Orkin Real Estate - News

Speech by Bob Orkin
Principal of Robert Orkin Interests, Ltd.

The following is an account of my involvement in Century Development Corporation's attempt to acquire the Techman Land in Phase IV of Greenway Plaza. This land acquisition was conducted in conjunction with Mobil Oil's option to purchase land in Greenway Plaza, Phases III and IV, in 1980.

Read Details of Bob Orkin's Speech (PDF format)

Tejas Power Corp. Helps Fill BP Plaza

Tejas Power Corp. has leased 30,107 square feet of space in the newly constructed BP Plaza located at 200 West Lake Boulevard in the Energy Corridor's West Lake Park complex.

Robert Orkin, of Robert Orkin Interests Inc., represented the lessee, while Mark Sutton of BP Exploration Inc., Tim Relyea of Cushman Realty Corp., and C. Dean Patrinely of Barker-Patrinely Group Inc. represented the lessor, Central Tract Limited. BP Plaza was developed and is managed by Barker-Partrinely.

BP Exploration occupies most of the 20-story tower. Now, the addition of Tejas, and earlier lease deals with Equitable Resources and Amax Energy, bring BP Plaza up to 100 percent occupancy. The tower was completed in December.

Haddington Energy

Pumping-up Power

Competing Firms Spring Up to Store Electricity in Caverns Underground

Dine Glascow is taking on one of the power industry's most nagging problems-with little more than hot air.

Glascow says his Houston company, Ridge Energy Storage, has a highly marketable solution to the wide fluctuations in demand for electricity by pumping compressed air into limestone caverns within the Earth's crust.

And Ridge Energy isn't alone. While it is negotiating an underground site in east Harris County, Houston-based Haddington Energy Partners also is laying plans to store excess energy in Ohio.

"We think compressed air energy storage is an ideal application in today's market, with its clear pricing signals on an hourly basis and open access to transmission," Glascow says. "We think it is going to be a very big deal."


Because electricity generally can't be stored, it is typically produced and delivered on demand. And demand fluctuates considerably between day and night, summer and winter. When temperatures soar so does demand for electricity – and so does its price in the deregulated U.S. market.

But generating plants that are already producing power at capacity can't produce more to meet peak demands, nor can they cut back efficiently when demand drops. So utilities must often buy extra power from other suppliers at inflated prices to meet peak demands while selling off their excess power at low prices during low demand periods.

Ridge Energy and Haddington Energy each are poised to use their alternative way of providing electricity to meet peak demands and deal with that volatile power market prices.

The companies plan to use cheap nighttime electricity to store compressed air in underground caverns. During the day, when the price of electricity goes up, the compressed air will be released through turbines to create electricity.

The process, known as compressed air energy storage (CAES), is more than 20 years old. But only two such plants currently exist in the world – a nine-year old facility in McIntosh, Ala., about 40 miles north of Mobile, and a 22-year old plant in Germany.

Last October, Houston-based Haddington Energy's Compressed Air Energy Storage Development Group paid $1 million for storage rights to a 338-million cubic-foot limestone mine in Norton, Ohio. And last month the company signed an agreement with the city of Norton to build a compressed air power plant on the site of the limestone mine and use the mine for storage of compressed air.

A separate subsidiary, Norton Energy Storage, which will develop and operate the plant, is now seeking approval of the project from the Ohio Power Siting Board.

The $100 million proposed power plant would initially produce from 130 to 270 megawatts of power. With up to four additional phases on the drawing board, the Norton plant could produce 10 to 20 times more power than the Alabama plant does.

Meanwhile, Ridge Energy Storage of Houston plans to begin building its first compressed air energy storage plant by the end of this year here on the Gulf Coast and anticipates having seven plants totaling more than 2,000 megawatts of power in operation or under construction by the end of 2004.

Ridge Energy has acquired exclusive rights to six sites in Texas and Louisiana, with negotiations underway on several more in the Midwest and West and one site in England.

Ridge Energy plans to use salt caverns, like the Alabama plant, for its projects because the company's founders believe these formations are better than others for this purpose.

Cotton Building

Robert Orkin Interests I, Ltd. negotiated the sale of the Old Cotton Exchange Building to Spire Realty

Spire Realty has sold the 1010 Lamar office building in downtown and some suburban office building as part of a move to refocus the company's efforts.

The company is concentrating on transforming three historical downtown buildings into residential lofts, office space and street level restaurants.

Spire had owned the 19-story 1010 Lamar building since 1994 and property values in downtown Houston have increased significantly since then. The building, constructed in the early 1980's, contained about 300,000 square feet of office space and in 75 percent occupied.

Included in the sale was the old Sakowitz store, which is adjacent to the 1010 Lamar building. The upper levels of the Sakowitz building were converted by Spire into parking and the street level is retail space.

The property was purchased by Koll Bren Realty Advisors of Newport Beach, California for an undisclosed price. The sale was handled by realty broker Jack Minter of Jones Lang Wootton. Spire has sold several buildings recently to Koll Bren, including some small buildings in the Houston suburbs and the Carillon Towers office projects in Dallas.

Spire remains a big player in downtown Houston. In 1997, the firm purchased a parking lot at the center of downtown called "block 142." The parking lot, bounded by Louisiana, Walker, Milam and McKinney, sold for $9.2 million. Many experts in the real estate business consider it a prime location for a downtown office tower.

But Spire's redevelopment projects will occupy much of the company's energy in years to come, said Bill Franks, who heads the firm's operations. "We're shifting our focus from suburban office to urban redevelopment," Franks said.

The urban revitalization efforts across the country have proven that redevelopment projects can do more than save old buildings – they also make money, Franks said.

"If you look around the country and the world, everybody is reverting back to the core of the city." Franks said. "You focus on transforming a tired property into a property that is economically viable for the future."

Earlier this month, Spire purchased the old Cotton Exchange building at 202 Travis in downtown. The 23,000-square-foot building was constructed in 1884. Robert Orkin Interests I, Ltd. negotiated the sale of the Old Cotton Exchange Building to Spire Realty.

The Cotton Exchange is an ornately detailed building with and exterior of red brick and carved limestone. Spire will be relocating its corporate headquarters to the building Franks said.

Spire is also redeveloping the Southern Pacific Building, 913 Franklin. The building is being transformed into 100 condominiums, priced at $110,000 and up. Forty lofts have been purchased already in the building, which has been renamed Bayou Lofts. The building, which was originally constructed in 1911, will be ready for occupancy in about a year.

Spire also is redeveloping the Isis Theater building at 501 Main Street. The Isis was a silent movie theater that operated from 1913 until 1929. Franks said the Isis building will include a brewpub called the Mercantile Draft Co., a grocery/deli called Petronella's and the Criterion Lounge. The Criterion Lounge will be an upscale, London-style bar and grill, Franks said.

Diversity Book

Dedication for Leadership Houston Class XX Project:
Diversity In Common Book

In Houston we are privileged to enjoy the benefits of diversity.  Just as financial gurus preach the advantages of stock ownership diversification, we hope to appreciate the benefits of human beings' diversity.  Diversity comes in many forms-different races, religions, genders, nationalities, ideas, opinions, and professional occupations.  Whether we embrace the change or not, Houston's demographics are changing at a phenomenal rate.

One of the greatest strengths of the city of Houston is its diversity. Leadership Houston hopes that each of us personally, and all of us as community, will come to understand that the secret of friendship and harmony is to build bridges instead of walls.  This book is dedicated to all the bridge builders who have helped make Diversity in Common a reality.

Robert Orkin for Leadership Houston XX