Houston Advanced Research Center ready to build new Woodlands campus

The Woodlands-based Houston Advanced Research Center is expected to break ground on its 3.5-acre headquarters in March.

The nonprofit research center, which was founded by the late George P. Mitchell, originally announced a groundbreaking for this year. Construction of the 20,000-square-foot facility was put on hold while HARC coordinated a capital campaign with Sterling and Associates

The construction costs are estimated to be about $7 million, and HARC's board approved $2.5 million request from the organization's endowment, the Endowment for Regional Sustainability Science.

HARC is expected to move into the facility off Gosling Road by 2017, a year from its original move-in date. The nonprofit expects to welcome a new roommate at its facilities, too - the Houston Technology Center.

HTC, a technology business incubator and accelerator based in Houston, announced its partnership with HARC earlier this month in a ceremonial ribbon cutting. 

"We are very happy to have them here. It's providing a very nice connection to a community that we hadn't really been connected to, all those bright entrepreneurs that are thinking up new clean energy and water ideas," said Jim Lester, president and CEO of HARC. "There are a variety of ways you can advance sustainability. You can try and change human behavior, you can try and change government and corporate policy, or you can try and come up with new, cleaner technologies that can be adopted commercially. Guess which one is simpler?"

The partnership marks HTC's first north Houston office called HTC North. At the moment, HTC is housed at HARC's existing offices off 4800 Research Forest Drive and will move into the new campus once construction is complete.

"There is this significant growth that we've seen up here with industry growing and moving to The Woodlands. There's a lot of small business advancing and developing," said Charles Wohl, managing director of HTC North. "There are challenges with water, the demand for water, the drought we've had in the past and being better stewards of the land for sustainability. Now is a time to promote that."

HTC expects to work with entrepreneurs whose business ideas focus on clean air and water technologies, such as environmentally-friendly drilling techniques, sustainable development and other technological advances that tie into HARC's and The Woodlands' mission of sustainable living.

"We are going to create new opportunities for early stage companies and entrepreneurs to develop their business, grow and succeed. We're encouraging the promotion and development of technology in the area of environmentally-friendly activities, which is important to people in The Woodlands. It's part of George Mitchell's vision. It's why a lot of people moved to The Woodlands," Wohl said.

The partnership between the two organizations was years in the making. The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership was one of the first to recognize the potential for a partnership between the tech business incubator and tech research center, and it has been calling on HTC to make a mark on The Woodlands.

"As a true incubator and accelerator for entrepreneurs who are in early-stage development working on technology for clean air, water and renewable resources, the bottom line is it's all about job creation and capital investment in our community," said Gil Staley, CEO of The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership. "We have an educated workforce, one of the highest in the state. We have potential investors for startups. The market is perfect for an incubator, accelerator program."

Although HTC has a small office at HARC's existing space, tech startups and investors interested in technologies that cater to renewable energy and sustainable development now have a place to converge. That place will be more spacious once the two move in together at the Gosling Road center in 2017.

Gensler is the architecture firm designing the new headquarters, which is expected to be LEED certified. The certification means the new building meets certain environmental standards, like reduced water usage and energy efficiency, that make it a "green" building.

The new campus will include meeting space for 50-60 people that will be made available to local nonprofit groups that are in line with HARC's goals.

The campus comes 14 years after The Woodlands nonprofit HARC rebranded itself from a basic research and technology hub to concentrate on sustainability and environmentally-friendly technologies. Following the rebranding, HARC sold its 100-acre campus to the Lone Star College System. It maintained a long-term lease agreement with the college and maintained its headquarters on-site in one of the original buildings. HARC expects to vacate its leased office after it moves into its new office building.

HARC is a nonprofit that was founded in 1982 by the late George P. Mitchell, the founder and original developer of The Woodlands.

"HARC and The Woodlands share a founder and a commitment to sustainability. We hope to support the community in keeping the original vision of George Mitchell alive," Lester said.

Editor's Note:

The Houston Advanced Research Center was founded by George P. Mitchell, the mastermind behind the development of The Woodlands, in 1982. Since rebranding itself as a sustainability-focused research center in 2001, HARC has worked on the science and energy of clean energy, air and water, renewable resources and other "green" research. The Houston Technology Center has opened an office at HARC's existing facilities and is expected to move into the new campus when it's complete in 2017.

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