October 6, 2022

TMC3 Collaborative Building, at 250,000 square-feet and 6 stories high, hits construction milestone

For the first 18 months of the pandemic, Bill McKeon, the CEO of Texas Medical Center, woke up at 3 a.m. every day to review the latest hospital data on coronavirus cases before hosting 7 a.m. meetings with the heads of the major Texas Medical Center hospitals and 8 a.m. meetings with government officials to discuss the data.

The rest of his days were an onslaught of tasks as he helped manage the response to the biggest health crisis in a century.

But even through all of that, McKeon and Texas Medical Center institutions kept working in the background on TMC3, an ambitious 37-acre biomedical research campus planned before the pandemic. Looking at architectural plans and hosting Zoom meetings about the project offered a respite during the some of the worst moments of the pandemic, he said.

“It was frankly the thing that kept us most sane at the time,” McKeon said. “It allowed us to look toward the future beyond this pandemic.”

People take a tour of the TMC3 Collaborative Building, a 250,000 square-foot joint research building located in the heart of the TMC3 life science campus, on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, in Houston.

Godofredo A. Vásquez, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

The first pieces of the potentially game-changing biomedical research campus are now starting to come to fruition just outside the Texas Medical Center, along Old Spanish Trail about five miles south of downtown Houston.

Contractors with Vaughn Construction topped out this week on the first building in the project, meaning the six-story building has reached its highest point. The 250,000 square-foot Collaborative Building represents the first piece in a broader 6 million square-foot mixed-use development.

TMC3 is expected to help solidify Houston’s reputation as a major life science hub by bringing together medical entrepreneurs with leading biopharmaceutical and health care companies, as well as academics, researchers and health professionals. The project leverages the activity in the already bustling Texas Medical Center, which is often described as the world’s largest medical complex spanning more than 50 million square feet of space.

The TMC3 project’s founding institutions include Texas Medical Center (TMC), Texas A&M University Health Science Center, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

After years of planning and construction, the first few buildings and public parks in the project are expected to open next year.

The first floor of the Collaborative Building will be open to the public with a 7,000 square-foot atrium featuring natural light spilling into a stadium-style seating space capable of hosting events such as lectures for up to 500 people.

People take a tour of the TMC3 Collaborative Building, a 250,000 square-foot joint research building located in the heart of the TMC3 life science campus, on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, in Houston.

People take a tour of the TMC3 Collaborative Building, a 250,000 square-foot joint research building located in the heart of the TMC3 life science campus, on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, in Houston.

Godofredo A. Vásquez, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

The second floor will house wet and dry labs for researchers working with MD Anderson, Texas A&M Health and UT Health Houston. The third floor includes space for yet-to-be-announced private industry partners.

The fourth floor will host offices for TMC’s data and clinical research collaborative programs, the TMC Venture Fund, which invests in life sciences startups, the hedge fund Braidwell, and other venture and equity fund partners.

Historically, TMC was comprised of institutions siloed in buildings that were “designed to be separate rather than collaborative,” McKeon said. This new Collaborative Building is meant to bring together healthcare, educational and private industry leaders under one roof to mingle and develop new concepts.

“It’s going to be the clearinghouse for the free exchange of ideas that doesn’t happen today,” McKeon said.

Across from the Collaborative Building, work is progressing on the first few levels of what eventually is expected to be 700,000 square-feet spread across two connected buildings dedicated to additional industry partners and educational research space.

The TMC3 Collaborative Building, a 250,000 square-foot joint research building located in the heart of the TMC3 life science campus, seen on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, in Houston.

The TMC3 Collaborative Building, a 250,000 square-foot joint research building located in the heart of the TMC3 life science campus, seen on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, in Houston.

Godofredo A. Vásquez, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

The buildings in the project will curve to wrap around six public parks linked together in the shape of double helix in designs by Elkus Manfredi Architects and landscape architect Mikyoung Kim Design, both of Boston.

By the end of this year, Majestic Realty — a California real estate firm partnering with TMC —is expected to break ground on a 521-room hotel and a 350-unit residential project, McKeon said. The Houston real estate firm Transwestern is working with TMC to develop the campus, which is expected to get an additional six industry and research buildings.

“Houston already has a place on the world stage as a leader in clinical care and life sciences,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner in a statement. “With the launch of the TMC3 Collaborative Building and larger TMC3 campus, we showcase why our city leads in the areas of innovation and technology.”

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