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fins and all
Towering downtown skyscraper and former headquarters for oil giant set for new high-rise apartment conversion
An empty downtown skyscraper harking to Houston's energy capital brand may soon reignite the high-rise living trend in downtown.
The tower formerly known as the Humble Oil headquarters and now the Exxon building (800 Bell St.) has been sold to an out-of-state developer with plans to convert the structure to residential units. Ralph Bivins, a former CultureMap scribe, was first to break the news on Realty News Report.
Bivins reports that the 1.2 million-square-foot building was sold to a New York investment group affiliated with CMI Developers. Notably, the group boasts experience in historic redevelopment and apartment conversions. Bivins adds that the age of the Exxon building (it was completed in 1962) and its high local profile might yield available historic preservation tax credits for the developers.
As downtowners may recall, the former Exxon HQ at 800 Bell for around eight years when the company relocated to its modern new campus.
Culturally, the building has been significant as a towering symbol of Houston's energy powerhouse status. At the time of its opening, Bivins notes, the building was considered the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. Its famed Petroleum Club atop the building was the site of myriad power deals, and later, special events.
Looking forward, the building presents numerous opportunities for adaptive reuse. The first floors of the building, once open to neighbors who utilized the Exxon cafeteria, can be an ideal mixed-use locale for restaurants and even retail. One hopes the building's signature "fins," crafted to block the hot Houston sun, remain a design feature.
A close-up shot of the building's fins.Photo via CALpix; copyright 2023
The large scale of the Exxon tower raises the opportunity for placing a significant amount of retail or restaurants in the lower levels of the building, located between Milam and Travis. The old Exxon parking garage, located nearby, comes with the deal, Bivins point out — always a boon for parking-scarce downtown areas.
Given the green-light status of the hotly contested I-45 expansion project and plans to redevelop Midtown and areas near the Pierce Elevated, the high-rise residential could be an epicenter of new downtown growth.