Former Texas Instruments Campus Now Instrumental in Creating New Town Center in Stafford
Cities across the country have been experiencing the effects – intended and unintended – of urban sprawl for decades. While some cities have turned away from sprawl and set in place boundaries and form-based codes, other cities – including Houston – have embraced sprawl and the near-term economic advantages it provides. But at a certain point, a city must look at whether its urban form is really serving its citizens.
The societal, economic, and environmental shortcomings of suburban development have been well-documented. Single-use zoning and cul-de-sac planning has forced people off the city’s sidewalks and into their vehicles, causing increased traffic, increased pollution, increased energy usage, and decreased quality of life. But a TBG project in the Houston suburb of Stafford is working on a solution.
A New Suburban Model
The GRID is a mixed-use redevelopment project planned for the former Texas Instruments campus in Stafford. Formerly a 192-acre complex devoted to the manufacture of computer processing products, Texas Instruments has been a fixture of the Stafford community for over 50 years, employing thousands over that time.
It was built in the mid-1970s and was one of the original catalysts for suburban growth in southwest Houston. Now, with suburban building practices facing scrutiny, Stafford has turned its eye to the creation of a retail core that will not only provide for new and existing residents of the city, but pull in consumers from across southwest Houston.
The GRID seeks to transform the Texas Instruments site into a new suburban town center, converting the site from a single-use suburban campus to a dense, mixed-use hub of urban activity. Its goal is to preserve several existing structures and build upon them to create a walkable urban-style core with tree-lined streets and innovative green spaces that tie together in a visually exciting design language. With a foundation of historic design features and a cutting-edge master plan, The GRID provides a double-edged source of form generation for its new built environment.
Designing a Sustainable Suburban Streetscape
The heart of The GRID lies in its two urban leisure spaces, dubbed The Core and The Grove. The Core will become the main urban square, and will feature event lawns, pop-up retail shops in the renovated Texas Instruments cooling towers.
The Grove is a smaller space built in an existing stand of heritage Live Oak trees. A cluster of retail and restaurant buildings will surround The Grove, providing a lively and informal courtyard under the boughs of the ancient trees.
Connecting the two focal spaces with the rest of the site is a network of streets and sidewalks. TBG identified designing the streetscape as the first pivotal step in creating the sustainable town center that the client envisioned. The design team began by analyzing the master plan and creating a multi-modal mobility plan for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles that focused on pedestrian safety and connectivity while ensuring that vehicular flow through the site was not compromised. The team developed a series of approaches to streetscape design to be employed across the site, so that some streets could accommodate more vehicular traffic, while others focused on an enhanced pedestrian realm. Lane widths, on-street parking, and landscape buffers were all employed to these ends.
Another important layer to The Grid’s streetscape is our approach to planting and irrigation design. We utilize irrigation components that help promote water conservation in combination with low-water-use planting. Our plant palette also lends itself to provide a much-needed urban habitat for native plants and insects. Low-water-use plants and natives helps to add another layer of sustainability to the landscape, ensuring that the landscape is resilient in both wet years and dry.
Creating a Sense of Place
With a lack of historic precedent in the majority of suburban Houston, the presence of a historic technologic campus at The GRID has created an opportunity for the TBG team to develop a design language that stands out among similar town-center style developments in southwest Houston. Rather than importing a theme to design around, the forms and features of The GRID will spring from the existing landscape.
Materials throughout the site have been chosen to call back to the old brick-and-mortar structures of the original Texas Instruments campus, while also providing shiny-new highlights that allude to both the cutting-edge nature of Texas Instruments’ work and the forward-thinking design of The GRID’s master plan. Built forms, both vertical and ground-plane, draw inspiration from the techno-centric theme of the microchip, providing a dual meaning in the connection of points as well as the advancement of cutting-edge design.
We are so excited to be involved in such an instrumental project for Stafford and Greater Houston.