Houston’s New Office Future — How CITYCENTRE 6 Breaks the Mold and Opens Up Major Possibilities

Prime Space in the Bayou City's Pioneering Mixed-Use District Shows What the Future of Work Could Be

Chris Baldwin

May 2021

It will be a new beacon in Houston’s pioneering mixed-use center, an instant destination address of its own. Right by Marathon Oil’s handpicked site for its new showcase headquarters, the only place where the oil giant decided it could get everything it needed. The brand new trophy Class A construction building towers proudly with 19 floors of floor to ceiling glass. CITYCENTRE 6 is a game-changer in its own right, the type of office building that does not come around very often.

There are a number of new office buildings in Houston. More seem to come online every single year. But there is only one 300,000 square foot new tower in CITYCENTRE, Houston’s most desirable mixed-use center.

“The location and offering will bring higher-profile tenants to the table,” says Chris Seckinger, Vice President, Investment & Development at Midway.

So will what is right outside its front doors. Midway is building an urban plaza, about a half acre space with dining, retail and green space, connecting CITYCENTRE 6 and Marathon’s new headquarters to one of Houston’s best community hubs. This plaza will be an instant connector, one that brings the rest of CITYCENTRE in.

“It continues the CITYCENTRE experience by adding that plaza,” Seckinger says. “. . . Standing on that plaza, staring South, you’re staring down Town & Country Boulevard — CITYCENTRE’s main artery.”

Both CITYCENTRE 6 and Marathon Oil’s new headquarters building will feature podium-level balconies over the urban plaza, making these showcase new office centers feel very much like part of the CITYCENTRE scene. Now, that’s a perk.

There is a reason Marathon ended up picking this very specific locale for its new headquarters.

“Marathon, they did a city wide search for a location,” says Larry Sloan, Midway’s Executive Vice President of Investment & Development. “And the ultimate conclusion they came to — a half a million square foot headquarters at CITYCENTRE — is they couldn’t recreate on a one-off basis the amenities that already existed here.

“From Life Time Athletic to all of the restaurant choices to all of the shopping options.”

Future Work

If you’re going to get people back in the office after COVID-19, those offices had better be located in a place where workers want to be. Midway’s CITYCENTRE certainly qualifies. It is one of the centers of the city, a West Houston focal point full of restaurants with patios, open-air plazas and its signature Plaza lawn where kids frolic, couples relax and office workers enjoy lunch.

There is a reason CITYCENTRE’s office occupancy rates remain in the mid 90 percent while not far away Energy Corridor offices struggle with vacancy rates of up to 30 percent in this COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s just that flight to quality,” Sloan says. “And also understanding you need to be where your employees want to come work.”

In many ways, CITYCENTRE 6 expands those offerings, allowing a different level of company, larger companies, to put offices in the coveted mixed-use center.

“We feel like this area will just add on to what’s special about CITYCENTRE,” Seckinger says. “Traditionally, it has been a smaller tenant project. We’re largely leased up with 15,000 to 20,000 square users — and as we saw with Marathon, we have the chance to build a 300,000 square foot headquarters (in CITYCENTRE 6) or we can design a smaller multi-tenant experience.”

CITYCENTRE 6’s potential anchor tenants already have an example of what can be done on the site, going up next door. You can peer through the windows and see the scope of what’s clearly going to be a show-stopping Marathon headquarters lobby. Creating “remarkable places” may be part of Midway’s most important guiding principles, but this special new office building represents a chance to see that coming to life.

CITYCENTRE’s office spaces are about the future of work.

This is a high-profile new addition to Houston’s CITYCENTRE, a jewel within a well established destination land. The new tower is even designed by Munoz + Albin, the cutting edge firm behind some of the most striking and innovative high-rise projects in the city including the The Residences at La Colombe d’Or and The Preston downtown.

There will be little to compare this office space to outside of Houston’s downtown. CITYCENTRE 6 is scheduled to be completed in 2024. The tower is now in the pre-leasing stage — and will adapt to its tenants.

One of the advantages of going into a brand new building like this is that modifications can be made to craft a company’s particular dream offices.

“We really try to design flexibility into these buildings,” Sloan says. “As Brad Freels, our chairman, likes to say, we’re throwing a party. We’re just not sure who’s showing up yet.”

Drawing Talent Back to the Office

Having an office where talented people want to show up is turning out to be more crucial than ever as post-pandemic life beckons. Remote working may be part of many innovative companies’ future, but it is unlikely to be all remote work. An office — particularly a good one in a desirable location that actually helps draw talent — as a culture hub and culture builder is more vital than ever.

“What I think a lot of companies have realized quickly is that you may be able to work in a remote environment,” Sloan says. “But it’s extremely difficult to grow that way.

“You need to be somewhere where everyone wants to come to work.”

Being in CITYCENTRE is the type of perk that draws talent and makes people want to return to the office.

A new research study from Egress shows that 73 percent of workers reported feeling worse overall as a result of longtime remote working. Many workers want to come back into the office — if they’re going into an environment they’re excited about.

That means an environment that is friendly and healthy for people. Midway’s drive to achieve the latest healthy office certifications for its projects — new standards that largely focus on people such as WELL and Fitwel certification — gives buildings like the Munoz + Albin-designed CITYCENTRE 6 another edge. Midway’s GreenStreet downtown mixed-use center just achieved a Fitwel one star rating, a coveted designation centered around things such as walkability, green space and access to healthy food.

“Midway is a force in the healthy building movement,” says Joanna Frank, President and CEO of the Center for Active Design (CfAD), which oversees the rigorous, third party Fitwel ratings.

Now, one of Midway’s most long-awaited and coveted spaces — CITYCENTRE 6 — is starting to come to life. This is anything but just another office building. In some ways, it’s another pioneer within a pioneering project that long ago changed how many Houstonians think about mixed-use. Now, CITYCENTRE 6 may be changing some of the ways they think about the office.

“This unfilled site is just a rare opportunity in the context of what we’re doing here,” Sloan says. “We’re excited to have that out in the market.

“And see who shows up.”