Mayor Turner, Rice announce new Midtown Innovation District

HOUSTON - Some much-needed renovation leads the way toward Houston's innovation, and fosters a great deal of cooperation.

“When you combine your best with the best of other individuals -- we are so much stronger,” expressed Mayor Sylvester Turner at the announcement of the new “Midtown Innovation District.”

“A collaborative innovation district that brings together all elements of the innovation ecosystem in Houston. From startups and established enterprises, from workforce training to prototype building,” said Rice President, David Leebron.  The Rice endowment owns the land and has leased portions of the district.

The 9.4-acre site will be anchored by the transformation of one of the most iconic buildings in Houston.  The old Sears store that closed earlier this year.

The vast open spaces, with their high ceilings, will be renovated to offer classroom space, exhibition areas and more.

“All of this revolves around digital technology and data science and that's what this hub represents, is this one-stop for people to come in and through for the City of Houston,” said John Reale Jr., co-founder and CEO of Station Houston.

The planned revitalization doesn't come without questions of security, considering the planned district stretches adjacent a populated homeless encampment.

“We are dealing with the homeless population person- by person- by person. It's one thing for us to address a pothole on the street, we can do that quick, fast and in a hurry, but these are individuals with potholes in their lives and so you have to deal with them very carefully and be very sensitive to their concerns and their needs person- by person- by person,” Turner said.

It is innovation through e-commerce that threatens department stores like Sears and other big-name retailers.

How appropriate that this building now rises from the ashes to push progress forward even further.

“Sears has touched so many lives in our community, not just in my district but throughout the city from summer jobs to full-time jobs, to allowing us to putting clothes on layaway back in the day when I was growing up, but it served its purpose. I'm just so excited about it and I think the future's bright, We're looking forward to doing some great things,” said Councilman for District D, Dwight Boykins.