Construction work is officially underway on a new downtown office tower that promises to be one of the finest developments to come online in recent years.
Skanska USA Commercial Development hosted a June 24 groundbreaking ceremony for its 1550 on the Green development, a 28-story, 375,000-square-foot tower at 1550 Lamar St. Skanska executives were joined by community members and local leaders.
During the ceremony, Mayor Sylvester Turner said the new office tower, which will overlook the 12-acre Discovery Green park, will be “a great addition not only for downtown but all of Houston.”
The plans for 1550 on the Green include extra-wide pedestrian zones covered by dense foliage, two tenant-exclusive outdoor roof terraces located on the 12th and 20th floors, and an additional terrace on the roof deck, which the public will be able to rent as an event space. Tenants will also have access to 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail as well as a lobby featuring touchless security turnstiles, app-based guest registration and destination dispatch elevators. Austin-based architect Michael Hsu designed the building’s interior amenity spaces, including a fitness center.
“This is another great opportunity to bridge a great sophisticated design with Houston’s ingenuity,” said Matt Damborsky, executive vice president for Skanska USA Commercial Development’s Houston market.
When it is completed in 2024, 1550 on the Green aims to be LEED Platinum-certified, a goal Turner highlighted in his remarks.
“The Green Houston initiative has been one of my top priorities while in office, so creating spaces that are efficient and resilient is a great addition to the initiative to combat climate change,” Turner said.
Skanska’s plans for 1550 on the Green were inspired by the company’s work on Bank of America Tower, which opened at 800 Capitol St. in May 2019.
Bank of America Tower has an outdoor amenity deck on the 35-story building’s 12th floor, as well as a retail and restaurant lobby on the bottom floor, which the company named Understory.
“The connection to Discovery Green was important to us, and we think tenants will be attracted to a space that provides something different, something like outdoor terraces that help them feel connected to the outdoors,” said Robert Ward, president and CEO of Skanska USA Commercial Development.
Ward told the Houston Business Journal that Skanska’s goal for 1550 on the Green is to bring an office tower to downtown Houston that offers unparalleled amenities and state-of-the-art technology that will be highly attractive to tenants.
“It’s a very special site, and we wanted to ensure we were building something that was right for the location,” Ward said, noting the project’s proximity to Discovery Green, a park that has been fully embraced by the downtown community. During the groundbreaking ceremony, the park had hundreds of visitors, who walked their dogs, jogged or were just enjoying the Texas heat on their lunch break.
Ward said Skanska worked closely with neighboring businesses and community leaders to develop a design for 1550 on the Green that would add to the local scene rather than take away from the beauty of Discovery Green.
“A great building is a marriage of a fantastic user experience and the experience of the community that is going to live with it,” Ward said. “We always want to build the right asset for the location. 1550 on the Green could have been 30 stories taller, but it doesn’t need to be 30 stories taller. We wanted to create something that was a little smaller, which we think will be embraced by tenants.”
Given that goal, Skanska is already finding success on the leasing front. The company has already signed Norton Rose Fulbright, one of the largest law firms in Houston, to be 1550 on the Green’s anchor tenant. The firm will have naming rights in Skanska’s new tower, where it will occupy 32% of the office space when it relocates to the building in 2024.
Given that 1550 on the Green is already fielding interest from prospective tenants, Ward said he is optimistic about the building’s outlook for success — something not all office property owners are experiencing these days.
As Dallas-based CBRE (NYSE: CBRE) recently reported, the office vacancy rate downtown stood at 24.64% during the first quarter of 2021, which was among the highest in the city.
But Ward said he isn’t worried about building a flashy new office tower at a time when a quarter of all office space downtown is currently gathering dust.
“Tenants are looking for something different,” Ward said. “They want space that stands out, that brings in more daylight. They want something comfortable. Our job is to create a place where people will want to go every day. We think 1550 on the Green will be that place.”
Originally published by Houston Business Journal