Historic Heights waterworks available for redevelopment

The City of Houston has placed the historic Heights waterworks on the market. The two-acre site between West 19th and West 20th streets at Nicholson contains a 750,000-gallon brick reservoir building from 1928 that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a 1939 Art Deco pumping station built by the Works Progress Administration and a 1949 pumping station. The property anchors the west end of the shopping district along West 19th Street, the main commercial street in Houston Heights, which is experiencing significant retail redevelopment.

The decommissioned water plant is a City of Houston protected landmark, which means it cannot be demolished; a certified rehabilitation of the historic structures could qualify for city preservation incentives with the approval of the Houston Archeological & Historical Commission and City Council.

Preservation Houston has been in contact with Texas Historical Commission, which indicated that the block containing the waterworks could also be designated a National Register historic district. If the designation were carried out, an approved rehabilitation/adaptive re-use could qualify for both state and federal preservation incentives. Preservation Houston has forwarded the sale information to developers who might be interested in the project.

A somewhat similar structure contemporary with the above-ground Heights reservoir has been adapted for an innovative new use. The renamed Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern was Houston's first underground reservoir when it was completed in 1927. The renovated structure will open to the public Friday, May 13, as a one-of-a-kind art exhibition space.

Preservation Houston will keep its members updated on the future of the Heights waterworks.