Memorial Hermann Health System, Houston’s largest health system, opened a new 17-floor critical care tower at its Texas Medical Center hospital.

Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center’s new tower, dubbed the Susan and Fayez Sarofim Pavilion, began accepting emergency room patients effective Feb. 20, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Susan and Fayez Sarofim, the billionaire behind Houston-based investment firm Fayez Sarofim & Co., donated $25 million for the project — the largest gift Memorial Hermann had ever received when it was announced in February 2018. The Sarofim Pavilion was part of a roughly $700 million renovation and expansion project at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, according to Memorial Hermann.

“The Sarofim Pavilion enables Memorial Hermann to stay ahead of the fast-growing advances in medicine, keep pace with the extraordinary growth of the greater Houston metropolitan region and, most importantly, meet the health needs of our community for years to come,” David Callender, president, and CEO of Memorial Hermann said in a news release.

The new 17-floor tower has more than 140 patient rooms; 24 operating rooms, including three hybrid ORs; a 335-seat cafeteria dubbed the Arboretum Café; and 900 new parking spots. Sarofim Pavilion also is the new home of the Red Duke Trauma Institute at Memorial Hermann-TMC — one of two adult Level 1 trauma centers in Houston.

Operations for Memorial Hermann’s air ambulance service, Life Flight, moved on top of the new tower. The new John S. Dunn Heliport is 10,000 square feet larger than the old helipad and is capable of handling the weight of a Black Hawk helicopter.

“As the Houston community is growing by leaps and bounds, the need for access to quality health care increases exponentially,” Susan Sarofim, chair of the Memorial Hermann Foundation board between 2015 and 2017, said in the release. “Memorial Hermann has stepped up to the plate to deliver a new facility with greatly increased patient capacity and state-of-the-art equipment. Fayez and I are so proud to support Memorial Hermann as the health system continues to deliver award-winning, innovative care to the Houston community.”

Construction began on the Memorial Hermann-TMC expansion in 2015. The building of Sarofim Pavilion took over 5,500 workers and 3.5 million man-hours, according to Memorial Hermann. Houston-based Vaughn Construction served as the project’s general contractor.

Houston’s office market is bracing for another tough year as the energy industry shrinks in the face of lower oil prices, which dipped this week to their lowest level in more than a year.

“It remains a tenant’s market,” Lucian Bukowski, an executive vice president with CBRE, said. “I see that continuing.”

Oil companies, which have been steadily cutting costs and laying off workers, account for more than 30 percent of the local office market, said Bukowski, who represents companies looking for space. Demand is falling among other industries, as well. Leasing activity last year was down 17 percent from the previous year, CBRE data show.

That all amounts to a harsh reality for landlords carrying empty office space, and there are a lot of them. The vacancy rate for so-called Class A buildings — the newest properties with the most amenities — was 17 percent at the end of last year, the highest it’s been since at least 1992.

Large blocks of empty space fill skyscrapers from the city center to the suburbs. One of the former Anadarko towers in The Woodlands will be vacant by next month. The company was acquired by Occidental last year and employees are being consolidated.

Bob Parsley, co-chairman and principal in the Houston office of Colliers International, which is leasing the building for owner Howard Hughes Corp., said there’s been a strong interest in the tower.

“We were frankly very happy to get this building into the Howard Hughes portfolio because we didn’t have much space to lease,” Parsley said. “That market is tight up there.”

Jobs added – elsewhere

While certain submarkets have done better at controlling inventory, vacancy market-wide ended the year at 19 percent, well above the 10-year average of 15.3 percent, CBRE’s data show. Combined with sublease space, overall vacancy jumped to 22 percent across Houston.

Energy tenants are critical to the local office market. Yet employment in the industry is shrinking.

Houston is expected to gain 42,000 new jobs this year, but it will lose 4,000 in the energy sector, according to the Greater Houston Partnership.

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The energy sector won’t be a significant driver of demand for potentially years, said Patrick Duffy, president of Colliers International in Houston. Growth in 2020 is expected to come from health care, government, accommodation/food services, and construction, yet many of those companies are not big enough to lease the large blocks of space currently on the market.

“A huge medical deal is 100,000 square feet. A big law firm is 60,000, 70,000 square feet. And we need to take down millions of square feet,” Duffy said.

Houston is a roughly 213 million-square-foot office market. It could be a decade before the market returns to equilibrium, meaning anywhere from 11 to 13 percent occupancy, Duffy said.

“That’s assuming we don’t build a lot more and we don’t have a recession,” he said.


Companies shopping for space today have leverage. Landlords are offering free rent, parking discounts, and generous tenant improvement allowances. Annual per-square-foot asking rents in Class A buildings range from $32.20 in the suburbs to $54.67, according to Colliers.

Bukowski, speaking at a commercial real estate market briefing last week, said landlords generally make money when their buildings are 85 percent to 90 percent leased.

Houston has 82 buildings with at least 100,000 square feet of space available. Twice as many buildings have at least 50,000 square feet up for grabs.

That’s why so many property owners are making improvements. Even Williams Tower, one of the city’s most prestigious office buildings, is undergoing a lobby facelift.

While the major energy players aren’t expanding — and are increasingly looking for ways be more efficient within their buildings — smaller, more entrepreneurial business is growing, said Griff Bandy, a partner with commercial real estate firm NAI Partners.

Bandy recently represented XCL Resources, a private oil, and gas firm, in a lease for 16,328 square feet at M-K-T, a new adaptive reuse project in the Heights. JLL is representing the landlord, a partnership of Radom Capital and Triten Real Estate Partners.

The development includes a collection of industrial buildings that are being repurposed to house offices, shops, restaurants and health, and fitness concepts.

Bandy and others said companies are looking for spaces that will wow potential employees and help retain the ones they have. To that end, new mixed-use developments and downtown towers with an abundance of amenities are winning out.

Colliers data show Houston office buildings constructed after 2005 have an 11 percent vacancy rate.

In Houston, a new facility for The Center for Pursuit held its groundbreaking on a site in the East End.


An interpretation of mixed-use development, The Center for Pursuit’s next-generation facility broke ground this week in Houston’s East End, where it will relocate in 2021 to serve, support and empower the city’s adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

From its new campus, which starts construction next month, the nonprofit organization will also reach out into its neighboring communities with programs, public spaces and some retail, including a café.

Sitting on 3.8 acres of previously paved property, the new facility will encompass four buildings totaling 129,000 square feet, a 7,000-square-foot park and a 257-car parking structure.

The new buildings include a residential tower of 41 units; a programs building for adult training, employment services, and adult activities; a health and wellness building with fitness, medical clinic, cafeteria and café; and an administration building housing a welcome center, conference space, incubator workspace for other non-profit startups and one of the vocational programs.

A United Way agency, the 60-year-old organization now serves 450 clients, has 40 residents and provides daycare to 300 severely disabled adults, many of which arrive by Metro van daily, according to organization sources at the groundbreaking event.

The pedestrian-friendly project’s new location on an infill parcel near downtown is served by Houston’s Metro Rail, something key to site selection, project leaders said at the event, attended by representatives of city, county and state government, related agencies, East End community leaders and current clients.

Including property acquisition and improvements, the project’s total cost has an estimated value of $71 million, said Charles C. Canton, the center’s president, and CEO. Construction is slated to begin in early February, with completion substantially completed in early 2021, he noted in a follow-up statement.

Funds raised to date have included the sale of the organization’s long-term facility on six acres overlooking Buffalo Bayou as well as a phased capital campaign. The most recent push, tagged “Strive,” closes the remaining $16.5 million sought, Canton said.

Part of the new project’s vision process (and fundraising) was a 4,000-mile bike ride to assess best practices at 30 facilities coast-to-coast, led by David C. Baldwin of SCFPartners, a board member and Pursuit Foundation trustee, and a series of charrettes. Integrating and providing choice to the spectrum of constituencies served by the facility was paramount to the planning, he said.

Historic Community, Industrial Neighborhood

Houston’s East End is a multi-ethnic community where many of the city’s early industrial properties are under redevelopment, re-purposing, and replacement by both commercial and residential uses, especially townhomes.

Meanwhile, Buffalo Bayou Partnership last fall revealed its park and recreation master plan for the five-mile stretch of the bayou winding through the East End.

With gentrification concerns, a neighborhood issue, having community input as part of the new center’s planning process so that there was a relationship of trust established, said Marilu Garza, chief development officer for the organization.

Gensler’s Houston office designed the campus, excluding the residential tower, designed by Tramonte Design Studio with contractor Arch-Con.

The larger project team also includes landscape architects TBG Partners and construction by Harvey-Cleary.

“The beauty of the design is that it supports The Center’s mission of everyone having value and purpose,” noted Kristopher Stuart, Gensler principal, and design director, in a follow-up inquiry. “The Center for Pursuit and its board are to be applauded for the bold initiative they are taking to imagine a facility that not only serves their clients differently but also helps the rest of the society imagine a different role for these unique individuals.”

Open and Activated for Opportunity and Outreach

The project required creating a collection of buildings that serve their unique purpose while embracing the unique East End community, Stuart said. The buildings incorporate warehouse-style brick and exposed, painted steel beams to “reflect the historically industrial yet emerging character” of Houston east of downtown. In addition, the “aspiration” was for the facility to be embedded in the life of the surrounding community as well as a participant in it.

Garza noted the new site and build-out has higher visibility for the organization. “We want to be seen,” she said. “It’s important that the community embrace us.”

Canton said, “We’re excited by the quality of the new buildings.” To have renovated the existing ’70s vintage existing facility was cost-prohibitive. Hanover Co. acquired the property last year as part of its plans for a mixed-use development.

Since then, The Center for Pursuit has moved its administrative functions, programming, and daycare for severely disabling clients to a temporary facility south of downtown. The organization’s residential building, however, remains in use until the completion of the new residential building on the new campus, so that residents need only be moved once, Garza said.

Margaret Wallace Brown, city planning director, said the center’s new campus is an example of transit-oriented development, a city initiative.

At the groundbreaking, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke of Houston’s notable diversity, adding “being diverse means little if you’re not inclusive,” which the new facility has as part of its mission. The beauty of the center’s build-out — for a population often overlooked, he said — “speaks to our city’s values.”

An affiliate of Sealy & Co. has acquired a recently built distribution warehouse totaling nearly 500,000 square feet in the far northwest Houston area near Waller.

The 479,806-square-foot building at 18140 Kickapoo Road was acquired by Sealy Industrial Partners for an undisclosed price.

“Houston’s rapidly growing industrial market and increasingly low vacancy rates are attractive to us,” Scott Sealy Jr., the company’s chief investment officer, said in an announcement.

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The property, on the south of U.S. 290 about eight miles past the Grand Parkway, was developed by Broad-Ocean, a China-based manufacturer of electric motors. The building is across U.S. 290 from the expansive Daikin Texas Technology Park. Broad-Ocean is a supplier to heating and cooling equipment maker Daikin.

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Broad-Ocean, which leases the property, offer the new owner stable occupancy for several years, according to Sealy & Co.

“This is a core asset with features we believe to be attractive to many of the surrounding manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors,” Sealy said. “We’re looking forward to executing our strategy of acquiring at a discount to replacement cost and stabilizing the asset.”

Scott Sealy Jr., Jason Gandy, and Tom Herter led the Sealy investment services team on the transaction, while Tom Lynch and Mark Redlingshafer of CBRE represented the seller.

Sealy & Co. a commercial real estate investment and operating company with corporate offices in Dallas and Shreveport, La.

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