Harvard, CU-Boulder Design Downtown Houston of Your Dreams, Possibly

That up above, the dreamy rendering of the area that used to house the downtown Post Office?

It's "Bayou Commons," which is "strategically designed to be downtown Houston's first residential district celebrating cultural diversity and urban lifestyle."

But don't go looking for it yet.

The design was the winning entry in the Urban Land Institute's Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. It comes from a team of Harvard and University of Colorado students, which beat out teams from Michigan, Berkeley and Columbia.

The annual competition involves solving an urban problem, and this year it was what to do with the downtown post office, which has been up for sale since 2009.

"The competition focused on the USPS property since it is considered by many stakeholders to be a key site to reconnect the Theater District, the Historic District and the greater downtown to the Buffalo Bayou," the Urban Land Institute said.

The winning design does a lot of things, ULI says:

The Bayou Commons design focused on attracting a mix of ethnic and socio-economic individuals through its enhanced Buffalo Bayou waterfront, variety of residential product, connection to adjacent districts and the University of Houston-Downtown campus, safe community environment, entrepreneurial office space, and new commuter rail station.

The scheme's distinctive features for the site include: an iconic pedestrian bridge spanning the bayou, unique architecture and amply-shaded sidewalks that create comfort and re-establishes downtown outdoor enjoyment in the hot and humid Houston climate and a new cultural center for exhibits and performances.

The other final four entries:

-- Michigan proposed "The Hill at Houston," with a "'Houston Highline' park."

-- Columbia University gave us "the Post," a neighborhood which included "a range of on-site amenities, such as a new post office, a vocational institution, a multi-sport field, a produce market within the renovated USPS distribution factory, and an enhanced pedestrian connection to the University of Houston, Downtown."

-- Berkeley's idea was "The Grand," with three major ingredients:

-- A new park space set below the elevation of Franklin Street offering an array of activities at the water's edge and also acting as a "performing landscape" to mitigate flooding and improve water quality.

-- The extension of Washington Street through the site connecting neighborhoods in the west to downtown, resulting in a new commercial corridor facing the park.

-- A multi-modal transit station that offers the greater downtown neighborhood easy access to any part of Houston or beyond by integrating Amtrak, metro park & ride, commuter rail, and light rail at this historic location.

The ULI takes pains to note "the competition is designed as an exercise; there is no intention that the students' plans will be implemented as part of any development of the site."

It adds, though, that "the schemes are expected to be realistic and practicable, incorporating the highest and best sustainable use, new economic development activities, evidence of market support for those activities, and financial justification for their design decisions."

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/09/4401021/joint-team-from-the-university.html#storylink=cpy

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