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Skanska USA Ready to Start Development of West Memorial Place II

11 Sep 2014, 7:57 pm

By Liviu Oltean, Associate Editor

Skanska USA Commercial Development will soon begin work on the development of West Memorial Place II, a 381,000-square-foot office building in the Energy Corridor. The 14-story office building will rise on the company’s 12-acre site on Memorial Drive, where the company is on track with the development of the first tower, West Memorial Place I.

Design-wise, West Memorial Place II will feature a lobby with 18-foot ceilings and Italian marble, stone and wood finishes and floor plates designed to accommodate as many as eight column-free corner offices. In addition, the project will include a fitness center with lockers and showers and an on-site café.

West Memorial Place I and II are targeted to obtain LEED Platinum certification. If they manage to obtain the needed 80 points, the two buildings will be the Houston Energy Corridor’s first to achieve the platinum rating. The developers hope to bring this goal to fruition by implementing sustainable features such as a mechanical system with an energy recovery wheel and magnetic bearings in the chillers for energy efficiency; the use of tenant convenience and demand-controlled ventilation; and the use of a high-efficiency glass system meant to protect against glare and heat gain.

“Through the development of West Memorial Place II, we are able to offer tenants another healthy, sustainable workplace on a campus-like setting with easy accessibility to Terry Hershey Park hiking, biking and nature trails and a host of other amenities,” said Michael Mair, executive vice president & regional manager of Skanska USA Commercial Development.

Rendering courtesy of Skanska USA Commercial Development



D’Agostino Cos. Breaks Ground for The Offices at Sam Houston in West Belt Submarket

4 Sep 2014, 5:02 am

By Liviu Oltean, Associate Editor

Eight months after proposing development of a four-story, 113,000-square-foot office property at the corner of Sam Houston Park Drive and Houston Oakes Drive, D’Agostino Cos. broke ground on The Offices at Sam Houston. CBRE has been pre-leasing the asset; plans were to begin construction as soon as the property was at least 25 percent pre-leased, and it is now more than 50 percent spoken for.

The project will rise along Beltway 8, between highways 249 and 290, on a 4.3-acre site. That’s good news for the West Belt submarket, which, according to the Houston Business Journal, has been the subject of some concern among real estate experts, since in the last quarter only one out of nine proposed projects broke ground and only one office building out of 10 was completed.

The West Belt submarket received its moniker last year, when CBRE research data showed that the area along the Sam Houston Tollway had begun to differentiate itself from the neighboring FM 1960 and North Loop submarkets. Benefits included an increase in rents and growing development activity. In the third quarter of 2013, when the research was conducted, two new office assets totaling 541,000 square feet had been completed in the West Belt: Houston Crossing II and 8 West Centre.

“West Houston has been one of the most dynamic office markets in the nation over the last two years, with robust new construction and exceptional occupancy rates,” said Analee Micheletti, research analyst for CBRE Houston. “As more development emerges in the West Houston submarkets, CBRE Research is recalibrating to capture that trending data.”

Image Courtesy of CBRE

Houston’s Astrodome to Become World’s Largest Indoor Park?

28 Aug 2014, 8:26 am

By Liviu Oltean, Associate Editor

Interior of the Astrodome in 2004

There is a tremendous amount of history flowing between the walls of the Astrodome and an ever increasing pressure to decide on how to deal with that history – after receiving proposals that entailed complete demolition and an extreme repositioning,  the dome might have found its salvation in a recent proposal from Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who argued for the conversion of the Astrodome into the world’s largest indoor park and recreation center.

“I believe it is time to put forth a new vision for the future of the Dome,” Emmett said. “With that in mind, I am suggesting that we explore the concept of creating an indoor park and recreation area inside the Dome for the people of Harris County. The world’s largest indoor park.”

While the details of this reconversion haven’t been specified, the idea is to have the Astrodome open to the public except when in use by tenants such as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo or the Offshore Technology Conference. In addition, the judge’s plan proposes the inclusion of a large, open green space that would cater to festivals and other community gatherings.

“Rather than try to convert the Dome into something it was never intended to be, I think it is time to look back to the original version of Judge Hofheinz,” Emmett said. “That vision was to provide a place for traditional outdoor activities in a climate-controlled space. A space like none other in the world.”

Toll Brothers Moves Forward with Master-Planned Community Next to The Woodlands

21 Aug 2014, 3:38 am

By Liviu Oltean, Associate Editor

A new master-planned community is in the works west of The Woodlands. Developed by the renowned Toll Brothers, the community will be spread across 600 acres along FM 2978, according to the Houston Business Journal.

Jim Jenkins, Toll Brothers’ vice president of master-planned communities, told the same source that approximately 40 percent of the homes will be developed by the company, the rest being available to other homebuilders and developers.

In the first phase, Toll Brothers is planning on developing 160 lots of different sizes, ranging from 60 to 85 feet, the latter to be included in a gated community.  Amenities include a 6,000-square-foot community center with a pool and fitness center and 15 acres of commercial property. With prices ranging from the mid-$300s to the mid-$600s, pre-sales are slated for early 2015.

“We recently celebrated our 46th anniversary – that’s quite an accomplishment anytime, but especially today. Although the last few years have been marked by economic challenges for so many, we have always been confident that Toll Brothers would remain strong. And it has,” declared Douglas C. Yearley, Toll Brothers’ CEO, for Toll Lifestyle Magazine.

In 2010, at a time when most real estate companies were reporting catastrophic quarterly losses, Toll Brothers Inc. declared a profit of $800,000. As our contributing editor Dees Stribling commented back then, it represented a thin profit, but for that period, anything was better than a fat loss.

Last week, we reported that there is considerable real estate commotion around The Woodlands. Howard Hughes Corp. just acquired 2,000 acres of land just north of The Woodlands for residential development.  As the trend suggests, developers are showing more and more interest in the neighborhood of The Woodlands as its developable space is decreasing and demand remains just as high as before.

Howard Hughes Corp. Acquires 2,000 Acres of Land for Residential Development

14 Aug 2014, 6:22 pm

By Liviu Oltean, Associate Editor

Dallas-based Howard Hughes Corp. revealed in its second-quarter earnings report that it has closed on 1,343 acres of undeveloped land 13 miles north of The Woodlands. Furthermore, it has entered into a sale and purchase agreement slated to close in September 2014 to acquire 652 adjacent acres from a different seller.

The company plans to use 1,834 acres for residential development and 161 acres for commercial development. According to HHC’s estimates, the land will yield more than 4,600 lots, of which the first are expected to be finished and sold in 2016.

The Woodlands Aerial

The master-planned community at The Woodlands is well underway, with more than 2.4 million square feet of new office space in development, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. In addition, to the south of The Woodlands, there is another gargantuan development – the Exxon Mobil campus, a 385-acre development designed to accommodate more than 10,000 employees.

Given the tremendous amount of office space under development and the fact that The Woodlands is running out of developable land, it comes as no surprise to see interest in creating even more housing in the neighboring areas, a trend also suggested by the company’s earnings report:

“The market for residential land in The Woodlands remains strong. The average price per detached single-family acre at The Woodlands increased 10 percent, or $62,000, to $683,000 for the three months ended June 30, 2014, compared to $621,000 for the same period in 2013. Average price per detached single-family finished lot decreased slightly, from $168,000 to $163,000, due to smaller average lot sizes sold in second quarter 2014 compared to second quarter 2013.”

Photo courtesy of The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau

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