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Republic Square: Mixed-Use Development for ExxonMobil Chemical Campus


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To me "Urban" is unpredictability. A surprise. A discovery around an unexplored corner. This place, like emerge Woodlands, may be pleasant and dense, beautiful even. But, it's not really what I'd call urban. It'll be way too programmed, and too presented and too Boring. It'll be the same restaurants and "bars" as any shopping center will have. I really don't think that this is what urbanites want. Too safe.

 

Technically, aren't even most suburbs considered urban?

 

I think another component that most of us think of as true urbanism is walkability that extends beyond a single development (Republic Square) and the potential to live without a car. And this scenario doesn't require high rises either.

 

But you're right, this could potentially be the first cookie-cutter mixed-use corporate complex in Houston. At least City Centre doesn't have that corporate feeling.

 

Maybe this trend will be the upscale version of the Houston strip center? Throw a bunch of mid/highrises together, put a park in the middle, add a few restaurants, apartments and a hotel and viola, you have your "luxury mixed-use" development.

 

Or maybe not.

 

At least these are spaced out relatively far enough that mostly only those people that live in the area will visit them. So someone in the Woodlands won't frequent this place or City Centre and vice versa.

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Lockmat. I think technically Suburbs are Sub-Urban. ;-)

But, you're right. This place will be pretty impressive but it is a glorified shopping center with offices and hotels, which is drive in/drive out, built to contain it's tenants and visitors. Nothing about it encourages true urbanism. It won't play well with it neighbors. However, it's an improvement over what else exists on I-10 outside the beltway.

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BigFootsSocks, I don't think you full appreciate what some of us are saying. Yes Houston is growing but it's not what some people would call "smart" growth. Houstons metro area is about 10,000 Sq miles, the urban area is about 1700 Sq mile. Trying to develop all 2000 Sq miles into a dense urban core is ridiculously difficult ( and really each year this 1700 Sq miles gets bigger and bigger as development spreads out).

Let's put it in perspective using similar land area examples. Los Angeles and London are good examples. Los Angeles has been the poster child for sprawl for the last 50+ years. Their urban area has over 12 million people and is about 1700 Sq miles like ours. We only have 5 million.

The entire London metro, complete with cow fields and acres and acres of pasture has almost as many people as the Los Angeles urban area but in only 600 Sq miles (the size of the city of Houston).

We are on the LA model with miles and miles of low density development. We have the same area but less than half the population. So think of it this way, with traffic as bad as it already is, if we double the population we will still be less dense than the poster child for urban sprawl. Kinda sad. And that is assuming that the Urban area does not expand ( with the grand parkway the area will probably tripple).

All I'm saying is some people like a nice built out environment, I don't think we will build out the inner loop in the next 100 years so fake urban centers 200 miles out don't give me a warm feeling. Like lockmat said houston is a drive to and drive back home kind of town. Don't try to force pedestrian areas in the middle of anti pedestrian areas.

I greatly prefer dense pockets of development sustained for a few miles then surrounded by lots of rural areas before the density picks up again. Continuous stretches of low to medium density only makes for horrible comnutes. It would be much easier ride to work if there was no development between downtown, TMC, UPTOWN, EC, etc but that mentality of feeling in the gaps worth a string of low density is just making living here worse and worse. No thanks, I will stick to the core

As for your first point, I apologize if it seems that way to you, but rest assured I have never disagreed with any of your points, nor have I "unappreciated" them.

I don't think you're wrong about Houston's growth. I do, however, disagree with the LA comparison. We're in a period of time where our downtown core is receiving a huge second chance to become its own cultural center for this city, whereas LA does have a supertall, yes, but it's still LA.

My only point in all of this is that these types of developments are following a distinct path along I-10 and the Westcreek "off-shoot" and the easiest way of observing this, if you can't drive down I-10 soon, pull up Google earth and look at the 3D buildings. Small to medium size high rises for the landscape around this corridor.

Yes, Houston's sprawl is uncontainable; that does not mean that these inner areas will remain untouched. Along this stretch of the EC we are seeing numerous examples of low rise and 1-story retail buildings demolished for these high rise projects. Hell, look at the project to repurpose the detonation basin off of Gessner into a full-fledged park and mixed use area. Where else in Houston, of all places, have we seen a developer turn a freaking ditch into something as beautiful as that? Besides the Buffalo Bayou project, I can't think of anything.

All I'm saying is, this specific development, while it is most certainly a cookie-cutter project, will only further spur more interconnected developments like this, City Centre, etc. around this area. These types of projects should be the wet-dreams of HAIF!

High rise? Check.

Mixed-use? Check

Walkable "urban" environment? Check

I too do not wish to see this city become the next LA, and it's projects like this that give me hope. Sure, it's bland, but the next developer to propose something like this will have to up their game to compete.

It may be very far down in the future, but this area of Houston is going up up up!

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This place will be pretty impressive but it is a glorified shopping center with offices and hotels, which is drive in/drive out, built to contain it's tenants and visitors. Nothing about it encourages true urbanism. It won't play well with it neighbors. However, it's an improvement over what else exists on I-10 outside the beltway.

i fail to see the difference between this "glorified shopping center with offices and hotels", and that of River Oaks District, GreenStreet, CityCentre, etc. besides the location being outside of the beltway. IMO its a great location. the Energy Corridor could support a development like this, and its right on the Terry Hershey Park trail system. i believe they even said in a statement a while back that they wanted to bring a bike shop to one of the retail spots fronting the park. if thats not encouraging true urbanism, then i don't know what developments in Houston are.

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I will respond to both Cloud and BigFootsSocks at the same time because it's related.

The difference is River Oaks District and Green street are improving the walkability of areas already on track to beind urban. City Centre and this development simply serve to make traffic worse by just extending strings of buildings. Can't you see that if people are getting on the highways every 1000 feet for 20 miles that just makes for a traffic nightmare.

Yes, the Houston area is more dense on average than the Philadelphia area because we maintain 3000 people per square mile for 40 miles while never getting passed 10, 000 ppm for long. Philly on the other hand has extremely dense areas surrounded by nothing. That is how Philly gets away with crappie freeways. They don't need them like we do. Again having a 20 mile skyline is only good for pictures. It kills pedestrian activity, it makes public transportation darn near impossible and it hinders the already dense pockets from improving faster by being in direct competion.

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don't get me wrong, i see the point. I'm just saying the Energy Corridor has what, 20+ million sq ft of office space, and over a million residents? you don't think that area is urban enough and populated enough with a decent demographic to support a development like this in that location? imagine if every urban development were built in the core. all 4 million of the people who don't live in the city of Houston would be driving in and out of the city during rush hour every day making traffic that much worse. if its spread out it distributes traffic across the metro instead of just having everything inside 610 be a shit storm.

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20 million Sq feet of suburban office stretched over a 10 mile space poorly connected by bus you mean? No!

Also I didn't say it could not support the development, i said i do not like what such developments promote.

And I disagree 101% with you on the commuting scenario. First off you are imagining all the jobs in and around downtown, yet the people are still clamoring to live in Katy and Cypress. Developments like these spur more residential development around it, if the jobs were only as you described it the residential would be more clustered around it instead of Katy thus people would have shorter commutes and thus less clogging of highways.

Second the density of such a scenario would make public transit a more desirable option and thus even less congestion on highways. Heck more people would opt to walk to work.

Our master planned communities were built to have people live closer to where they work. That includes friendswood, kingwood, even greenspoint. All suburban sprawl developed by exxon.

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eh, you can dislike the style of development all you want (can't say I'm in love with suburban sprawl either), but that doesn't change the fact that those people and those jobs already exist out there.. they aren't going to suddenly uproot and move to the core. i think you are forgetting that a big reason a lot of people live in the suburbs is because the cost of living is cheaper and you get much more "bang for your buck". the sprawl of Houston goes hand in hand with the affordability that has been bringing people to the metro in droves. it may not be great for the overall urbanity and pedestrian experience of the core, but its one of the reasons our city continues to thrive.

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Again having a 20 mile skyline is only good for pictures. It kills pedestrian activity, it makes public transportation darn near impossible and it hinders the already dense pockets from improving faster by being in direct competion.

 

Dang, this is definitely worthy of putting in a HAIF signature. Spot on.

 

The rest of the post is right on, too.

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Don't get me wrong, Houston is home. My home. Coming back from San Antonio and seeing those building I have been crapping on all through this thread puts a smile on my face.

I hate them, then I love them

then I love them, then I hate them.

Theeeeeeeen I love them more.

But whatever they do, I never ever ever want to in any city but youuuuuuuuuuuu

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Dang, this is definitely worthy of putting in a HAIF signature. Spot on.

 

The rest of the post is right on, too.

 

 

I like your sig quotes, lockmat, and I wonder especially today about the Gerry Hines one.

Maybe the corporation looks like the means to fix the American city not because it's the solution but because it is the problem to begin with.  The renderings are built to attract large lease transplants, not the seeds of future personality.  

 

It may have been the Supreme Court who declared companies to have the rights of persons here (We the corporations of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union...) but in America's cores it was already accomplished fact:  The urban scene becomes a canvas not for individuals, but for their corporate investment interests.  This arms'-length process filters out all but the most mechanical lifelike features en route to finished product.  Artifice, not life, results, like Naviguessor said.  

 

What is to be done?  Well, I think the tactic most to the point would be a really simple overlay:  for every 100 square feet of ground you own, up to a thousand square feet, you pay property tax at a base annual rate.  This rate increases more than linearly at every "space bracket" -- if you own less than ten thousand, about a quarter of an acre, you pay much less for each square foot than if you have a hundred thousand feet of dirt.  In fact you can smoothe these brackets into a continuous, logarithmic curve with perfect transparency.

 

This would uniformly calibrate and restore our urban form to make hands-on intricacy the practical economic norm.  Development would mean replication by division, like a healthy cell, each with its individual imprint, instead of by bloating into socially undesirable gigantisms of ownership, which are the root cause of loss of intricate detail  (of which charm-free retail power centers are just the latest symptom).  The nonsense will no longer be financially sensible.  

 

Right now NIMBYs have it right, I'm sad to say:  a developer's increase in density in modern American neighborhoods usually means a decrease in lovable charm.  The good news:  This is not intrinsic to density itself.

Edited by strickn
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Just for readers' convenience, and in case Lockmat up and opts to change his sig quotes anytime soon, here is the quote in question:  

  • "You know, the vehicle to improve the American city is the American corporation-that's where the money is." - Gerald D. Hines

 


slide1.jpg

 

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Ah yes, because the big American corporations like GM, Lehman Bros, Chase, etc have done wonders for this nation...

 

 

 

Actually a lot!

 

I think what you are really asking is, what have they done for us lately? :P

Edited by Luminare
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  • 2 weeks later...

Anyone know if a General Contractor has been selected?

 

i want to say yes but can't remember who... harvey maybe?  first phase will be a spec 400,000 SF office (up to 600,000 if they secure a major tenant), garage, some retail and a hotel with BP pushing for a particular major 4-star flag that already has a hotel in town. connectivity to the park will be a major focus and they are working some things out with the city to help that cause. this is an all cash investor so this one is happening - expect construction to begin 1Q16.

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i want to say yes but can't remember who... harvey maybe? first phase will be a spec 400,000 SF office (up to 600,000 if they secure a major tenant), garage, some retail and a hotel with BP pushing for a particular major 4-star flag that already has a hotel in town. connectivity to the park will be a major focus and they are working some things out with the city to help that cause. this is an all cash investor so this one is happening - expect construction to begin 1Q16.

Let the battle of the faux urban developments begin. CityCentre vs CityCenterCentre! Who's going to claim to be more center?!?! Only the cars in the garage will tell.

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  • 2 weeks later...

i want to say yes but can't remember who... harvey maybe?  first phase will be a spec 400,000 SF office (up to 600,000 if they secure a major tenant)

 

With Governor Abbott chatting up General Electric, maybe they should groom this site for them? They do have a major piece of the oil and gas division here.

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  • 11 months later...

http://www.chron.com/business/real-estate/article/Oil-rout-stalls-mixed-use-project-planned-for-the-8108999.php

 

A mixed-use development slated to break ground this year in the Energy Corridor has been put on hold amid the economic slump that has left millions of square feet of office space unoccupied in area buildings.

 

Bowlin said the company, who owns the land with Atlas U.S.A. Holdings, still plans to develop this site after the price of oil stabilizes.

"We've done a ton. We're ready to go," he said. "We're just waiting for the market to come back to levels where we can move forward."

 

When it was announced, the mixed-use project was expected to have as many as 800 residential units, five office buildings totaling 2.6 million square feet, two hotels and 100,000 square feet of retail space.

 

In the short term, Bowlin said the company will continue to look for tenants to occupy the space in the site's existing office building that Exxon occupied.

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  • 5 months later...

They've leased out some space in the existing buildings. New office space axed from Phase I.

 

http://realtynewsreport.com/2016/11/17/republic-square-and-third-palm-capital-energy-corridor-site-with-long-term-potential/

 

Realty News Report: Republic Square, which was billed as the future “Central Business District of the Energy Corridor” is going to be a large scale project in west Houston, where office occupancy has gone down somewhat in recent months. What’s your timetable?



 

Graham: It’s obviously a long-term deal. It’s not going to be built in one phase. The market will really dictate the pace that it’s constructed and brought to the market. “The thoughts are the hotel, some retail that’s mostly food and beverage, fitness center and some multifamily will go first, with office to follow.

 

Realty News Report: Does PMRG own a stake in Republic Square?

 

 

Graham: There is a possibility that they may in the future. (The PMRG investment in Republic Square never materialized and PMRG is not affiliated with the project today, Third Palm says. )

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http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2017/03/15/photos-tour-republic-square-the-reimagining-of-a.html

 

The future of a 35-acre former Exxon Mobil campus in west Houston is starting to be realized.



 

Third Palm Capital, the developer behind Republic Square, shared its plans for the redevelopment of Exxon Mobil Chemical's old headquarters site. The real estate investment company bought the campus in 2013 and is moving forward on developing speculative office space, art studios, a biergarten and more, Third Palm's Executive Manager Randall Tuller told the Houston Business Journal.

 

Work on the current vision for Republic Square, the multitenant, mixed-use development underway at 13501 Katy Freeway, has been in the works since at least July 2016. Dallas-based Third Palm is working alongside Houston-based Boxer Property to redevelop 320,000 square feet of Exxon's former office space into creative art studios, office suites designed for small- to mid-sized tenants, Boxer Property's Workstyle co-working space and more, Tuller said. As of now, no parts of the campus will be demolished, but the Third Palm team is continually assessing the market and that might change, Tuller said in a statement.

 

Third Palm and Boxer will also preserve and lease Mosaic, a 15,000-square-foot prototype office space built in the campus by Exxon Mobil. The Mosaic space resembles Exxon's new headquarters at Springwoods Village. The company treated Mosaic like a beta-version of its new campus, Tuller said, and observed how its employees interacted with the workspace before it moved forward with its massive north Houston campus in 2015.

 

More ideations for Republic Square, including public event space and a beer-focused addition, are in the works. The firm is also in talks with several high-end hotel flags for a property at Republic Square, Tuller said. A decision should be made by the end of 2017, he said.

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2 minutes ago, Urbannizer said:

 

Quote

Renovations at high-profile Energy Corridor site move ahead. But additional development might be on the way

 

Developer Dart Interests is moving forward with plans to reimagine a 35-acre Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) campus in west Houston, which was once to be the site of a $1 billion mixed-use development that promised to bring drastic changes to the city’s Energy Corridor.

 

The renovations underway at the Republic Square property’s existing 324,000-square-foot building are far smaller in scale than what its former owner announced four years ago. But Dart says it is already looking ahead to other mixed-use development opportunities for the property, which is located at 13501 Katy Freeway.

 

“We decided to focus on upgrading the existing building at this stage. But we’re already speaking with our design team about what else we could bring to the property to appeal to tenants in in-demand sectors and those that are going to be in-demand in the future,” said Randall Tuller, senior vice president at Dart (formerly Third Palm Capital).

 

Plans for Republic Square have gone through several iterations since it was purchased from Exxon Mobil in 2013 by Houston-based PM Realty Group and Greenwich, Connecticut-based Atlas USA Holdings for an undisclosed sum. Since then, ownership has transferred to Dart.

 

In 2015, PM Realty Group rolled out a plan for Republic Square that called for the construction of up to five office buildings with 2.6 million square feet of space, two full-service hotels and 800 apartment units. The plan also included 100,000 square feet of retail space, including a 35,000-square-foot high-end gym, a beer garden and restaurants. An existing conference center was to be revamped. That $1 billion project was scheduled to break ground in 2016.

 

But because energy prices took a hit around the same time, the project was scaled back significantly. PMRG and Atlas ended up selling the property to what was then Third Palm Capital, which initially planned to turn the existing building into a coworking space.

 

Tuller declined to disclose how much Third Palm, now Dart, paid for the property. But the adjoining parcels have been appraised at $84.2 million, according to Harris County Appraisal District records.

 

Tuller said plans for Republic Square evolved over time to be more multiuse in nature. It was decided that only the first floor would offer smaller coworking spaces, while the second and third floors would be reserved for larger tenants. The top floor of the building contains parking facilities.

 

The first phase of renovations on the existing building’s first floor is already underway, Tuller said, and is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2019. The project’s first phase is focusing on the first floor’s lobby, conference rooms, fitness center and restrooms, as well as the landscaping around the building and the nearby lake, Tuller said. Upgrades to the building’s air-conditioning system, as well as its mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems have already been completed by Gilbane Construction, Tuller said.

 

Dart hopes to soon begin work on the second and third floors, Tuller said. Plans for those floors are still in the design phase.

 

Dart announced May 20 that it had tapped NAI Partners to provide property and construction management services at Republic Square. NAI Partners was hired to handle leasing at Republic Square in February.

 

Since then, nearly 35,000 square feet at Republic Square has been leased, and Tuller said there are potential deals for another 100,000 square feet in the pipeline.

 

“We’re presenting the property to tenants of all sizes, and we’re getting a lot of positive responses to the amenities it will soon offer,” Tuller said.

 

But Dart has not ruled out further development at Republic Square. Tuller said the company is working with Dallas-based architecture and engineering firm Huitt-Zollars to draft a new master plan for the property.

 

“We see a lot of opportunities for retail and multifamily development,” Tuller said. “Additional office space will also likely happen down the road.”

 

In fact, Tuller said that is part of the reason Dart hired NAI Partners to oversee the property. In June, NAI Partners hired office brokerage veteran Randy Nerren away from MetroNational, where he helped to provide landlord services for Houston’s Memorial City.

 

“We would like Republic Square to see some of the same kind of development as Memorial City on a smaller scale,” Tuller said.

 

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