Transwestern’s stalled Houston project moving forward

Friedkin Group and Compass reportedly involved with hotel and residence project at site of ExxonMobil’s former research facility

The redevelopment plan for a prime piece of Bayou City property has apparently been resuscitated and is in the process of being finalized, The Real Deal has learned.

For the past four years, speculation swirled among Houston real estate watchers about why a mixed-use development announced in 2019 for the site of Exxon Mobil’s former upstream research campus, had not begun.

The 17-acre plot at 3120 Buffalo Speedway near Houston’s Greenway Plaza and venerable River Oaks neighborhood was initially dubbed River Oaks Green and marketed as “The RO,” according to a 2019 Houston Chronicle report.

Originally a joint venture between Spear Street Capital, a real estate investment firm with offices in San Francisco and New York, and Houston-based Transwestern, the project aimed to transform “West Alabama Street and Buffalo Speedway into an aesthetically pleasing pedestrian realm to serve and enhance the commercial and residential uses.”

Referencing a now dead link on Transwestern’s website, the Houston Chronicle reported in 2019 that the development would have 310,000 square feet of office space, 644 residential units, 65,000 square feet of restaurants and shop space, and a 200-room hotel with 175 living units.

Spear Street bought the site from Exxon Mobil through JLL which marketed the site as “one of the largest and most desirable in-fill tracts remaining in all of Houston,” according to a 2017 Houston Chronicle report.

As late as 2021, Spear Street was listed as the owner of 3120 Buffalo Speedway, according to Harris County Appraisal District records, but that firm is apparently now out of the equation, as its website now lists “The RO” as a development site that it has sold.

Records show ownership was transferred to TDC RO Owner LLC with the same location as Tranwestern’s Houston address at 1900 West Loop South Suite 1300.

The parcel at 3120 Buffalo Speedway has an appraised market value of $52.77 million and its legal description is noted as “River Oaks Green.”

Reportedly the Friedkin Group, a Houston-based conglomerate, led by billionaire Dan Friedkin, along with other Houston-based investors are reportedly now Tranwestern’s partner in the venture.

The Friedkin Group has interests in the automotive, hospitality, real estate, film, entertainment and sports industries.

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The company’s businesses are primarily buoyed by its ownership of Gulf States Toyota, a major distributor for Toyota vehicles that supplies 150 dealerships across Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.

Though plans are not final, Friedkin will reportedly build an Auberge Collection of Resorts on the site featuring a hotel and residences, with Compass handling the sales.

Most of Auberge’s resorts are set in prime vacation destinations like Napa Valley, Aspen, Telluride, Park City, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Santorini, Greece and multiple locations in Mexico.

While Houston is not quite the sort of vacation destination Auberge favors, the brand does have one Texas location that is somewhat comparable — its Commodore Perry Estate resort in Austin.

Under Auberge’s “coming soon” section, there is no mention of Houston, however. The company lists San Francisco, Florence, Italy, Los Olivos, California, and Kiawah River, South Carolina as locations for future resorts.

Neither the Friedkin Group nor Spear Street Capital returned TRD’s request for comment on 3120 Buffalo Speedway.

Transwestern is currently marketing “The RO” on one parcel at 3120 Buffalo Speedway as a 289,874 square-foot 13-story class B office building with a cafe featuring coffee and juice bars, a fitness center with locker rooms, a tenant lounge and green space.

A spokesperson for Transwestern told TRD that the company was unable to comment on market rumors or speculation regarding The Friedkin Group’s intent to build an Auberge resort at 3120 Buffalo Speedway.

Regarding Compass reportedly handling the sales for the project, the brokerage declined to answer TRD’s specific query and issued the following statement from Justin D’Adamo, Head of New Development at Compass:

“Compass Development and Marketing Group closely collaborates with developers in most major markets, Houston included. As the top real estate brokerage in Houston by sales volume, our team is actively involved in several ongoing development projects with partners including Transwestern.”

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