Last year the Geo/New Ventures department at VAALCO Energy won their office "lunch and build" competition, held in conjunction with the annual Summer Food Drive. Each department at VAALCO's Westchase office built replicas of offshore platforms using the items that each department had donated to the food drive.
Every May, Westchase District teams with West Houston Assistance Ministries (WHAM) for its Summer Food Drive from May 1 – May 31. Donated food and toiletry items are collected at donation locations throughout Westchase District to restock WHAM’s food pantry for the summer months.
To get you in the giving mood, we thought we’d share some tips from last year’s top four givers on how to stage a successful drive:
For the second year in a row, GBH CPAs, an accounting firm located on Rogerdale Road, crushed the competition with a whopping 3,261 pounds collected. The firm’s secret? Competition among departments and prizes, such as gift cards and even an iPad, for top contributors. “I don’t know a more competitive group of people than accountants,” said Gail Prather, CEO. “That said, we have fun with it. We know how to have fun with it. We’re not just pencil pushers, y’know!”
Prather said creative presentations such as making statues from food items also get her employees into feeling generous. “One department made a map of Houston out of food items, including using peanut butter jars to highlight where employees lived,” she said. “My group made a bank – a food bank, get it?”
First-year participant Zurich Insurance, a Swiss risk management and commercial insurance company with Houston offices located in the BriarLake Plaza office building, claimed second place by donating 2,834 pounds. “Globally, community investment efforts are huge in the company,” said Jason Sauer, vice president with Zurich.
“We grouped our various business units into four teams and the winning team received an office-sponsored lunch,” he said. “We promoted the drive on our kitchen bulletin board and sent emails throughout the month. All four bins were labelled and publically displayed so that employees could see who was doing what. It encouraged some banzai shopping among our more competitive employees.”
Houston Marriott Westchase
Sometimes employees may not be able to go banzai shopping. The Houston Marriott Westchase decided what worked best was to measure departmental competitions by number of pieces rather that by poundage. “If someone buys a six pack of toothbrushes, it counts as six rather than one,” said Sally Brewer, executive assistant. “It lets everyone participate without breaking anyone’s pocketbook.” And those pieces add up to pounds as well, more than 1,000 for the Marriott last year.
Meanwhile, the folks over at Pape-Dawson Engineers have divided their office into two teams: the Hunger Busters and the FOOd Fighters. Teams competed to win bragging rights in three categories: Money Bags (cash collections), Happy Tummy (food) and Clean-Bling (hygiene/toiletry items). The result? About 850 pounds.
Now that you know how the top donors do it, feel free to borrow, steal and otherwise appropriate these tactics to help make this year’s Summer Food Drive our best yet. For more information, contact Jonathan Lowe, 713-780-9434.
New Mural on Library Loop Trail
Everybody's favorite Westchase District mural painter Larry Crawford, founder of Mural Arts, recently expanded his public art palate from traffic control signal boxes to something a little larger.
Residing under a bridge
[caption id="attachment_5646" align="alignright" width="300"] Concrete Canvas: Larry Crawford, owner of Mural Arts, carefully adds detail to the box culvert at Wilcrest Drive.[/caption]
Above the District's water habitat, located just east of Wilcrest Drive and behind the Robinson Westchase Library, is something called a box culvert. It's a concrete structure that spans the flood control channel and it's a space ripe for some artwork.
The habitat is home to dozens of turtles, fish and other aquatic life. Larry has designed a mural that reflects the character of the area, including egrets, turtles, cardinals and a raccoon.
Tales on the Trail
We're celebrating debut of the mural with a reading and art event for the whole family that we're calling "Tales on the Trail." It's on Saturday, July 23 from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the Robinson-Westchase Neighborhood Library, 3223 Wilcrest Drive.
The event will feature a free grab-and-go breakfast, story times for children, a coloring book station, a book exchange at the District's new Little Free Library (see right) and chalk art classes on the Library Loop Trail with mural artist Larry Crawford. Come one, come all for a morning of family-friendly fun!
“Surviving an Active Shooter” Presented by Public Safety Alliance
In an era when senseless killing seems to be far too common, the question is, "If you are the victim of an active shooter, will you know what to do?"
More than 60 apartment managers, hotel supervisors and concerned citizens turned out to hear some answers at the recent Westchase District Public Safety Alliance meeting at the Houston Marriott Westchase, where the featured topic was "Surviving an Active Shooter," presented by Houston Police Department's Stephen Daniel.
One of the videos shown during Stephen Daniel's "Surviving an Active Shooter" presentation
"Most tips are merely common sense, but you must have the mental discipline to develop your survival mindset, said Daniel, a senior community liaison with HPD Public Affairs. "Unless you have visualized making common sense choices, you won't have the situational awareness in a shooter situation.
Highlights from the presentation:
Have an escape route and plan in mind
Leave your belongings behind
Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow
Help others escape, if possible
Do not attempt to move wounded people
Prevent others from entering an area where the active shooter may be
Call 911 when you are safe
Hide in an area out of the shooter's view
Lock the door or block the entry to your hiding place
Silence your cell phone (including the vibrate mode) and remain quiet
Fight as a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger
Attempt to incapacitate the shooter
Commit to your actions...your life depends on it
HPD makes this presentation available at no charge and may be arranged by contacting Daniel at 713-308-3246. The presentation runs about 90 minutes and incorporates several videos. It is appropriate for children of high school age and older.
Amenities and Access Drive Leasing Decisions
Top names in commercial real estate gathered to discuss the “Future of Westchase District” at the biennial event sponsored by Bisnow and hosted by Parkway Properties at its Westchase District campus – the four building, 1.4 million square foot CityWestPlace.
The event was moderated by Westchase District General Manager Jim Murphy who led off the discussion by asking what amenities tenants are looking for these days.
“We used to push restaurants,” said Philip Schneidau of Woodbranch Management in referring to the kinds of amenities his leasing team would promote when showing his properties. “Now its parks, trails, apartment communities…that’s what tenants are asking for. Fitness centers are also important. Instead of having one down the street, tenants want one in the office building.”
Phillips 66 upped the ante on office building amenities when it opened its 1.1 million square foot corporate headquarters in Westchase District. According to Greg Cardwell, Manager of Real Estate Services, they built a soccer pitch and 1/5 mile running track atop the employee parking garage. The campus also has a putting green, full-size gym and fitness center, medical and dental facilities, a shoe shine stand, dry cleaners, meditation room and nursing mother rooms. It’s all about the mental and physical well-being of the company’s 2,200 on-site employees, said Cardwell.
Scott Arnoldy, managing partner of Triten Real Estate Partners, said access was the key to signing Lockton to a 120,000 square foot lease in the new building his company is developing at 3657 Briarpark Drive. Even in this boutique-style building, amenities are important and Arnoldy has found new ways to differentiate his building. It will include “shower suites” rather than locker rooms will offer a more upscale dining experience, rather than a deli/café for tenants.
Wings Over Westchase That Never Leave the Ground
Winging It: Mural artist Larry Crawford works on a giant mural that now adorns the concrete slope along the District’s Library Loop Trail.
There’s more public art on display in Westchase District and this time mural artist Larry Crawford is thinking big. How big? Well, his latest mural depicting six butterflies is about 80 feet wide by 30 feet tall. “It’s the biggest single project I’ve done by myself,” said Crawford, owner of Mural Arts. “If you’re walking the trail, you won’t be able to miss it.”
The mural is painted along the District’s Library Loop Trail between Rogerdale Road and Walnut Bend Lane, just north of Richmond Avenue. At the junction where the flood control channel next to the trail turns south, the butterfl y mural decorates the north concrete slope. Earlier this year, Crawford painted six city utility boxes in Westchase District with “muralitos,” of various animals and objects.
Minus weather delays, the project took about eight days to complete. For this mural, Crawford estimates he used about 45 gallons of primer, paint and a clear coat finish. Any secret ingredients?
“I simply use Behr Premium Plus outdoor exterior paint from Home Depot,” he said. “It stands up to the weather really well, plus I know people will be walking and sitting on the mural taking pictures, so the image needs to be able to take some abuse.”
Crawford said he’s not too worried about the mural being defaced by graffiti. “Throughout my career, I’ve found that most people who tag structures respect my art and what I’m trying to do and they leave it alone,” he said.
What’s next for Crawford? “I’ll be painting three more traffic signal control boxes in the District,” he said, “plus I’m redoing one that was ruined when the city replaced the box. It was a bummer to lose the artwork, but hey, at least it keeps me working.”
Mural Debut Celebration December 2
You can come celebrate the official debut of the mural at "Wings Over Westchase," Friday, Dec. 2 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Parking is available in the visitors area at 10700 Richmond Avenue. Enjoy breakfast, music, chalk art for kids and photo opportunities with both the mural and mural artist.
For more info, send an email to Louis Jullien.
Westchase District Breaks Ground on Third Hike and Bike Trail
Dig This: Members of the Westchase District community broke ground Friday on the .6-mile HCC Campus Trail near Westheimer and Hayes Road. (From left): Jack Pidgeon, West Houston Christian Center; James Koski, Office of Mayor Sylvester Turner; Zachary Hodges, HCC Northwest; Tracy Bridge, CenterPoint Energy; Beth Van Winkle, Milestone Management; and Jim Murphy, Westchase District.
Westchase District staff and West Houston civic leaders broke ground Friday morning on the HCC Campus Trail, Westchase District’s third hike and bike trail. The 10-foot-wide concrete path will run north-south between Westheimer Road and Richmond Avenue, with a mid-block crossing at Meadowglen Lane. It will connect to the Houston Community College campus at Westheimer and Hayes Road, as well as to the District’s existing trail network.
The trail is funded by a federal transportation grant and the District’s 380 Area Agreement with the City of Houston. Project completion should be about 100 days after construction begins. It is the first example in West Houston of a larger effort between CenterPoint Energy and the City of Houston to enhance the use of some 500 miles of transmission corridors throughout the city. CenterPoint has allowed the District to maximize the wide swath of greenspace along the transmission corridor running between Westheimer and Richmond.
“We are pleased to be part of this hike and bike trail,” said Tracy Bridge, executive vice president and Electric Division president for CenterPoint Energy. “We recognize that in an urban environment, green space is at a premium. Allowing the public to access our transmission corridors is a great example of how private assets can be used for public benefit.”
“HCC is excited to have this new trail in its back yard,” said Dr. Zachary Hodges, president of Houston Community College-Northwest. “It will connect students and the community to our growing and innovative Westchase campus, future home of the West Houston Institute, which will be a catalyst for innovation and creativity in higher education.”
“This trail has all the benefits and features that add value to create real transportation alternatives,” said Jim Murphy, general manager of Westchase District and Texas state representative, whose legislative bill brought powerline corridor trails to Harris County. “Now we will have the newest addition to our four-mile trail network that runs from Westheimer to Bellaire. Whether for recreation purposes or from getting from point to point, this trail opens up options to new users who can take advantage of what we’ve created and connectivity to lots of great places. It’s really quite an astounding accomplishment.”