Winlow Westheimer District
The Winlow Westheimer district is a redevelopment project located on Westheimer Boulevard in Houston, Texas. The project combined a number of pre-World War II masonry buildings in various stages of disrepair and deterioration and transformed it into a pedestrian destination place, indicative of European gathering places, conspicuously absent in Houston.
Each building was unique, yet the buildings had to flow as a cohesive unit. One building was built in the 1960’s and housed a fur storage facility and a lamp repair shop, which has now become a restaurant. The building’s facades were renovated by coordinating the existing fragile red clay block with simulated “Houston Brown” brick accents.
The next building was built in the 1930’s and originally served as a plumber’s shop for generations. This building is now a furniture store. Constructed entirely of “Houston Browns” (not produced in decades), careful effort was made to preserve the exterior. Miraculously, during its renovation and revitalization, perfectly preserved “Houston Browns” were discovered, allowing for the now undetectable renovation and reconstruction of the facade.
The next building was newly constructed and stood where two removed structures once stood, it is now a “lifestyle” retail store. To keep in character with the rest of the center, this structure was reconstructed with double wythe load bearing masonry walls with the use of “Old Chicago” brick. The sculpted brick tower is four wythes thick in some areas, helping to create its sculpted appearance.
The last and most historically significant structure was a 1920’s pure oil gas station, now Diedrich’s coffee shop. It was built entirely of wood mold “Groesbeck” brick that was originally manufactured in Groesbeck, Texas at the turn of the century. The building was long endeared by the neighborhood and residents feared that it would one day be torn down. The building was completely renovated and four hundred square feet were added to the building constructed entirely of Groesbeck brick. The brick was found, on a trip to Groesbeck, Texas, sitting in a backyard. It is next to impossible to tell where the original building ends and where the addition begins.
Winlow Westheimer District is considered a huge community and architectural success. The project has become a destination place for many in the community and a model for development and redevelopment in the city. This project has influenced the restoration of many other buildings in Houston that would have otherwise been torn down. Winlow Westheimer District was the direct impetus for Houston to re-write its zoning ordinance for the urban areas located “inside the loop”.