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From GreenStreet to Midtown’s Old Sears – The Innovation District Evolving Quickly

GreenStreet has been selected as the site of MassChallenge.

HOUSTON  — (Realty News Report) – MassChallenge, a startup accelerator that will nurture and launch inventors and entrepreneurial ventures, is opening a facility in GreenStreet, a mixed-used property in downtown Houston.

The MassChallenge location at GreenStreet will represent the northern point of Houston’s new Innovation Corridor, a four-mile stretch of Houston from downtown to the Texas Medical Center.

MassChallenge, which opened in Austin last year, also has locations in Israel, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, has led to the creation of thousands of jobs. The organizations entry into Houston was announced at a press conference Wednesday at GreenStreet.

Midway CEO Jonathan Brinsden speaks at a press conference Wednesday. Photo Credit: Ralph Bivins, Realty News Report.

“MassChallenge is a perfect fit for GreenStreet,” said Jonathan Brinsden, CEO of Midway, owner and operator of GreenStreet with partner Lionstone Investments. “We are creating the new model of urban lifestyle at GreenStreet, a place in Downtown for business people in a wide range of industries to collaborate and find inspiration. Houston’s welcoming, can-do spirit nurtures start-ups and fast-growth companies, and makes our city ideal for established firms on the leading edge.”

MassChallenge, based in Boston, is an organization that screens and selects innovators and scientists that will work at the MassChallenge space in Houston to develop and advance their innovations, working with mentors and startup experts for many weeks. When the winning innovators are selected they typically attract venture capitalists ready to finance the startup, said John Harthorne, CEO of MassChallenge.

MassChallenge is a non-profit organization that takes no equity in the startups. Harthorne explained the process thusly:

“Essentially we will open for applications in April. Anybody can enter from anywhere in the world from any sort of industry,” Harthorne said. “It could be a non-profit, could be a pharmaceutical, it could be aerospace, could be tech, web software, mobil, it doesn’t matter at all. The criteria for judging is we are looking for startups with the highest potential for significant impact on humanity.”

John Harthorne speaks in Houston Wednesday.

The chosen participants are given office space, training, mentoring, lab space and other assistance for several months, until the most promising concepts are selected.

 To date, 1,900 MassChallenge alumni have raised more than $4 billion in funding, generated more than $2 billion in revenue, and created over 120,000 total jobs.

“MassChallenge is an opportunity that we pursued in earnest,” said Bob Eury, president of Central Houston and the Downtown Redevelopment Authority. “The Downtown Redevelopment Authority has approved an agreement with MassChallenge for an economic development grant to operate this program within Downtown, an investment that we believe will garner long-term results for the GreenStreet development, Downtown and the Houston region.”

The amount of the grant is not to exceed $2,500,000 to be paid over a five-year period.

“In March 2017, a task force formed by the City released a report titled Innovation in Houston. In this report, we realized that Houston has a thriving innovation economy, but its potential is limited by the absence of a flourishing startup community,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “A key recommendation was to create critical mass in a few key areas with access to ‘legacy industry’ and institutional players as well as an unparalleled array of amenities. The four-mile-long section of Main Street, now termed the ‘Innovation Corridor’ was identified, anchored by Downtown to the north, Rice University’s investment in Midtown and the Texas Medical Center to the south.”

Another project in the Innovation Corridor is the old Sears building on Main Street in Midtown. The Rice Management Company, which manages the Rice University endowment, is spearheading the project.

The Sears innovation project is named Ion.

Rendering of the renovated Sears building Midtown.

“We chose the name Ion because it’s from the Greek ienai, which means ‘go’” said Rice University President David Leebron. “We see it as embodying the ever-forward motion of discovery, the spark at the center of a truly original idea. It also represents the last three letters in many of the words that define the building’s mission, like inspiration, creation, acceleration and innovation. The Ion will become Houston’s nucleus for innovation, fostering a community and culture where entrepreneurs and corporations come together to solve some of the world’s greatest problems.”

The Ion, a 270,000-square foot structure designed to bring the area’s entrepreneurial, corporate and academic communities together into collaborative spaces and programs.

The Ion will retain signature elements of the original art deco building’s design — including historic corners, glass block windows, decorative tilework and a three-sided storefront with architectural canopies – while large windows will reconnect the open interior to the surrounding streetscape. A new central light-well will shower the building in natural illumination and, from inside, provide unobstructed views across the ground floor.

The building’s renovation into The Ion is expected to be completed late next year.

Jan. 30, 2019 Realty News Report Copyright 2019

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