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Breaking News: Facebook Buys Astrodome
Auction (April21) HOU
April 1, 2013

Breaking News:
Facebook Buys Astrodome

The boom in the Houston area means that we need for more water to support growth. Attend the North Houston Association's April 25 luncheon on "The Future of Water for the Houston Region" with speaker Kevin Ward, Executive Director of the Trinity River Authority (register here).

Talk about a cool crib: Facebook purchased the Astrodome and announced plans for a regional hub officing out of the iconic dome.

Facebook will relocate 150 workers and look to hire about that many locally. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (who reportedly will owe $1 billion in taxes this year) says he couldn't ignore all the headlines about Houston's job growth and low taxes. "We like to be cutting-edge in all our decisions, and our facilities are no different," he said in a statement. "When we heard the Astrodome was sitting unused, we just couldn't resist. Such an iconic building is the perfect addition to our portfolio."

race robots
Although plans aren't finalized, we learned renowned architect Pickard Chilton is spearheading design of the office; what was once first base will become a swimming pool surrounded by beanbag desks for Facebook's youthful employee base. A track will ring the outside, where employees could run but more likely will race robots. And of course, the roof will be emblazoned with its signature blue and white F. Our calls to the Mayor's office for how this will impact the area went unanswered, perhaps because we made up the story for April 1. Or maybe they just screen their calls.

3 Quick Land Facts

Mike Miller
Looking for the next big thing? Sage Group managing director Mike Miller believes land will be the next acquisition target across Texas. (Get your flags ready—that's the best way to claim it.) He provided us with some info on the state of the sector.

1) Assessments are about to skyrocket: Tax assessors are gearing up to increase assessments at above-average inflationary rates: We could see a 7% bump in Houston. Our average home price increased 9% last year.

2) We need home lots: January 2013's inventory of homes is only 3.7 months, the lowest level since '99. (Back then we weren't building because of the imminent threat of Y2K.) Mike honed in on The Woodlands—at the end of last year, it had 2,750 residential lots remaining. But with over 10,000 new jobs coming to Exxon's campus alone, the area is seriously underserved. Bridgeland is another hot area; its land sales increased 31% last year. Look for 9,000 starts this year across Houston, up from nearly 8,000 last year.

land for sale
3) Expect more rural land sales: Rural land prices increased 3% across Texas in 2011 and initial reports show similar data for 2012. But volumes are tepid, with one-third the number of sales compared to '05. Mike expects this year will see above-average increases in both pricing and transactions.

Lincoln Property Nears Energy Crossing 2 Milestone

Lincoln Properties Kevin Wyatt 3-25-13
Lincoln Property Company SVP Kevin Wyatt tells us Energy Crossing 2 is now 65% leased and has strong commitments for the remaining space. The project, which will be eight stories and 327k SF, is now three stories out of the ground with completion scheduled for late this year. That's par for the course for one of the largest privately held full-service real estate firms in the US, managing 125M SF for a variety of third-party clients. Kevin says the West Houston market is on fire, and he is very busy there keeping up with the leasing demand. Although Energy Crossing 2 and seemingly the entire West Houston market are full, don't worry: Lincoln is working on additional projects for other institutional clients, including Park 10 Center, a 300k SF value office project. For more info on our sponsor, click here.

Sam Houston Hotel Re-launches

Renovations are wrapping up at the newly renamed Sam Houston Hotel. The name is a return to history: The building opened its doors as the Sam Houston Hotel in 1924, but it was operating as the Alden Hotel when American Liberty Hospitality bought it last year. General manager Nick Massad Jr. (showing off the sleek new TV/desk setup in the bedrooms) tells us the firm loves the Downtown market and wanted to be a part of its growth. The hotel had closed in the mid-'70s and underwent massive renovations when it reopened in '02, so current changes are mostly aesthetic freshening.

Renovations began in January and wrap up this month; when we stopped by last week, work had just begun on the last floor. Nick tells us the rebranding and refurb both aim to embrace Houston's culture and history. Design by Portfolio for Hospitality aimed for modern Texas hospitality through features like the cow print and paisley we found in the hallways. The process is also adding three rooms to the hotel, bringing it to an even 100. Nick tells us American Liberty has three or four projects in its local development pipeline. Might we see another Downtown hotel from them?

Our work fascinates us. We can sit and stare at it for hours. Email thoughts to Catie Dixon, catie@bisnow.com.

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