HOUSTON – (By Michelle Leigh Smith) – Alchemy and amenity-rich environments were showcased by four heavy hitters in the design/development world at GreenStreet – the mixed-use project developed by Midway Cos. in downtown Houston.
Midway’s CEO Jonathan Brinsden welcomed John Lewis of WeWork, Dean Strombom, a principal of the Gensler architecture firm, and Mark Motonaga, a principal with Rios Clementi Hale Studios to share perspectives on the national trends and the creative forces behind them. Motonaga, of Los Angeles, has done much of the re-imagining for GreenStreet’s conversion to a downtown corporate campus at the nexus of the most traveled METRO rail line and a newly redesigned signature retail corridor.
Brinsden, in a panel discussion last week, introduced his co-panelists and models that “serve users, not just house them.”
Lewis flew in from New York, exhibiting the contagious energy that has come to be synonymous with WeWork. He explained how WeWork achieves a level of activation to engage employees. “We de-couple the requirements of having a lot of cash and signing long-term leases,” Lewis said.
He cited the Ace Hotel at 20 W. 29th in NYC – a place that is alive with ideas and fun to be in – as indicative of the kind of “space as service” they offer. The four-star hotel’s initial description reads, “steps from the Museum of Sex and minutes from the Empire State Building.” He showed another example where only half the space was actually for work and the rest was soft seating, storage, circulation. “By opening it up to be used by many, there’s an alchemy and people are getting more amenities and paying less. That’s magic for a CFO. We are working with 20 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.”
“We are setting the tone for how people work,” Lewis said about WeWork. “This is about placing the human back into the workplace.”
Strombom, an Energy Practice leader at Gensler whose specialty is workplace performance said, “We’ve seen it in every one of the industries we work in. The conventionally designed office often holds people back from working at their highest levels,” He showed signature hallmarks, including the Air BNB and Facebook headquarters in San Francisco, The Garage at Northwestern in Evanston, IL, a collaboration between the university and the community where the parking lot stripes are still on the floor and the ETSY headquarters, which has its roots in Brooklyn. Gensler’s open concept has been implemented recently at the Houston Chronicle’s new suburban digs at 4747 Southwest Freeway. Office space as well as printers, the sleek kitchen and coffee haven is designed for utility and journalistic collaboration.
“Our C3 Culver City spec office building is an example of what we’ll be doing in the future,” says Strombom. “Every other floor has 20-ft. ceilings, allowing tenants on those floors to add mezzanines to accommodate growth; and there are a series of interior and exterior stair ideas to connect floors in interesting ways.”
Brinsden shared some highlights of Midway’s new development at Century Square in College Station on University Drive near Texas A&M University. Brinsden, by the way, holds a Master of Science in Land and Real Estate Development, a Bachelor of Science in Construction Science and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design, all from Texas A&M. The 60-acre Century Square in College Station, upon completion, will be a walkable environment with retail, restaurant and entertainment outlets, with 60,000-SF of office space and two hotels adjacent to the A&M campus.
The mixed-use, walkable environments favored by the millennials, was the definite direction each of the four panelists shared. Midway’s GreenStreet, a four-level, 570,000 SF example of natural connectivity in the heart of downtown Houston set the scene for this interesting exchange.
GreenStreet covers three major blocks in downtown Houston – between Dallas, Polk, Caroline and Main streets – near Randall Davis’ new Marlowe condo tower. Midway’s partner in GreenStreet is Lionstone Investments. Colvill Office Properties is leasing it.
GreenStreet has a central open green space called The Lawn, 90,000 SF of office space and restaurant and retail options including The House of Blues, McCormick & Schmick’s and III Forks. The 223-room Hotel Alessandra will be completed there later this year, adding a hospitality element to GreenStreet.
Jan. 16, 2017 Realty News Report Copyright 2017