Wideman Co snags historic office buildings amid high downtown vacancy

Local firms Lionstone and Midway renovated iconic buildings, adding one of city’s first food halls

Wideman Co Buys 70% Leased Downtown Houston Office Buildings
Matthew Wideman with 708 Main Street and 712 Main Street (Susquehanna Holdings, Transwestern, CBRE)

A Florida-based real estate firm has acquired downtown Houston’s two-building Jones on Main complex, signaling resilience in the city’s office market despite post-pandemic challenges.

The Wideman Company bought the JPMorgan Chase Bank Building, at 712 Main Street, and the Great Jones Building, at 708 Main, which span 794,000 and 95,000 square feet, respectively, the Houston Chronicle reported. The buyer paid in cash, and the price wasn’t disclosed. 

The seller, Lionstone Investments, previously renovated the buildings in partnership with Houston-based Midway, adding one of the city’s first food halls, Finn Hall. Lionstone has its headquarters in the 34-story JPMorgan Chase Building.

The Wideman Company plans to renovate vacant office spaces in the buildings, which were built in phases in 1908, 1929 and the 1950s, the outlet said. The firm was drawn to the buildings’ historic charms.

“You just don’t build buildings like this anymore, and that uniqueness is what we want to lean into with modern touches, amenities and services,” Wideman CEO Matthew Wideman told the outlet. “This won’t be your grandfather’s stodgy office building.”

WeWork recently ditched its 95,000 square foot location at 708 Main, and the fully furnished space is available for direct lease, Wideman said.

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That 10-story building was previously pitched for office-to-resi conversion. AECOM, a consultant hired by economic development group Downtown Houston, suggested tax incentives for such conversions earlier this year and called out 708 Main as one of 37 candidates.

Wideman said residential conversion for the smaller building hasn’t been ruled out, but it isn’t in the firm’s immediate plans.

In the larger building, 712 Main, the firm is planning to finish out 100,000 square feet as speculative turnkey suites spanning 2,000 to 10,000 square feet each.

The two buildings are about 30 percent vacant, which is lower than the average downtown vacancy of 32.7 percent in the first quarter, according to Savill’s. While downtown’s vacancy was higher than the metro’s average of 28.9 percent, space there still commanded the highest average rent, over $41 per square foot.

Wideman’s investment is seen as a beacon amid Houston’s struggling office market.

“When a firm with a half-century track record of investing in 12 other states commits to downtown Houston, that is a meaningful endorsement of our future,” Kris Larson, president and CEO of Downtown Houston, told the outlet.

—Rachel Stone

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