Panel discusses Future of Greenspoint

PANELISTS AT THE FORUM included Michelle Wogan (Transwestern)

GREENSPOINT – The Greenspoint District hosted a forum of commercial real estate developers last Tuesday morning, discussing the “Future of Greenspoint.” The event was part of a regular series by Biwnow staged both locally and nationally on commercial real estate interests.

The event was held at the Hilton Greenspoint Hotel. Introductory remarks were made by Greg Simpson, Greenspoint District president, Lance Lyttle, COO of the Houston Airport System, and Reggie Gray, president of the Houston Intercontinental Chamber.

The forum discussed both positive and negative aspects of commercial development in the Greenspoint area, especially against the background of several major tenants having relocated outside the district, leaving large amounts of office space available in existing buildings. Moderator Michelle Wogan said that as much as three million square feet of space will be vacant, as ExxonMobil moves to its new campus, and others such as Noble Energy leave.

The panel discussed various scanarios for trying to rent this much space in the near future. Like the proverbial glass that is half full, half empty, there were several viewpoints. In general, they agreed that it was difficult to lease this much space, but thought that Greenspoint had many strengths that offered opportunities to smart tenants and realtors. These included lower rental rates than competitors, location in the city and near highways and the airport, and the opportunity to configure space to suit, including many buildings that could be purchased rather than leased.

Negative factors that many agreed upon were a moribund shopping mall, lack of retail diversity, lack of housing options, and a latent reputation for high crime, even though statistics on crime are as good or better than most areas in Houston.

Bart Baker of Greenspoint District pointed out that they have invested several million dollars in new landscaping, water tails, enhanced security, and other amenities.

Realtor Lucian Bukowski of CBRE felt that the loss of major tenants Exxon, Noble Energy, Southwestern Energy, and others was very difficult to overcome. Although location was a positive factor, nevertheless weak surroundings of residential units, and the lack of retail amenities make it difficult to lease.

William Peeples of KDC and several others said that a major change, or “catastrophic” event was needed to bring the area into desirable conditions. This could be the redevelopment of the mall, or housing. A move into the area from a major corporate tenant would also be a step in the right direction, and more likely from a national firm.

In contrast to these negative comments, Chip Colville said that Greenspoint has been one of his busiest and best locations recently, and he expects that to continue. He also said that security at Greenspoint is good, and perception of this is not reality. Michelle Wogan of Transwestern said her company also has been busy in Greenspoint, leasing 260,000 feet in the last year.

The panel agreed on three initiatives that would benefit the Greenspoint District: One, Redevelop the Mall. This would probably require a sale by the multiple owners, and a firm such as KDC to develop a new design of mixed use tenants; Two, Attract a Major Corporate User. Peeples and Bukowski look for a large out-of-state company to be drawn to Texas’ business-friendly environment, and the airport. Another possibility is for United Airlines to relocate from downtown, they said; Three, Develop more night-life, sports facilities, variety of dining exeriences, and other amenities to attract and hold people.