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Building America's Next Major Economic District

Written by Peter L. Mosca on Tuesday, 30 September 2008 7:00 pm

Find a community, a region or a market buoyed by job and population growth, investor interest and one that is also a tourism draw, and you have a recipe for development success. For Historic Real Estate Inc., these three components, and more, have led them to Houston and the site for building an exciting new economic district known as the WaterLights District. The $700 million mixed-use development, located just 15 minutes from downtown Houston, includes an array of office, hotels, restaurants, boutique retail, and residential structures amid a park setting along the banks of Clear Creek, just south of the world's largest medical and research center, the Texas Medical Center.

The 150-acre development will provide significant entertainment options for the people of Houston: the Restaurant Row of unique waterfront eateries, a planned 7,500-seat enclosed arena, and the 12-acre Presidential Park and Gardens, which features a picturesque lake and pathway lined with 20-foot statues of all 42 American presidents.

"WaterLights embodies time-sharpened practices of quality place-making. The design of the development will have long-lasting appeal," said Richard P. Browne, developer, who has planned dozens of noteworthy communities around the world, including the Columbia Town Center in Maryland and The Woodlands in Texas.

The WaterLights District, located in the rapidly growing Pearland community on Highway 288, is only eight miles south of the Texas Medical Center, the world's largest collection of hospitals and medical schools. Some 73,000 people are employed in the medical center and the work force will increase to 100,000 by 2014. Seventeen medical buildings, worth $3 billion, have broken ground recently in the Texas Medical Center.

"The growth at the medical center enhances the potential of WaterLights tremendously," said Browne.

The WaterLights District will be developed in accordance with the highest levels of sustainable practices, and the project is registered with the LEED "Gold" standard. Upon completion, the WaterLights project will have 1,400 units of residential, including condominiums, brownstones and luxury apartments. Allegro Builders, a prestigious Houston-based luxury homebuilder, is constructing the brownstone units. Many of the residential units will be situated on upper floors above street-level shopping in the master-planned environment.

"WaterLights is being embraced warmly by developers, retailers and restaurateurs who recognize the strength of this location," said David Goswick, executive director of Historic Real Estate Inc. "Houston's economy is outpacing the rest of the nation and the opportunity in WaterLights is attracting a lot of attention."

WaterLights's Presidential Park and Gardens will be a tourism draw, attracting visitors from Texas and neighboring states. The presidential busts, including all of the U.S. presidents, are the creation of internationally acclaimed artist David Adickes. In addition, the 7,500-seat WaterLights arena fills a growing niche for a conveniently located enclosed venue that can support concerts and ticketed entertainment.

Houston, buoyed by the strength of the energy industry, has led the nation in job growth, generating over 100,000 jobs new in a single year. This unmatched growth narrative has focused intense investor interest on Houston, which will add two million in population by 2025.

In real estate, there is a mantra we are all familiar with, "location, location, location." For builders, like Historic Real Estate, it's more than an axiom; it is the foundation that is helping them build America's next major economic districts.

[Note: Historic Real Estate Inc., based in Houston, Texas, is a private real estate investment and development company.]

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