Business improvement district boosts appeal of North Houston
By Kent Bernhard – Contributor
On May 21, area business leaders and community partners gathered at the new HPD North Belt Division to announce the various improvements coming to the North Houston District.
Excellent access to transportation, major development projects and less crime have all combined to make the North Houston District one of the hottest areas in the city.
“Over the last three years, there’s a really positive vibe in the area,” Greg Simpson, president of the North Houston Management District, says. “We’re very proud.”
The 12-square-mile area bordered by the Hardy Toll Road to the east, Airtex Boulevard/Drive to the north, Veterans Memorial to the west and West Road to the south is in the midst of a major real estate development boom. Its crime rate has fallen thanks to multi-pronged community efforts. And major recreation, beautification and rebranding efforts are under way.
One result of those efforts is the development major projects such as an Amazon distribution center and the $100 million redevelopment of ExxonMobil’s former offices in the area.
Development in the district
As a result of its efforts, the area has since seen the opening of an 800,000- square-foot Amazon.com distribution center at the Pinto Business Park, along with other office and industrial development. “It’s an exciting time for the area with that renewed interest,” says Simpson. The largest such project is Lincoln Property’s massive CityNorth. “We saw this as a tremendous opportunity to be part of a grand transformation of this area,” says Kevin Wyatt, senior vice president at Lincoln Property, who is responsible for leasing at CityNorth. “We’re trying to offer the office of the future but offering it today.”
The $100 million project on the former campus for Exxon Mobil offices has six buildings on 36 acres and will include ultra-high speed broadband access, an indoor-outdoor work environment comparable to the Google campus in Silicon Valley, a 10,000- square-foot conference center and such amenities as a full fitness center and the recently opened “Third Place” tenant club. The club provides collaboration work areas, a big screen TV viewing area, a 50’ putting green and Full Swing golf simulator, which has 15 other games such as soccer and baseball. “All of these changes are brought new interest to the project, but a big reason for the attention is the incredible value we offer – we recently quoted a 200,000-squarefoot tenant that would result in them saving over $50 million of rent,” Wyatt says.
The district’s easy access — it’s within a 23- minute commute for much of the area and is seven minutes from George Bush Intercontinental Airport — combines with falling crime rates and his company’s amenity-heavy offering to make CityNorth an attractive offering for technology companies from startups to more established players, Wyatt says. Ultimately, he says up to 8,000 employees will work at CityNorth.
Those employees will join about 2,500 companies with 45,000 employees in the North Houston District. When businesses in the area banded together to form the district in 1991, property was worth $1.4 billion. It’s now assessed at $2.4 billion, Simpson says. “We’re seeing an exciting amount of growth happening,” says Simpson.