HOUSTON – (By Cynthia Lescalleet for Realty News Report) – It seems almost fitting that the stately Sears flagship in Houston’s Midtown – once a do-it-yourselfer’s tool-filled paradise — is now awaiting an overhaul of its own.
Shuttered earlier this year, the building will be renovated and repurposed as anchor in an innovation center for tech research and startups that’s slated for the broader site of about 13 acres. The $100 million redevelopment project by Rice University was recently designated Midtown Innovation District.
At 190,000 SF, the four-story retail building, 4201 Main Street at Wheeler, has presided over its patch of Houston since 1939. As re-revealed by some early deconstruction at the site, the original Art Deco façade survived its stint of metal “updates” added in the ‘60s.
Located on Metro’s light rail line and within three miles of the city’s universities, the future district is intended to attract, support and concentrate talent, resources, training and endeavors. It’s also at the heart of what city, business and academic leaders envision as an emerging corridor of innovation – some have called it an “innovation ecosystem” — linking downtown to Texas Medical Center.
Rice Management Co., which oversees the university’s endowment, has long-owned the 9.4 acre Sears site, neighboring strip center and adjacent grocery store property. It has assembled a few other parcels for a total footprint nearing 13 acres since the site’s redevelopment project was unveiled in April. That announcement was in tandem with a broader vision for the corridor touted by academic, business and city leaders. The collaboration includes Greater Houston Partnership, HX and digital tech incubator Station Houston.
Details of the building transformation and broader project status remain in the planning stages as Rice networks with other Houston academic institutions, university sources say.
Overall redevelopment of the building will be handled by Hines, with architects Gensler and James Carpenter.
Rice University President David Leebron has called the future innovation district an asset for the city, not just the university.