Continental Building Downtown Could Have Open Space Soon

As the merged United Airlines moves into new headquarters space in downtown Chicago this week, the old Continental headquarters building in downtown Houston faces an uncertain future. But as Jack Williams reports, the airline will still have a presence downtown for at least a few more years.

Continental moved into its headquarters at 1600 Smith back in 1998, leasing almost 500,000 square feet of office space for close to 3000 employees. Now that United is headquartered in Chicago, a big chunk of the office space here could be empty soon. Bob Eury is the President of Central Houston.

"What's really just not clear, at least to us at this point, is just what presence may continue and even as that number may come down, because we do know that some positions shift to this new headquarters that's opening in Chicago, we just don't know how many and also we don't have a full concept of the timing of that. So, the lease runs for still four more years on the space, so it's not an immediate thing, but we, as I said, there are a lot of unknowns."

Continental renewed that lease in 2008. About 2800 employees still work there, filling half the building. Eury says having a big block of available downtown office space isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"Quite frankly, for a healthy market, you need some fairly large blocks of space, because if I have an office out of town or someplace that's not in downtown and I have a large company, I need some choices to be able to move to if I was considering downtown. And believe me, downtown has benefited extremely well over time by having some tremendous space opportunities available." 

The new United also has an employee presence at office space near Bush Airport. It's unclear how the move will affect that space. 

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...