HOUSTON-The door is now open for construction to begin in the fall on a 300,000-sf administration building for the Houston Independent School District. The final push was the nod to a $38.1-million offer for a 24-acre headquarters campus in the Galleria submarket.

The school board last week approved the lowest of three offers after nearly two months of evaluations showed its net value worked out in the district’s best financial interests. Trammell Crow Co. of Dallas and the Morgan Group of Houston walked away with the right to buy the Richmond Avenue campus, outmaneuvering a $40.1-million offer from the Archon Group of Irving, TX, and $40-million bid from locally based VeriQuest Cos. Inc.

Doug Elliott with the Houston office of CBRE/Trione & Gordon tells GlobeSt.com that the school district was more interested in the “net value” of the total offer than the purchase prices. He says the board considered its rental cost to remain in place until a new administration building is completed plus factored in each offer’s broker fees.Elliott and Phil Arnett, also of CBRE/Trione & Gordon, now are positioned to open negotiations for the sale. The start of talks was decided at a closed-door meeting of the school district’s executive committee.

A school district spokeswoman has confirmed construction will begin in the fall. Completion is planned for 2006, the first office space to rise on 65 acres at Loop 610 and US Highway 290.

Still to come is a decision about whether to close the sale immediately or work out a mutually benefiting agreement to deduct rent from the purchase price so the district can to stay in place until the replacement building is finished. When the sale finally closes, the JV gets a foothold in a high-priced corridor of single- and multifamily development, upscale boutiques and low-rise office buildings.

School officials opted to sell when the renovation tab proved too costly for the three office buildings with 323,605 sf, 44,832-sf elementary school and 4,500-sf operations plant. Although the demolition tab was $750,000, officials believed the 24 acres, given the high-dollar value, represented a windfall in helping to pay for a more efficient campus elsewhere.

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