Inside the Stacked Theaters and Studios of the New HSPVA, About To Go Up Downtown

New High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Caroline St. and Rusk St., Downtown, Houston

Here’s a cutaway view looking into what’s being called the final design of the new Downtown campus for Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Escalating construction costs have spurred HISD to accelerate the 2012 bond program that’s paying for the new HSPVA campus along with rebuilding programs at approximately 40 schools. So construction on the 5-story, 168,000-sq.-ft. building designed by the Houston office of Gensler is expected to begin within a few weeks, and end shortly after the 2017 school year begins.


New High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Caroline St. and Rusk St., Downtown, Houston

HSPVA is touting the facility’s proximity to Downtown’s arts and theater district, but the full-block surface parking lot surrounded by Caroline, Austin, Rusk, and Capitol streets that it’ll replace is closer to Minute Maid Park and Discovery Green than to the Alley Theater or Jones Hall. Metro trains will pass by the new school on 2 sides; dropoffs will be sheltered from traffic by a 3-lane drive entered from Caroline St. sitting under the building along Rusk St. (at left in both images above).

Here’s an older site plan, dating from March:

New High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Caroline St. and Rusk St., Downtown, Houston

The school will have its own 800-seat theater, dance and music studios, and several art galleries. Also planned: an outdoor dining area on the first level and an upper-story roof terrace near the library.

Images: Dave Einsel/Houston Independent School District

Show and Tell

15 Comment

  • Looks pretty cool; I hope they paid attention to proper sound isolation practices in walls, floors, and ceilings. There are some pretty close adjacencies of sound-producing spaces there.

  • A commentor on HAIF pointed out that 6 Houston Center is in the background. It is immediately to the left of HSPVA.

  • This looks amazing. Was just over at the current campus today, and this is going to make a huge difference! @marmer – luckily the recent school music wings I have been in have been much more thought-out when it comes to sound than older schools. I’m sure this will be the same. The look of the building reminds me a lot of the Center for Dance over on Preston – is it Gensler as well? I can’t recall.

  • This small and luxurious building, crowded all over itself such as it is, has absolutely no business being sited on a 1.4-acre downtown block. Surely HISD’s finite resources could be used in a more productive manner and without making another valuable downtown block exempt from taxation.

  • I agree that the building looks like it will be cool, but I would guess that HISD has some more urgent needs that deserve the funding that purchasing this Downtown space will consume.

  • HISD has owned this lot for decades, so there’s no real tax impact. It’s also considered the most suitable location for a performing arts High School, since it is close to the main venues for music and dance in the city. I don’t have any issues with this location, and the school has been needing a new building for a long time.

  • If history has taught us anything it’s that kids with talent and passion for performing and visual arts never achieve anything without lots of fancy buildings, equipment, attention, etc. Meanwhile, the talentless, passionless kids are helped best by being ignored.

  • That HISD has owned this lot for decades and done nothing with it is moronic. They should have sold the vacant land in the distant past, pocketed the proceeds and annual property taxes, and then bought additional land precisely where they need it precisely when they need it. There is nothing about this particular block that is so special or otherwise compelling that they should have owned it for so long.

    They can’t sell it yesterday anymore, but they can and should sell it today for a hefty sum and then build a bigger and perhaps less expensive and more functional campus elsewhere. It doesn’t even have to be very far away; there’s plenty of land east of 59 and north of the Buffalo Bayou.

  • What’s the latest word on what will happen to the current Montrose facility?

  • @Niche, there may an encumbrance on the property that prevents HISD from selling it. HISD isn’t big on keeping unused property.

  • I think the building looks great and I like its proximity to the Theater District.

  • I’m curious about how many students this new building will serve. The current school has 690 students in it. The article you linked shows the new building is 150,000+ square feet. As Terry Grier has said ( regarding Bellaire, Lamar and Chavez, he wants those principals to decrease enrollment at those schools (limited to 3000 students down from ~3800 now). Will the new HSPVA take in some of those magnet kids who won’t get into Lamar or Bellaire or Chavez in the future?

  • This is the yuppie equivalent of a Katy ISD football stadium.

  • The comments regarding the location of this great school as well as the comment on why HISD didn’t sell this land in the distant past, are truly moronic, to grab a phrase. Houston downtown is still a vast sea of parking lots, and in the distant past, it was even worse. If those writers would ever venture out to real cities, such as New York, Boston or San Francisco, they might realize that a true urban core is more than parking lots and empty office buildings. True urban cores have schools, churches, retail, housing and much more which create a rich fabric that draws both visitors and residents. Placing the high school for performing arts nears the theater district is exactly where it should be. And if you think your city is going to be shorted some tax revenue, I might suggest you set up a retail lemonade stand on one of the dozens of vacant lots in the heart of your city. Houston is making great strides to having a vibrant urban core, but as so many studies have pointed out, it’s biggest obstacle is the lagging lack of education of its denizens.

  • @ Larry Bonham: It is not (and should not be) within the purview of HISD’s mission to make any effort whatsoever toward downtown revitalization. Their job is to make optimal use of their finite resources in order to educate children.

    If there are entities like a City, a TIRZ, or a management district whose purview and legitimate interests may include downtown revitalization and they want to bring some part of HISD into downtown, then they themselves need to open a dialogue with HISD and agree to increase HISD’s finite budget in order to at least make it whole in terms of its mission.

    Also, nothing says “truly moronic” like opening up with an ad hominem.