Houston Office Market Vacancies Still Among Highest in Nation

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.

Hines, Ivanhoé Cambridge Top Out Texas Tower

by Beata Lorincz

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.

Elon Musk Tweets Plans to Create Texas City Named ‘Starbase’

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.

Sunflower Beach Resort & Residences Breaking Ground on Latest Project in Port Aransas

Sunflower Beach Resort & Residences in Port Aransas, Texas, is holding the ground-breaking of its 21-unt Pool Residences condo building on Feb. 26. Sunflower Beach is the only master-planned community on the Texas coast with modern design built into its design code. The goal is to appeal to the more design-focused second homeowner. The resort’s latest project, The Pool Residences, is designed by Jay Corder, who is originally from Port Aransas. Corder graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1995 and immediately began working at Dick Clark Architecture in Austin, Texas.

Office, Retail Space Under Construction Grows in The Woodlands Area Alongside Growing Vacancies

As of early January, office and retail vacancies in The Woodlands area were higher than they were the previous year at the same time. However, industrial vacancies decreased. At the same time, the amount of retail and office space under development was higher through the first quarter of 2021 than it was a year earlier. Retail rental rates ended the year higher than they began in 2020. Click to see data and read more at www.communityimpact.com.

SpaceX to Convert Offshore Oil Platforms into Spaceports

SpaceX has purchased two deep-water oil rigs off the Texas Gulf Coast to someday use as sea-going spaceports for their Starship spacecraft. The commercial space firm, through an entity called Lonestar Mineral Development, bought the platforms from offshore drilling company Valaris in July, according to public filings. Several media reports say Lonestar Mineral Development bought the rigs that were headed to the scrapyard for $3.5 million each, a steal compared to the original production costs between $330 and 515 million in 2008. London-based Valaris has corporate offices in Houston and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August. The new owner has renamed the rigs Deimos and Phobos, presumably after the Martian moons, according to space media outlet NasaSpaceFlight.com. Bret Johnsen, SpaceX’s chief financial officer, is listed in public records as Lonestar Mineral Developments’ principal. Click to read more at www.chron.com.