Formal groundbreaking held for Houston's Ion innovation hub

Government, business and academic officials shovel dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony for The Ion on July 19, 2019.

Government, business and academic officials shovel dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony for The Ion on July 19, 2019.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held July 19 for The Ion innovation hub, a project backed by The Rice Management Company that will see the former Sears building renovated into what is hoped to be a centerpiece of the city's innovation district for businesses.

"We're building it for the talent that exists in neighborhoods all across our city," Mayor Sylvester Turner said at the ceremony. "This is not a building for a select few. This is a destination for everyone within our city. ...Now we're saying to people with talent, 'Everyone come, and let's innovate, and let's work together to make this city the best technological city of innovation of anywhere in the globe.'"

According to state filings, the cost for renovating the Sears building into the 270,000 square-foot innovation facility will be about $110,000 million, with the work slated to be completed in late 2020.

The Ion will feature businesses at all stages of their development lifecycle, with start-ups, corporations, restaurants, entertainment and academic institutions to be involved in the facility's operations.

The renovated facility will still retain art-deco elements that the Sears was known for, including historic corners, glass block windows and decorative tilework.

Institutions including Rice, the University of Houston, UH-Downtown, the University of St. Thomas, Houston Community College, Texas Southern University, Houston Baptist University, San Jacinto College and the South Texas College of Law are expected to offer programming in the space, according to a news release.

"This is the result of people coming together for the city of Houston, and that's really what we look forward to contributing," Rice University President David Leebron said. "It's about jobs, education and inspiring the future."


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