HTX Real Estate 2013
Teardown Fever Returns

The teardown craze is only beginning: Old office buildings are next on the demolition docket

The teardown craze is only beginning: Old office buildings are next

construction site in Houston inner loop
Teardowns in the office market are at an all-time high in Houston, making it one of the hottest locations in the country right now. InnerLoopHoustonc.com
Town Centre I rendering by Moody Rambin 10-story office building on Town & Country at Queensbury Lane June 2013
Moody Rambin will begin construction in September on the 10-story, 250,000-square-foot Town Centre I, located on Town & Country Boulevard at Queensbury Lane. MoodyRambin.com
Black Labrador Houston Midtown
The new six-story extension of the 220,000-square-foot Campanile complex includes office and retails space and connects to the Black Labrador pub. Vimeo.com
construction site in Houston inner loop
Town Centre I rendering by Moody Rambin 10-story office building on Town & Country at Queensbury Lane June 2013
Black Labrador Houston Midtown

It’s commonplace in communities like West University Place, Bellaire and the Heights. A bulldozer crumbles a house and a home builder replaces it with a home that’s bigger and (allegedly) better.

Well, get ready. You will start to see teardowns in the office market, too.

“A lot of them will be scraped and replaced with new buildings,” says office leasing expert Sanford Criner, executive vice president of CBRE Group.

Many older buildings fall far short of the energy efficiency and technology infrastructure that are common in today’s new structures. So if a second-class or third-tier building is occupying a prime corner — look out — the wrecking ball may be flying.

 “A lot of them will be scraped and replaced with new buildings." 

It doesn’t hurt that the Houston office market is one of the hottest in the country right now and arguably one of the best in the world. Rents have been going up and vacancies are shrinking.

In a new national report by the CBRE realty firm, Houston was tops — tied with Boston — as having the sharpest drops in vacancy in the second quarter of this year among major United States cities.

Houston’s prime “Class A” buildings in the most desirable areas are full to the brim. The prime buildings in the Energy Corridor are 99 percent occupied and The Woodlands has a 100 percent Class A occupancy rate.

Occupancy this high is a rarity we may never see again.

Developers are responding by constructing dozens of new office towers, with a lot of the new projects concentrated in West Houston and The Woodlands.

A Theatrical Office

Moody Rambin Interests is building an office complex and a new home for the Country Playhouse, a community theater group that’s been a fixture in the Memorial area since 1956.

Moody Rambin will build a 10-story office building, called Town Centre I, on Town & Country Boulevard at Queensbury Lane. It’s near the intersection of Beltway 8 and the Katy Freeway.

 Occupancy this high is a rarity we may never see again. 

Other parts of the project will include additional office space, a 1,400-car parking garage and a new 22,000-square-foot community theater/auditorium.

The new theater will include a 220-seat auditorium/theater and a 75-seat black box theater. The theater will serve as the new home of Country Playhouse.

Houston-based Moody Rambin, founded in 1969, has been known mostly for real estate brokerage and management in recent years, although it has developed a lot of commercial real estate in Texas in the past. The Towne Centre project is Moody Rambin’s first major development in Houston since 2008.

The Church Tower

Another office building is being built in the Montrose area’s Campanile complex, near the intersection of Montrose Boulevard and Richmond Avenue. It’s a six-story project developed by Redstone Cos. and Hansen Partners at 4306 Yoakum.

 The Campanile originally was the Central Church of Christ building and it was my family’s regular church. 

The new building is an extension of the 220,000-square-foot Campanile, which includes office and retail space, the Black Labrador pub and is connected to the Freed-Montrose branch of the Houston Public Library.

A campanile is a bell tower, of course, and there’s a tall one on the property, probably five or six stories high, maybe taller.

Built in the 1940s, the Campanile originally was the Central Church of Christ building and it was my family’s regular church. I was baptized there when I was a boy. Although it was not allowed, I was an adventurous kid and I climbed to the top of the bell tower several times with my buddy Garrett without getting caught.

It sounds crazy, but you might say we were “Brats In The Belfry” — climbing up the inside of the bell tower, not worried that a slip of a sneaker could have been deadly.

In the 1980s, the congregation moved out and John Hansen redeveloped the church building. I would say the results are fairly good. The sanctuary is now the library and the church’s Fellowship Hall is now the Black Lab.

There’s no place for preaching, praying or baptizing. But at least it didn’t get torn down.

Ralph Bivins, founding editor of RealtyNewsReport, is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.