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Posts from February 2012

Fire at New Regional Planning

Posted on February 16, 2012 in

“Early on Thursday, February 16th, we experienced a fire in our office. Fortunately, no one was hurt. We are fully operational and have begun reconstruction of our offices. Thank you to everyone for your care and concern.”  - Blake Tartt III

Biggest Land Buy

Posted on February 06, 2012 in

Wolff Cos purchased 66 acres along I-10, the last major developable piece of land in the Energy Corridor. (Look for the movie: The Last of the Major Developable Pieces of Land starring Daniel Day Lewis.)

This is a tale of many Davids: We snapped Wolff’s David Hightower and David Wolff, who purchased the site from David Crowell and family. Crowell has owned the site for decades and had set up his 18 offspring as trustees. Wolff tells us he’s always priced the site well ahead of the market: The eccentric man once had it tagged at $33,333,333.33 because three is his favorite number. (Don’t worry, that’s not what Wolff paid for it.) Many people have tried to buy the site over the past 30 years, but Crowell had unusual requirements (making the buyer pay for survey, title, and all commissions; refusing to sign a contract; prorating ad valorem taxes to the feasibility study) that drove potential buyers away. His children got frustrated at not seeing returns on their property, and they asked Wolff to buy it since Crowell trusts him.

The Energy Corridor as envisioned in a 2010 Livable Centers study. Wolff looked at over 100 sites before deciding to buy this one, and he says it’s such a great property he went along with whatever Crowell wanted. Wolff promised to buy the site in 2011, but financing was tough to get for land acquisition. Wolff Cos used its own liquidity and found some partners to buy all-cash right at the end of the year. Wolff believes the Corridor is in need of upper income multifamily, especially for execs. (The CEO of BP told him he’s lived in Houston three times and each time he bought and sold a house, losing money.) Although he isn’t far into planning the latest site, he can see a percentage being rental housing. The major use will be office, and he has talked to a hotel developer about a five-star hotel with ahealth club.

Wolff, who’s been developing in the Energy Corridor since the ’70s (he even coined the name), says almost every frontage piece in the area is now under contract. Marvy Finger is buying seven acres at Wilcrest; Crow has the GLO site at Eldridge under contract; Skanska is in for the Allstate site along Memorial; and the Chronicle and Moody National pieces have buyers lined up. Most of the remaining land over seven acres is undevelopable. Wolff has heard that 1.9M SF of tenants are looking for space in the Corridor now, and he expects substantial new office development soon. Perhaps that’ll be in Wolff Cos’ Park10 (pictured): Hightower tells us older buildings in that park will likely soon be redeveloped or scrapped to allow for higher uses.