Powers Brown talks new Midtown offices

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Exec: This submarket gives my Millennial workers everything they need

Houston-based Powers Brown Architecture LLC may be the sole tenant inside Midtown’s Central Square office development, but being the first one in an office building is a familiar feeling for Jeffrey Brown, founding partner and design principal at the firm.

Powers Brown, which reported $18.61 million in 2015 billings, spent the last 17 years at 1314 Texas Avenue in the Central Business District. Powers Brown was one of the building’s first tenants, and Brown said the area’s amenities were bleak at best.

“It was a food desert,” Brown said. “When we first moved down there in 1999, it was nothing – no clubs, no bars, certainly nothing within walking distance.”

Houston’s downtown core is now bustling today. The 1314 Texas Avenue building is home to Irma’s Southwest Grill, a household name among Houston foodies and a tenant that Brown remembers as a newcomer. A number of now-esteemed downtown restaurants are scattered around 1314 Texas Avenue, including Treebeards, Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse and more. Powers Brown didn’t want to move out of the building, Brown said, but the building was sold and pegged to become a residential tower. He wanted to keep his company in an urban environment, too – but finding a building downtown that would take a smaller lease in 2016 was a tall order.

“We’re only a 12,000- or 15,000-square-foot lease space,” Brown said. “Nobody downtown wants that.”

The neighboring burrough of Midtown, though, was attractive. While it isn’t bursting at the seams with office space, it does bring similar amenities that a downtown tenant would be accustomed to – many lunch and happy hour options, all within walking distance. The Central Square development, which occupies the entire city block bordered by Travis, Milam, Gray and Webster streets, is perfect for Powers Brown, he said – even if there’s a Greyhound bus station and open lot across the street.

“I’ve been in Houston long enough to know that nothing will be like this in a couple of years,” Brown said. “Everything my Millennial team wants to have is already in place. It’s easier to be out here not pioneering (an area). It’s kind of cool.”

Powers Brown is involved in projects such as the Ivy Lofts, Houston’s first micro-condo project, and Houston-based Randall Davis Co. and Roberto Contreras’ Arabella condos at 4521 San Felipe. The firm is Houston’s 10th largest architecture firm, according to HBJ research.

Cara Smith
Houston Business Journal

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