A popular Dallas coffee shop has set its sights on Houston. Ascension, an upscale cafe known for its high-quality brews and full food menu, has signed on to be the first announced restaurant tenant at Braun Enterprises’ Heights Waterworks development.
Since opening in 2012, Ascension has expanded to three locations in Dallas. The cafe serves a farm-to-table inspired menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as coffee made with beans it sources and roasts itself. Owner Russell Hayward, a native Australian, tells CultureMap that he’s had his eye on Houston for a few years.
“I’ve been talking to people in Houston for four years now that want me to bring Ascension down there, more so than any city in Texas,” Hayward says. “I’ve made 10 trips down there talking to people and looking at difference places.”
He settled on Heights Waterworks, a 2-acre parcel at the northeast corner of 19th Street and Nicholson that until recently belonged to the City of Houston. Slated to be home to at least four restaurants, the property has three midcentury buildings; Braun will add a 5,000-square-foot building to the site, which will also feature 12,000 square feet of green space. Elizabeth Herman and Jack Gosnell with CBRE represented the tenant.
“Braun Enterprises is thrilled to be working with Russell and Ascension,” leasing director Zach Wolf tells CultureMap. “His passion for coffee and concept of elevating the everyday American cafe experience is what sold us. ... Ascension’s patio will back up to the Heights Hike and Bike Trail, which will be great for patrons of the Heights.”
“What we look for at Ascension is a unique type of site. We look for sites that have lots of patio space, plenty of light, and interesting environments,” Hayward says. “The buildings really caught me in terms of their beauty and condition. ... The park idea, I thought that was fantastic. We want to be a part of that, because it’s going to look really cool: a unique environment, something cool, something different.”
In addition to seeking out unusual spaces, Ascension sets itself apart with its service, which takes its inspiration from the coffee shops patronized in Australia. Customers have the choice of walking up to the counter and getting something to go, sitting down and getting full service, or ordering at the counter and then finding a seat. While Hayward notes that Ascension is “a coffee shop first and foremost,” its flexible food menu and full liquor license give it an all-day utility that transcends the term.
“We allow the customer to determine how they want to use us at any time of day,” Hayward says. “It’s very easy, very simple, very Australian, almost European in the way we serve people. We work with our people to ensure we’re a very friendly place to be.”
Hayward says he realizes Houston’s coffee scene is strong and cites shops like Blacksmith and Southside Espresso as places he thinks are already doing an excellent job. Ascension will give residents of The Heights another option to established businesses like Boomtown and Antidote.
“I’m so excited to come to Houston,” Hayward says. “I’m a Sydney boy. I miss being close to water. It’s got that humidity like we have in Sydney.”
If it’s humidity Hayward craves, he’ll definitely get his fair share when Ascension makes it Houston debut. The project’s current timeline has it on pace to open in June or July of 2018, just in time for the hottest part of the summer.