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Trammell Crow Residential is moving to buy 17 acres on downtown Houston’s north side to develop an 800-unit apartment project. The site is owned by Palladio Development Ltd., a Houston investment group led by basketball star Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets.

Trammell Crow Residential expects to close the land sale at the end of the year. The land is along N. Main St. on the banks of the White Oak Bayou. The property lies in a flood plain, but Trammell Crow is conducting engineering studies to determine if there is a feasible solution for building apartments on the site.

The Houston apartment market has seen a surging demand for dwellings near the city’s urban core and a number of garden-style apartment projects have been built near downtown in recent years. However, the northern side of downtown has not seen much construction activity and Trammell Crow’s project could ignite some momentum in that area.

In 1999, the Olajuwon group purchased the vacant tract, a former rail yard, from Union Pacific Railroad. The property is just north of the University of Houston-Downtown, providing a likely pool of renters from some of the 8,000 students studying at the campus

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