HOUSTON – (By Michelle Leigh Smith) – At 91, Gerald D. Hines opened his sexy new skyscraper this week. Towering 48-stories above Main Street and topped with a sloped crown, 609 Main at Texas has become a must-see destination – as hundreds of onlookers came to the grand opening celebration Wednesday night to view Hines’ latest urban handiwork.
This building is Hines’ 21st ground-up development in downtown Houston since 1971 when the firm finished One Shell Plaza.
The walls in the hotel-style lobby are limestone, the glass is accented with resplendent brushed steel. Magnificent sheets of marble in Irish Green from Brazil and Lapis blue, both from Brazil. A panel of Lasa White from northern Italy background the walls between the three lobby elevator banks. All three are sourced from Verona, Italy, where Hines’ project team discovered their beauty on a trip and commissioned them specifically for this space.
“609 Main at Texas is the most futuristic building we have completed – from the architectural design to the functionality of its state-of the-art amenities,” says Gerald Hines, the company founder who on-hand for the celebration. “Tenants are going to love going to work here.”
The building’s architect, who also designed Hines’ nearby BG Group Place tower, was in Houston for the event. “We wanted to create an environment that can empower the tenants to achieve their best,” says architect Jon Pickard of the New Haven-based Pickard Chilton. “We see situations with firms who recruited the best talent they could find in the ‘80s. To retain that talent, we have to design environments that are uplifting and healthier.”
So far, the new building appears to be very appealing to tenants.
“We are 60 percent committed, says Michael Anderson, executive vice president with Colvill Office Properties, a Houston real estate firm that handles leasing for the Hines tower. As he takes prospective tenants through Houston’s newest skyscraper, he has heard some remarkable response.
“One of the first reactions is the sheer beauty of the building and its presence on the skyline,” Anderson says. “Upon entering, it is clear that the tenant experience was the top priority for Hines. The lobby is highly activated and will contain multiple seating and gathering areas that will take on more of a hospitality feel.”
Anderson, along with Damon Thames of the Colvill company, have built up quite a roster of tenants at the tower. The international Kirkland & Ellis law firm signed a lease for the top two floors in 2015, one of several law firms at the property.
Then, Sanford Criner of CRBE – along with CBRE colleagues Charles Gordon, Brandon Clarke, Ryan Roth and John Curtis – signed up floors 12-19 for United Airlines. The airline’s space opens on to the tower’s two rooftop gardens that overlook the city beyond.
“This summer, Greenway Coffee will open a concept called Prelude Coffee that will further enhance the lobby experience,” Anderson continues. “The 8,500 SF conference center and 7,000 SF fitness facility are infused with natural light, and located in prime space on the 2nd floor. The building features next generation technology, including under-floor air distribution that allows for individual air control and better air quality.”
Then, there’s the surrounding downtown neighborhood.
“There are 40 street-level restaurants within a two-block radius. Main Kitchen at the new J.W. Marriott, the new Local Foods on Main, Moonshiners, and Conservatory are all great dining options with many more to come,” Anderson said. “There are eight hotels and eight residential projects within two blocks as well.”
The Hines tower punctuates a downtown transformation that has brought thousands of new residents to downtown apartment towers, new hotels, new office space and a revived street life.
“The 609 Main is the center of an axis in a three-block transformation that has taken a lot of vision,” says Mark Cover, CEO for Hines Southwest Region. “I think about what’s next. We’ll see residential double. Watching it take its place around global, vibrant cities.”
Longtime developer Louis Sklar who retired from Hines in 2011 says, “Clearly, the overall exterior architectural design makes it stand out. I was on the 44th floor and noticed how well the trend toward more open office space works with the use of more and more natural light. The design looks natural rather than contrived – the openness is an organic part of it all. The underfloor air-conditioning duct and HVAC system allows for ease in remodeling. It also provides an opportunity for people in individual offices to personally adjust temperature rather than calling a building engineer.”
Mr. Hines arrived in Houston from Gary, Indiana in 1948, with a degree from Purdue in mechanical engineering. Before starting Hines, he worked at an air-conditioning firm, where he honed an expertise that reveals itself in the under-floor air conditioning system at his new 1,050,000-SF skyscraper.
“My dad started this firm 60 years ago,” says Jeff Hines, President of the firm. “Now we are in 189 cites. Houston will always be our home and the center of our operations. We are committed to raising the bar on every development we do. We get to learn from the best practices and the lessons learned – but we must stay in touch with the market and its wants and needs. I must admit I’m a little prejudiced, not only with Jon’s great architecture, as this is a superb building, but also with the state-of the-art way in which it operates. I hope you get to look around and experience 609 Main tonight. Thanks to all in the brokerage community who have supported us, and shared in our vision.”
Rusty Bienvenue, Executive Director of the American Institute of Architects, says “Mr. Hines is the world’s most important developer. We’re fortunate that he calls Houston home and has done some of his best projects here. Most architects study his Pennzoil Place and the Galleria in architecture school. He understands a commercial building is not just a container. If you make it beautiful, it will draw in a higher rent value. The stone they’ve used is really beautiful.”
Early on, Hines built Pennzoil Place, One Shell Plaza and the Bank of America Center. And later Williams (formerly Transco) Tower, JPMorgan Chase Tower joined the stable of world class skyscrapers. He also recently finished 7 Bryant Park with Pei-Cobb-Freed, the first midtown Manhattan office building to begin construction after the great recession of 2008 in NYC. This spring, “Raising the Bar: The Life and Work of Gerald D. Hines” hit the bookstores and Amazon, delivering the full story of Hines’ career.
Amenities at the vertically integrated 609 Main campus include: a “hotel-style” lobby with a café and spaces for networking; full-height windows inviting an abundance of natural light throughout the building. Parking for 1,700 cars will be provided in an internal 13-level garage.
Among the other amenities:
- Transit-oriented development located on the Main Street rail line.
- LEED Platinum – a next-generation office building in terms of sustainability.
- First multi-tenant building in Houston with underfloor air and one of only two multi-tenant buildings in the country in development with this HVAC innovation.
- 8,500-square-foot conference center with flexible meeting space that can hold up to 300 people.
- Two roof top gardens on levels 12 and 13.
- Signature 6-story arched window overlooks Main Street.
What’s next? It could be a tower built on the former Houston Chronicle site two blocks away. Hines and partners bought the Chronicle building, on a block bounded by Texas Avenue, Milam, Travis and Prairie, for $54 million.
The demolition of the Chronicle building is nearly complete. The site will be a surface parking lot for a while – until the day Hines is ready to make its next contribution to Houston’s skyline.
May 20, 2017 Realty News Report Copyright 2017