The old Barbara Jordan Post Office, a sprawling former USPS hub and mail sorting warehouse on the industrial northwestern fringes of downtown Houston, is once again whirring with activity after its OMA-led reawakening as a mixed-use cultural complex. The first phase of the metamorphic POST Houston adaptive reuse project, designed by OMA New York partner Jason Long, has reached “significant completion” and major elements of the complex, including a food hall and “Texas-sized” rooftop park, were unveiled to an estimated 40,000 eager Houstonians on November 13 for a weekend of special programming at the resuscitated landmark building.
Described by OMA as “an active and mutable collection of programs” the multitasking POST Houston is envisioned as a space calibrated to “evolve together with Houston as the city continues to diversify not only demographically but also culturally, socially, and economically.”
Built in 1962, the concrete-finned post office building (it was designed by Wilson Morris Crain & Anderson of Astrodome fame) and its colossal warehouse served as an active USPS facility up until 2014, when the half-million-square-foot complex was shuttered and its future was thrown into a state of uncertainty. Plans to transform the property into what AN previously referred to as a “mixed-use bonanza” were first revealed in 2019, with master plan studies commencing three years before that. Houston-based Lovett Commercial is spearheading the ambitious redevelopment scheme that, in its first phase, “balances re-use with surgical interventions that integrate the 16-acre site into the fabric of the downtown,” according to OMA.
Key features of the reactivated Barbara Jordan Post Office revealed over two years ago are now complete or underway as part of the first redevelopment phase. That includes a swath of second-level collaborative workspaces featuring skylights and expansive floor plates, the 30 vendor-strong POST Market food hall on the retail and dining-dedicated ground level, and the expansive Skylawn rooftop park.
Spanning 170,000 square feet and offering visitors unobstructed views of the downtown Houston skyline, the rooftop oasis-slash-gathering-space features gardens, a sizable urban farm, recreational zones, dining, dedicated al fresco performance and event space, and more. As noted in an OMA press release, the Bayou City’s new park-topped destination serves as a “link to a new public space within the city and dramatic view out over its juxtapositions—of infrastructure, business ambition, and natural vitality.”
“POST Houston will be a microcosm of the diversity that makes the city itself so exciting: an agglomeration of culture, food, and tropical urbanism housed within a solid concrete shell,” added Long in a statement. “The impact should be larger than even the massive footprint of the warehouse itself. By cutting into the building and drawing people in and through it, we are aiming to fold different programs into every corner—weddings next to food halls next to concerts next to new ways of working—and to turn Houston to a view that reveals the city’s radical ambition.”
Located within the eastern wing of the revamped postal facility is 713 Musical Hall (formerly known as The Terminal), a 5,000-person capacity Live Nation performance venue also designed by Jason Long/OMA with subtle nods to Houston’s aerospace legacy and that serves as the “cultural anchor” of POST HOUSTON. Taking the stage in the upcoming weeks and months are an eclectic number of acts including DaBaby, Chelsea Handler, Erasure, and Willie Nelson & Friends.
Back in the central 50,000-square-foot portion of reactivated USPS warehouse are three central atria dubbed X, O, and Z. Each atrium—O is positioned in the physical middle of the building and includes the food hall—features a grand staircase that provides direct access to Skylawn. “The stairs are distinct in character, structure, and material, but all are designed to encourage interaction,” explained OMA. “Their paths are doubled, intertwined, and expanded to provide not just trajectories up to the roof but places for accidental encounter—each is an instrument to bring people together.”
Writing for the Houston Chronicle, Abigail Rosenthal praised POST Houston, even in its not-yet-completed state, as having the rare potential to serve as a major crowd-drawing boon for downtown Houston—not historically a major draw for tourists or locals—that serves as an all-day, all-under-one-roof destination much like enclosed shopping malls of yore once did. Within the old warehouse, visitors can eat (many times over), take in an art exhibition or performance, shop, and, last but not least, unwind, socialize, and attend a yoga class on the rooftop park. And with the 713 Music Hall also forming part of the multifaceted compound, visitors can even take in a concert or major comedy act at the end of the day.
Bringing the first phase of POST Houston to life alongside OMA were a team of core collaborators including Chicago-based landscape architecture firm Hoerr Schaudt, Powers Brown Architecture, LUCID, MTWTF, Formation, Dot Dash, and Harvey Builders.
Be sure to keep an eye out for a forthcoming deep dive into the POST Houston from AN’s Texas-based editor-in-chief, Aaron Seward.