By Katherine Feser | Houston Chronicle
September 26, 2014 Updated: September 28, 2014 11:02pm
Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star has purchased a prime parcel near downtown for a new headquarters that will boost its visibility and allow for expansion.
The land, which totals just over half an acre at Washington Avenue and Franklin, will house a new 19,898-square-foot building for the organization, which connects at-risk youth with volunteer mentors. Spaces will be devoted to hosting events for training volunteers, matching activities for “Bigs” and “Littles” and youth development work.
“We selected 1003 Washington Avenue because it sits at the ideal Houston intersection of the children that we serve and the youthful volunteer demographic that tends to engage with Big Brothers Big Sisters the most,” Pierce Bush, executive vice president of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Houston, said in an email. “After studying other successful BBBS agencies in other cities and where their offices were located, we realized that having a more visible office (particularly to potential volunteers and donors) would ultimately allow us to serve more kids with our proven, professionally supported one-to-one volunteer-driven mentoring model.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters will relocate from 6437 High Star in the Sharpstown area. It will continue to occupy the building, which it sold to Legacy Health, until late spring before moving to temporary space while the building is constructed.
“We currently serve just over 2,000 Houston kids, but with 809 kids currently on our waiting list, we know we must do more to affect greater change in our community,” said Bush, who is also a Big Brother. He noted that the organization’s signage will be visible from both Interstate 45 and the Washington Avenue corridor, and the property is close to the new light-rail line on Capitol.
Finding the right location took nearly two years of viewing both existing buildings and land sites in west Houston, Midtown and the Central Business District.
“We looked at over 50 sites with them,” said Randy Hopper, senior vice president with the Houston office of The Weitzman Group. “In the end, it was better to buy and build exactly what you want than buy something existing and retrofit it.”
Groundbreaking is anticipated in the first quarter of 2015.
The building will have a contemporary flair with fun elements such as a yellow wall in the middle and window sills in shades of blue, purple and seafoam green.
A spacious atrium is designed to infuse a sense of energy while making people feel like they are immediately part of he organization.
“We tried to create a building that would be inviting and welcoming for multiple ages and multiple demographics,” said Tei Carpenter, founder and principal of Agency-Agency who worked with the Rice University School of Architecture on the conceptual design.
A building will be torn down to make way for the $6 million project, which includes the cost of land, construction, furniture and finishings.
“We have secured $2.25 million for the project to date – largely in donations from our board of directors who have all given – and are just about to approach many of the Houston charitable foundations and local philanthropists for their support,” Bush said.
Almost all of the work done so far has been donated, Bush said.
Jake Donaldson and his team at Three Square Design Group are turning the concepts created by the Rice University Architecture School and Carpenter, a Wortham visiting lecturer, into construction takeaways. Consulting firm Bury has donated civil, landscape, structural and mechanical-electrical-plumbing engineering work. Rogers-O’Brien has donated construction budgeting services. Triten Real Estate Partners donated development services. Vinson & Elkins has donated legal services for the acquisition.
David Cook of Cushman & Wakefield represented the seller.