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David Wolff: After 290 construction wraps up, 'it’s going to be a different world out there'

David Wolff remembers the skepticism that his namesake company, Houston-based Wolff Cos., faced when they purchased the 550 acres that became Park 10 Regional Business Center, a master-planned mixed-use development in the Energy Corridor. Before Wolff developed Park 10 in the '70s, though, the Energy Corridor moniker wasn't around yet. That park catalyzed development in west Houston and ultimately helped established it as Houston's Energy Corridor.

Wolff thinks the company's acquisition of 521 acres in deep northwest Houston could lead to a similar tale.

"Six months from now, it’s going to be a different world out there," Wolff said. "I think it’s going to be a very exciting corridor."

Wolff Cos. acquired 521 acres in late June in Waller County, right off U.S. 290 and FM 362. Wolff Cos. sold 270 acres to Houston-based Long Lake Ltd., a single-family home developer that's planning to build 1,000 homes on the land. The first lots should deliver in January 2020. For its part, Wolff will soon break ground on a light industrial development and plans to develop office properties, retail, hospitality and perhaps multifamily over the next six years.

Wolff sees the project as a decades-long investment in the deep northwest Houston region. He spoke with the Houston Business Journal about his vision for the corridor, as well as what kinds of tenants he's hoping will first occupy the development.

What led you to buy land along the U.S. 290 corridor?

It’s obvious to everyone in Houston, over the last eight years, how torn up U.S. 290 has been, and how different it was to travel through that corridor. Around a year or a year-and-a-half ago, the feeling came up that, at some point, it was going to be completed and was going to spur a lot more interest in the area. … Its growth is really inhibited by all its construction.

What's your development timeline look like?

I think, initially, we’ll have light industrial tenants and some large distribution centers — if they’re done in a quality way. We’ll upgrade to flex space and, ultimately, we’ll do suburban office. With the 1,000 homes that Long Lake is going to build, there will probably be some retail demand, as well. Along the freeway, you often get health care and religious organizations, too.

Did you work with any partners on the deal, investment or otherwise?

We pay cash, and we have no debt on our properties, so we’re not under pressure to make interest. We don't have partners, so we don’t have to worry about being as patient as we know we may need to be.

What kind of industrial user will be attracted to this property?

Any user who wants to be on a freeway. No particular industry comes to mind, but the most obvious thing would be distribution … furniture companies, e-commerce companies, FedEx, UPS — those types of companies. I'm not saying we’re working with any of them, but it’s a broad number of industries.

Is Wolff pursuing more land deals in Houston?

We’re always opportunistic, but we’re not publicly owned, so we’re not under pressure to produce earnings per quarter. We just want to do deals that make sense. If something came along, we’re capable of pursuing it — this (northwest Houston project) doesn’t use all of our financial resources.

Are you anxious about tenants and residents not buying into deep northwest Houston?

This is what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years — buying into emerging corridors, buying a major tract of land and developing it in a high-quality manner. When people thought it was the end of (west Houston's) development, we bought 550 acres that became Park 10 Regional Business Center. That’s what we see happening on 290 — affordable housing with access to good employment and a strong school district.


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