To meet growing medical and educational needs in Texas, Texas A&M has partnered with Medistar Corporation on the Innovation Plaza project in Houston.
On Oct. 1, A&M and Medistar broke ground on the project, including the Discovery, Life and Horizon towers. The plaza will be home to A&M’s engineering medicine program and student housing, office, retail and parking facilities.
The center will allow for increased medical research and technological development, which has increasingly been necessary with the current pandemic, Chancellor John Sharp said in a statement.
“There is no better place for our groundbreaking EnMed program and other Texas A&M System initiatives to locate than the Texas Medical Center,” Sharp said.
The developer for the project, Medistar, will lease spaces at Innovation Plaza, focusing on various medical expenditures, said Medistar’s CEO Monzer Hourani.
“Our leasing will be directed to medical, biomedical, clinical, surgery, outpatient diagnostics and other research,” Hourani said.
Hourani said Innovation Plaza, with its intricate design and structure, will provide a positive learning and living environment for those at the plaza.
“We have a complex there where the students, scientists and professors can get educated, can have good times, can relax, can get work done, in a very beautiful atmosphere and very lush landscape,” Hourani said.
Phillip Ray, the business affairs vice chancellor for the A&M System, has been involved in the Innovation Plaza public-private partnership with Medistar.
“It’s a very comprehensive project that has a lot of potential and anticipated benefits to not only Texas A&M and our Health Science Center, which is the EnMed program that will be housed there adjacent to the Texas Medical Center, but also our Prairie View A&M nursing students, so there will be a place for them to live as well,” Ray said.
The Innovation Plaza project will be located on Main Street and Holcombe, where A&M previously purchased an old bank building and the five and a half acres it was sitting on in 2017, which is now being renovated into the Discovery Tower, Ray said.
“The plan is to remodel the bank building and dedicate that to our EnMed program, which is an engineering medicine program that’s really innovative and kind of forward-leaning as far as students that graduate from that program at A&M [as] they’ll have an engineering degree as well as an M.D. degree,” Ray said.
The Discovery Tower will provide maker spaces similar to those found in the Zachry Engineering Building on campus, as well as various meeting and instruction rooms.
This public-private partnership with Medistar will provide significant benefits and revenue to A&M for the duration of the 60-year ground lease, with amenities like student housing, restaurants and parking for A&M students located on the remaining four acres, Ray said.
“It’s about a $550 million project,” Ray said. “Of that, a little over $400 million is privately funded, non-taxpayer funded, which is a very responsible way to do it on behalf of the taxpayer and not compete for other monetary resources at Texas A&M.”
A&M receives ground rent and annual revenue payments from Medistar during the lease, with guaranteed revenue of over $200 million. Medistar pays for the development of the property, and will run operations until the end of the lease at which point A&M alone will manage the property, in a way to mitigate risk for the university, said Ray.
The third tower, called the Horizon tower, will house various medical and surgical workplaces as well as maker spaces, available for rent to various medical offices, Ray said. Additionally, Ray said A&M students will be given priority and below-market pricing on housing at the plaza once construction of the Life tower is complete.
“One thing the chancellor wanted us to do was to make sure that the students were protected, and so we locked Medistar into a below-market rate for the coming 10 years for our students to be able to rent units in the student housing,” Ray said.