$100M Houston Project Lands Chevron as 1st Tenant

Rice University's management arm leased space to the energy company at The Ion, an innovation hub that will emerge from the transformation of a former Sears store.

The Ion. Image courtesy of Rice Management Co.

Rice Management Co., custodian of Rice University’s multibillion-dollar endowment fund, has secured its first lease agreement for The Ion, its approximately $100 million redevelopment project in midtown Houston. Chevron inked a deal for space at the historic property, a former Sears store that is currently being transformed into a roughly 300,000-square-foot mixed-use office building that will anchor Rice’s new 16-acre Innovation District.

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In addition to being the first name on the project’s tenant roster, Chevron also holds the distinction of being The Ion’s first program partner, pledging to utilize its space not just for its own endeavors, but also for collaboration between Chevron teams, startup companies and community organizations dedicated to bolstering Houston’s growing innovation network.

“Chevron’s commitment to this forward-thinking project is a testament to recognition by thought leaders like Chevron of the need for the continual advancement and diversification of the regional economy,” Ryan LeVasseur, managing director of real estate with Rice Management Co., told Commercial Property Executive.

Former Sears store at 4201 Main St. Image via Google Street View

Rice broke ground on the Sears transformation project in July 2019. Located at 4201 Main St., the building first opened in 1939 and housed Sears until the store shuttered in January 2018. Rice tapped Gensler Architects and SHoP Architects to create a state-of-the-art vision for the building while maintaining some of the Art Deco elements incorporated in the original design by Nimmons, Carr & Wright.

Upon completion, The Ion will offer a variety of office accommodations, including shared workspace and ample room for adhering to social distancing guidelines. “We have always offered a flexible footprint and cutting-edge technologies and amenities to keep tenants and visitors safe,” LeVasseur noted. “A space like ours is in many ways advantageous to organizations because of the square footage we can offer to maintain space.”

The Ion, which will qualify for LEED certification, will also feature a host of amenities and resources ranging from a 6-story light well to prototyping and immersive reality labs to 70,000 square feet of public and shared spaces for event programming and business incubation.

Courting Houston

Rice has faith in the Houston office market, and believes where Chevron has now gone, others will follow. “We have firsthand experience demonstrating that tenants continue to be drawn to differentiated, even idiosyncratic, space that can be used as a key ingredient in the recruitment and retention of talent,” said LeVasseur. Rice is relying on Drew Morris at Savills to spearhead leasing activity at The Ion. Hines is aboard the historic conversion project as development manager and Gilbane Building Co. is in place as general contractor. Rice expects The Ion to deliver in the spring of 2021.

“The project remains on schedule and on budget. Base building construction is on track to be completed by the first quarter of 2021,” LeVasseur added. “Hines, Gilbane, and the entire project team have demonstrated immense resolve, dedication, and professionalism in ensuring the timely delivery of this complex building in a very challenging environment.”

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