The Houston/Gulf Coast Chapter of the Society of Office and Industrial Realtors (SIOR) held its 30th Annual Expo in Houston recently. Almost 500 brokers, developers, contractors, vendors and suppliers attended the Expo and the developer panel titled, Developing Houston 2013.
I was honored to moderate this panel of major developers and to ask them questions about their current and planned projects as well as the current market conditions in the other cities where they have projects underway.
The panel was comprised of four panelists:
Keith Simon is the Executive Vice President and Director of Development for Coventry Development Corporation (CDC). CDC is a New York City-based commercial development company that develops large tracts of land and mixed-use developments for a private European family who purchased major tracts of land in Colorado, Florida and Texas as a hedge against financial conditions.
CDC recently announced the development of a new major campus for ExxonMobil on 385 acres in their Springwoods development on the north side of Houston. ExxonMobil is developing that campus for 10,000 employees that we have written about called, Project Delta. In addition to the ExxonMobil project, CDC will be developing 5,000 residential units, 8-9 million square feet of Class A office space and 1.2 million square feet of retail space in Springwoods. They are also developing a 100-acre holding in Pasadena, Texas into a mixed-use development called Baybrook Eastfield.
Paul Layne is the Executive Vice President of Master Planned Communities for The Howard Hughes Corporation. The Howard Hughes Corporation is a Dallas-based development company that formed in 2011 with the acquisition of a number of major assets including:
Summerlin, a 22,500-acre master-planned community in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Woodlands, a 28,000-acre development that currently has 97,000 residents, is one of the earliest master-planned communities in Texas and in the US.
Additionally, Paul is responsible for another master-planned community called Bridgeland, which is a 11,400-acre development planned to have up to 60,000 residents.
The Woodlands is a major economic driver on the north side of Houston and it has been in the top 5 housing sales markets for a number of years in Houston and its surrounding suburbs. Howard Hughes Corporation is planning another 1,000 multifamily units, an additional 2.1 million square feet of Class A office space, 900 condo units currently favored by the millennium generation, 328,000 square feet of retail and 300 additional hotel rooms. This new construction activity is largely driven by the many energy and energy services companies located in Houston, Texas.
Mike Mair is the Executive Vice President and Regional Manager for Skanska USA’s Commercial Development business unit. Skanska, a global construction company, is a merchant builder with construction offices in 39 cities in the US and development offices in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Houston and Seattle. Mair is completing construction of a 300,000 square foot Leed Platinum Office building in the Galleria market, that market’s first since the late 80s. He also has a major site downtown that is planned to house a new Class A office building currently being designed by the Houston office of Gensler, the same firm that designed the new ExxonMobil headquarters.
Mair talked about the reasons he came to open the Houston market and about positive impressions and outlook for development in Houston. He also told the crowd about his recent visits from “home office” by the top executives of Skanska and how that impacts his plans.
David Hightower is the Executive Vice President and Chief Developer for the Wolff Companies. The Wolff Companies are major land developers in the Houston region and have been buying, developing and selling land successfully for the last 30 years amid the highs and lows of the economy and the real estate markets.
David told the crowd that the major reasons why Houston has rebounded so fast from this last recession is that, unlike in the early 80s when office space was doubled in Houston in the course of one year, this time office space was not overbuilt and Houston’s major Fortune Companies are strong. When I asked him to be specific about why this cycle was different, he responded with one word, “Energy!” David was developing land in the Energy corridor of West Houston long before it was the Energy Corridor.
The panel was spirited, informative and revealed much to an audience eager to hear about new projects, how to get involved, and where they might learn something new about the market.
Check out the video of the entire session below to gain insights into the current thinking of these outstanding developers.