Can't wait for the other renderings to come out. MainPlace was the last proposal, but first to produce a rendering. Here is a Chron article written today:
Hines project hits home
The Houston-based developer's 46-story office tower is one of four being planned for downtown
By NANCY SARNOFF
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Hines, the Houston-based firm that develops real estate across the globe, is planning its newest building in the heart of its hometown.
The new project, to be called MainPlace, will be a 46-story, 1 million-square-foot office building at 811 Main St. between Walker and Rusk, the company said Tuesday.
The modern glass tower will replace a series of worn-out structures, including the Montagu Hotel, situated on "one of the most blighted blocks in downtown," the company said.
"We believe there will be a tremendous outpouring of improvement on adjacent blocks," said Mark Cover, an executive vice president with Hines.
Plans call for the building to be completed by late 2010.
As the company begins to prepare its site this week for construction, at least three other developers are moving forward with plans for their own top-class office towers.
While none of the firms has secured a main tenant for any of the buildings — once considered a prerequisite to breaking ground — each has expressed confidence in its abilities to do so.
"There's certainly enough demand to fill more than one building," said Matt Khourie, president of the U.S. central region for Trammell Crow Co., which said it will break ground early next year on a 30-story tower near Discovery Green, downtown's new park. "Whether there's enough to fill all four buildings, the market's going to have to dictate that."
Some experts have doubts.
Given the recent credit crunch that has made it more expensive for companies to borrow money, "I think that some of these plans are being floated probably somewhat prematurely," said Ralph Howard, CEO of the Houston-based Situs Cos., a real estate consulting firm. "I would think if you had to speculate today, not all of those will get off the ground as soon as they were anticipated to."
Still, developers said downtown office buildings are running out of space, creating pent-up demand.
The vacancy rate for top-of-the-market buildings here has risen to 91.4 percent, according to CB Richard Ellis.
Trammell Crow said it will start construction in January on its two-block development at La Branch and McKinney, bordering Discovery Green.
Playing off the name of the park, the company's Discovery Tower will have 871,000 square feet of space. A parking garage will be built on an adjacent block to the north.
Designed by Gensler to attain a rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, the project will have retail space on the ground floor and is expected to have a sky bridge connecting it to another building with tunnel access.
"We really feel Discovery Green is going to be a difference-maker for downtown, just like Millennium Park in Chicago and Bryant Park in New York," Khourie said.
Despite Houston's strong economy, David Wolff, founder of Houston-based real estate firm Wolff Cos., isn't convinced that all four towers will be built, but developers with strong downtown tenant bases will have an advantage.
Paul Layne of Brookfield Properties said his firm has been meeting with companies that could be tenants in its proposed tower near its Allen Center complex.
And Crescent Real Estate Equities Co., the Fort Worth firm that was recently acquired by affiliates of Morgan Stanley Real Estate, is also moving forward with plans for a new tower at the Houston Center project on the east end of downtown.
The proposed 29-story building, designed by HKS of Dallas and to be named 6 Houston Center, will have 583,582 square feet of rentable space, said Joseph Pitchford, a vice president of Crescent.
Groundbreaking will occur in February with completion expected in the first quarter of 2010, Pitchford said.
While the national economy will be modestly affected by the tightening of credit, overall demand for energy and commodities will continue to rise, putting Houston in a strong position, Hines' Cover said.
The company is even looking into the future beyond MainPlace.
Hines is locking up a second location on Main Street, between Texas and Capitol, where it's considering another office building.
"It's a great opportunity, whether it's this cycle or the next," said John Mooz, a vice president for the company.
Meanwhile, its current focus is on MainPlace, which will be the company's "most sustainable effort in the city."
Hines said the building will be pre-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council with a silver rating through the group's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — Core and Shell program. The council awards points to buildings with features such as air-cleaning systems, individual temperature controls, recycled building materials and purified water systems.
The tower will be clad in horizontal sunshades of glass and aluminum that will wrap around the buildings' curved north and south facades. The west facade will be shaded from evening sunlight by vertical glass fins, which will soar 630 feet from Main Street's sidewalk to the building's crown.
It will also have a recessed "sky garden" on one of the top floors and a parking garage with a "green" or landscaped roof.
"We want to make sure this building serves as a benchmark of what urban architecture should be," said Jon Pickard of Pickard Chilton, the building's architect.
Rental rates will be in the low $30-per-square-foot range, Cover said. Hines wouldn't reveal the project cost.
Spurring more projects
The company said it believes the project will spur further redevelopment in that part of downtown.
Wolff, who is also chairman of the city's transit authority, said the rail line has started paying off in terms of development along Main Street, which was not a "good business address" before the transit improvements.
"It was a very unattractive street, and it really divided downtown," he said. "Now it's the center of downtown instead of being a divider between east and west."