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Houston’s Life Sciences Sector Expected To Launch In 2020

James Lloyd and Gayle Farris at National Healthcare South 2020.

Houston’s healthcare sector is on the cusp of major innovative change, which will be driven by the creation of collaborative, knowledge-sharing centers, senior industry experts say.

The Ion and the TMC3 developments are expected to boost Houston’s engagement with the life sciences to an entirely new level.

“2019 was really the time of prep, and I think 2020 is the year of launch,” Transwestern Development regional partner Gayle Farris said at Bisnow’s National Healthcare South event Feb. 13.

The Ion is Rice University’s highly anticipated technology innovation hub. Located in the former Midtown Sears department store, the project broke ground in July, and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2021. A wider 16-acre innovation district is planned for the surrounding area, which will be completed by 2030.

The TMC3 expansion project is a 37-acre research and development campus in the Texas Medical Center, where large hospital and educational institutions can work alongside private companies on healthcare-focused innovation. The project will break ground in the first quarter of 2020 and is slated for completion in 2022.

There is about 7M SF of life sciences-focused research and development space in Houston. About a third of that is within the 610 Loop, another third is between 610 and Beltway 8 and the remainder is beyond, primarily in The Woodlands and Clear Lake areas, according to Farris.

That square footage is expected to rise exponentially as The Ion and TMC3 come online, and attract further life sciences activity to the city.

Rendering of the TMC3 Piazza.

Farris pointed to the efforts made by Houston’s civic leadership, as well as the Texas Medical Center, in trying to develop a strong knowledge cluster that can facilitate the life sciences and technology transfer.

Large medical and educational institutions are traditionally the driving force behind the development of life sciences facilities. In order to create a knowledge-sharing culture, there also needs to be a built environment that supports it, Farris said.

Developments like TMC3 are campus environments, which tend to be exciting places to walk, live and do research, and where people can also naturally bump into each other. Creating that sense of walkability and connection is key to developing a location that will attract the best talent, as well as investment, she said.

Farris previously told Bisnow that she anticipates most of Houston’s core development in the life sciences to remain around the Texas Medical Center, but the greater suburbs have more available land to support production and manufacturing.

As more people move into the urban core, and companies continue to invest, Farris believes it will attract a high-quality workforce to the city to complement the healthcare sector.

EaDo is happening, Midtown is happening. People are moving Downtown, and being Downtown. All of that, together with a very high quality of life and diversity. Yes, there are challenges, but I think we’re well on the way.”

See more from the event in the slideshow below. Click to flip through.

National Healthcare South 2020

CORRECTION, FEB. 18, 5:00 P.M. CT: A previous version of this story said TMC3 broke ground in 2019. It will break ground in Q1 2020.