Behind the Scenes at Central Square Plaza's Redevelopment
Central Square Plaza is nearly done with core and shell redevelopment, and tenants can start moving into the hot new Midtown building in early 2016. We stopped by the property for a peek at the progress.
We snapped Transwestern’s Jack Scharnberg and AVP Evelyn Ward, Claremont owner Keeley Megarity and Transwestern EVP David Baker in front of the 300k SF building at 2100 Travis. Claremont bought the historic property in April 2013. It’s sat vacant for almost 15 years, so Keeley says he’s thrilled to see it turning into something highly attractive to tenants. (The neighbors are thrilled, too—one of them even gratefully trimmed Central Square’s roses last weekend.) Transwestern’s already gotten 300k SF of interest (50k SF of which David expects to sign within 30 days) from companies in the architecture, engineering, tech and staffing industries. It’s exactly the tenant profile Keeley expected when he bought the property—creative firms that use open concepts.
Here’s the team on the top floor, which has a very high ceiling and the ability to build an outdoor patio. (Right behind the quartet is another blighted building that’s about to be redone—801 Calhoun is being redone as a Sheraton.) David says there’s been a lot of interest from bars and clubs for the space, but Claremont's saving it for an executive floor for an office user. Keeley tells us the biggest challenge in redevelopment has been the elevators. The property was delivered in 1957 when elevator cabs were smaller, so the new cabs and operating systems had to be completely re-engineered.
Almost the whole building has been re-engineered, Keeley says. The electrical wiring, plumbing, mechanical and curtain wall skin are completely redone. It’ll operate and feel like a new facility and have the same high-end finishes, but at lower rents than other new construction options. Pictured is part of a typical 21k SF open floor plate (the top floor has a smaller footprint). The building will have conference facilities, a shower and bike racks and offers great building identity. The iconic Central Square sign on the top of the building (no other property in town has anything like it) is staying.
Talk about a huge difference: Here's the property when Keeley bought it versus how it looks today. The property includes 20k SF of retail space, and Weitzman is working on leases for 8k SF. Keeley is excited about the restaurant prospects they’ve received, which he says are a perfect fit for Midtown and appealing to Millennials. But he’s not all about flashy dining concepts—he wants to fill the remaining ground-floor space with service retail, which he says Midtown is missing.
Core and shell work will be done in a few months, and tenants can start moving in January or February. Maybe they’ll use this door coming in from Travis, or perhaps they’ll use the main/valet entrance on Milam.
Central Square is one piece in a larger development boom in Midtown. Most of that is multifamily, including the Superblock, which is only a few blocks away. David tells us there are nine apartment developments, a couple of art/theater projects, a Whole Foods, new parks and retail projects all coming on line soon. Rail improvements are also underway; Central Square is one block from the red line and every stop between this location and NRG Stadium will be new by the 2017 Super Bowl. The mass transit here is Downtown level, David says, as the project is within five blocks of all Metro Park 'n Ride stops. Plus, the attached garage will provide night parking, a rare find in Midtown.