Inside the new POST Houston, a 5-acre rooftop park and food hall in downtown

Written by MLHA Team

November 23, 2021

One of the three atriums of the new POST Houston is photographed Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. The space will be dedicated for events, retail, exhibition and cultural events. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

POST Houston’s Skylawn, a roof park, has the view of downtown skyline Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday 13.

POST Houston project lead architect Salome Nikuradze talks about the designs to transform the 1960s warehouse building into a modern space consisted of three atriums Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Chòpnblock is one of the food venues at the food hall of Post Market Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Chòpnblock is one of the food venues at the food hall of Post Market Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Thrive Juices is one of the food venues at the food hall of Post Market Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov.  13.

Chef Christopher Haatuft, of Norway, talks about his Gulfstrømmen Seafood Market, his first restaurant in the U.S., located in the Post Market Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Chef Christopher Haatuft, of Norway, talks about the fresh catch from Gult of Mexico at his Gulfstrømmen Seafood Market, his first restaurant in the U.S., located in the Post Market Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

POST Houston lead architect Salome Nikuradze says the project wants to keep the unique characteristics, such as these industrial columns, of the 1960s warehouse building while transforming the space into a modern space Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

POST Houston project lead architect Salome Nikuradze demonstrates using a bean bag chair to relax at a public lounge Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

POST Houston lead architect Salome Nikuradze says the project wants to keep the unique characteristics, such as these industrial columns, of the 1960s warehouse building while transforming the space into a modern space Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Bean bag chairs are placed for people to relax at a public lounge at POST Houston Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

The roof, which is ETFE pillows, of POST Houston is photographed from the Skylawn, the roof park, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday 13.

The rooftop event pace at POST Houston is photographed Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Chef Christopher Haatuft, of Norway, talks about his Gulfstrømmen Seafood Market, his first restaurant in the U.S., located in the Post Market Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

One of the three atriums of the new POST Houston is photographed Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Even the POST Houston restrooms are designed with special light and color Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday Nov. 13.

An acre of soil soon to be a vegetable farm awaited tilling this week on POST Houston’s 5-acre rooftop park, the largest of its kind in the country.

Down a double helix-shaped grand central staircase, restaurant tenants readied their spaces, filling seafood market trays with fresh fish, plotting menu items and stocking kitchen shelves. Construction workers poured cement in working areas of the sprawling building. Equipment screeched and beeped.

The work was part of the finishing touches for the ambitious mixed-use project, which holds its grand opening Saturday. It’s the culmination of a yearslong redevelopment of the former Barbara Jordan Post Office.

The massive 550,000 square-foot building on Franklin — formerly a mail sorting warehouse — sits on 16 acres and boasts a first-floor food hall, concert venue, office space and rooftop gardens tucked inside Houston’s skyline. The government vacated the building in 2014 as part of a national post office selloff and Lovett Commercial, POST Houston’s developer, bought it the following year.

Sweets with L&L is one of the food venues at the food hall of Post Market Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

The firm took on the redevelopment project as a showcase for reusing old buildings rather than tearing them down, and as a way to rebel against the strip mall, said Kirby Liu, Lovett Commercial’s director of development and project manager for the POST Houston project.

“We’re trying to say no, you don’t have to destroy everything and this architecture should be for everyone,” he said. “And we’re trying to radiate beauty.”

On HoustonChronicle.com: ‘No plan B’ as downtown Houston’s POST redevelopment plows ahead

Built in 1961, the former post office was designed by Wilson Morris Crain & Anderson, a firm behind the Astrodome and the Houston Chronicle building at 4747 Southwest Freeway. It was named after Barbara Jordan, the first Black woman elected to the Texas Senate and the first Black woman from the south elected to Congress. A statue honoring her will be erected outside the former post office administration building, slated to be a hotel. Construction on that part of the project has yet to begin. A timeline has not been set.

Large swaths of the building remain unoccupied. The food hall is more than 80 percent leased, Liu said, but the rest of the building — retail and office space — is only about 35 percent leased, he said.

To be sure, there’s interest in the available space, he said. “We get around 30 leasing inquiries a day,” he said.

Even the POST Houston restrooms are designed with special light and color Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday Nov. 13.

Liu said he is carefully choosing his tenants. One of them is the fish market Christopher Haatuft is opening in the food hall. Golfstrømmen Seafood Market is the first American restaurant for Haatuft, known for his sustainability-focused restaurants in Norway. He said he was smitten with the space after a tour last year.

“It’s hard to turn something like this down,” he said, looking up at POST Houston’s double helix-shaped main staircase.

Haatuft is partnering on the market with Houston’s Paul Qui, a Top Chef and James Beard award winner who became a controversial figure after he was arrested during a domestic dispute with his then girlfriend — assault charges were later dropped. His involvement marks a return to the local dining scene for Qui, who will also operate three other concepts in the food hall.

Inside the first-floor food hall, just inside the main entrance, visitors get a glimpse of old and new. Original columns with chipped paint stand as monuments to the building’s past. Elaborate new staircases meet rust-stained slabs, intentionally left untouched.

Even the new staircases are suspended, touching the floor and ceiling at only the first and last steps.

“We’re being very deliberate in how we’re interacting with an existing building,” said Salome Nikuradze, project architect for the firm OMA, which designed the development. “They’re doing a dance with each other.”

Touring the new iteration of the former Barbara Jordan Post Office downtown Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Houston. POST Houston is set to have its grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Original openings near the ceiling where postal inspectors monitored postal employees remain intact, as are two old mail vaults in the lobby of the former administration building — slated to be the lobby of the site’s future hotel.

The old building was an industrial space with almost no natural light, Nikuradze said. To change that, contractors cut through slabs from the first floor to the roof, leaving a core of light at the building’s center. “This is the city square of the project,” she said.

Where the cutout exposed roof, a NASA-designed polymer membrane insulates the building and protects its insides from the elements while letting in daylight. Light spilled through aluminum caging that wrapped around the double helix staircase, serving as a guardrail.

Up the stairs to the rooftop, holes that once carried mail into the building’s belly now serve as skylights covered in clear plastic.

amanda.drane@chron.com

Twitter.com/amandadrane

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