The Legacy of Compaq
In the mid-1980s, the founders of Compaq made the decision to build a “California-style” campus in the trees along Cypress Creek as their new corporate headquarters for its booming personal computer business. Located on 80 acres, they constructed 15 office buildings, 7 manufacturing facilities, 13 parking garages, a conference center, laboratories, a cafeteria, and more, setting a surprising precedent for locating such a large commercial footprint in the outer suburbs of northwest Houston. In 2002, Compaq merged its business with Hewlett-Packard which has continued to operate its U.S. operations from this location. Both Compaq and Hewlett-Packard have been an economic boon to our area of Northwest Houston, creating thousands of jobs and injecting billions of dollars into the local economy, and spurring an array of new support businesses in the area.
In 2014, Hewlett-Packard divided into two separate companies, HP Enterprise (HPE) and HP, Inc. Shortly, thereafter, HP, Inc. announced it was moving to a new location in Springwoods Village along Interstate 45 near the Harris County line. In 2016, the HP campus flooded in the Tax Day flood, and then again in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey, prompting HP Enterprise to announce it too would be seeking a new location. In November 2018, HPE announced it will be building a new campus in Springwoods Village as well. Although, both companies are relocating to new locations, we should all be grateful they both made the conscientious decision to maintain their operations in north Harris County, essentially keeping their jobs local. However, a part of HP Enterprise’s relocation involves the disposal of its current facilities, the former Compaq campus, which prompts the concern about the future use of this site.
HPE has placed the property on the market, consisting of 2 million square feet of office and manufacturing, plus 500,000 square feet of parking garage. Granted, a number of the former Compaq buildings have been sold off by HP over the years. Three office buildings now function as a multi-tenant office complex hosting other area businesses. Lone Star College purchased buildings from HP which houses their University Park campus. Moreover, Noble Energy built its corporate headquarters on vacant land within the campus grounds, making the remaining uses strong economic contributors to the area. However, backfilling the jobs that HP, Inc. and HPE will be relocating will be vital to sustaining the strong economic activity that has prevailed since the days of Compaq. There is, however, one little wrinkle. This campus flooded twice in two years. This now makes the property stigmatized and will require modifications to bring it up to an insurable state. This will either require HPE or the new buyer to invest capital to ensure proper protection of the facilities going forward. This involves a big commitment from the new owners if the site is to remain as a key employment center for our community. Barring any additional investment from HPE, it is likely the property will be sold at a significant discount. However, this creates an opportunity for a new owner to have the leeway to be creative and expansive in the site’s redevelopment. Let us just hope the future holder of the former Compaq World Headquarters has the vision, capital, and market savviness to repurpose this gem into something vibrant and economically stimulating, perhaps even more so, than it was when Compaq made its home here in northwest suburbs over 30 years ago.