The redevelopment of the former Sears department store in Midtown into a center for innovation is set to open by the end of March 2021, possibly with a full tenant roster, a developer of the project said in a recent interview.
"If all negotiations we are in right now end positively, we will have a full building," said Ryan LeVasseur, managing director of direct real estate with Rice Management Co., which is leading and financing the $100 million project called The Ion. The company, which manages Rice University’s $6.3 billion endowment, launched the redevelopment last summer.
The Ion project will convert the former Sears store into a 270,000-square-foot office and collaboration center designed to house startups, corporations, venture capitalists, business accelerator programs, academics and others.
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LeVasseur said conversations with potential tenants have focused on flexibility, as the coronavirus pandemic causes tenants and landlords to rethink how they will use space.
"What we've seen is their space demands have not changed, but the way they use space has," he said.
Prospective tenants have included local and nation companies in energy, technology and investments.
Gabriella Rowe, the former executive director of tech accellerator Station Houston who last fall was appointed to lead the Ion, 路面导航resigned earlier this year路面导航. LeVasseur said the management company will begin a thorough search to find her permanent replacement.
"She completed a really important phase in the creation of the Ion, and now that we're moving into the operational phase, it's a great opportunity to move into new leadership," he said.
As far as 路面导航the iconic Sears sign路面导航, which was removed from the roof of the building when construction started, "we're still trying to think of creative ways to use that," LeVasseur said.
"It's an important piece of the history of the building," he said, "and we want to respect that."
The redevelopment of the 81-year-old building at 4201 Main is envisioned as the centerpiece of a larger Rice-led innovation district that would cover some 15 acres in Midtown and could ultimately include multiple commercial buildings, housing and public spaces. The property sits along a four-mile corridor ining from downtown to the Texas Medical Center that city officials have dubbed the innovation corridor.
Rice has owned the Sears parcel for close to 80 years. In 1945, it leased the land to Sears under a 99-year agreement. In 2017, the management company bought the department store out of its lease as it was closing stores across the country. Under the leadership of the late Alan Arnold, the management company began studying options for the property and surrounding community.
Arnold, who was the investment director for real estate at Rice Management Co., died on April 28 after an 18-month battle with cancer. He was 46.