A longtime Houston staple near our local area is set to undergo a massive facelift while maintaining the atmosphere Houstonians crave.
Last week, MLB Capital Partners revealed its long-awaited plans to redevelop the Houston Farmer’s Market along Airline Drive into a food market Mecca on the east side of the Heights. Over the next three years, MLB Capital Partners plans to transform it into a “destination retail experience” offering more diversified products, renovated facilities and community programming along with the market’s natural charm.
“As a visitor of this market for over three decades, this is a project I am very passionate about,” said MLB Capital Managing Partner Todd Mason, noting the group’s interest ebbed and flowed for more than a decade, but finally came to fruition about 18 months ago. “Our goal is to maintain the cultural aspects that are synonymous with this great market, while enhancing the visitor experience and reinvigorating the Houston Farmers’ Market as a destination for all Houstonians.”
Mason and MLB Capital purchased the 17.67-acre property located at 2520 Airline Dr. from The Farmers’ Marketing Association of Houston Inc., who owned and operated the market since its inception in 1942. In addition to improvements to the existing facilities, Mason estimates the facility will add between 50 and 60,000 square feet of retail space in preparation for a bevy of new merchants and culinary concepts, modernizing the market while maintaining the market’s inherent charm.
“We do want to maintain it as a farmer’s market, a produce market, basically exactly what it is today. We want to keep the variety of options here already, but we also want to upgrade a lot of the space so we can bring additional offerings like a butcher shop, cheese shop and more,” Mason said. “You can’t do that in the space today, by code, so we’ll have to upgrade for all of those things to happen.”
Mason believes the enhanced facilities upgraded with modern infrastructure, including new climate-controlled spaces, shaded open-air market areas, restrooms, and common seating areas will establish an environment ideal for extended hours of enjoyment even in the blazing Texas summer. Other additions to the property will include more visible, organized parking, traffic circulation, defined sidewalks, site landscaping and dedicated green spaces, which will serve as a setting for community programming such as chef demonstrations, wine tastings, local entertainment and more.
“We don’t want it to become too much food and beverage, but we do want to have it be a place you come and enjoy a meal and spend a few hours out here with your family,” he said.
In addition to James Beard award-winning chef Chris Shepherd and restauranteur Kevin Floyd , MLB’s project partners include Clark Condon Associates, Studio RED Architects, Gunda Corporation and Arch-Con Construction, who have assisted MLB Capital in attempts to create a comfortable haven that becomes more than just a market.
“More and more Houstonians are seeking indoor/outdoor experiences. If the space is designed with appropriate cooling, air movement and shade – patrons will opt to spend time outside, despite the Houston climate,” added Sheila Condon of Clark Condon Associates. “This project is an opportunity to build on the growing popularity of experiential destinations and contribute to visitors’ quality of life by creating a unique location, focused on healthy eating and living.”
Project upgrades should commence in spring 2018 according to Mason, and will work in phases in order to keep the market up and running during renovations. Upon completion around 2021, he said the property along Airline Drive on the east side of the Heights will create its own buzz and enhance the area’s market scene in a manner the weekly pop-ups (though a good concept) simply cannot sustain.
“This is just a different operation, and it’s the only one I know of in the Houston region,” he said. “Once we get the offerings in there that we want to, you won’t be able to find anything like it in the area.”