type of spaces that people want to get off their couch to partake in.
We heard from keynote speaker Jon Pickard of Pickard Chilton about some of the big design concepts that are in the works for our city. Some of these sites include the re-branded Hines Block 58 site in Downtown Houston that is expected to open in 2021.
Where are the new, innovative ideas coming from? We were excited to hear how younger architects, especially an influx of younger female architects, are introducing rich new ideas and concepts. These next-generation architects are influencing the way sites are being looked at and designs are being implemented.
The combination of co-branded opportunities and innovative designs can help get these projects off the ground. The next step is being able to create lift that turns concepts and plans into reality.
How RESET Supports Real Estate Development Projects
Hearing the discussions about real estate development projects in Houston got our team juiced up. Our team can help move these exciting new projects by identifying opportunities that are hiding in plain sight, such as concession financing or mobility financing opportunities.
The traditional, short-sighted approach is to get a team together, draft plans, and get the project done to start generating revenue. But, there is a more sustainable approach in mixed-use developments by engaging owners, service providers, brand managers, and clients throughout the development process. This creates more upside on rents, allows for the space to be leased up quicker, and helps sustain rents over the long haul.
RESET helps facilitate these projects by bringing equity to the table to move projects forward and create necessary lift in the environment of mixed-use residential, retail, hotel, and office space.
There is a significant opportunity for Houston’s movers and shakers to tap into mixed-use opportunities. The younger demographic is waiting for more areas to live, work, and play. Talk to RESET today about how we can support your role in mixed-use development projects.