Hines breaks ground on 53-acre Levit Green life sciences district near TMC
By Jeff Jeffrey – Reporter, Houston Business Journal
Oct 5, 2021
Houston-based Hines has broken ground on a 53-acre development that promises to put Houston on the map as a life sciences hub on par with San Francisco, San Diego and the famed Life Sciences Corridor in Boston.
Hines, with financial support from investment management firm Harrison Street and 2MLN Real Estate Interests, have begun construction work on Levit Green. The development will be near the interchange of Highway 288 and Holcombe Boulevard/Old Spanish Trail, just east of the Texas Medical Center.
The first phase of the project focuses on a five-story, 270,000-square-foot building that is custom-designed to house life sciences research and development projects.
The first building of the mixed-use development is scheduled to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2022, with initial occupancy planned for December 2022.
“Breaking ground at Levit Green marks a pivotal moment for Houston as a burgeoning life science cluster,” said John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines. “Our carefully built team of national life science leasing, design and capital experts has put a tremendous amount of thought and effort into Building I’s planning and design. We are confident that our team will deliver one of the highest-quality commercial laboratory assets in the world. We are excited to begin the first of several top-tier projects at Levit Green that are important to the life sciences sector.”
Levit Green 1, as the first building is known, will be the first of nine buildings planned for the site under Hines’ master plan for Levit Green.
The first building will be equipped with 100% redundant emergency power, enhanced structural vibration attenuation, augmented mechanical systems, 33-foot structural bay depths and floorplates exceeding 56,000 square feet. Additionally, the building's amenities will include a 5,800-square-foot fitness center and outdoor garden, 7,000-square-foot conference center, 3,500 square feet of café and restaurant space, and ample on-site parking. The ground floor will also have more than 25,000 square feet of lab incubator space, which will provide entrepreneurs and early-stage life science companies with laboratory and office space.
Chicago-based JLL (NYSE: JLL) has been tapped to oversee leasing for building one.
Hines has declined to comment on the cost of the first phase of development.
The master plan for Levit Green includes several lakes in the heart of the district, with each building designed to embrace the planned waterfronts.
For example, the restaurant and cafe space in the first building will connect to outside dining space, where researchers and technicians can gather for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine as they kick around ideas next to the water.
Hines began the initial talks in 2016 with 2ML Real Estate Interests, formerly known as The Grocers Supply Co. Inc., to acquire the site of some Grocers Supply warehouse and distribution facilities for Levit Green. In fact, Levit Green takes its name from the family behind 2ML Real Estate Interests.
But after Hines took over the property, much of the work has focused on ensuring the design was right.
Hines tapped St. Louis-based architecture, engineering and planning firm HOK, which has extensive experience designing properties for scientific research firms.
For nearly two years, Hines sent teams to life sciences clusters across the country to see what kinds of facilities and amenities competing cities offered, Mooz said in February. The developer also drew on the company’s experience designing and building “complicated” laboratory environments around the world, which include a research center for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, petrochemical labs and research facilities for clinical clients, among others.
The Levit Green project comes at a time when the life sciences sector has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lagging commercial real estate market nationally.
In Houston, where the office market has stumbled along for years amid vacancy rates in excess of 20%, a number of developers have been making plays in the life sciences space to find opportunities.
Houston-based Medistar Corp. is developing a 30-story high-rise, dubbed Horizon Tower, near the Texas Medical Center in partnership with Texas A&M University.
The 485,000-square-foot, 17-story office project is being built atop a 13-story parking structure at 6929 Main St. and will be part of the Texas A&M Innovation Plaza. It's slated to deliver in early 2023.
Cushman & Wakefield was hired to provide agency leasing services for Horizon Tower.
Additionally, the Texas Medical Center recently announced that construction of its 37-acre TMC3 medical research campus is well underway.
As of Aug. 31, nearly 118 million pounds of concrete had been poured at the TMC3 site, according to figures from Houston-based Vaughn Construction, the general contractor selected for the TMC3 project. Construction has also started on the roughly 271,000-square-foot communal hub of TMC3, called the TMC3 Collaborative Building.