XSpace — a huge multi-use commercial condo concept — will be opening its Houston facility in the next few months. Rendering courtesy of XSpace

To some, Houston’s lack of zoning laws is a beautiful thing. The first time Byron Smith visited the city, he remarked on seeing a church, school, office building, and strip club all in startlingly close proximity.

At the time, the Sydney-born entrepreneur, whose previous experience was primarily in the automotive industry, was living in New York. But he fell in love with Space City.

“I was like, ‘We need to be in Texas,” he recalls, referring to expanding his next venture, XSpace, to the Lone Star State.

XSpace is a multi-use commercial condo building that allows entrepreneurs to own a home for their business.

“We’re a cool warehouse space that you own,” Smith explains, calling it “evolutionary space” where a business can grow from the roots up.

Though his family business was commercial real estate, Smith first dipped his toe into working with buildings with last year’s opening of the first XSpace in Austin. The city became “a natural fit” for the first project because Smith identified it as “a little bit more receptive to new things.” But Houston was part of the plan from the very beginning.

Located at 7022 Old Katy Road — close to both an escape room and an Aston-Martin dealership, among other diverse businesses — the Houston XSpace’s 86 units are already between 20- and 30-percent pre-sold, says Smith.

Rendering courtesy of XSpace

Confirmed owners of the spaces include “car guys,” such as a car-wrapping business; media companies that plan to podcast from XSpace; and an interior design company. Smith says that he’s been impressed with Houston’s depth of market.

“We’re trying really hard not to be rich-guy car condo stuff,” explains Smith. “It’s about cool, interesting people who are successful or are going to be successful.”

Though multiple businesses will all operate in XSpace, don’t think of it as a coworking space. In fact, coworking space is just a component included in the package of what owners get when they purchase part of XSpace. That’s inside the Owner’s Lounge, a flexible 4,000-square-foot area.

Each unit has natural light, but also metered electric and hot and cold running water. The whole facility is air-conditioned and well-ventilated and offers 24/7 access. The building is triple-gated for optimum security and includes a backup generator to ensure that owners will be able to work even in the case of another power grid failure.

Smith says that groundbreaking for XSpace will take place in seven weeks. Likely, owners will be able to start moving into the building in the summer of 2024. Until then, Smith says to expect some “sexy announcements” about upcoming partnerships and additional XSpace sites.

Though Smith says that global expansion isn’t yet in the plans for XSpace, “North American domination” is.

“All the cool cities, we’re going to be there,” he says. And it was all inspired by the coolest city of all and its eclectic business landscape.

Rendering courtesy of XSpace

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Innovative coastline project on Bolivar Peninsula receives federal funding

flood mitigation

The Galveston’s Coastal Barrier Project recently received federal funding to the tune of $500,000 to support construction on its flood mitigation plans for the area previously devastated by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Known as Ike Dike, the proposed project includes implementing the Galveston Bay Storm Surge Barrier System, including eight Gulf and Bay defense projects. The Bolivar Roads Gate System, a two-mile-long closure structure situated between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, is included in the plans and would protect against storm surge volumes entering the bay.

The funding support comes from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and will go toward the preconstruction engineering and design phase of Ecosystem Restoration feature G-28, the first segment of the Bolivar Peninsula and West Bay Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Shoreline and Island Protection.

Coastal Barrier Project - Galveston Projects

The project also includes protection of critical fish and wildlife habitat against coastal storms and erosion.

“The Coastal Texas Project is one of the largest projects in the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” says Col. Rhett A. Blackmon, USACE Galveston District commander, in a statement. “This project is important to the nation for many reasons. Not only will it reduce risk to the vulnerable populations along the Texas coast, but it will also protect vital ecosystems and economically critical infrastructure vital to the U.S. supply chain and the many global industries located here.”

Hurricane Ike resulted in over $30 billion in storm-related damages to the Texas coast, reports the Coastal Barrier Project, and created a debris line 15 feet tall and 40 miles long in Chambers County. The estimated economic disruption due to Hurricane Ike exceeded $150 billion, FEMA reported.

The project is estimated to take two years to complete after construction starts and will cost between $4 billion and $6 billion, reports Texas A&M University at Galveston.

Houston organization selects research on future foods in space health to receive $1M in funding

research and development

What would we eat if we were forced to decamp to another planet? The most immediate challenges faced by the food industry and astronauts exploring outside Earth are being addressed by The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Space Medicine’s newest project.

Earlier this month, TRISH announced the initial selection for its Space Health Ingress Program (SHIP) solicitation. Working with California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Baylor-based program chose “Future Foods for Space: Mobilizing the Future Foods Community to Accelerate Advances in Space Health,” led by Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung at the University of California, Davis.

“TRISH is bringing in new ideas and investigators to propel space health research,” says Catherine Domingo, TRISH operations lead and research administration associate at Baylor College of Medicine, in the release. “We have long believed that new researchers with fresh perspectives drive innovation and advance human space exploration and SHIP builds on TRISH’s existing efforts to recruit and support new investigators in the space health research field, potentially yielding and high-impact ideas to protect space explorers.”

The goal of the project is to develop sustainable food products and ingredients that could fuel future space travelers on long-term voyages, or even habitation beyond our home planet.

Jamison-McClung and her team’s goal is to enact food-related space health research and inspire the community thereof by mobilizing academic and food-industry researchers who have not previously engaged with the realm of space exploration. Besides growing and developing food products, the project will also address production, storage, and delivery of the nutrition created by the team.

To that end, Jamison-McClung and her recruits will receive $1 million over the course of two years. The goal of the SHIP solicitation is to work with first-time NASA investigators, bringing new minds to the forefront of the space health research world.

“As we look to enable safer space exploration and habitation for humans, it is clear that food and nutrition are foundational,” says Dr. Asha S. Collins, chair of the SHIP advisory board, in a press release. “We’re excited to see how accelerating innovation in food science for space health could also result in food-related innovations for people on Earth in remote areas and food deserts.”

Clean energy nonprofit CEO to step down, search for replacement to begin

moving on

Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, has announced its current CEO is stepping down after less than a year in the position.

The nonprofit's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced that he will be stepping down at the end of July 2024. Knobloch assumed his role last September, previously serving as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.”

The news of Knobloch's departure comes just over a month after the organization announced that it was eliminating 30 percent of its staff, which affected 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston.

According the Greentown, its board of directors is expected to launch a national search for its next CEO.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Kevin for his efforts to strengthen the foundation of Greentown Labs and for charting the next chapter for the organization through a strategic refresh process,” says Dawn James, Greentown Labs Board Chair, in the release. “His thoughtful leadership will leave a lasting impact on the team and community for years to come.”

Knobloch reportedly shifted Greentown's sponsorship relationships with oil companies, sparking "friction within the organization," according to the Houston Chronicle, which also reported that Knobloch said he intends to return to his clean energy consulting firm.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.