Skip to main content

Former Sears to Become Innovation Hub Dubbed The Ion

Published Jan 30, 2019 by A.J. Mistretta

The Ion innovation district

Work will begin this spring to transform the historic Sears building in Midtown into the hub of the city’s new innovation district.

Rice University is spearheading the project. The renovated building will be renamed The Ion, a 270,000-square-foot facility designed to bring together entrepreneurs, corporations and academic institutions to collaborate under one roof. According to a news release from Rice, the Ion will support businesses at all stages of the innovation lifecycle, and provide resources for Houstonians seeking to participate in the innovation economy. The facility will mix academics and corporate partners into an environment of educational events, demonstrations, hack-a-thons and programming. The addition of restaurant and entertainment amenities will bring additional activity to the space.

Construction on the project will start in May with completion slated for late 2020.

Mayor Sylvester Turner applauded the creation of an innovation district that will help Houston gain a leadership role in data science and digital tech.  “As I said last year when the idea was unveiled, we have to leap, not stroll, into the economic frontier,” Mayor Turner said. “Now the physical transformation of The Ion will help get us there.”

The Ion will retain signature elements of the original art deco building’s design — including historic corners, glass block windows, decorative tilework and a three-sided storefront with architectural canopies – while large windows will reconnect the open interior to the surrounding streetscape. A new central light-well will shower the building in natural illumination and, from inside, provide unobstructed views across the ground floor.

Station Houston will oversee the public programming at The Ion, which will include entrepreneurial workshops, thought-leadership conferences, industry lectures, job training, educational classes and networking events. Houston-based Hines is managing the development on behalf of Rice Management Company.

The Ion represents the first phase in the development of the broader innovation district, which will cover roughly 16 acres on the south end of Midtown. The district will combine a diversity of commercial development with housing and public spaces.

The innovation district will address the need for what a 2017 Accenture study conducted for the Greater Houston Partnership described as a “natural center of gravity for tech startups.” The report concluded that Houston has a thriving innovation economy, but its potential is limited by the “absence of a flourishing startup ecosystem.” With The Ion as its hub, the innovation district will create a synergistic environment for entrepreneurs, venture capital investors and leading tech industry players.

Read more coverage from the Houston Chronicle and Houston Business Journal
 

Related News

Digital Technology

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Relocating Global HQ to Houston

12/1/20
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced the company will relocate its global headquarters to the Houston region from San Jose, California. The headquarters will be located at the company’s new state-of-the-art Springwoods Village campus slated to open in early 2022.  HPE's expansion in and headquarters relocation to the Houston area holds the potential to add hundreds of jobs to its already robust presence in the coming years. Read the official release from Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s office. HPE cited Houston’s diverse talent base and low cost of doing business as key factors driving the move to the digital tech hub and global headquarters city. The company already has a large footprint in the Houston region, with more than 2,600 employees working in the area. The new HPE campus, being built in the 60-acre Springwoods Village development, will consist of two five-story buildings with about 440,000 square feet of space combined.  “As we look to the future, our business needs, opportunities for cost savings, and team members’ preferences about the future of work, we are excited to relocate HPE’s headquarters to the Houston region,” said Antonio Neri, CEO of HPE. “Houston is an attractive market to recruit and retain future diverse talent and where we are currently constructing a state-of-the-art new campus.  We look forward to continuing to expand our strong presence in the market.” HPE is a global enterprise information technology company that helps customers drive digital transformation by unlocking value from all of their data. HPE delivers unique, open and intelligent technology solutions, with a consistent experience across all clouds and edges, to help customers develop new business models, engage in new ways, and increase operational performance.  “HPE’s headquarters relocation is a signature moment for Houston, accelerating the momentum that has been building for the last few years as we position Houston as a leading digital tech hub,” said Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership. “Houston has long been a hub for global innovation and offers leading tech companies a deep bench of digital and corporate talent to drive success. We are excited HPE leadership recognized this, and look forward to welcoming the headquarters team to Houston.” The addition of HPE expands Houston’s Fortune 500 headquarters roster to 23 companies. HPE is ranked No. 109 on the 2020 Fortune 500 list.  "We are excited that Hewlett Packard Enterprise has chosen to call Texas home, and I thank them for expanding their investment in the Lone Star State by relocating their headquarters to the Houston region," said Governor Abbott. "Hewlett Packard Enterprise joins more than 50 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Lone Star State. Texas offers the best business climate in the nation. Our low taxes, high quality of life, top-notch workforce, and tier one universities create an environment where innovative companies like HPE can flourish. We look forward to a successful partnership with HPE, as together we build a more prosperous future for Texas."  HPE has a long Houston pedigree, as Hewlett Packard merged with Compaq Computers in 2002. HPE was founded in 2015 following the separation from HP, Inc. Houston has long been a global hub for innovation and offers leading tech companies a deep bench of digital and corporate talent to ensure success. HPE's headquarters move is a testament to Houston’s unparalleled business environment and outstanding quality of life. Paired with Houston’s low cost of living – which is 25 percent below the average of the nation’s top metros – the Houston region is incredibly attractive to companies like HPE and the talent they work to recruit. The Houston region is home to two Tier One Universities – University of Houston and Rice University – and HPE’s new campus is just an hour drive from a third Tier One university: Texas A&M University. HPE will benefit from the advanced research emerging from these universities along with the technical and corporate talent to get the job done. Learn more about HPE as well as digital technology and innovation in Houston. 
Read More

Related Events

Economic Development Event

UpSkill Works Forum: Gateways to Career Exploration & Pathways

Career exploration has become a part of middle and high school education across Texas over the last several years. Students must choose an educational endorsement in the seventh grade and this endorsement can set the…

Learn More
Learn More
Executive Partners