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Midtown Sears to Become Houston's Innovation District

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22 hours ago, HoustonIsHome said:

I like all three sites. But how exactly is that a corridor?  

 

I love the idea behind it and it's catalysts like this that midtown needs to show it's true potential,  but what links the three sites?

 

Would be interesting to see what sort of link there was in the proposal. If there is none then I can see why the proposal failed to crack the top 20. I do wish that a tech corridor develops in midtown. And I do hope that that Exxon building can be repurposed as is. But three disjointed sites is not much of a corridor. It's like calling  St Thomas, TSU and UH a university corridor because they are all on Wheeler/ Richmond. I can see linking then by rail and calling the line the University Line, but what makes it a corridor?

 

 

Relax.  There is no need to be so literal about the use of the word corridor (although in reality there is no reason a corridor cannot take a 90 degree turn.)  Look at a map of the Energy Corridor.   What "links" the Energy Corridor? Energy business.  What links the University Line corridor (if there is such a thing?)? Universities.  What links the proposed Innovation Corridor? The plan/desire/intent to encourage the location and development of innovation companies, entities, institutes, people, etc.

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It’s a shame that we are going to put all innovation in one place.  I guess that in a few years only non innovative companies will be scattered around the city conducting their mundane and drivel and won’t be able to locate there?

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1 hour ago, UtterlyUrban said:

It’s a shame that we are going to put all innovation in one place.  I guess that in a few years only non innovative companies will be scattered around the city conducting their mundane and drivel and won’t be able to locate there?

 

It's meaningless. The people who think of these names have no control over anything. There is no "we" who is going to put jobs or innovation anywhere. It's just a ploy to try to appeal to tech companies and sell the city. We've already got more innovation than most countries could ever dream of. There is innovation going on right now in the energy corridor and scattered office campuses that has the power to shift the world economy and alter the geopolitical balance of power. But those people don't need catch words like "innovation."

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8 hours ago, H-Town Man said:

 

It's meaningless. The people who think of these names have no control over anything. There is no "we" who is going to put jobs or innovation anywhere. It's just a ploy to try to appeal to tech companies and sell the city. We've already got more innovation than most countries could ever dream of. There is innovation going on right now in the energy corridor and scattered office campuses that has the power to shift the world economy and alter the geopolitical balance of power. But those people don't need catch words like "innovation."

I think that you missed my intended sarcasm.

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19 hours ago, j_cuevas713 said:

I always question if it's reasonable to close off a large section of Main thru Fannin for strictly light rail. 

 

It wouldn't be a huge step.

 

There's already one block that's closed to traffic, and all through the CBD it's essentially local access only. Trying to drive down long stretches of Main is a mistake most people only make once.

 

 

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4 hours ago, UtterlyUrban said:

I think that you missed my intended sarcasm.

 

Haha, ok. I've found it doesn't come across as well in print as out loud.

 

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Fences are up around the block that the auto shop was on as well as the large parking lot that sits between Fiesta and Sears. Don't know if that means anything but it's deterring the homeless from sleeping there...but they'll find a way back, I'm sure.

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Just realized they fenced the entire sears block as well. The actually building along with the parking lot. Can't remember if the lot across from it (between the shipleys and the rail station) was ever fenced, but it is now. Drove to the store last night and it was amazing! It's really making the area feel better. I only saw a handful of homeless.

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43 minutes ago, IronTiger said:

Oh, so it's actually closed? When was the closing date?

 

Three weeks ago (January 28). 

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I wonder if the adjacent Fiesta will close too. Was that announced? I believe the Fiesta was on land Sears leased, and that property is now Rice's...

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Just now, IronTiger said:

I wonder if the adjacent Fiesta will close too. Was that announced? I believe the Fiesta was on land Sears leased, and that property is now Rice's...

They have 2 years left on their lease. 

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1 hour ago, HoustonBoy said:

I’m a bit lost. Are there any plans for these three lots or are they just clearing it out for now?

Rice University's Endowment owns the property but I haven't seen what they plan on doing with it but hopefully it's glorious. The potential possibilities are exciting.

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I think its fair to say that this would be a game changer. I'm sure there are visions of mixed use transit oriented developments dancing in their heads.

Maybe a couple of high rises for starters.

I would think that this would also inspire some new developer to pick up the Main street properties adjacent to the station.

I think Metro is holding some of it.

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My thought would be they are going to tear down the existing buildings, but keep the Midtown Sears building.  I think MS will be the center of this development and they will bring it back to its original structure, bring it up to building code for an office building.  I think it will serve as a large start up incubator, be the new home for Houston Exponential and others - it is approximately 200k SF.  They will likely want to start this process as quickly as possible and are in current discussions with Station Houston to try to get them to relocate to this building.  Have this first phase be the catalyst and then Rice Endowment, along with city/private officials, can carefully formulate a plan for the next phases of development.

 

Again, this is just my opinion butI imagine there will be more updates in the coming months.

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4 hours ago, CREguy13 said:

My thought would be they are going to tear down the existing buildings, but keep the Midtown Sears building.  I think MS will be the center of this development and they will bring it back to its original structure, bring it up to building code for an office building.  I think it will serve as a large start up incubator, be the new home for Houston Exponential and others - it is approximately 200k SF.  They will likely want to start this process as quickly as possible and are in current discussions with Station Houston to try to get them to relocate to this building.  Have this first phase be the catalyst and then Rice Endowment, along with city/private officials, can carefully formulate a plan for the next phases of development.

 

Again, this is just my opinion butI imagine there will be more updates in the coming months.

I couldn't agree more. This is going to be a major tech hub area of the city. The next 4 to 5 years are really going to bring Houston over the hump. I think of the Sears building as a icon to Midtown much how the WALD building is to EaDo.

Edited by j_cuevas713
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In addition to the transit possibilities for this development, there’s also the potential to abut park space with the planned trenching of 59/69 next door and the potential for a cap over the future below-grade freeway. 

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The article below contains images of the art deco structure under the panels.  I have no idea how faithful the images are to what's actually underneath the panels these days.  I'd like to see Rice evaluate a potential way to utilize the art-deco structure if it has been somewhat well-preserved, but, given the lack of windows on it, I am not optimistic it could be turned into marketable office space without substantial structural alteration.  It has an odd layout--one floor of below grade space with a couple up above.  It might be configured into a boutique movie theater (thinking something along the lines of iPic or the AMC Dine-In cinemas) where the lack of windows is a plus.  

 

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/The-Sears-That-Was-6198716.php 

 

 

 

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Per Nextdoor:

 

Good morning Everyone, We are starting this new week off on a good foot! We are excited to report to you that South Central DRT officers have teamed up with the management company of the Sears, located between Main St and Fannin St., just off of Wheeler; to have the building and the offset parking lot all fenced in at this time. It is all cleaned up and ready for planning and development actions. It is definitely a start to making our communities a better and safer place to reside and do business! We are excited about what the area will become. Please be patient with us as we are working around the clock to address all the issues you may have; including, but not limited to: clean-up, homeless population, crime rates, etc. All of these issues are being addressed through the proper channels and procedures...we prefer to get it right the first time so there's no repeat necessary. Remember all we do is for you guys to be safe and live comfortable, so please cooperate with us to make it great for you.Have a great week!

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4 hours ago, houstontexasjack said:

In addition to the transit possibilities for this development, there’s also the potential to abut park space with the planned trenching of 59/69 next door and the potential for a cap over the future below-grade freeway. 

 

Thanks to the planned trenching and inevitable 5 plus years of construction that will come with that I suspect that the location will be flattened and leased to the state as a place where construction equipment can be staged as part of the project. and that no serious projects occur until after 59 is redone through the area.

 

If memory serves, trenching 59 through here is planned to be the first part of the whole project?

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30 minutes ago, samagon said:

If memory serves, trenching 59 through here is planned to be the first part of the whole project?

 

You are correct, the first planned construction of the overall downtown and IH 45 project is the section of IH 69 in Midtown. My perception (based on speaking to representatives at public meetings) is that they are proceeding full speed with design and will be ready for immediate work on right-of-way acquisition when the Record of Decision is received, which is expected this year. But I also heard that there is a last-ditch effort by northside interests to derail the entire project, which could delay the ROD, perhaps substantially.

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As I understand it, construction on the trenching is scheduled to commence third quarter 2020.  The diagram found in the link below indicates where greenspace might be placed:

 

http://www.ih45northandmore.com/docs8/04-20170428_NHHIP_Seg3_I-69_RollPlot_PH_1-2.pdf 

 

Edit:  This Houston Chronicle article references a "late 2020" start time:

 

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/transportation/article/State-accelerates-start-time-for-major-I-45-10958185.php 

Edited by houstontexasjack
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I rode past the now closed Sears on Main about 2:30 yesterday afternoon. There was a truck in the parking lot on the north side of the building taking core samples. That can only mean someone is thinking of erecting a structure on the site and needs to know the soil conditions to design the foundation. Exciting!

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To which side of the existing 69  roadway will the trenching occur and is there  a plan that shows where it is proposed?

North or south of existing roadway?I

I have friends who live pretty close to both sides.

Edited by bobruss

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From the Midtown/Museum District perspective, it looks like the proposed ROW of the trenching is not much different from the existing ROW, just going a little farther out than they have it now.  From IH-45 North and More:

 

S3fH6wI.jpg

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Thanks Rechlin!

I didn't even contemplate this and so now every major north south street in midtown and Wheeler from Main to Almedawill be torn out and replaced with bridges.

Thats going to screw things up just a wee bit in Montrose Midtown and the med center. Traffic will be gridlocked all of the time with the Wheeler rail station.

Years of head aches. What are they going to do about rail on San Jacinto since it looks like it will be torn up too?

Just curious. How do they dig below these elevated freeways and keep traffic moving on 69 above while they tear out each intersection and trench below.

Seems like a disaster movie in the making, or the biggest cluster fk ever.

Thats whats nice about 288. Thy already had the right of way secured and fairly clear for all of these years.

Edited by bobruss
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Wheeler and Caroline looks like a pretty significant intersection that is suspended above the freeway... logistics?

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Bob,

It will be a mess for a long time coming.  But, this is very similar a process that was done with 59, through Montrose/Museum Districts, where the arched bridges are now.  This stretch was elevated before being placed below grade.  This was done by feeding all traffic (both ways) to one side of the elevated structure, demolishing the abandoned structure, dig the new ROW, where the demolish structure stood.  Redirect all traffic to new , depressed ROW.  Repeat.  It's something to watch. 

 

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Except now there's one of the most heavily traveled light rail lines in the country going over where they're going to trench

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That makes sense, but I think I'll stay clear. The difference as far as scale of project is much different however except for the Montrose bridges.

All of those other streets Hazard, Woodhead, Dunlavy, and  Mandell, were fairly quiet with little traffic compared to Main, Fannin, San Jacinto with the rail line, Almeda and Wheeler.

Edited by bobruss

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^^ You are right about the amount of traffic on the Montrose streets, as opposed to most of these streets through midtown.  And as I recall, all of the bridged streets in Montrose were closed as they built the arched bridges one by one.  A major concern, at the time, was that alternate fire routes (and/or stations) , had to be created for emergency vehicles, south of 59.  The Arched bridge design approach was taken so that there would be no columns on the new roadbed on 59, to keep the highway as narrow as possible and still accommodate the HOV lane.   I doubt that this same requirement will be taken, or even possible, through the midtown section.   The LR line will probably be rerouted by a little bit...but, certainly it will have to be closed to some time.   Will be really interesting to see how it's all done.  It's the most (if not only) fun of watching these big highway projects unfold.   

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Well I wish I could snap my fingers and it would be all done because with all of this going on can you imagine the traffic nightmare on 69. It already backs up to Kirby just about every afternoon due to the pierce elevated bottleneck. I't will be backed up to Fondren when this is going on.

 

 

Edited by bobruss
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2 minutes ago, bobruss said:

Well I wish I could snap my fingers and it would be all done because with all of this going on can you imagine the traffic nightmare on 69. It already backs up to Kirby just about every afternoon due to the pierce elevated bottleneck. I't will be backed up to Fonder when this is going on.

 

 

 

or 610 traffic will be even worse from people trying to go around the area...

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On 2/28/2018 at 2:43 PM, Naviguessor said:

The LR line will probably be rerouted by a little bit...but, certainly it will have to be closed to some time

I was thinking about it and thought "hey they could just run it as a single track" but nope - the red line goes under 59 now as a single pair of tracks, and only splits after 59.  If I were TxDot, I would start the trenching by digging out either side under 59 for the train, close it one weekend and put in a pre-made support underneath it that would hold until they finish trenching the whole thing.  I'd also do as much excavation work before closing the freeway as possible, but the traffic volume on the roads is high, especially Almeda and Fannin.  Montrose would be the detour - and a parking lot

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I brought this up for the green/purple lines awhile ago but forgot about the red line too. I’m curious what their plan is; probably close it to one track while they excavate and move on to the other after that’s finished.

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On 2/28/2018 at 1:49 PM, Avossos said:

Wheeler and Caroline looks like a pretty significant intersection that is suspended above the freeway... logistics?

The Downtown Connector in Atlanta has a few intersections above it. They just construct a very wide bridge to accommodate the intersection https://goo.gl/maps/iU7kGxtXMby

On 2/28/2018 at 3:07 PM, bobruss said:

Well I wish I could snap my fingers and it would be all done because with all of this going on can you imagine the traffic nightmare on 69. It already backs up to Kirby just about every afternoon due to the pierce elevated bottleneck. I't will be backed up to Fondren when this is going on.

 

 

Another contributor to the traffic is the two left lanes branching away to become Spur 527. You have people weaving to get over to 527 and people weaving from the left lanes to stay on 59/69. This would be a good opportunity for them to relocate the 527 exit to the right lanes. I went to one of the neighborhood meetings and suggested it, but one of the workers said they thought it couldn't be done. I think it could be done. There's enough space since there'll be the same number of lanes. The only difference which side the exit is on. It'd just be a shifting of lanes and structures in the same space. Since the freeway will be depressed, there won't be a need for a high flying flyover. I guess they also might want to keep the Spur 527 exit ramp and HOV ramp on one structure, and having a Spur 527 exit from the right side would mean two separate structures.

Edited by JLWM8609

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21 hours ago, JLWM8609 said:

The Downtown Connector in Atlanta has a few intersections above it. They just construct a very wide bridge to accommodate the intersection https://goo.gl/maps/iU7kGxtXMby

Another contributor to the traffic is the two left lanes branching away to become Spur 527. You have people weaving to get over to 527 and people weaving from the left lanes to stay on 59/69. This would be a good opportunity for them to relocate the 527 exit to the right lanes. I went to one of the neighborhood meetings and suggested it, but one of the workers said they thought it couldn't be done. I think it could be done. There's enough space since there'll be the same number of lanes. The only difference which side the exit is on. It'd just be a shifting of lanes and structures in the same space. Since the freeway will be depressed, there won't be a need for a high flying flyover. I guess they also might want to keep the Spur 527 exit ramp and HOV ramp on one structure, and having a Spur 527 exit from the right side would mean two separate structures.

I don’t think it’s people jockeying for lane position that slows 59 down here.  59 inbound gets stacked up past Kirby every day because two lanes become dedicated to the Spur 527 exit, effectively bottlenecking the “through lanes” on 59, a major freeway, from five lanes to three at the spur.  It’s the most insanely stupid design of a freeway I’ve ever seen!  It looks like they address the issue in the redesign.

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Although the spur cause some problems,  the source of the backup goes to the split of 45 at the Pierce to Galveston and north to Dallas.

Where you have to merge to one lane to get on the Pierce elevated. That is the bigger problem. It backs up 288 and 59 every day.

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5 minutes ago, corbs315 said:

Fiesta Mart is being sold. Any idea as to whether this may influence keeping the one on San Jacinto open?

 

https://www.chron.com/business/article/Houston-based-Fiesta-Mart-to-be-acquired-by-El-12780585.php

 

 

Probably not. The lease is still up in a couple of years, and the landlord wants to do something else with the property.

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4 hours ago, Ross said:

Probably not. The lease is still up in a couple of years, and the landlord wants to do something else with the property.

 

Have they said that? (That they want something else with the grocery portion of property?)

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8 hours ago, wilcal said:

 

Have they said that? (That they want something else with the grocery portion of property?)

Rice University bought that property when they bought out the rest of the Sears lease. I would not bet anything important that Fiesta will be there after their lease is up, since it would interfere with any big redevelopment plans.

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Interesting. A lot of people don't know this but there are actually a good amount of incubators in the downtown and eastside... as a web developer, I frequent a lot of them. Wonder if they'll be setting up shop in this district. (Some incubators right now have their own buildings while some have taken over former gas business floors in downtown). Here's a picture of Station Houston in downtown:

stationhouston.JPG

 

 

Quote

The innovation district is modeled after similar developments across the U.S. such as 1871, a digital startup incubator in Chicago. 

 

Here's that Gensler project in Chicago:

1871.JPG

 

18713.JPG

 

18712.JPG

 

 

 

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I worry about Houston's ability to Innovate. We are very good with production and profit making enterprises. Taking ideas from other locations and making them profitable. 

 

People will point to O&G innovation but a lot of that is driven from Licensors located in Chicago, Germany, Italy and other overseas locations. I dont know enough about medical to say if this is really the location for innovation or if there are other places in the country that do more. We should never stop encouraging innovation but I dont think a high priced innovation coordinator is the answer. The more natural progression that is happening on the East End seems like the better option. 

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Private and public officials are closing in on a deal to develop the main campus of Houston's innovation district at 4201 Main St. — the site of the former Sears location in Midtown, sources close to the deal told to the Houston Business Journal. Rice University owns the land and will be involved in the innovation district's development, sources said.



 

Sears Holdings Corp. (Nasdaq: SHLD) had a storefront at 4201 Main St. for 73 years before closing in January 2018. Rice Management bought out the remaining 28 years of Sears’ 99-year ground lease and acquired another 3 acres from Sears. The former Sears store property sits on 6 acres of land, and the parcel contains an additional 3.4 acres of land for development.

Wait, so the Sears had a ground lease that it only would've had for 100 years? Who owned it? I thought Sears had all that land, and leased some space to Fiesta. Huh. A while back we had discussions if Rice owned the land or not. I guess they really DID all along.

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