HOW A CANADIAN PENSION FUND FOUND ITS WAY TO SWALLOWING A BUNCH OF HOUSTON OFFICE BUILDINGS Ralph Bivins explains how it came to pass that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, with its now-completed purchase of REIT Parkway, became the owner of 8.7 million sq. ft. of office space in Houston, including Greenway Plaza, CityWest Place, San Felipe Plaza, the Phoenix Tower, and Post Oak Central: “At one time Cousins and Parkway were separate companies with sizable holdings in Houston. The Houston office market tanked when oil fell from a high of $107 a barrel in June 2014 to less than $30 a barrel in early 2016. Houston energy firms laid off thousands of employees and vacated huge chunks of office space. Publicly traded firms with significant portfolios of Houston office space were under pressure. Security analysts criticized them. So Cousins and Parkway merged, all of the Houston properties were stripped out and placed into a new company, Parkway Inc. Now, the oil markets have stabilized. Houston’s office market is still soft and vacancies are high, but it appears to be on the road to recovery.” [Realty News Report] Photo of Greenway Plaza: Brent Oldbury, via Swamplot Flickr pool
Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday.
It’s bad, huh? Like houses rolled in sand.
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: DON’T TRY TO LUMP ALL THAT EMPTY HOUSTON OFFICE SPACE TOGETHER “ . . . Worth mentioning that 50 percent [vacancy] in Greenspoint versus 26 percent in Houston as a whole tells me a much different story than the one they are telling: that the damage may be regional and dependent on location. I’m sure it’s down all over, but Houston is a big market. It’s irresponsible not to recognize regional differences in an article like this.” [MrEction, commenting on Levy Park’s Transformation; Moving On from the Bayport Cruise Terminal Boondoggle; previously on Swamplot] Illustration: Lulu
BUYER OF CHRONICLE COMPLEX DOWNTOWN NOT EXPECTED TO CRUSH IT JUST YET The deal could still fall through, cautions Ralph Bivins, but real estate development firm Hines is in the middle of negotiating a purchase of the Houston Chronicle’s complex and parking garage at 801 Texas Ave. downtown. Expected sale price: “more than $50 million, perhaps as much as $55 million.” But Bivins doesn’t think Hines is ready to knock down the structures and build another of its downtown office developments on the 99,184 sq. ft. of land on 2 blocks right away. Instead, he writes, the company “appears to be seeking to lock up a prime skyscraper development site for future years.” [Realty News Report; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Walter P Moore
This was the scene over the weekend at 2499 Ella Blvd., at the corner of 25th St. in Shady Acres — as photographed by a Swamplot reader. The vacant former Ella Family Medicine clinic building, known also more recently as the home of the Fulton Pharmacy, is no more.
Photos: Veronica Jones
The asking price for the Heights Theater on bustling 19th St. in Houston Heights in today’s live-or-work listing is $1.9 million. The owners last toe-tested the reel deal in 2008, at $1.3 million. In the interim, surrounding neighborhoods have tipped even more hip. Though the future of the historic (but not protected) property is up for grabs, its past scrolls like an old film roll, with scenes of early prosperity, seedy decline, suspected arson, and restoration.
The exterior’s revamp earned the current owners a Good Brick Award 20-ish years ago. The interior, a shell space since its near destruction by fire in 1969, has been used for live theater, retail, events, and galleries. In the former lobby’s crossroads sits an original projector (top), a sculpture standing as both a testament and witness to passing eras.
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Film House for Sale
WHAT MICHAEL GRAVES BROUGHT TO HOUSTON Is Michael Graves personally to blame for the infestations of flattened pediments that began appearing on commercial building façades in the early nineties, and later morphed into the default “look” for the standard midsprawl shopping center?
Not really. But the early acclaim his variety of postmodern design received did play some role in the license now apparently felt by thousands of lesser architects (and developers) to festoon dull commercial designs with all sorts of cartooned classical elements — and declare the result to be “traditional.” By the time the New Jersey-based architect designed his 2 Houston building projects in the early naughts, he had moved on to super-scaling other building elements: His Martel College and Master’s house at Rice and the Federal Reserve Bank (of Dallas!) on Allen Pkwy. (pictured above) are both dressed in a sort of Lego-like big-brick wallpaper, but one “drawn” using actual-size bricks. After an infection he contracted in 2003 left him paralyzed from the waist down, Graves became an outspoken champion of universal design. Graves passed away last week at the age of 80; Writer Michael Hardy has a remembrance of the man he calls “the architect Houston loved to hate.” [Houstonia] Photo: John D. Cramer
WHY HOUSTON COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE THINKS IT’LL DO JUST FINE, THANK YOU Deeply embedded Houston real estate reporter Catie Dixon comes back from a panel event sponsored by her employer with a clickworthy account of 5 reasons Houston (commercial real estate) will survive the latest oil bust. Included in the list: attractiveness to foreign investors whether prices fall or not; this boom wasn’t as big as the one before the last big bust; the industry doesn’t rely on short-term gains; industrial real estate is still healthy; and — yes — data centers! (But things will be tough for developers for a year to a year and a half, maybe.) [Real Estate Bisnow] Photo: Russell Hancock
Rice U.’s real estate appetite for Rice Village property just picked up another choice tidbit: 2445 Times Blvd. That’s the 1955 flat-topped 7,500-sq.-ft. retail property on the southeast corner of Times Blvd. and Kelvin Dr. that’s spooned by mega-neighbor Village Arcade (which Rice also owns). In its listing by Davis Commercial, seller Rinkoff Rice Village LP’s asking price for the “trophy” corner was $3.995 million, though it initially sought $4.2 million. Who’s currently on display behind all the storefront windows?
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Miss Saigon Goes to Rice
FERTITTA: THAT WAS NOT ME IN THAT STUDEWOOD ST. DIVE Billionaire Landry’s CEO Tilman Fertitta categorically denies that he was recently seen in venerable Houston Heights dive bar the Shiloh Club, knocking back cocktails and peppering regulars for local information. “I was not there,” the world’s richest restaurateur tells the Houston Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff. He also denied rumors of a pending Landry’s land invasion of the Heights. (His Shepherd Dr. Saltgrass-and-Cadillac-Bar mini-stronghold will stay in Cottage Grove south of I-10 for now.) He’s about volume, something the Heights can’t provide him in ample measure: “The way that I’m set up, I have to do a lot of business, and they’re more smaller restaurants.” With one potential exception: “Brenner’s on the Bayou could be there. But that’s probably around here the only (Landry’s) restaurant that could be in the Heights.” Fertitta went on to reiterate and expand on a bearish short-term real estate market forecast he first delivered on Bloomberg TV earlier this month. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Bloomberg TV
The owner of the property at the southeast corner of Kirby Dr. and North Blvd. has indicated he might attempt to evict the Wendy’s franchise whose operator appears to have ordered the nighttime removal of 6 oak trees on public property surrounding the fast-food outlet earlier this week. Lias J. “Jeff” Steen, the property’s landlord, says he sent an email saying “I am extremely disappointed he took down the trees under cover of darkness . . . And I am looking at terminating our lease,” according to a report by abc13’s Deborah Wrigley.
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Removed ‘in Good Faith’
Hunkered down behind a tagged security curtain, a bunker-like commercial building in Midtown’s mid-section popped up on the market overnight with a $585K asking price in a “lot-priced” listing. The corner building of uncertain vintage fronting Fannin St. has a history with commercial printers (and insurance companies), and more recently, shoe repair. Adkins Printing struck an exterior inlay on the building’s forehead (above) that’s still visible behind current signage, as is some faint lettering from its days as the offices of Pound Printing and Stationery. More recent signage attached the building’s blank north side (at right) touts available “stationary,” a spelling more appropriate perhaps to Al’s Handmade Boots, the store now occupying half of the building, than to the location’s printing history.
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2 CORNER BANK BUILDINGS BANISHED FROM BANKING FOREVER This 3,848-sq.-ft. former WaMu at the intersection of Barker Cypress Rd. and FM 529 Rd. has been vacant and on the market for a good 5 years now. It’s surrounded by parking spaces on a 1.152-acre lot and features a spacious 5-lane drive-thru in back. Along with a twin structure at the intersection of Louetta Rd. and N. Eldridge Pkwy. (also for sale), the Cypress building has been forcibly retired from its banking career. Chase Bank, which bought up all the Washington Mutual corner-bank leftovers, spat out locations like these it considered too close to existing Chase banks — with restrictions to prevent another bank from moving in. A few more restrictions potential buyers of the structure at 7019 Barker Cypress Rd. will want to note: You can’t put a burger joint, a nail salon, a hair salon, or a dentist’s office in there either, because any of those (as well as a few other uses) would duplicate the offerings of establishments in the adjacent Signature Kroger shopping center from which the pad site was spun off. Still-asking price: $1.1 million. [The Weitzman Group]
A RANDALL DAVIS-FLAVORED HIGHRISE FOR THE EAST SIDE OF THE WEST LOOP Themed-residence developer Randall Davis is planning another Galleria-area condo project, and it looks like this one won’t have to share space with any fast-food drive-thrus — unless, of course, he wants it to. The HBJ‘s Paul Takahashi is reporting that Davis plans to construct an 85-to-100-unit highrise on a 1.8-acre site at 2021 Westcreek Ln., until recently occupied by a portion of the Westcreek Apartments. (It’s labeled Parcel D in the view at left.) Davis’s block is immediately north of the SkyHouse River Oaks, which is already under construction. It fronts San Felipe, across from Ashley Furniture, and its eastern flank abuts the Target parking lot. If Davis still wants some sort of fast-food spot to land next to his so-far-unnamed project, though, he could certainly make it happen: Takahashi reports he’ll be building on a little less than half of the site, and selling off 45,000 sq. ft. of it to developers. [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Image: CBRE