East Downtown is changing dramatically. Once abandoned and underutilized buildings are being repurposed in dynamic ways that benefit the community and the landscape. These changes recently garnered attention from the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, who awarded this year’s Civic Vision Award to the East Downtown Management District (EDMD), led by Executive Director Anton Sinkewich.
The Civic Vision Award is given to a member of the Houston area community that has made a significant and positive impact to the built environment through their advocacy, volunteer, and professional work on a large scale.
“East Downtown Houston has experienced a renaissance in the last five years or so, becoming arguably the coolest, hippest area in Houston,” said AIA Houston Board President Derek Webb. “There has been an explosion of housing in the area along with new restaurants, cafes and bars, much of which is located in adapted structures, whereby the character of East Downtown remains intact through the thoughtful reuse of the existing building stock. This progress was led by the vision of Anton Sinkewich and the East Downtown Management District.”
One developer who saw potential in the area early on was Michael Sperandio with Ancorian Development. Ancorian started acquiring property in late 2015 and since opened phase one of East Village at St. Emanuel and Hutchins streets, a mixed-use project that will eventually re-develop 100,000 square feet of space.
The first building in the development was a mid-century red clay brick structure Sperandio called a “pure adaptive re-use,” with a rooftop deck added to service nightclub/restaurant Chapman & Kirby.
Sperandio said that his company worked closely with EaDo District to coordinate with the city regarding the variance needed for the 16-foot sidewalks that were added in front of the building.
“We didn’t want to tear the buildings down,” said Sperandio. “It turned out really well because we wanted people to get out and walk.”
Another EaDo believer, local preservationist David Denenburg, said that his initial draw to the area was the historic buildings he wanted to renovate there.
Denenburg purchased the 1938 Art Moderne Schlumberger former headquarters, named to the Register of Historic Places in the summer of 2018, in addition to the Cheek-Neal Coffee building.
Now a board member of the EaDo District, Denenburg appreciates the purposeful way the district approaches preservation of its historic buildings.
The character of its neighborhoods makes East Downtown an attractive place for growth, and Executive Director Anton Sinkewich feels confident that current conditions in the area are ideal for EaDo to emerge as a great urban core neighborhood.
“We have great bones to build on—such as a very walkable small block grid of downtown streets, great old buildings that give the area a unique character, and an incredibly fun and creative population of businesses and residents,” said Sinkewich. “Much of the area is served by high quality transportation, all immediately adjacent to the region’s largest job centers, as well as within the city’s sports, convention, and entertainment campus on Downtown’s eastern edge.”
With exciting projects in the works from developers in conjunction with guidance from EaDo District, the area is growing and staying true to its roots as the art and soul of the city.