Houston innovation district to be anchored by historic Midtown Sears building

By Amanda Cochran - Social Media Producer

HOUSTON - Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Rice University unveiled plans for a Houston innovation district Thursday at the former Sears building in Midtown.  

The 1939 art deco building -- with views of downtown and the Texas Medical Center -- where Sears was formerly housed will serve as an anchor for a "hub designed to bring together the area's entrepreneurial, corporate and academic communities into collaborative spaces and programs."

PHOTOS: Inside the historic Sears building

The 9.4-acre site, owned by Rice Management Co., is in close proximity to seven colleges and universities, a METRORail line, the Museum District and the Texas Medical Center.

"The innovation district will leverage the region's unique economic strengths and help transform Houston into a world leader in data science and digital technologies centered on energy, industrial, health care and logistics industries," Rice President David Leebron said. "We aim to attract talent and support all stages of the innovation life cycle through state-of-the-art resources, incubators and accelerators, classroom and event space, technology, prototyping facilities, networking opportunities and entrepreneurship support and training."

"Houston is always transforming," Turner said. "We went from a cotton, rice and rail hub to the energy capital of the world, a global center for biomedical breakthroughs and an enviable model for inclusion for people and cultures from everywhere. Thanks to Rice and our many other partners in the innovation district being announced today, the city is poised to make yet another dramatic leap into the future. We are laying the groundwork to make Houston the next great center for startups and imaginative endeavors in the digital universe, and now we have a pivotal physical home for our work on the next frontier."

The first phase, which includes the renovation of the former Sears building, is expected to be completed within two years.

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