Rapidly rising lakes by Texas Medical Center, 53-acre life sciences district filled with restaurants

A 53-acre life sciences campus is skyrocketing just beyond the Texas Medical Center as part of an effort to make Houston a mecca for medical innovation.

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

On Thursday, about a mile east of Texas Medical Center, the sound of hammers, the hum of boom lifts, and the beeping of excavators arose at the construction site on the corner of Dixie Drive and Grand Boulevard. Contractors working with Harvey Builders peaked at the first five-story building on the project, meaning the 294,000-square-foot structure reached its highest point.

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

Despite disruptions in the supply chain, the core and shell of the first building is expected to be completed by December. Mooz said prospective tenants will be able to move into their own space the following year.

Levit Green comes as economic development officials are optimistic that Houston, already home to one of the world’s largest medical centers and research centers, could become a hub for biotechnology, medical technology and other life sciences – the so-called Third Coast – rival centers San Francisco and Like Boston. While still a long way from the giant life sciences clusters in these cities, Houston has 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 real estate firm JLL.

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

“The more of this product there is in Houston right now, the better,” Mooz said, “and will tell you that Houston is the life sciences cluster city we really want to be.”

Inviting innovation

Mooz and his team toured key medical and life science sites in San Francisco and San Diego to gather inspiration for Levit Green. Their aim is to return from the cold, uninviting buildings of the past to a modern design that includes natural light, large windows, 15-foot-high ceilings, 60,000 square feet of open floor plans., open terraces and roads connecting the campus.

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