LEED Gold Mixed-Use Community Planned for Houston Suburb

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorPearland, Texas—Historic Real Estate Inc., a Houston-based private real estate investment and development company, has released plans for the WaterLights District, a  $700 million, 155-acre master planned community designed for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification.WaterLights will offer up to 1,400 residences, in addition to retail, offices, restaurants, two hotels, a conference facility, up to 5,900 parking spaces and a public park along a Grand Canal waterway. The site will also create interest with an unusual Presidential Park & Gardens, which will feature busts of all U.S. Presidents.Groundbreaking is slated for April 2009, with first deliveries scheduled for April 2010.Despite the current economy, “The predictable job growth is one of the reasons we are master planning this [site],” asserts David Goswick, executive director of Historic Real Estate Inc. The development is located seven miles from Texas Medical Center, where there are $8 billion worth of construction and 35,000 new jobs. The market is comprised of “people who aren’t really looking for a traditional single-family home to rent or buy,” he notes, adding, “Owning a home is not near as hip as it once was. We think this creates a very strong multifamily luxury rental market.”Phase one of the project will include the first 40 acres for buildings, in addition to 11 acres devoted to park space. “The 40 acres have been master planned with streets and infrastructure, and we are in the early design phases of the first three buildings,” explains Steve Biegel, CEO of Matrix Spencer Architects, the master planner for the project.“We are currently interviewing finalists for the apartment site and we are going to subordinate or joint venture with an apartment developer. It’s a nontraditional approach in the sense that we are taking the market research and designing based on an internal multifamily specialist,” Goswick says. The contract is expected to be awarded within the next 30 days, or Historic Real Estate Inc. will proceed on its own. The first phase is slated to include 24 one- and two-bedroom residences, four to six restaurants, over 100,000 sq. ft. of office space and a 155-key hotel in the first three buildings, with an additional nine buildings to follow.In order to achieve the desired LEED Gold rating, “we approach this as a campus and the first step in our sustainability goal is to include as much infrastructure as we can that has green features,” Biegel tells MHN. Such features will include storm water detention from the site’s man-made lake to power the development’s streetlights and fountains.“This is one of the first [projects] that is approaching LEED certification on a campus design standpoint. Most developments are specific to particular buildings and sites. This is why we have taken the approach that we have to begin the sustainable design effort right from the first shovel of dirt,” says Biegel.With respect to the residences, WaterLights will include two types of green roofs: a reflective roof that combines light-colored and light-gauge metal to reflect heat and vegetated roofs for residents to maintain, Biegel explains. Additionally, floor plans will be open to minimize the number of hard walls, which will help with heating and cooling, and emergency and pathway lighting will use LEDs.