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Rice University Parcel Flips Again

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December 27, 2004

Rice parcel flips again, this time to Dallas-based Marlin Atlantis

Jennifer Dawson

Houston Business Journal



Date: May 14-20, 2004

Headline: 'Rice land flips after 100 years'

The story

A huge parcel of land, that up until two months ago had been owned by Rice University for more than 100 years, was being acquired for the development of a large residential community called Whitestone.

HS Tejas bought the 1,564 acres along U.S. Highway 59 north of Kingwood from Rice early this year and was selling it to David Ward of Houston-based David Ward Partners.

Ward had speculative plans for a residential community of 3,500 single-family homes. Ward also was planning a theme park, bowling center, hotel and restaurants as part of the commercial elements of the development.

Scott Wise, Rice's treasurer and vice president for investments, said the property is part of a large portfolio of real estate holdings once owned by William Marsh Rice, who died in 1900. He left the real estate assets as an endowment to establish Rice University, which opened in 1912.

The university had cut timber from the heavily wooded property along Highway 59 to generate income for the endowment fund over the years. Rice would occasionally divest properties for similar reasons and became serious about selling this tract over the past two years.

The tract stretches along Highway 59 at Roman Forest Boulevard near the city of Woodbranch, which is about five miles north of Kingwood. A little more than 1,000 acres is situated east of U.S. 59, with about 500 acres west of the highway.

Ward planned to keep roughly 900 acres to develop, along with a group out of Dallas. He also planned to sell a couple of parcels to other developers. His initial goal was to sell about 150 acres of commercial frontage on Highway 59 and sell 250 to 500 acres for a residential development.


Development of the Whitestone residential community is moving forward, but David Ward is not leading the charge.

Ward initially put the 1,564 acres under contract but then transferred that contract to Marlin Atlantis, a Dallas-based developer of residential communities. Ward does not hold any ownership stake in the new development.

The Whitestone land purchase, which was completed on June 15, represents Marlin Atlantis' first entrance into the Houston market.

John Marlin, CEO of Marlin Atlantis, says Whitestone will have 4,000 homes when it is finished in about 10 years. Home builders will be selected early next year, and Phase One is expected to break ground in 2005 after the municipal utility district is approved by the state, Marlin says.

Kerry R. Gilbert & Associates Inc. was hired as the land planner on the project.

Roughly 200 acres will be sold to commercial developers, but what they will eventually add to the mix is still up in the air. Marlin envisions a power center, grocery store and numerous retail tenants. In addition, a water park and bowling center have expressed interest in the property, he says.

Marlin Atlantis, which was formed in January 2004, is in high growth mode. The firm has already purchased $23 million worth of land for eight developments totaling 1,110 acres in the Fort Worth area.

"We've done so much," says Marlin in a Dallas Business Journal report, "it's hard to keep up with it all."

Jennifer Dawson

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