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Media Contacts: Ann Taylor; ann.taylor@uli.org; (713) 349-8821 Claudia Morlan; claudia@elmorepr.com; (832) 725-6884

The Woodlands Development Company, BG Group Place, Historic Fire Station No. 6, and James Berry Elementary School Receive Top Honors

HOUSTON – February 4, 2014 – The Houston District Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) today announced its 2014 Development of Distinction Awards presented by Winstead Attorneys at the Rice Crystal Ballroom. The Development of Distinction awards program is the centerpiece of ULI’s efforts to recognize developments that exemplify best practices in design, construction, economic viability, community health, marketing and management.

News coverage of the program in the Houston Business Journal is available online here.

Nancy Sarnoff covered the Awards announcement for the Houston Chronicle. 

And GlobeSt. reported on the event as well.


Watch video profiles of all the finalists and the jury online here.

The Houston award is modeled on the ULI Awards for Excellence global competition, which has been recognizing best practices in real estate development for more than 30 years.

This year marks the first year ULI Houston honored an outstanding project and its leadership with the Vision Award for Exemplary Leadership.

The Vision Award for Exemplary Leadership is awarded to The Woodlands Development Company for The Woodlands Master Plan. The Woodlands, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Howard Hughes Corporation, is a 28,000-acre development located 27 miles north of Houston. It ranks among the top –selling master-planned communities in the U.S. Opened in 1974 by visionary George Mitchell, The Woodlands from its inception was built as a “new town,” using successful models of the nation’s then few large master-planned communities as a foundation. The Woodlands went beyond the mortar of live-work-play fundamentals to add environmental preservation and social consciousness to the mix, considerations that color every aspect of development as evidenced by the forests that line major thoroughfares shielding homes and businesses. Home to 105,000 people, The Woodlands has strived to create jobs in the area and currently has a workforce of 51,940 and is the primary economic generator for Montgomery County. Furthermore, The Woodlands is a regional entertainment destination, with The Woodlands Waterway District, The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands Resort and abundant shopping and dining opportunities. See photo.

In the For-Profit Category, there were two winners: BG Group Place (large scale) and Historic Fire Station No. 6 (small scale project).

BG Group Place was developed by Hines and is owned by Invesco. With its grand design, technological and sustainable innovations and its far-reaching vision, BG Group Place, located in the Central Business District, provides an image of strength and environmental responsibility to an area of the city that was primed for redevelopment. The Houston Chronicle called this site the “most blighted block in all of downtown” in 2007. However, the positive impact of this Hines development has radiated out and impacted the surrounding neighborhood, which includes several historic, important Houston assets now undergoing renovation. The design team included Pickard Chilton and Kendall Heaton Associates (architects), Harvey Builders (general contractor). See photo.

Historic Fire Station No. 6 was developed and is owned by 1702 Washington Avenue, LTD. On Washington Avenue's east end, this fire station, which was originally established in 1903, was successfully repurposed from an historic but dilapidated structure into an adaptive new use, as offices of creative design firm Axiom. The National Trust of Historic Preservation in Washington D.C. noted, “Today, Fire Station 6 in Houston is a beacon for historic adaption done right.” Houston Archaeological and Historic Commission (HAHC) noted, “By capturing the spirit and character of historic Fire Station 6, while creating a 21st century purpose for the landmark, this great building will survive." This privately-funded historic preservation not only saved the built environment, but also preserves our community heritage for future generations. The design team included Carlin/White Associates (architects), 12-15 Corporation (general contractor), Chaffin Associates (civil engineers), Wylie Consulting Engineers (structural engineer) and LANDology (landscape architects). See photo.

The winner in the Non-Profit Category was James Berry Elementary School, which was developed and is owned by the Houston Independent School District. Berry Elementary is more than just a school. It’s a project that changed the community. While the school is located in a disadvantaged neighborhood in Northeast Houston, it had an overwhelming effect on the neighborhood as the community worked together to fix up housing and clean up the local park. Berry Elementary also functions as a neighborhood community center. Since the opening of the new school, attendance has soared to 98% and enrollment is at an all-time high. Berry Elementary credits the new school with boosting teacher morale and dramatically reduced sick days. The school went from a below average to a Magnet School of America’s 2013 Merit Schools of Distinction. The school achieved LEED certification, while coming in $500,000 under budget. The design team included Gensler (architects), Gamma Construction Company (general contractors), Charles D. Gooden Consulting Engineers (civil engineers), Ingenium, Inc. (structural engineers), and Wong & Associates Inc. (landscape architects). See photo.

The winner in the People’s Choice Category, and finalist in the Non-Profit Category, was Friends For Life – The Don Sanders Adoption Center, developed and owned by Friends for Life. Friends For Life is the only LEED certified animal shelter in Houston and one of only a handful of such shelters in the country. Designed by Gensler, the Don Sanders Adoption Center redefines the animal shelter, celebrates the sanctity of life and underscores the synergy between animals, humans and the environment. Built in an existing warehouse on a .33 acre urban site in Houston’s Heights neighborhood, every detail was carefully considered to make it comfortable, clean and restorative for animal and human occupants alike. The design team included Gensler (architects), Sundance Construction Company (general contractors), Garza+McLain Structural Engineers, Inc. See photo.

“This year’s Development of Distinction presented one of the strongest fields of finalists we’ve seen,” said Greg Erwin, firm-wide head of the Real Estate Development and Investments Practice Group for Winstead attorneys, and ULI Houston chair. “Each winner is an outstanding example of the ‘complete real estate project’ and has truly brought about positive impact on our community.”

A prestigious nominations panel of real estate leaders was assembled by the 2013 ULI Houston Development of Distinction awards committee to select finalists. The nominations panel included: Cydney Donnell, director of real estate programs - Texas A&M University; Steve Lerner, president and CEO - Redstone Real Estate; Shon Link, vice president, development - Midway; Bill Odle, managing principal - TBG Partners; Marlene Gafrick, former director of planning and development – City of Houston; Paula Thoreen, principal - ThoreenHale Commercial Real Estate Advisors; and Phoebe Tudor, chair - Julia Ideson Library Board.

A jury of independent experts toured each finalist and they alone selected the winners. This year’s jury included: Eric Swanson, director of real estate investment at Odebrecht in Miami; Sean M. (Monte) Wilson, director of Jacobs’ Advance Planning Group in Atlanta, and a registered landscape architect and a LEED Green Associate; and Felix Ciampa, executive director, Urban Land Institute-New York.

ULI also honored these 2014 finalists and honorable mentions:

In the For-Profit category – BBVA Compass Stadium, developed by AEG / ICON Venue / City of Houston / Harris County - Houston Sports Authority, and owned by Harris County – Houston Sports Authority.

In the Non-Profit category – Friends for Life – The Don Sanders Adoption Center, developed and owned by Friends for Life.

Honorable mention – Casa de Esperanza, developed by David Weekley Homes and owned by Casa de Esperanza. Honorable mention – Dress for Success Houston, developed and owned by Dress for Success Houston.

High resolution images for all winners and finalists are here. A photo gallery of the event is online here.For a list of past ULI Development of Distinction winners, visit our website.


About the Urban Land Institute
The Urban Land Institute (www.uli.org) is a global nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the Institute has about 30,000 members representing the entire spectrum of real estate development and land use discipline. For more information about ULI Houston, visit ww.houston.uli.org.