53-acre life sciences district laden with lakes, restaurants rising rapidly by Texas Medical Center

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A 53-acre life sciences campus is rapidly rising just beyond the Texas Medical Center as part of effort to turn Houston into a mecca for medical innovation.

Hines, the Houston developer and global real estate player, is on track this year to complete the first phase of Levit Green, a life sciences district that could eventually encompass 4 million square feet spread across nine buildings, outdoor spaces and three lakes.

On Thursday, sounds of hammers banging, boom lifts buzzing and excavators beeping rose over the construction site at the corner of Dixie Drive and Grand Boulevard about one mile east of Texas Medical Center. Contractors working with Harvey Builders topped out on the first five-story building within the project, meaning the 294,000 square-foot structure has reached its highest point.

“This is more than just another project, it’s a building intended to become a very strong component of a city of life sciences,” said John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines, which is developing Levit Green in partnership with the Houston real estate firm 2ML Real Estate and Chicago investment firm Harrison Street.

A rendering of the first phase of Levit Green, which could eventually encompass 9 buildings. The first phase is designed by architecture firm HOK with Harvy Builders as the general contractor.

A rendering of the first phase of Levit Green, which could eventually encompass 9 buildings. The first phase is designed by architecture firm HOK with Harvy Builders as the general contractor.

Courtesy Hines / Courtesy Hines

In spite of supply chain hiccups, the core and shell of the first building are expected to be complete by December . Prospective tenants could then move into their spaces the following year, Mooz said.

Levit Green comes when economic development officials are optimistic that Houston, already home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of medical centers and research, could become a center for biotechnology, medical technology and other life sciences — a so-called Third Coast — rivaling hubs like San Francisco and Boston. While still a far cry from the massive life sciences clusters in those cities, Houston nonetheless captured more than half of the $870 million in grant money awarded to Texas by the National Institutes of Health in 2021, according to research from the real estate firm JLL.

About 640,000 square feet of life sciences space is under construction in the Houston area, and another 1 million is proposed, according to JLL, a sign that real estate developers are betting on life sciences in Houston. In addition to Levit Green, the Texas Medical Center is developing a 37-acre biomedical research campus known as TMC3.

“The more of this product that Houston has right now, the better,” Mooz said, “It’s going to say that Houston is truly the life science cluster city that we want to be.”

Inviting innovation

Mooz and his team toured major medical and life science districts in San Francisco and San Diego to gather inspiration for Levit Green. Their goal is to turn away from the cold, uninviting buildings of the past to a modern design featuring natural light, large windows, 15-foot tall ceilings, open 60,000 square-foot floor plans, outdoor terraces, and trails tying together the campus.

The design for the first phase features ground-level restaurants and a café with patio seating overlooking a manmade lake, one of three lakes planned. A future 5,800 square-foot fitness center at the ground level will feature large windows looking outside to an outdoor garden near the entrance of the building. The first floor also is expected to include incubator space for startups, plus a 7,000 square-foot conference room capable of hosting hundreds of people.

“We spent a long time trying to make this what we call the optimal home for any type of life science firm,” Mooz said. “It’s a robust research building on the top and a place that any of us would feel comfortable touching down, going to a symposium or enjoying a beverage with friend.”

Hines expects to complete construction on the first building within Levit Green, a 53-acre life sciences district later this year. The Houston real estate developer is partnering with 2ML Real Estate and Harrison Street on the new district just outside of Texas Medical Center. The first phase was designed by the architecture firm HOK with Harvey Builders as the general contractor.

Hines expects to complete construction on the first building within Levit Green, a 53-acre life sciences district later this year. The Houston real estate developer is partnering with 2ML Real Estate and Harrison Street on the new district just outside of Texas Medical Center. The first phase was designed by the architecture firm HOK with Harvey Builders as the general contractor.

Courtesy Hines / Courtesy Hines

Hines is working on designing the second building in the complex, although it has not set a timeline for breaking ground. Additional buildings will follow to meet market demand, Mooz said.

“Our founder was an innovator,” Mooz said, referring to the late Gerald D. Hines. “He inspired people for more than half a century to innovate and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Hines has not yet hired an architecture firm for the second building. The architecture firm HOK designed the first building.

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Natasha M. McKnight

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