‘A Speed Bump, Not A Stop Sign’: After Delays, Midway Breaks Ground On $2.5B East River Project

Midway has broken ground on the first phase of its $2.5B East River redevelopment, a 150-acre mixed-use project situated east of Downtown Houston.

East River is the largest single contiguous development track inside the 610 Loop, with over 1M SF of new construction expected to span 60 city blocks. The project falls within the historic Fifth Ward, adjacent to the East End District or the Second Ward.

Infrastructure and multifamily construction will begin in September, while commercial construction will start later in the fall. Phase 1 is expected to deliver in 2023.

The company was originally aiming to break ground last summer. Midway Executive Vice President of Development David Hightower told Bisnow that the firm would have liked to begin construction sooner, but there were certain milestones that had to be met first.

“Covid did factor into the equation, but we knew that was a speed bump and not a stop sign,” Hightower said.

The coronavirus pandemic significantly disrupted the construction industry, as supply chains broke down and delays for building materials stretched into months. Hightower noted that lumber for East River’s multifamily component in Phase 1 was the biggest concern, but costs have now come back in line with what was underwritten for the project.

“We have made a few adjustments given potential delays in some items, but no huge impacts,” Hightower said.

On the same day as the groundbreaking, Midway announced two office tenants for the first phase of the development. Houston-based architecture firm Method Architecture will lease 9K SF, while Teal, a firm that designs cloud-based hot water systems, will lease 12K SF. Both leases will be in East River 1 (Building C).

In addition, the owners of The Astorian will open a 20K SF event venue and rooftop bar in Phase 1’s Trail Head 1 (Building F). The venue will overlook Buffalo Bayou and include a ballroom, bride and groom suites, and an outdoor wraparound deck with panoramic views of Downtown Houston.

Phase 1 of East River sits on 26 acres at the intersection of Jensen Drive and Clinton Drive. It will contain a five-story, 360-unit multifamily community called The Laura, about 250K SF of office space, and 110K SF of ground-floor retail across office buildings, parking garage and free-standing plaza and bayou pavilions.

East River 9, a nine-hole, par-three golf course open to the public, and Riverhouse Houston, a restaurant and patio bar, will open on the East River site in 2022.

Outside, there will be more than 13K SF of plaza green space, to accommodate a full calendar of outdoor events and live music. East River will also have hike and bike trails that connect to the nearly 500 meters of bike lanes and trails across Houston. Hightower said that the pandemic was factored into the design of Phase 1 given tenants were likely to be putting a higher emphasis on open spaces and wellness.

“We were already on that path, so it was only a matter of tweaking here and there, no major impacts,” Hightower said.

Midway has retained Limestone Commercial Real Estate’s Brandi McDonald Sikes and Sobi Qazi as exclusive leasing agents for the remaining office space in Phase 1. Midway’s Lacee Jacobs and Laura Harness are handling retail leasing.

In addition to the leases already executed, about 30K SF of office space and 31K SF of retail space are currently in negotiations, the firm said.

By Christie Moffat - Bisnow Houston