Allen Harrison Co. – Citadel Apartments/South Main Project

Citadel vault after hurricaneAllen Harrison’s Houston projects avoided the challenges of Hurricane Harvey.
By Alan Dorich

Some might recoil at the challenge of building a project in a floodplain, but Allen Harrison Co. did not hesitate. “Our niche has become building on sites that others have passed up on,” Managing Director Joshua Wood says.

Allen Harrison accepted that challenge to develop two projects in the city of Houston. One is the Citadel Apartments building, which will feature five stories with 293 living units that wrap around a six-story parking garage.

The company also is building South Main, an 11-story apartment building. Seven floors will feature 186 residential units, and the remaining four will house a cast-in-place garage.

Well Prepared

Allen Harrison aims to finish both buildings by summer 2019, but it saw challenges when Hurricane Harvey blew through Houston last year. Fortunately, Wood says, the project sites were well prepared for the disaster.

During the design process, “We worked hand-in-hand with our engineers to understand what the water would [do in] a major flooding event,” he recalls, noting that this allowed the company to prevent damage to both project sites.

Wood says that some water came onto the South Main site, but it experienced no damage. “We wouldn’t even have suffered much damage if the building had been erected,” he says. Allen Harrison box

Citadel’s design included a large detention vault in anticipation of flooding, and it was filled with water after the hurricane had passed through.

The vault, which has a capacity of 17,620 cubic yards, had to be drained in order to proceed with the foundation work. “After the vault was drained, we realized that the water table had been elevated an additional 12 inches than originally anticipated,” he recalls.

Allen Harrison had implemented a dewatering system to lower the water table for foundation work, but after the flooding, it was a foot higher than before. This required the company to lower it an additional foot to proceed.

Another Allen Harrison property in Houston, The Highbank, escaped the hurricane unscathed. Instead of constructing the entire apartment building with a slab on grade, “We incorporated a podium design on the southern portion to where the water was able to freely flow underneath the garage and under the units,” he says. “We have quite a bit of experience in the floodplain.”

Project Pride

Wood is proud of the project team’s work on both buildings.

“One thing I like about South Main is that it’s an 11-story all brick building,” he says. “You don’t see much of that anymore.”

He also highlights the detention vault on Citadel, which is 17 feet deep. When the city experiences massive rain, “It’s designed for all the water to flow into that vault,” he says, adding that gravity will allow the water to drained into the local bayou.

The project team also has avoided accidents, despite the harsh weather. “We do desire for every person to go home each and every night,” Wood says. “The nature of the beast in construction is that it’s dangerous.

“We do everything in our power to mitigate that,” he says, noting that Allen Harrison employs a third-party safety consultant and requires its subcontractors to submit their safety plans.

Allen Harrison also takes pride in hiring skilled subs. “We’re not a company that’s going to bottom feed and take the lowest, cheapest guys out there,” Wood asserts. “We want a subcontractor who will give us a quality job and be able to maintain and hit our schedules.”

All Together

Based in Houston, Allen Harrison is a real estate investment and services firm that acquires, develops, constructs and manages multifamily properties. Paul Harrison Forbes and William Allen Harper Jr. started the company in 2010.

Wood, who joined Allen Harrison five years ago, credits its success to its ability to persevere through challenges on projects like the Citadel and South Main building. “We try to be patient in everything that we do,” he says.

The projects, he adds, required close coordination with the city of Houston. “There are a lot of elements people haven’t seen nor do they understand,” Wood says. “A lot of times we have to go down to the city and try to explain the design and function.”

Wood sees a strong future for Allen Harrison, which will maintain a team attitude between its different departments. “It’s not an ‘us and them’ mindset,” he stresses. “We are in this together.”

He also expects to see strong activity in Houston, post-Harvey. “You’ll continue to see a strong market for multifamily in Houston for years to come,” he predicts. “People are going to consider the option despite the flooding.”

Bringing Help

Construction workers were willing to lend a hand to help others in Houston during Hurricane Harvey, Allen Harrison Co. Managing Director Joshua Wood says. “It was amazing to see the city come together,” he recalls.

“We had subcontractors who said, ‘We’re sending all of our employees to this area of town,’” he says, adding that he sent his employees to provide aid. “We can just be thankful to have a warm place to sleep.”

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