You won't recognize the old Midtown Sears building now

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- You probably remember the old Sears building in Midtown.

It is being renovated and turned into an innovation and business hub called the Ion.

ABC13's Jeff Ehling was at the groundbreaking back in July of 2019 and saw the artist renderings of what they were going to do to the old Sears building.

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Since then, workers have blasted away huge sections of the concrete walls to create openings that let the light flood the space and offer incredible views of Houston from all four sides.

"I had a hard time believing this could happen," said Ion Interim Executive Director Jan Odegard.

A lot of work went into turning a dark department store into a space teeming with natural light.

FROM JULY 2019: Crews break ground on 'Midtown Innovation District' in space that used to be iconic Sears store

There is not a single floor untouched by the renovation.

In fact, all the floors of the original structure now have giant rectangle-shaped holes cut out, so a light wall can bring daylight into the old department store.

Two additional floors, walled by glass, were added to the top, and now there is a balcony.
A glass ceiling will become a skylight that will allow a huge shaft of light into the building, illuminating the interior, and hopefully, powering up ideas from those who will call it home.

The Ion will be the cornerstone of a much larger project.

"We are hoping to build a 16 acre multi-use district that is anchored by this innovation hub called the Ion. This is going to be an opportunity for Houston to really strengthen economic resiliency and competitiveness," said Sam Dike with Rice Management Company.

Dike says future buildings and green space around the Ion will welcome pedestrian traffic, making this a livable space, not just another office building complex.

"The entire master plan is built around public plazas and active public spaces. The first 40 feet of every building will be focused on active public uses," said Dike.

ABC13 asked about future tenants and how many jobs will be created in the Ion. While the Rice Management Company couldn't disclose those details just yet, leases are being negotiated.

However, the Ion's creators are already offering services to area businesses.

"On Dec. 8, we will have a one-hour program where someone will walk you through exactly what it takes to start a start up," said Deanea LeFlore, Ion Senior Director of Partnerships. "We have a monthly e-commerce series. You will learn all the tips and tricks about how to promote your business online or even how to start a business online."

The building is set to open by spring of next year.

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