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Midtown Sears to Become Houston's Innovation District

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9 minutes ago, dbigtex56 said:

Thanks for the clarification, Triton.
How many square feet of office space would be needed to make this operation viable? Obviously new structures would need  to be built. 
I'm still hoping consideration is given to adapting the existing Sear's building;. 

 

Considering that they looked at the 5,370 SF former Surge Ventures building on West Gray before choosing this site, it is not entirely clear that they plan on building new structures. Building new space costs much more than adapting existing space, with a much higher tax burden to go along.

 

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54 minutes ago, Nate99 said:

 

Or perhaps I'm misreading it and its more of a co-op situation where they all share the costs, but no one else has made such an arrangement (or at least not enough)commercially viable privately. In any case, there still needs to be a gatekeeper. 

 

It's a mixture of both really. Some startups pay for their own rooms, especially when they are further along and they need to keep their discussions more private. Others just find a chair and start coding... But you still pay in the cost. There's nothing subsidized... these are just to get projects off the ground until they're viable enough to get their own office space. We are talking like maybe 2 or 3 people starting a project, something that is pretty common in the software development field. These places provide a more professional space especially for investors to come in... as opposed to working on the projects at their homes.

 

For example at the Station Houston, I know there's a startup developing facial recognition technology that checks users into venues without the need for RFID or iBeacon technology. So they've developed the product and they're currently marketing their project to major event companies and if it catches on, then they'll grow their staff and buy their own office space.

 

Again, this is an incubator. Some of the projects will be successes and some will be failures. Either way, these incubators provide the space that these startups require.

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The location of this is perfect..... it's connected to public transportation and to our best universities/research (Rice, TMC, UH) not to mention UHD and HCC. Also, I think putting this close to where our cultural centers are, between the Museum District/Herman Park and downtown's performing arts and hotels, is very shrewd. Fingers crossed, some form of the University Line gets built which would only increase the connectedness. 

Edited by kdog08
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It certainly going to enhance Main St  which is already getting quite an enhancement. Especially a dilapidated area. This is certainly good.

 

What I do not understand is how do areas like the TMC play any role in this?  Beside patient care , Biomedical research is a large focus at the Med Center not software research. I understand the brain and creativity concentration in the area with downtown, Med Center, Museums, Rice University and on and on I just don't understand how they connect. 

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3 hours ago, Twinsanity02 said:

It certainly going to enhance Main St  which is already getting quite an enhancement. Especially a dilapidated area. This is certainly good.

 

What I do not understand is how do areas like the TMC play any role in this?  Beside patient care , Biomedical research is a large focus at the Med Center not software research. I understand the brain and creativity concentration in the area with downtown, Med Center, Museums, Rice University and on and on I just don't understand how they connect. 

It's basically just about establishing diversified tech in the industries Houston is strong in. As well as creating a culture for creatives, which this city desperately needs. One strong example is the overwhelming support the Houston Outlaws (our eSports team) received by many young tech savvy Houstonians. Many of which have wanted to explore other cities such as LA or NY because their interests are there. If we can keep even a fraction of those people here in Houston, to help our city grow and develop, then we're in for some great change. You have to cover all bases of tech in order to keep talent here in Houston.

Edited by j_cuevas713
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13 hours ago, kdog08 said:

The location of this is perfect..... it's connected to public transportation and to our best universities/research (Rice, TMC, UH) not to mention UHD and HCC. Also, I think putting this close to where our cultural centers are, between the Museum District/Herman Park and downtown's performing arts and hotels, is very shrewd. Fingers crossed, some form of the University Line gets built which would only increase the connectedness. 

 

 

It's a good opportunity to extend the area exempt from parking minimums all the way to 59.

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On 4/5/2018 at 8:58 PM, Twinsanity02 said:

It certainly going to enhance Main St  which is already getting quite an enhancement. Especially a dilapidated area. This is certainly good.

 

What I do not understand is how do areas like the TMC play any role in this?  Beside patient care , Biomedical research is a large focus at the Med Center not software research. I understand the brain and creativity concentration in the area with downtown, Med Center, Museums, Rice University and on and on I just don't understand how they connect. 

Some research projects require a ton of software development for simulations, data gathering, etc. Having more developers available is a benefit to research.

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On 4/5/2018 at 8:58 PM, Twinsanity02 said:

It certainly going to enhance Main St  which is already getting quite an enhancement. Especially a dilapidated area. This is certainly good.

 

What I do not understand is how do areas like the TMC play any role in this?  Beside patient care , Biomedical research is a large focus at the Med Center not software research. I understand the brain and creativity concentration in the area with downtown, Med Center, Museums, Rice University and on and on I just don't understand how they connect. 

 

I don't think there is any reason at all to think this is targeted solely at software innovation.

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5 hours ago, Houston19514 said:

 

I don't think there is any reason at all to think this is targeted solely at software innovation.

 Would think that software innovation may be ancillary to the bulk of the work.  I would think that much of the work will be focused on traditional energy and sustainable energy as well as medical and health.  I further suspect (and hope) that there be robust outliers to this “core”.  But, if someone really wanted to found the “next big thing” in software, they will head to the Valley,

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On ‎4‎/‎5‎/‎2018 at 2:40 PM, H-Town Man said:

 

Considering that they looked at the 5,370 SF former Surge Ventures building on West Gray before choosing this site, it is not entirely clear that they plan on building new structures. Building new space costs much more than adapting existing space, with a much higher tax burden to go along.

 

As a "district", I assume that the area will contain considerably more than 5,370 SF of space.
I hope the existing Sears building can be adapted into office space and included in any master plan.

 

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Press conference happening about the innovation district tomorrow morning.

 

"...to create the innovation district, which will be anchored by a facility on the former Sears property"

 

That sounds like RIP Sears building to me. But, then they talk about giving media tours of the old building which makes me thing they are keeping it.

 

Guess we'll find out tomorrow!

DacGlMeW4AA4qUw.jpg

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1 hour ago, wilcal said:

Press conference happening about the innovation district tomorrow morning.

 

"...to create the innovation district, which will be anchored by a facility on the former Sears property"

 

That sounds like RIP Sears building to me. But, then they talk about giving media tours of the old building which makes me thing they are keeping it.

 

Guess we'll find out tomorrow!

DacGlMeW4AA4qUw.jpg

 

http://www.khou.com/article/news/local/midtown-sears-building-transforming-to-new-tech-hub/285-537101002

The Sears isn't going anywhere

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5 minutes ago, htownproud said:

No doubt young innovators will be drawn to a windowless 1940's building. . . . .

The structure isn't windowless. It's just the cladding on top. 

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4 hours ago, j_cuevas713 said:

The structure isn't windowless. It's just the cladding on top. 

 

Yep, there's an art deco construct hidden behind the facade:

1024x1024.jpg

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14 hours ago, AnTonY said:

 

Yep, there's an art deco construct hidden behind the facade:

1024x1024.jpg

What a great looking building in it's day !  Maybe they can somewhat restore a bit of the good looking art deco parts and incorporate it into an updated facade ?

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Just now, ArtNsf said:

What a great looking building in it's day !  Maybe they can somewhat restore a bit of the good looking art deco parts and incorporate it into an updated facade ?

 

Evidently a significant portion of the facade is still there, just covered up. 

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38 minutes ago, wilcal said:

NIce article with some highlights from the announcement:

 

http://news.rice.edu/2018/04/12/historic-midtown-sears-building-to-anchor-houston-innovation-district-2/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=SEARS&utm_campaign=Facebook links

 

 

That sounds muy bueno.

 

 

Really good that Station Houston is going to be the operator in my uneducated opinion.

 

 

Two years, as reported before, would be awesome. Keeping the art deco aspect would fantastic. 

 

This is looking to be an A++++ situation.

I couldn't agree more! I didn't know Station Houston was moving in! This might be the biggest announcement of the year already. 

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Video of press conference: 

 

https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/local/2018/04/12/278818/watch-live-houston-mayor-and-rice-university-president-announce-new-houston-innovation-hub/

 

Bill Mckeon with TMC talks about how the city is on fire and that a number of things are going to happen this year.  I get the sense that TMC3 is delaying its announcement as to not take away from the Midtown Sears announcement, but is coming in the next several weeks. 

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16 hours ago, Texasota said:

Now I'm just suspicious. This all sounds too good. 

 

No, it's incredibly exciting and, like I said on the previous page, this could be the beginning of the tech revolution in Houston along with the TMC3 and the aerospace industry (is the Ellington Field expansion still happening?). A lot of the computer science group pages on Facebook are rejoicing this is coming and it's started quite a lot of discussion among several startups I know. It might be just one lot in Midtown but this can really springboard Houston's own tech industry not related to O&G.

 

Edit: Oh wow, I hadn't seen this nugget before:

 

Quote

In developing its plans, Rice will work closely with the Greater Houston Partnership, Houston Exponential and Station Houston, which will serve as the incubator and amenity program operator.

 

The Station Houston is the same one I linked to 2 pages back. They're a great incubator that has quite a lot of success stories. Even more exciting seeing that they are involved..they might just leave that floor at 1301 Fannin to move here because it is a little crunched right now.

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1 hour ago, Triton said:

 

No, it's incredibly exciting and, like I said on the previous page, this could be the beginning of the tech revolution in Houston along with the TMC3 and the aerospace industry (is the Ellington Field expansion still happening?). 

 


All I know from occasionally driving on Old Galveston Road is that they are building that massive new air control tower at Ellington Field. 

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This will also help drive demand for Midtown's apartments and breathe energy into the MidMain-area retail. And the image of Midtown seen by passersby on 59 should be enhanced considerably.

 

Edited by H-Town Man
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So was this done to a good number of buildings back in the day? To hide the art deco artwork? During the 60s and 70s, was art deco considered like an unsightly thing? I realize crime went up during this period but is that why all the windows were removed?

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15 minutes ago, Triton said:

So was this done to a good number of buildings back in the day? To hide the art deco artwork? During the 60s and 70s, was art deco considered like an unsightly thing? I realize crime went up during this period but is that why all the windows were removed?

 

I think after about 1960 or so, any sort of historic detail in a building seemed "old-timey." Yes, crime and (if I remember correctly) a fear of "riots" were the reasons given for bricking up the windows. Basically, the inner city was viewed as a toilet and the only rationale in running this store was to turn it into a fortress and leave it running as long as it continued to make money.

 

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This happened just after the Martin Luther King assassination, in response to the rioting that occurred in many cities across the country.

They were worried about their large plate glass windows being broken out.

This area wasn't a high crime area. As a matter of fact there was a very popular movie theater on the corner of Main and Richmond called the Delman theater. 

The midtown area was a bohemian area and the first alley theater was down in this area. I used to go with my dad to a music store on Caroline not far from Sears where he would buy cymbals and drumsticks. There was a very popular jewelry store just south of Sears and they had Paul Bosch do advertising for them. It was quite a busy part of town back in the late 50's early sixties. My family was living in an old duplex on Montrose just south of Alabama.

Edited by bobruss
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21 minutes ago, bobruss said:

This happened just after the Martin Luther King assassination, in response to the rioting that occurred in many cities across the country.

They were worried about their large plate glass windows being broken out.

This area wasn't a high crime area. As a matter of fact there was a very popular movie theater on the corner of Main and Richmond called the Delman theater. 

The midtown area was a bohemian area and the first alley theater was down in this area. I used to go with my dad to a music store on Caroline not far from Sears where he would buy cymbals and drumsticks. There was a very popular jewelry store just south of Sears and they had Paul Bosch do advertising for them. It was quite a busy part of town back in the late 50's early sixties. My family was living in an old duplex on Montrose just south of Alabama.

 

There is a brief shot of retail storefronts on Main Street near Alabama in Brewster McCloud (1970). I think one was a jewelry store. They looked nice.

 

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3 hours ago, bobruss said:

This happened just after the Martin Luther King assassination, in response to the rioting that occurred in many cities across the country.

They were worried about their large plate glass windows being broken out.

This area wasn't a high crime area. As a matter of fact there was a very popular movie theater on the corner of Main and Richmond called the Delman theater. 

The midtown area was a bohemian area and the first alley theater was down in this area. I used to go with my dad to a music store on Caroline not far from Sears where he would buy cymbals and drumsticks. There was a very popular jewelry store just south of Sears and they had Paul Bosch do advertising for them. It was quite a busy part of town back in the late 50's early sixties. My family was living in an old duplex on Montrose just south of Alabama.

Much of your post is likely true.  One point of minor clarification though......(assuming I interpreted your post correctly).... the “race riots” around the country were occurring before the assignation of MLK take one of the most notable: Newark.  It happens a year before MLK was killed, as I recall.

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Ellington will outlive me I think, both locations mentioned in this post have very old relevance to me, for one when I was still pretty young around 5 or 6 I had medical care there at the Field as many other dependents of servicemen did.  At the time my Father was stationed on the USS Los Angeles Heavy Cruiser ported in Long Beach so that is one thing I will forever remember.  The other memory is the old Sears store and after I returned to civilian life after the Army I went to work for Al Parker Buick and I purchased my very first tools at that Sears location because Al Parker service department had a charge account and this was a time your employers looked after veterans and servicemen going out of their way to help you get a foot hold back into your life.  Strange how a few things reconnect when so many others have all but faded and disappeared forever.  I think it is nice both of these places will be around for a very long time and someone else will remember them 65 or more  years later and they might tie a different memory to the both of them.  I don't live in Houston any longer and only get bits and pieces of information now , reading this forum has been very useful and insightful to me.

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2 hours ago, UtterlyUrban said:

Much of your post is likely true.  One point of minor clarification though......(assuming I interpreted your post correctly).... the “race riots” around the country were occurring before the assignation of MLK take one of the most notable: Newark.  It happens a year before MLK was killed, as I recall.

Your absolutely right!

 

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On 4/11/2018 at 4:25 PM, j_cuevas713 said:

The structure isn't windowless. It's just the cladding on top. 

 

And the brick in the ground floor windows.

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16 hours ago, UtterlyUrban said:

Much of your post is likely true.  One point of minor clarification though......(assuming I interpreted your post correctly).... the “race riots” around the country were occurring before the assignation of MLK take one of the most notable: Newark.  It happens a year before MLK was killed, as I recall.

 

 

This is what I was talking about.

 

The King assassination riots, also known as the Holy Week Uprising,[1] was a wave of civil disturbance which swept the United Statesfollowing the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. It was the greatest wave of social unrest the United States had experienced since the Civil War.[2] Some of the biggest riots took place in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, and Kansas City.

Edited by bobruss

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21 hours ago, bobruss said:

This happened just after the Martin Luther King assassination, in response to the rioting that occurred in many cities across the country.

They were worried about their large plate glass windows being broken out.

 

17 hours ago, UtterlyUrban said:

Much of your post is likely true.  One point of minor clarification though......(assuming I interpreted your post correctly).... the “race riots” around the country were occurring before the assignation of MLK take one of the most notable: Newark.  It happens a year before MLK was killed, as I recall.

Full disclosure: I cribbed the following from the comments section of that other website:

From a 2006 Cite article by architect Barry Moore:
http://offcite.org/from-the-cite-archives-when-good-buildings-go-bad-by-barry-moore/
.
“it was the threat of race riots. In the tumultuous aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.”s assassination in l968, local Black Panther activist Lee Otis Johnson organized an 8,000-person strong memorial march, which unsettled much of the business community. Sears, watching from a Chicago torn apart the same summer, reacted by bricking up almost all the Houston store’s show windows and cladding the elegant upper stones with beige metal. And so Fort Sears has remained ever since, hiding from an evolving international city and culture, and wondering where all the shoppers went.”

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This whole project sounds amazing and almost exactly as I would have envisioned it in my urban design fantasies. The last item on my wish list would be to have Rice University open up a new Computer Science building there, with state of the art computer facilities for classes, leased time, etc. This would help prime the pump in the area with new people and a new culture. Maybe even dormitories in the future. But I can't really complain based on all of the good news coming from Wheeler nowadays.

 

Related but completely different, NYC has a wonderful example of a department store's transformation to an academic institution. Completely different architecture and environment, but if you ever get a chance, a visit to the CUNY Graduate Center (nee: B. Altman's Department Store) on 5th and 34th. The interior is completely changed (and wonderful) and the exterior is as handsome as it ever was.

http://nyccirca.blogspot.com/2013/04/b- altmans-palace-of-trade-moves-uptown.html

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Just to put a few more puzzle pieces on the table here, this effort is the first foray into reimagining the 9.4 Acres owned and managed by Rice Endowment.

 

http://realtynewsreport.com/2018/04/12/rice-creating-innovation-district-in-midtown-houston-around-1939-vintage-sears-store/

 

Rice Endowment is working with HR&A Advisors (see, NYC High Line) to plan and develop.  While this is pushing forward, TxDOT will be dropping that portion of 69 below grade.  Couple that with stakeholders working to reinvision the public spaces (transit stations, cap parks, traffic engineering) and there will be a remarkable amount of churning over the next 36 months.

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Part of the magic of the hub will be an easier transit approach, which promises to be at separate grade. “Edwin Friedrichs, Senior Principal at Walter P. Moore, has said that anything at street grade would mean traffic gridlock, so Rice will be working with HR&A to look at grade separation,” said Greg Marshall, a Rice University spokesman. “We have that top of mind.”

 

What is he talking about? Grade-separating what?

 

On a different note, this would be a great time to revive the Universities Line.

 

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13 minutes ago, H-Town Man said:

 

 

 

What is he talking about? Grade-separating what?

 

 

Sounds like above-grade light rail station right? That would seriously help with the Richmond/Main/Wheeler intersection.

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34 minutes ago, Triton said:

 

Sounds like above-grade light rail station right? That would seriously help with the Richmond/Main/Wheeler intersection.

 

Changing the grade of the train would be massively expensive, require a long approach on both sides, and involve numerous problems, including the presence of the freeway for starters. And I can't imagine they would raise it just for this building, when it runs at grade past several million square feet of office space downtown. I have to think he is referring to roads, but why would you change the grade of any of those streets? Grade separations are blighty and anti-urban. Street grids are usually efficient enough for just about anything, although it does get a little wonky in that area with the train and the freeway.

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On 4/14/2018 at 0:54 PM, dbigtex56 said:

 

Full disclosure: I cribbed the following from the comments section of that other website:

From a 2006 Cite article by architect Barry Moore:
http://offcite.org/from-the-cite-archives-when-good-buildings-go-bad-by-barry-moore/
.
“it was the threat of race riots. In the tumultuous aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.”s assassination in l968, local Black Panther activist Lee Otis Johnson organized an 8,000-person strong memorial march, which unsettled much of the business community. Sears, watching from a Chicago torn apart the same summer, reacted by bricking up almost all the Houston store’s show windows and cladding the elegant upper stones with beige metal. And so Fort Sears has remained ever since, hiding from an evolving international city and culture, and wondering where all the shoppers went.”

 

Looks like this story is urban legend

 

https://www.chron.com/entertainment/article/Lisa-Gray-Sears-eyesore-hides-an-Art-Deco-delight-1763773.php

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