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HOUSTON-Trammell Crow Co. and Principal Real Estate Investors have launched construction on the 871,000-sf Discovery Tower. The developer will seek LEED Gold certification for the $300-million landmark project in the city’s entertainment district.

As part of its green plan, the 30-story building, being placed on a full city block, will be outfitted with 10 rooftop turbines to generate electricity, a first in the city. Gensler designed the high rise, which will be ready for occupancy in 2010. Gilbane Building Co. of Providence, RI is the general contractor.

Aaron Thielhorn, principal of development and investment with Trammell Crow in Houston, says there’s more to the project than LEED certification as important as that is. He points out that its location at 1501 McKinney St. beside the city’s 12-acre, $122-million Discovery Green park will have a significant impact on the entertainment district.

“The reason why we’re doing this is because the Downtown market is strong,” Thielhorn says. “It’s a great building in a great location and we think there’ll be a major impact to the area there on the east side.” CB Richard Ellis is preleasing the project.

Thielhorn acknowledges that developing the 30-story building and 10-story parking garage offers challenges. On the sustainability side, a little more effort has gone into planning a structure that’s efficient and tenant-friendly. “We’re trying to make sure the building has enough transparency to maximize views into the park,” he tells GlobeSt.com, “and landscaping to make a smooth transition point from the park to the building. We’re trying to look at the neighborhood and figure out the best way to capitalize on the location.”

Discovery Tower is the second project in Houston for TCC and Des Moines-based Principal’s national office development program. It’s also the largest of the JV’s five projects to date. Thielhorn says that, at this time, TCC and Principal have enough with Discovery Tower and the 630,000-SF Energy Center I and II along Katy Freeway on the far west side, which is currently under construction. “There are no more projects pending with Principal right now,” he adds. “They’re obviously very bullish on Houston and like this economy. But, right now the focus is on these two projects.”

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