The Houston metro area has a long way to go until its office market fully recovers. Houston led the nation in overall office vacancies at the new year at a staggering rate of 24%, but there is one bright spot in the market: medical leasing. It’s perhaps no surprise that there’s increased demand and growth in the healthcare and medical field across the nation during the pandemic, and the trend is likely to continue in the coming years. While traditional corporate offices sent their workers home throughout the worst months of the pandemic, medical businesses maintained a presence in the workplace as an essential service.
According to recent numbers from brokerage NAI Partners, a number of key metrics in the medical market in Houston reveal some optimistic signs. First, and perhaps most important, is the overall vacancy level of 16.8% from this past February was slightly lower than 17% from the same period a year prior. Additionally, gross average asking rent has increased slightly from $25.02 per square foot in February 2020 to $25.86 this last February.
However, there’s still a lot of space to fill and even more on the way. Overall medical office available increased from 18.5% to 21.1% year-over-year, and net absorption is way down, from nearly 157,000 square feet to -65,278 over the last year. There were no new deliveries to the market in February, but there remains nearly 864,000 square feet of office space currently under construction.
Leases of note mentioned in the report include a deal for a 35,000-square-foot space in the Bissonnet Medical Plaza in suburban Bellaire, a 20,000-square-foot lease at the Texas Medical Center near downtown Houston, and a 14,000-square-foot deal at the River Oaks Medical Center in Greenway Plaza.
Like most major metro markets, Houston’s workforce was hit hard by the abrupt business shutdowns and ensuing economic downturn that followed last spring as the pandemic took hold. Sectors such as hospitality, construction and manufacturing took big hits. In total, the Houston metro area saw a loss of 350,000 jobs during the pandemic, a Cushman & Wakefield report shows, however, the city was able to recover just over 200,000 of those losses by the end of 2020. At its worst, office vacancies in Houston last year reached a staggering 25.5%. And ending 2020 with a vacancy rate of 24.1% meant that Houston continued to lead the nation in vacant office space into the new year. And despite the turmoil, the city’s economic outlook remains positive as forecasts see upwards of 70,000 jobs being added to the Houston economy in 2021. But how is the office market faring in 2021? It’s not looking as cheery. New numbers for this February from brokerage NAI Partners show that the needle has barely moved. As of last month, Houston’s total office vacancy rate was 23.9%. During the same period a year prior, the vacancy rate was 21.8%. Some other fast stats show leasing activity down by nearly half year-over-year between February 2020 and February 2021, going from 2 million square feet leased to 1.225 million leased respectively. Absorption is also in the red while over 4.277 million square feet of new office space remains under construction. Click to read more at www.rednews.com.
Joint venture partners Hines and Ivanhoé Cambridge have topped out Texas Tower, a 47-story, 1.1 million-square-foot Class AA office tower in downtown Houston. Currently the city’s largest office project under construction, the structure reached the milestone several weeks ahead of schedule. The tower is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2021. Construction of the Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed skyscraper commenced in 2018. The following year, the project earned LEED Platinum Pre-certification under the v4 for Core & Shell Rating System. The energy-efficient development also aligns with WiredScore and WELL Building Standards. Once completed, the building will house Hines’ headquarters, slated to take up some 180,000 square feet. The tower is currently 40 percent leased to a variety of tenants, including global law firms Vinson & Elkins LLP and DLA Piper. The latter committed to a 31,000-square-foot, 14-year lease in early 2020. Situated at 845 Texas Ave., the site is well-located between the Central Business District, the Theater District, and the Historic District. Last January, Hines renamed 600 Travis St., the tallest building in Texas spanning 75 stories and 1.7 million square feet, and situated just adjacent to Texas Tower. The supertall structure is now known as JPMorgan Chase Tower after its anchor tenant signed a 250,000-square-foot lease at the location in mid-2020. Click to read more at www.cpexecutive.com.
Between pandemic-related lockdowns and a freak cold snap that saw snowstorms and power outages across large sections of the state, Texas has had a rough 12 months between spring 2020 and 2021. But a big part of the country’s economic recovery will depend on how retail and hospitality fare as vaccinations increase and restrictions are relaxed. According to numbers from NAI Partners, Houston’s retail sector has certainly faced its issues in the last 12 months, but it’s certainly a long ways off from its office market, which ended 2020 with the highest vacancy percentage in the country. This February, Houston had a total retail occupancy rate of 93.6%, down slightly from 94.2% during the same period a year prior. Despite the slow churn of retail leasing, the Houston metro area did see an increase in rent prices, at $18.68 triple net average. A year prior, the price was $17.94. Rents have steadily risen over the last few years, starting as low as just over $16 triple net in February 2017.
However, absorption is down and deliveries are significantly lower with only 552,000 square feet of space going online in February 2021 versus nearly a million square feet in February the previous year. Just 590,000 square feet of space was absorbed over 43 buildings last month. Areas seeing the most construction activity include north Houston, the city’s inner loop, and northwest Houston. The regions with the least recent construction activity are the northeast and south. Big leases highlighted by NAI Partners include a 26,000-square-foot renewal at Vanderbilt Square by Barnes & Noble, a 22,500-square-foot deal for Burkes Outlet in Angleton, and a 15,000-square-foot lease by Aaron’s in Fairfield’s Jones Plaza.
If anyone has the ability to surprise the world with his ambitious projects, it is Elon Musk. The billionaire announced that he is building a new city in Texas to be called Starbase, around the rocket launch site of his company SpaceX. Used to causing a stir by typing just a few words, Musk posted on Twitter that he is “creating the city of Starbase, Texas .” The tycoon, who is currently the second richest person in the world, said that his city will occupy an area “much larger” than Boca Chica, a place that houses a launch site for SpaceX and where the company is building its Starship rocket. Elon Musk shared some characteristics that his new city would have, such as that it will be friendly to dogs. He also hinted that it would be directed by “the Doge,” which can be interpreted in two ways. Click to read more at www.chron.com.
Six years into her career in commercial real estate, Kaci Hancock walked into her first luncheon for the Houston chapter of Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh. This is so overwhelming. I don’t belong here. I don’t fit here,” said Hancock. “Then Jo D. walked up to me.” Jo D. Miller, the chapter’s executive director, introduced Hancock to some of the others in the room, warmly welcoming the then-assistant property manager into the IREM family. “That was a key moment in my IREM life. If it hadn’t been for Jo D. taking the initiative or noticing that there was a new person in the room who was looking a little lost, I probably wouldn’t have come back,” Hancock said. “Because of that moment, I am now the 2020 president!” Click to read more at www.rednews.com.