With notable exceptions that include a 40-story tower that was to be occupied by the beleaguered Enron Corp., Houston experienced a dearth of office building construction for more than a decade. Meanwhile, a veritable office building boom has occurred at The Woodlands, 35 miles north of downtown Houston. The nonresidential building component of The Woodlands was highlighted by the recent completion of its largest office building, a 30-story tower developed for Anadarko Petroleum Corporation by Houston-based Patrinely Group. It was designed by architect Gensler, continuing the firm's association with projects in The Woodlands. Gensler-designed buildings comprise more than half of the community's 10 million square feet of commercial space.
Gensler also designed the 360,000-sq.-ft. Hewitt Associates office campus, completed two years ago; the nine-story and six-story Waterway Plaza office buildings completed last year; two office buildings at Town Center; an 11-story building completed in 1999 that was initially built for Mobil Oil Company; and a 120,000-sq.-ft. laboratory/office building completed last year. Gensler is also architect for the Woodlands Convention Center & Hotel now under construction. D.E. Harvey Builders has been the contractor for many of these projects.
"It's been a pretty amazing run," says Norman Hoover, design director with Gensler's Houston office. He attributes the continuing string of commissions largely to the fact that individuals previously with other firms, who had either done projects at The Woodlands or had strong portfolios, now work for Gensler. With a staff of 200, Gensler has the largest architectural office in Houston, he says.
The Woodlands was one of 13 "new town" recipients of federal loan guarantees underwritten in the 1970s by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. More than 5,000 of The Woodland's 27,000 acres have been reserved for commercial development. The Woodlands now also has 27,000 residential units and a population of 67,000.