A major step in the ongoing transformation of the EaDo neighborhood was announced this week with a 10-block project set to create new restaurants, shops, green space and other uses in the area just east of Downtown Houston.
Development companies Pagewood and Wile Interests revealed plans for the project called East Blocks that will convert warehouses along Hutchins Street two blocks east of I-59. Construction on the multi-phased project is expected to begin in 2024. Phase one would include 513,000 square feet of mixed-use space including 196,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 112,000 square feet of office space and roughly 650 parking spaces. More than four connected full city blocks of green space—former railways turned into activated gathering and event promenades—will connect multiple buildings and enhance the neighborhood’s community, the companies said.
Instead of tearing down the mid-century warehouses that currently line the project footprint, the developers plan to reuse the existing buildings—an increasingly popular approach in a city that has tended to eschew historic spaces in favor of new construction.
Two existing businesses, 8th Wonder Brewery and Pitch 25, will remain open as the first retail tenants of East Blocks.
“By almost every measure, it would be easier to demolish and redevelop these blocks from a clean slate,” said Randolph Wile, President of Wile Interests. “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.”
East Blocks will feature an open-air alleyway and lively new social settings to connect three of the buildings along Hutchins and McKinney Street. To enhance retail and restaurant storefronts on the ground level, oversized openings featuring new glass storefronts in the warehouse facades will bring in natural light and engage with the street scene. Outdoor seating patios have been designed to encourage an all-day café culture and provide a physical connection to the adjacent street scene, the companies said.
“Our teams are working diligently to infuse the diversity and personality found across Houston at East Blocks, while also making it a truly walkable and bikeable destination the city has yet to see,” said Paul Coonrod, Founder and Managing Principal of Pagewood. “Once complete, visitors can expect a dynamic destination with unique retail, restaurants and office space paired with local art, events with sport teams and charities, and experiences that highlight Houston’s position as a global, first-class city.”
The project’s landscape architect and urban designer, SWA, has designed a robust landscape plan that creates a safe and walkable, urban environment including over-sized walkways, shaded awnings, mature trees, street lighting, and a collection of seating areas to characterize the exterior East Blocks experience.
East Blocks will also feature a dedicated walking and biking loop connecting the district to downtown and the Colombia Tap hike & bike trails that run from EaDo throughout the East End.
The project is happening just steps from where the North Houston Highway Improvement Project aims to align and reconstruct I-59 and I-45 through Downtown, putting the roadway below grade and connecting Downtown to the EaDo neighborhood at street level.