A new 6-story apartment building is being planned for the now-cleared Midtown block surrounded by Elgin, Smith, Rosalie, and Louisiana streets — one block north of the Calais at Courtland Square apartment complex and a block west of High Fashion Fabrics. A variance request for the 147-unit building doesn’t name the developer or show any renderings, but indicates that the bottom 2 stories of the building will consist of a parking garage, topped by 4 floors of apartments wrapped around an interior courtyard.
That’s similar to the configuration of some sections of the Calais — notably the dramatic arched streetfront along Smith St. (shown in the photo above), which contributes a dynamic tableau of headlights, bumpers, license plates, and the occasional hood ornament to passersby at street level. (The view changes daily.) The developers of this new apartment building are looking to recreate some of that Calais streetside magic, according to the variance:
* * *
There will be an enhanced 5′ sidewalk with extensive landscaping between the building and the sidewalk, continuing the effort to create a pedestrian-friendly environment throughout the Midtown area. Constructing the building close to the street, as is common in older sections of cities like Boston and New York, helps to create a sense of security and to define the public pedestrian space. Windows facing the street will encourage the residents to take “ownership,” or responsibility , for the sidewalk and street. The living units will be elevated above street level with windows looking onto the street at a height that will give the residents some separation and security, yet a good view of the sidewalk and street.
Fortunately, because it’s a block to the north, future residents of this new building will be able to avoid the no-doubt unpleasant view that the Calais’ Smith St.-facing tenants have to endure: of the restaurants and actual ground-floor retail space across the street. If the developers of the new apartment don’t get the variance and are instead required to set their building back from the property line by 10 feet or more, the application makes clear that that additional area won’t be made available for pedestrians, but instead “would likely be fenced and would not be useable outdoor space for the residents.”
The developers do promise this generous contribution to the pedestrian environment: “The loading berth area [along Rosalie St.] will have plantings, specialty paving and pedestrian benches so that it will function like a pedestrian plaza when not in use for trucks.”
- 6-story apts in southwest Midtown [HAIF]
- Houston Planning Commission Item 56 (PDF) [P&D]
- Previously on Swamplot: Artisans Filling Out the Mix in Midtown, Midtown Mix: Fit for Leasing, Going Up in Midtown: The Calais’s New Neighbor
Photo: Swamplot inbox