Mayor's Office

Press Release

Two City of Houston Development Projects Earn Urban Land Institute 2013 Development of Distinction Award
Julia Ideson Building and Parks Department Headquarters Tie in Heritage Award Category



February 8, 2013 -- The Houston District Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) awarded two City of Houston projects its prestigious 2013 Development of Distinction Award.  The Julia Ideson Building, City of Houston - Public Library and Parks Department Headquarters, City of Houston Parks Department tied for the honors in the Heritage Award category.


The Development of Distinction awards program is the centerpiece of ULI’s efforts to identify and promote best practices in all types of real estate development. 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.


“We are honored to be recognized by the Urban Land Institute. Both the Julia Ideson and Parks Department Headquarters were milestones for our City with dedicated teams committed to their individual building histories, their responsible redevelopment and the impact on the communities they serve," said Mayor Annise Parker.


The Julia Ideson Building is a recorded Texas Historical Landmark, a City of Houston Protected Landmark, a Texas State Archaeological Landmark and a landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The building re-opened to the public on December 5, 2011 and since that time, it has received an outpouring of public acclaim and has been the site of numerous public and private events. Once again, it fulfills its role as a grand public building devoted to the community-at-large. The design team included Gensler (architects), Spaw Maxwell/Balfour Beatty Construction (general contractors), Ward, Getz & Associates, LLP (civil engineers), Haynes Whaley Associates, Inc. (structural engineers), and TBG Partners (landscape architects). See Julia Ideson Building from Urban Land Institute on vimeo.


The Parks Department Headquarters Building, or Gragg building, served as the first National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) headquarters in Houston from 1962-1964, has achieved a LEED gold certification and is also listed on local, state and national historic registries. The renovation of this significant landmark and its continuing use as a highly functional office environment landed this building in several publications including Texas Architect, National Recreation and Parks Association Magazine, Cite Magazine, and Yellow Magazine. It has also won several awards including GHP Good Brick Awards, Houston MOD Awards, and Texas Construction Magazine Award of Excellence. The design team included HarrisonKornberg (architects), Infrastructure Associates (civil engineers), Concept Engineers (structural engineers), and Asakura Robinson Company (landscape architects), and Gilbane (general contractor). See Parks Department Headquarters Building from Urban Land Institute on vimeo.


“The ULI Development of Distinction Award is unique because it recognizes the complete real estate project, from design to management to market success,” said Greg Erwin, firm-wide head of the Real Estate Development and Investments Practice Group for Winstead attorneys, and ULI Houston chair. “As an award-winner, these developments make a positive impact on their surroundings, the larger community, and serve as premier examples of projects utilizing best practices.”


Finalists were selected by a nominations panel of Houston real estate leaders: Ric Campo, CEO and Chairman, Camden; Sheila Condon, Partner, Clark Condon Associates; Robert M. Eury, President, Central Houston, Inc.; Lance Gilliam, Managing Partner, UCR moodyrambin PAGE; W. Douglas Goff, COO, The Johnson Development Corp.; Doyle A. Graham, Jr., President and CEO, Valencia Group; Jeff Ross, President and CEO, Houston Botanic Garden.  A jury of three national real estate experts traveled to Houston to tour all finalists and select the 2013 Development of Distinction winners. The jury included Mr.  Ronald A. Altoon, FAIA, Founding Design Partner, Altoon Partners, a 27-year old global practice, with offices in Los Angeles, Amsterdam, and Shanghai; Ms. Catherine Sloss Jones, president and CEO of Sloss Real Estate, a multi-disciplined commercial real estate firm in Birmingham, Alabama; and Ms. Jess Zimbabwe, Executive Director of the Urban Land Institute’s Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership, in Washington, DC.


Of the Julia Ideson Building, the following was noted:


  • “Stunning.” “It predates all of us and has been lovingly, sensitively brought back to its full glory.” Ron Altoon
  • “I didn’t want to stop taking pictures of it.” Catherine Sloss Jones
  • “It is a gift to the community.” Jess Zimbabwe


Of the Parks Department Headquarters Building, the following was noted:


  • “What a great place to bring friends and take pride in Houston’s place in world history.” Jess Zimbabwe
  • “Mid-Century Modern buildings like this one are the most vulnerable. They are overlooked as the treasure they really are because we don’t appreciate their place in history enough.” Catherine Sloss Jones
  • “It’s great to see a single-purpose building now totally flipped in use and even more functional.” “It has wonderful gathering spaces.” Ron Altoon


The 2013 Urban Land Institute Development of Distinction Awards was held on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. The winner in the For-Profit category and People’s Choice was H-E-B Montrose Market and the winner in the Non-Profit category was Houston Food Bank.


For more information about Urban Land Institute and the category winners and finalists, please visit