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WATCH: Former Midtown Sears Site To Be Houston ‘Innovation District’

It’s meant to boost Houston’s innovation culture, but critics say the location is a bad fit

The site of the former Sears building in Midtown will be the heart of Houston's innovation district.

It's part of an effort to boost the city's innovation economy, which has been lagging behind other large cities.

"We have startups and entrepreneurs and we have developers and designers and we have students and we have investors and venture capitalists and angel investors," John Reale, CEO of startup hub Station Houston, which was part of a task force to find a location, said about the future site. "We bring in corporations who are looking for technology, they're looking for solutions."

The building will be refurbished and the site around it developed.

Reale said the goal is for it to open in 2020, by which he hopes there will be some more development in the area. Currently, rundown lots and a homeless camp mark the area.

The Sears building site was also part of a pitch to bring Amazon's second headquarters to Houston.

But Ed Egan, director of the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Rice University, opposes the location.

He said the innovation district should be in an area that already has all the infrastructure in place.

"Right now is the moment," he said. "Waiting five years, unfortunately, 10 years, is too long. Houston simply will not be a startup ecosystem player."

Egan considers the site a compromise because, he said, real estate developers in better-suited areas were reluctant to support a tech hub in Houston.

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