360-unit apartment building breaks ground in Midway’s massive East River development

Houston-based Midway has broken ground on a five-story, 360-unit multifamily complex in its sprawling East River development.

The Laura, as the new complex will be called, is part of the first phase of East River, which also includes commercial spaces that broke ground recently.

“We are excited to kick off construction on The Laura, which is sure to be one of our most impressive residential communities to date,” said Anna Deans, vice president of investment and development for Midway. “With its authentic architecture; balance of amenities; access to East River’s retail, dining and entertainment offerings; and connection to the Buffalo Bayou trail system, The Laura will bridge rich culture and commerce within East River’s 150-acre mixed-use destination.”

The Laura is located at the entry point of East River and is a westward extension of the historic Fifth Ward and East End neighborhoods, Midway said in a news release.

The development takes its name from the steamboat the Allen brothers took to demonstrate Buffalo River’s navigability in 1837, a daring move that later helped to establish the Port of Houston, the company noted.

The Laura will have an industrial feel, taking inspiration from the steamboat’s steel cylinders, valves, paddlewheels and spokes as well as from other commercial businesses like railroads, warehouses and the port’s shipping containers.

The building’s interiors were designed by Houston-based Mayfield and Ragni Studio (MaRS).

The Laura’s amenity lounge, leasing and lobby areas will be outfitted with a blend of reclaimed and new materials, which Midway said will pay homage to the area’s history as well as where it stands today.

The design architect, Houston-based Munoz + Albin Architecture and Planning, and the architect of record, Houston-based EDI International, came up with an unconventional layout that aims to maximize views from each of the building’s units.

The two-story lobby will continue the warehouse aesthetic, featuring five shipping containers arranged to create workspaces and a coffee bar.

Amenities will be located within the central portion of the building’s ground floor and will include a fitness center, dog park, pool, grilling stations, outdoor yoga space, lawn for games and passive recreation and cabanas. The exterior of the building will also house ground-floor retail.

Many of the other companies working to erect The Laura hail from Texas, Midway said, including OJB Landscape Architecture; OHT Partners, multifamily general contractor; HE, multifamily mechanical, electric and plumbing; BGE Inc., civil engineer; and Schultz Burman Engineering PLLC, multifamily structural engineer. Additionally, Teal, which has signed on to rent office space in East River’s first phase, will be providing hot water services to residents in The Laura through a central plant.

Midway’s in-house property operations team will manage The Laura.

The Laura’s first units are slated for delivery in late 2023.

Midway bought 136 acres of its East River development in July 2016. The site used to belong to Houston-based KBR and is bordered by little over a mile of Buffalo Bayou. Previously announced plans for the 150-acre project include 8.9 million square feet of office space, 1,440 multifamily units, 390 hotel rooms and 475 single-family homes.

In the past several months, Midway has announced several tenants that have leased space in the development’s first phase.

Last week, Illinois-based Impact Networking leased 16,000 square feet of office space in the East River 1 building, making the company the largest office tenant to sign onto the project thus far. Impact Networking also will serve as Midway’s managed IT service provider.

With the Impact Networking lease, only one floor remains available in East River 1 (Building C). Other companies that have preleased space in the office building include Houston-based commercial architecture firm Method Architecture, which will occupy 9,000 square feet, and Teal, which leased 12,000 square feet for its new corporate headquarters.

In October, Midway announced Broham Fine Soul Food & Groceries, Lick Honest Ice Creams and Urbn Dental have signed on as retail tenants in Phase I. Broham Fine Soul Food & Groceries, a new concept created by local James Beard Award-nominated chef Jonny Rhodes, will occupy 4,000 square feet in The Depot (the ground level of a garage structure). Urbn Dental leased a 2,612-square-foot space in The Depot, and Austin-based Lick Honest Ice Creams leased a 1,124-square-foot space in East River 1 (Building C).

Phase I broke ground in August. It will include approximately 250,000 square feet of office space, 110,000 square feet of retail space and more than 13,000 square feet of plaza greenspace. The owners of The Astorian event venue near Sawyer Yards will open a new 20,000-square-foot private event space and rooftop bar in Trail Head 1 (Building F).

Phase I is slated to be complete in 2023. Meanwhile, East River 9, a nine-hole, par-three golf course open to the public, and Riverhouse Houston, a family-friendly restaurant and patio bar, are expected to open in 2022.

By Jeff Jeffrey - Houston Business Journal