Cheniere Energy to move global headquarters to new Houston office skyscraper

Cheniere Energy, the liquefied natural gas company, is moving its global headquarters to one of downtown’s newest office skyscraper in one of the biggest commercial real estate deals in the central business district this year.

Cheniere Energy has leased 151,490 square-foot office space plus about 16,700 square feet of outdoor space at 845 Texas Avenue. The firm will relocate next year from 700 Milam at Pennzoil Place.

Cheniere Energy is among five new office tenants who recently signed onto to Texas Tower, the 47-story tower developed by Houston-based real estate firm Hines and Canadian real estate firm Ivanhoé Cambridge. Designed by Connecticut-based architecture firm Pelli Clarke & Partners, the skyline-changing, 1.2 million square-foot tower opened in December and is already about 70 leased, Hines said.

Cheniere’s move is part of an ongoing flight-to-quality trend in which companies are relocating to newer office buildings that often have enhanced sustainability features and other updated building perks such as modern designs, more outdoor space, restaurants and high-tech conferencing centers. Although the flight-to-quality trend was well established before the pandemic, it’s become even more pronounced among companies seeking to entice employees back to the office, including Cheniere.

“Companies are absolutely having to look at differentiated, hyper-amenitized, great locations if they’re going to bring all of their employees back,” said John Mooz senior managing director at Hines. (That theme) keeps coming up. We’ve just signed five leases and all of them have said that.”

Cheniere was attracted to Texas Tower in part because of the building’s LEED Platinum designation, the highest level achievable on the US Green Building Council’s popular sustainability ranking system.

“Our new Texas Tower headquarters reflects our company’s culture, with LEED certified efficiency, vibrant green space that inspires innovation and modern work areas where teamwork can thrive,” Jack Fusco, Cheniere’s chief executive, said in a statement. “Through the years and through the pandemic, Cheniere has remained committed to retaining a downtown Houston presence that provides the best working environment for our team.”

Cheniere has 550 employees working downtown, plus a varying number of contractors, said Michael Dove, a senior vice president of at Cheniere, in an email. The move comes as the company continues to grow its operations along the Gulf Coast.

Cheniere is relocating from North Tower of Pennzoil Place, the landmark downtown office tower. There Cheniere occupies 188,100 square feet across floors 16 through 24, said Tyler Garrett, senior vice president at Transwestern, who leads leasing at the tower.

The company maintains a full-time, in-person work schedule, bucking the trend of hybrid and remote work policies that developed during the pandemic, particularly among large downtown employers.

“We believe that our teams best collaborate and innovate when we are together. Texas Tower will be a great home for Cheniere’s employees and teams to thrive, as collaborative space has been incorporated throughout the design,” Dove said. “Also it doesn’t hurt that we have a lot of Astros fans who like to walk to the games.”

More than 60 percent of Hines’ office tenants had returned to the office in person in some capacity, Hines said in May. That has continued to tick up, although fewer office workers are coming into the office during the summer vacation season and companies continue to employ a mix of in-person and hybrid workplace policies, Mooz said Monday.

The rise in remote work has thrown more uncertainty into an already challenged office market in Houston, where about 27 percent of office space was available for lease as of the first quarter 2022, according to data from real estate firm Transwestern. About 32 percent of office space was available in the central business district.

Despite Houston’s chronically high office vacancy levels, newer office buildings are still attracting tenants. Other new leases at Texas Tower include 10,412 square-foot lease from Chicago Title and a 4,748 square-foot office for Charter Title Company, both real estate title companies tied to Fidelity National Financial.

Hines also leased a full floor to an undisclosed trading firm expected to move next year. The Singapore-based trading company Trafigura has signed onto to 31,000 square feet in the building, according to local real estate sources and data from commercial real estate data firm CoStar. Trafigura currently has about a full floor of space at 5 Houston Center with a lease expiring next year, according to building sources.

Recently law firm Novak Druce also moved into Texas Tower in a 9,500 square-foot suite, joining law firms Vinson & Elkins, McGuire Woods and DLA Piper as well as what will become Hines’ owns corporate offices in the tower. Chicago-based hospitality firm What If Syndicate is also bringing its wood-fire food restaurant called Etta and another eatery called Café Sophie to building, although a timeline hasn’t been released for the restaurants they could further add to the appeal of the tower.

“As the corporate world is embracing new ways of working and what it means for their business, we truly believe a highly amenitized workplace is key for talent collaboration, engagement, attraction and truly retention and that is what Texas Tower embodies,” said Charlie Musgrave , Vice President, Office Leasing at Ivanhoé Cambridge.

For the recent office deals, Michael Anderson of Cushman and Wakefield represented Hines and Ivanhoe Cambridge in lease negotiations. Chris Oliver, Trey Strake, David Guion with Cushman and Wakefield represented Cheniere Energy. Don King with JLL and Erik Ozolins with Orion Realty represented Chicago Title. Chip Horne of Cushman and Wakefield and Ryan Tiernan of Orion Realty represented Charter Title. Mark O’Donnell of Savills represented Novak Druce. Bryant Lach with JLL represented the trading company.

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