Thursday, November 20, 2008


The grand openings have been held for six new tenants at Vintage Park, an approximately 500,000-square-foot lifestyle center located in Houston. Situated on 84 acres at the intersection of Louetta Road and Highway 249, the center’s new tenants include BRIX Wine Cellars, The Castleberry Center for Aesthetic Dentistry, Fish City Grill, Post Net, Signature Home Theater and Shogun Japanese Grill & Sushi. Many of the openings occurred when the center held its grand opening ceremonies in October. Tenants already open at Vintage Park include Cheeburger Cheeburger, H-E-B Vintage Market, LandAmerica Commonwealth Title, Pepper-Lawson Construction, Potbelly Sandwich Works, Starbucks Coffee, and Vintage Wellness & Aesthetic Center. Tenants opening soon at the center include Freshberry Frozen Yogurt, Mia Bella, Peli Peli, Pizza Fusion, Salaa & Trio Prime Steakhouse and Bar, Bank of Texas, Compass Bank, Heritage Texas Properties and Kickerillio Cos. Vintage Park is owned by Houston-based The Interfin Companies. It is the retail component of The Vintage, a 630-acre master planned community. For more information see: or

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sugaland, Tx buildings sale @ Hwy 6 and US 59

New York-based Norvin Partners has acquired Health Center I and II, two medical office buildings totaling approximately 117,000 square feet that are located in Sugar Land. The two properties are situated close to highways 6 and 59, and are located within the epicenter of Sugar Land’s medical community. Both are undergoing significant renovations. The properties are anchored by a physician-owned ambulatory care center. Norvin acquired Health Center I and II from Memorial Hermann Health System. Transwestern Houston will provide leasing and management services for the properties. The acquisition price was not disclosed. For more information see: and

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Two of the Big Guys team up in Houston, Tx.

Houston-based REITs Weingarten Realty Investors and Hines Real Estate Investment Trust, Inc. (Hines REIT) have formed a $271 million joint venture, in which a subsidiary of Hines REIT will acquire a 70 percent interest in a portfolio of 12 supermarket-anchored shopping centers owned by Weingarten. The transaction will close on multiple dates. The first closing, comprising eight of the shopping centers and totaling approximately $205 million, occurred on November 13. The portfolio, which is more than 96 percent leased, totals 1.5 million square feet. The shopping centers are located in Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and North Carolina. Their trade areas have average populations exceeding 100,000 people and average household incomes of more than $80,000. The shopping centers are anchored by supermarkets tenants that include Kroger, Randall’s (Safeway), H-E-B, Publix, BJ’s Wholesale and Harris Teeter. Other anchors at the properties include Marshall’s, Barnes & Noble, Palais Royal and Stein Mart. “We announced in 2006 an effort to further our joint venture program,” says Gary Greenberg, senior vice president, capital markets, for Weingarten Realty Investors. “This is a continuation of that program, and it will bring us close to $2 billion in transactions since 2006.” The joint venture has a commitment from an undisclosed life insurance company to provide a $100 million loan for the transaction that is expected to close before the end of the year. Weingarten is providing $134 million in preferred equity for the initial closing. Weingarten also will be responsible for the ongoing management and leasing of the properties. In a time when retail sales are down, the investment in these 12 properties speaks to the strength of the centers and their respective markets. “We have been in business for 60 years and have a track record of successfully operating properties in all business cycles,” Greenberg says. The Dallas office of Holliday Fenoglio Fowler represented Weingarten in the joint venture transaction. For more information see: or

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tenants back in driver seat NOW!

"The concern isn't that Houston, Texas specifically, has reached a critical point, but there is an undercurrent that it might due to the widespread and fast-paced momentum. In fact, industry professionals agree that vacancy and absorption--in some submarkets--validate the need to build. There are fears of overbuilding because there's so much activity.

Liquidity and overbuilding were in the spotlight. A lot of these buildings are being purchased on the come. Those buildings have no choice but to push rents. The question is will rents catch up to construction costs. Everyone who is buying building and everyone who is building a building are thinking it will happen. But, developers are going to have to take a lower return until the rents are there.

The consensus is that the pendulum is swinging back to Tenant's market after several years with landlords in control now that we are in the real rescission.

The reality is rents are rising, buildings are filling and the buy-in is cheaper in Houston than either coast. As coastal investors buy into the region, the market's veterans are banking on Houston historical appetite for new and expensive. And yes, there is the age-old concern about what will happen to existing class B and class A buildings." For more information see: or

Friday, November 14, 2008


PEARLAND, TEXAS — Houston-based Greatland Investment has broken ground for the development of Shadow Creek Village, a 29,000-square-foot retail project located in Pearland within the Shadow Creek Ranch master-planned community. Situated on 3 acres at the corner of FM 518 and Kirby Drive near Pearland Town Center, Shadow Creek Village is seeking to attract fine dining restaurants, dry cleaners, salons/spas and other consumer service-related tenants. The project also contains a pad site for a bank. The $6 million project is scheduled for completion in February 2009. Greatland Investment is developing the project, with construction management services being provided by Houston-based EDWEA. It will be managed by CSL Leasing & Management. Fro more information see ; or

Monday, November 10, 2008

City approves variance for TIAA-CREF building

The City of Houston’s Planning Commission has granted a variance to TIAA-CREF to accommodate a 30-story office building it plans to construct in the Galleria area.
TIAA-CREF intends to build an office tower at 1300 Post Oak, in place of an existing two-story 24-Hour Fitness. The office building will be located next to the Four Oaks Place office complex that is also owned by TIAA-CREF.
The owner needed city approval to build the structure 15 feet away from Post Oak instead of the standard 25 feet. The setback change, granted last week, applies on Post Oak from Four Oaks Place Drive to West Briar Lane.
The building will be located closer to the street in keeping with guidelines being developed for the future rail corridor. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County plans to construct a rail line down the middle of Post Oak.
Houston-based Transwestern is development manager and leasing representative for the proposed office building, which has been on the drawing board for more than a year.
With more than $435 billion in combined assets under management, TIAA-CREF is the leading retirement system for people in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields. For more information see; or

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

High-rise security from the ground up

High-rise security from the ground up
The design and installation of an access control system raises a host of issues beyond the technology itself.

"The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, made high-rise security a prominent issue for building owners. But it would be a mistake for building owners to focus so much on measures to prevent terrorist attacks that they neglect other security threats like workplace violence, theft and domestic violence. Although these other incidents are less severe in scope than a terrorist attack, they also occur with far greater frequency.

One way to address the spectrum of security risks in a high-rise building is with an access control and alarm monitoring system that complements the security measures of tenants. Such a system can prevent or delay a criminal from entering, make the building less inviting as a target and establish an image of a safe and secure environment.

Even though the installation of an access control and alarm monitoring system seems straightforward, it can be problematic and very costly when security is not part of a cohesive architectural program. The most opportune time to incorporate access control is at the beginning of the planning and programming process.

This requires that multitenant buildings be segregated into two broad

Base Building

The structure, building support, and common spaces and equipment under the domain of the building owner.

Tenant Fit-Out

Space specifically built out and occupied by the tenant; in some instances, separate design and construction teams could be working in this space.

When a high-rise will have multiple tenants, it is important to ensure that the access control system used by the base building will be interoperable with the ones used by tenants; otherwise, tenants will have to use two types of credentials.
The control of grade entrances and below grade entrances - loading docks, main entrances, tertiary grade entrances and so forth - represents the first and most important part of a building's security. Security at these locations should unobtrusively allow access to legitimate users, prevent illegitimate access, and segregate visitor traffic to a concierge or security desk to validate a visitor's need to access the building.

Different spaces, different needs

The best method for accomplishing these goals at main lobby entries is with optical turnstiles. Optical turnstiles are especially valuable in large open atriums, where the size of the space and the number of people present significant security challenges. Optical turnstiles provide a quick and relatively unobtrusive way to ensure that people passing through have proper access credentials. These turnstiles can be equipped with or without barriers; the devices can have electric photo sensors that identify and sound an alarm if someone attempts to enter without presenting an access control credential.

By contrast with main entry lobbies, loading docks require the use of doors with hardware and equipment rated for high-volume use.

One way to improve security in both the base building and the tenant spaces is to sub-compartmentalize elevator and floor access. This approach involves adding security controls - for instance, locked doors or optical turnstiles - at various points to deter potential criminals.
For example, outside a building, the landscape might direct visitors to a certain entrance. The visitor might be required to use an access control credential to enter the building. At the elevator, the visitor might again have to use an access control credential to proceed to a specific floor.

Compartmentalization is easily done if it is planned into the architecture of the building.

In particular, it is important to control the vertical pedestrian core - stairwells, elevators and service elevators. This further compartmentalizes the facility, making a malevolent act more difficult to carry out. These controls provide a level of base building security in addition to security measures taken by individual tenants.

Providing the right space

In a high-rise environment, properly designed security systems will be distributed throughout the structure, and planners need to incorporate into the program enough space for the system to be monitored and administered and to properly house the front-end systems. Without adequate space, the effectiveness of the security system may be compromised. And if that space isn't provided in the initial planning, it will be more costly to make room for it after the building has been fully programmed.

In a major high-rise, a good rule of thumb is that 1,000 to 1,500 square feet of space will be required for the area that will support the monitoring and maintenance of the system. This space is not solely for the access control and monitoring system; a variety of other activities will be occurring in this area. For example, this space might house a locksmith or provide room for security officers to write up reports. The amount of space depends on the specifics of the security program, but it is important in programming to provide ample space. Later, it is easier to reduce the amount of space than to increase it.

Another important spatial consideration is the need for a continuous stacked security riser. Stacking is basically programming these spaces vertically so they are located at the same point on every floor. This is beneficial in maintenance and can also keep conduit costs to a minimum.

The riser closet does not need to be large; a simple four-foot deep by six-foot wide room with a double door opening should be sufficient to support distributed security requirements for the foreseeable future.
Closets on each floor should have dedicated 110v power, telecommunications and a minimum of a four-inch continuous sleeve. This approach will make it easier to add and delete devices for each floor independently and allows the building to adapt quickly to the security needs of its clientele.

In some instances, the security system shares closets with the telecommunications system. This is not recommended because the telecommunications and security staff have different priorities.

In one project, security closets were eliminated from the design to save money, and the access control and alarm monitoring system was moved to the telecommunications closets. At the closeout of the project, the telecommunications department was charging for the time their personnel spent to provide access to the closets and to oversee the installation and maintenance of security panels.

Finally, it's worth considering providing space for remote badging stations. From time to time, the access control credential will have to be replaced. Providing space for remote badging stations will aid in the badging process and make security unobtrusive. For example, a remote badging station might be located on a floor with the cafeteria or a workout room. That would save occupants needing a new badge the time and trouble of going to a badging station on the main floor that is busy issuing temporary badges for visitors and handling other matters.

Architectural Design and Security

The placement of access control readers requires careful attention. For instance, credential readers need to be mounted so as to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for both frontal and side approach. The location of the credential reader is especially important, because the device will seem obtrusive if it is improperly placed. As an example, in the case of a single door, the access control reader should be placed 42 inches above the finished floor and on the same side as the door handle.

Proper design and placement of readers can prevent problems. In one case, a reader was mounted on the left side of a door that swung open to the left. As a user reached over to present the credential, someone else exited through the door, wedging the first person between the wall and the door.

The options for placing a reader can be affected in the construction process by other trades. For example, the place where one electrical contractor installs conduit for light switches may limit the choices another electrician has for the placement of the credential reader. The best way to avoid this problem is to have a single electrical contractor on the project. If this is not possible, the security designer should coordinate electrical requirements with the electrical designer to ensure all electrical subcontractors are aware of other equipment that will need to be installed.

In some instances, the architecture of the building presents areas where mounting a credential reader is impractical, inconvenient or not possible. Only a small space is required to mount a reader, so if the security designer works with architects early in the process it should be possible to eliminate problem areas.

Taking the time during planning to coordinate door hardware choices with the access control and alarm system design will also pay substantial dividends. In many cases, doors within tenant spaces are glass and, therefore, require different door hardware than typical wood doors. By ensuring that the architect and security designer work together early on to identify door hardware requirements, the facility executive can protect both the budget and the schedule from unexpected shocks.

There are other ways in which early planning makes it possible for architectural design to improve security. One example is placing doors on opposite sides of an elevator vestibule. This approach compartmentalizes the vestibule, creating another zone of security on the floor. This is an excellent way to prevent elevator surfing by an individual who may be casing the high-rise.

It's important to remember building code compliance in these cases.
If doors are placed on both sides of an elevator vestibule, there is no longer an unimpeded path of egress for someone exiting the elevator. By properly blending architectural and security designs, it is possible to meet life-safety requirements as well as security needs. For example, an exit stairwell can be placed directly off the elevator vestibule to provide a means of egress. That approach would maximize security while providing code compliance.

The design and installation of an effective access control and alarm-monitoring system raises a host of issues beyond the technology itself, from the use of architectural barriers, to code compliance, to effective placement of readers. The only way to address those issues is with communication during the design process. It takes time and effort, but the result will be a system that serves the needs of the building owner, tenants and visitors for years to come." For more information see: or

Monday, November 3, 2008

New building doubles SpectraCell’s space

SpectraCell Laboratories Inc. has doubled the size of its facilities by adding a second 20,000-square-foot building on its campus in the Westchase Business District.
The new $3.5 million facility houses SpectraCell’s state-of-the-art clinical laboratory operations while the existing building, designed in 2005, retains the corporate, financial, marketing and administrative functions.
The new building was completed and opened in late October.
SpectraCell, a privately-owned biotech firm, is a federally accredited laboratory that provides advanced clinical testing services to health care providers nationwide using its patented Functional Intracellular Analysis and Lipoprotein Particle Profile tests.
“Our business has grown at a strong pace over the past few years,” said William “Chip” Stanbeffy, the company’s chairman and CEO. “The number of tests performed by us each month has skyrocketed. We outgrew our current building in three years.”
The company has more than doubled its number of employees since 2005 and now serves more than 3,000 physician clients in 38 states. For more information see; or or

Houston Business Journal - by Monica Perin Reporter