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HOUSTON-MetroNational Corp. and Memorial Hermann Healthcare System have expanded a master-lease agreement, pushing the term to 2043 to open the door to an August groundbreaking on a 915,000-sf office tower for the West Houston campus. The 35-story tower will cost more than $335 million to build, according to local reports.

“We actually had a master lease on that campus through 2018 and now we’ve expanded it another 35 years,” says Marshall Heins, Memorial Hermann’s chief facility services officer. The campus presently holds the Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute, two medical professional buildings, another hospital tower and several parking garages.

The tower and 2,500-space parking garage will sit on what is locally known as the Oshman tract at the corner of Interstate 10 and Gessner Road. The first 15 floors will house inpatient services and the remaining levels have been earmarked for outpatient services, physician offices and office space for Memorial Hermann’s administrative functions. “With this announcement, we are well on our way toward establishing the Memorial City campus as the city’s second major medical center,” Memorial Hermann president and CEO Don Wolterman says.

MetroNational president and COO Wayne Hays says the expansion plan has been 17 months in the making. “The beginning of construction coupled with the extension of the master lease,” he says, “solidifies a strong partnership between MetroNational and Memorial Hermann for many years to come.”

The tower is ticketed for completion in mid-2009. All 1,300 employees will be relocated from 9301 and 9401 Southwest Freeway by mid-2010. “What made this deal interesting is that our leases expire in 2010 so we’re now able to take the three different locations of corporate office people and relocate them to one campus,” Heins tells GlobeSt.com. “That’ll be efficient.”

Heins says efficiency was one driver for the project, but so was location. “We wanted a location near the Beltway 8 access for our employees,” he explains. “The continued growth is along the I-10 corridor and it was a logical place for us to be.”

Locally based Morris Architects designed the new tower while another local firm, Kirksey Architecture, is teaming with the regional office of Chicago-headquartered Perkins & Will Inc. for interior designs. Anslow-Bailey Construction Ltd. of Houston is the general contractor.

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