TECH-FUELED FUN

Virtual reality theme parks set to beam into Houston area

A real estate company is on the hunt for space in Houston for a virtual reality theme park. Photo courtesy of Legend Heroes

Coming soon to a vacant retail store near you: an indoor virtual reality "theme park" being planned by a company based in Singapore.

D. Legends Holdings Pte Ltd. has hired a New Jersey real estate brokerage, R.J. Brunelli & Co. LLC, to scout the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas for shuttered retail spaces — like former Toys R Us stores — to house virtual reality entertainment centers.

It's part of the rollout of the Singapore company's Legend Heroes Park concept in major U.S. metro areas, the brokerage says in a release. Aside from Houston and DFW, those markets include Boston, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco.

Capitalizing on technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, holograms, and motion tracking, Legend Heroes Park enables customers to immerse themselves in next-generation attractions such as rides, arcade games, entertainment, and sports like football and archery.

The first Legend Heroes Park opened recently in Macau, a casino and mall mecca off the coast of China.

In the U.S., R.J. Brunelli is focusing on old retail spaces measuring 30,000 to 40,000 square feet — roughly the size of an average Best Buy or Bed Bath & Beyond store — to house the high-tech parks, it says. The overall ceiling height must be at least 16 feet, with 40 percent of the space accommodating rides 32 feet tall or more.

The real estate broker is on the hunt for vacant stores or abandoned floors at regional malls, as well as empty big-box stores outside regional malls or at major retail centers. It's also considering warehouses close to malls or entertainment complexes.

"At a time when many mall operators are struggling to fill vacant department store spaces, Legend Heroes Park offers a unique entertainment destination … aimed at people of all ages," Julie Fox, manager of new tenant representation at R.J. Brunelli, says in the release. "In particular, the flexible concept presents a compelling alternative for properties desiring to present new options that can potentially bring back millennials who have shied away from malls in recent years."

Representatives of R.J. Brunelli couldn't be reached for comment.

With its Legend Heroes Park venture, D. Legends Holdings is hoping to ride the virtual reality wave. According to one forecast, the global market for virtual and augmented reality is expected to reach $571.4 billion by 2025.

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This story originally ran on CultureMap.

Corey Allen had entrepreneurialism in his blood — but it wasn't until he got involved with the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber that he got the courage to break out on his own. Courtesy of Corey Allen

Corey Allen grew up surrounded by entrepreneurship. His family owned several small businesses when he was growing up. But it took the support of his community to push him toward leadership.

From working in an accounting firm to dabbling in a few oil and gas companies, Allen's career trajectory changed when he joined the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Within the organization, for which he serves as treasurer, he met other motivated entrepreneurs and was given the support needed to open his own business, Ecotone.

Allen spoke with InnovationMap about his career and the importance of the LGBTQ community in entrepreneurship.

InnovationMap: How does Houston differ from other cities in the U.S. in terms of technology and entrepreneurship? What makes Houston different?

Corey Allen: I think everybody does default to Austin, right? People believe that that's the only technology hub in Texas. Houston is new and different from other cities in terms of tech and entrepreneurship, right now especially. In creating three local startups, we experienced tremendous support from well-established groups like the Greater Houston Partnership, the city of Houston with the Mayor's entrepreneurship program, the Greater Houston Chamber of Commerce. But, you know, what I think what is really new especially for Texas, within in Houston, is the local coworking spaces that are globally recognized brands and the coding camps. I think that is what is creating the infrastructure and ecosystem that we've been talking about for the last five years at least. I think that compared to other cities in the U.S., I don't see that type of energy and that type of investment being created in Houston right now.

IM: You mentioned a little bit about being involved in the process of creating three local startups. What makes Houston the right place to be involved in the startup culture that’s cultivating right now?

CA: I think there's two things that come to mind. Houston really is home, and it's always been home for me. And it really is a big, small town. I came from a small town in Texas, about halfway between Houston and Dallas, and our family always navigated to Houston for fun, but also for business. It was really the foundation for my own family, and I think what we get out of Houston is that southern hospitality is a real thing. So, that's certainly the first thing. And the second is that Houston has the foundation for a prosperous ecosystem. Obviously, there's a lot of oil and gas and the Texas Medical Center is already globally recognized. The more that we continue to focus on venture capital and innovation, which is what is wanted and needed right now, Houston is creating our own new technology and entrepreneurship to capture everybody's attention.

IM: What are some of the ways the tech and innovation community support their LGBTQ colleagues throughout the month of June?

Yeah, I love this question. I think it goes without saying for the community to come out and support the LGBTQ community by joining the chamber of commerce. Also, attending our second annual Pride in Business, which is June 28. That's been an outstanding event for all of the businesses in the community to be involved in the LGBT community. In three years time, (the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber) has been growing exponentially to over 125 visible members. And we have corporate partnerships that really speak to the impact that is being made in the community and in Houston. We have corporate partners like Shell and United. And also celebrate and attend the Houston Pride Parade, which is on June 22.

IM: What advice do you have for up-and-coming lgbtq entrepreneurs?

CA: The learning is the action. I used to really be annoyed by the phrase "sell faster." I actually live that now. You can't fail until you act, and now I know that you can't compete until you fail.

IM: That's great advice right there. What does pride month mean to you?

CA: It's very personal, and it hits home. My partner and I are going to be celebrating 19 years together in September, and I think that pride means celebrating a history that we don't stop to think about everyday. We were at a chamber meeting recently, and a member was sharing her experience of walking in the second pride parade. And she said that it wasn't the same. Even the police at the time did not protect the community. And that's a big difference from today. And I think anybody that goes out to the pride parade this year, I want them to know they're safe. And you know, I think that that's what we have to be thankful for today is to know that we can love without constant fear. It really just reminds us that we're not going to let anyone take that away again.

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Portions of this interview have been edited.