Greentown Labs Opening in Houston, aka The Energy Capital of the World

HOUSTON – (Realty News Report) – Greentown Labs, a business incubator with a mission “to accelerate the clean energy transition” will occupy the former Fiesta grocery store in Midtown Houston.

The project is part of an effort by a Rice University affiliate to create a 16-acre, tech-filled Innovation District between downtown Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

Located at 4200 San Jacinto, the old 42,000-SF Fiesta grocery, which closed in July, is a block away from the old Sears store on Main Street which is also being redeveloped by the Rice-led group.

Greentown Labs is a significant player.

Headquartered in Somerville, Mass., just outside of Boston, Greentown Labs calls itself “the largest climatetech incubator in North America.”

Projected to open in Spring 2021, the Fiesta store  will be transformed into a Greentown incubator with a prototyping lab, office, and community space for about 50 startup companies, that could have a total of 200-300 employees.

“The City of Houston looks forward to witnessing the innovation, growth, and prosperity Greentown Labs will bring to the Energy Capital of the World,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a press release.

Fiesta store site is just a few hundred feet from the location of a massive homeless encampment that the Turner administration shut down a couple of years ago. The encampment, which sprouted up underneath an elevated section of U.S. Highway 59 near Wheeler Avenue, was closed down after Health Department officials said it was a public health nuisance because of widespread human waste and garbage. Also, four people were killed there over the years.

Although the major homeless encampment was closed, a homeless population remains along the southern rim of the Innovation District.

Construction work continues on The Ion, the  300,000-SF redevelopment of the Sears building – the anchor of the Innovation District. 

Critical Mass

Greenlabs Houston has engaged several “partners” in the new development including Microsoft, Rice Management Co., Saint-Gobain, Direct Energy, and Naturgy.

Earlier, in announcing its expansion to Houston, Greentown Labs said its inaugural Houston Founding Partners include: Chevron, NRG Energy and Reliant Energy, Shell, BHP, Vinson & Elkins, ENGIE North America Inc., Sunnova Energy International Inc., The American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, SCF Partners, and Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co.

Microsoft, has established the goal of making its energy supply 100 percent renewable for all its operations by 2025, becoming carbon negative by 2030, removing its historical carbon emissions by 2050, and rolling out a $1 billion climate innovation fund. Microsoft’s VP Energy Industry Darryl Willis will join Greentown Houston’s Founding Advisory Board.

“Accelerating the transition to clean energy is an important priority for us at Microsoft,” said Willis, VP Energy Industry for Microsoft. “Our world requires all of us to come together to enable long-term sustainability. Aligned with this philosophy, we’re pleased to partner with the Greentown Labs Houston group. Their focus on incubating innovation among energy startups will help us move towards a greener planet and also build on our strategic collaboration with the city of Houston.”

Several other accelerator programs have established a presence in Houston including Boston-based MassChallenge, gener8tor and Impact Hub Houston.

“In order to meet the urgent challenge of climate change, we must engage the talent and assets of major ecosystems around the country,” said Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs. “We look forward to catalyzing the Houston ecosystem’s support for climatetech startups as we work together toward a sustainable future for all.”

Fiesta stores, founded in Houston in 1972, carry deep inventories Latinx food items, in addition to groceries in demand from customers shopping for African, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian and Filipino foods and products for shoppers with other ethnic backgrounds.

Sept. 23, 2020 Realty News Report Copyright 2020

Caption: Midtown Houston’s former Fiesta and Sears stores are now part of the Innovation District. Photo credit. Ralph Bivins of Realty News Report Copyright 2020

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