An interpretation of mixed-use development, The Center for Pursuit’s next-generation facility broke ground this week in Houston’s East End, where it will relocate in 2021 to serve, support and empower the city’s adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
From its new campus, which starts construction next month, the nonprofit organization will also reach out into its neighboring communities with programs, public spaces and some retail, including a café.
Sitting on 3.8 acres of previously paved property, the new facility will encompass four buildings totaling 129,000 square feet, a 7,000-square-foot park and a 257-car parking structure.
The new buildings include a residential tower of 41 units; a programs building for adult training, employment services, and adult activities; a health and wellness building with fitness, medical clinic, cafeteria and café; and an administration building housing a welcome center, conference space, incubator workspace for other non-profit startups and one of the vocational programs.
A United Way agency, the 60-year-old organization now serves 450 clients, has 40 residents and provides daycare to 300 severely disabled adults, many of which arrive by Metro van daily, according to organization sources at the groundbreaking event.
The pedestrian-friendly project’s new location on an infill parcel near downtown is served by Houston’s Metro Rail, something key to site selection, project leaders said at the event, attended by representatives of city, county and state government, related agencies, East End community leaders and current clients.
Including property acquisition and improvements, the project’s total cost has an estimated value of $71 million, said Charles C. Canton, the center’s president, and CEO. Construction is slated to begin in early February, with completion substantially completed in early 2021, he noted in a follow-up statement.
Funds raised to date have included the sale of the organization’s long-term facility on six acres overlooking Buffalo Bayou as well as a phased capital campaign. The most recent push, tagged “Strive,” closes the remaining $16.5 million sought, Canton said.
Part of the new project’s vision process (and fundraising) was a 4,000-mile bike ride to assess best practices at 30 facilities coast-to-coast, led by David C. Baldwin of SCFPartners, a board member and Pursuit Foundation trustee, and a series of charrettes. Integrating and providing choice to the spectrum of constituencies served by the facility was paramount to the planning, he said.
Historic Community, Industrial Neighborhood
Houston’s East End is a multi-ethnic community where many of the city’s early industrial properties are under redevelopment, re-purposing, and replacement by both commercial and residential uses, especially townhomes.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Bayou Partnership last fall revealed its park and recreation master plan for the five-mile stretch of the bayou winding through the East End.
With gentrification concerns, a neighborhood issue, having community input as part of the new center’s planning process so that there was a relationship of trust established, said Marilu Garza, chief development officer for the organization.
Gensler’s Houston office designed the campus, excluding the residential tower, designed by Tramonte Design Studio with contractor Arch-Con.
The larger project team also includes landscape architects TBG Partners and construction by Harvey-Cleary.
“The beauty of the design is that it supports The Center’s mission of everyone having value and purpose,” noted Kristopher Stuart, Gensler principal, and design director, in a follow-up inquiry. “The Center for Pursuit and its board are to be applauded for the bold initiative they are taking to imagine a facility that not only serves their clients differently but also helps the rest of the society imagine a different role for these unique individuals.”
Open and Activated for Opportunity and Outreach
The project required creating a collection of buildings that serve their unique purpose while embracing the unique East End community, Stuart said. The buildings incorporate warehouse-style brick and exposed, painted steel beams to “reflect the historically industrial yet emerging character” of Houston east of downtown. In addition, the “aspiration” was for the facility to be embedded in the life of the surrounding community as well as a participant in it.
Garza noted the new site and build-out has higher visibility for the organization. “We want to be seen,” she said. “It’s important that the community embrace us.”
Canton said, “We’re excited by the quality of the new buildings.” To have renovated the existing ’70s vintage existing facility was cost-prohibitive. Hanover Co. acquired the property last year as part of its plans for a mixed-use development.
Since then, The Center for Pursuit has moved its administrative functions, programming, and daycare for severely disabling clients to a temporary facility south of downtown. The organization’s residential building, however, remains in use until the completion of the new residential building on the new campus, so that residents need only be moved once, Garza said.
Margaret Wallace Brown, city planning director, said the center’s new campus is an example of transit-oriented development, a city initiative.
At the groundbreaking, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke of Houston’s notable diversity, adding “being diverse means little if you’re not inclusive,” which the new facility has as part of its mission. The beauty of the center’s build-out — for a population often overlooked, he said — “speaks to our city’s values.”