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New development announced to rise alongside Houston's Texas Medical Center

The Levit Green development will feature office, research, residential, retail, and dining components, along with outdoor amenities and green space. Image courtesy of Hines

Two Houston-based commercial real estate companies — Hines Interests LP and 2ML Real Estate Interests Inc. — have teamed up to develop a 52-acre life-sciences-anchored, mixed-use project adjacent to the Texas Medical Center.

The Levit Green development will feature office, research, residential, retail, and dining components, along with outdoor amenities and green space. In a June 15 release, the developers say Levit Green will sit "at the epicenter of Houston's biotech, corporate life sciences, and medical research hub."

Levit Green will be near the planned TMC³ biomedical research campus. The Hines-2ML project will be built at the northwest corner of Holcombe Boulevard and U.S. Highway 288 on an industrial site that was the headquarters of The Grocery Supply Co. Inc., the predecessor of 2ML.

Being built at a cost of $1.5 billion, the 1.5 million-square-foot, 36-acre TMC³ campus is set for completion in 2022.

"At 15.5 percent, Houston has one of the highest five-year growth rates in life sciences establishments in the United States. Impressive advancements in therapeutics, science, and innovation are driving demand for real estate," John Mooz, senior managing director of Hines, says in the release.

Privately held Hines is a real estate investor, developer, and manager whose portfolio comprises $133.3 billion in assets across 24 countries.

Because Levit Green remains in the master-planning phase, the developers aren't able to provide the project's square footage. They plan to break ground once design work for the initial buildings is finished. The developers decline to disclose a price tag for the project.

"Given the explosive growth and investment in innovation in the life science sector, there is an intense need for state-of-the-art facilities which enable the research required to bring these planned advances into being," Mooz tells InnovationMap in a statement. "As Houston is an ascending life science cluster city, which also includes the world's largest medical center, the need to create facilities that enhance research and development was, to us, obvious."

An initial parcel for Levit Green was purchased by Joe Levit, founder of The Grocers Supply Co., which grew into a major independent wholesaler of groceries in the U.S. and the largest supplier of Hispanic groceries in the U.S. The Levit family owns 2ML.

"Our family has deep roots in the neighborhood, and we believe this development will add tremendous value to the area and the Texas Medical Center," Max Levit, president of 2ML, says in the release.

The Levits entered the retail sector with the purchase of the Gerland's Inc. and Fiesta Mart Inc. grocery chains. In 2014, the family sold its wholesale business and the Grocers Supply name. The following year, the company sold Gerland's and Fiesta Mart.

In conjunction with the sale of the wholesale business and the brand, The Grocers Supply Co. changed its name to 2ML Real Estate Interests. The renamed company controls a portfolio of more than 5.2 million square feet of warehouses, shopping centers, supermarkets, and office buildings. The bulk of 2ML's portfolio is in the Houston area.

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Moonflower Farms grows lettuce hydroponically. Courtesy of Moonflower Farms

A Houston urban farm has earned national recognition for its innovative approach to water conservation. Moonflower Farms won the American Heart Association's Foodscape Innovation Excellence Award, which recognizes positive changes in the foodscape, a term for all of the places where food is produced, purchased, or consumed.

The Heart Association selected Moonflower's submission, titled "Sustainable Farming Through Water Conservation," from 26 entries. Dallas' Restorative Farms earns the Foodscape Innovation Consumer Choice Award.

"These two innovations demonstrate a way of producing food that promotes affordability and equitable access, and the American Heart Association is proud to recognize these efforts," AHA chief medical officer for prevention Eduardo Sanchez said in a release.

Located in a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse south of downtown, Moonflower operates what it describes as Houston's first vertical indoor farm. The method both reduces the amount of space needed to grow the farm's microgreens, lettuces, herbs and edible flowers and it eliminates the disruptions caused by adverse weather conditions, which allows the farm to produce year round.

Moonflower uses a closed-loop system for capturing rainwater to feed its crops. The water is treated and oxygenated so that it can be reused. Not having to pay for water from the City of Houston allows the farm to operate more economically and sell its produce at an affordable price to restaurants and individuals.

"Our hydroponic farm uses 90-percent less water than conventional farms," Moonflower founder and CEO Federico Marques said in a statement. "We provide year-round produce to residents in historically underserved communities and donate produce to local charitable food systems."

One of those charities is Houston non-profit Second Servings, which "rescues" food from restaurants and events and distributes it to food pantries and other resources.

"The donations we receive from Moonflower Farms are incredible," Second Servings founder and president Barbara Bronstein said. "Their hydroponically grown greens are so appreciated by the needy Houstonians we serve, who lack affordable, convenient access to fresh produce."

Recently, Moonflower introduced a SupaGreens subscription box that allows customers to purchase greens weekly, bimonthly, or monthly. The box is delivered directly to consumers.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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