Exclusive: Details revealed on office project at River Oaks District
July 9, 2014
Exclusive: Details revealed on office project at River Oaks District
Houston Business Journal

By Jenny Agee-Aldridge

How do you differentiate yourself in one of the hottest office markets in Houston? You stack the deck with beautiful views and a variety of amenities within walking distance.

The River Oaks District, the luxury, 15-acre mixed-use development located on Westheimer that is under construction down the street from the Galleria, will include 92,000 square feet of office space as well as 252,000 square feet of retail, restaurants, cafes, a cinema and a multifamily project. The three-story office space will sit on top of two levels of retail.

Gensler designed the office component as well as the entire plan for the development.

“This isn’t a cookie-cutter building. It’s unique and incorporates many components of modern Texas architecture,” said Gensler Design Director Duncan Paterson.Gensler’s Houston and Los Angeles offices are collaborating on the design.

It will feature a glass façade with floor-to-ceiling windows that take advantage of neighboring green space within and outside the complex, providing green views from every vantage point.

“Typically, when you are planning a building, you can’t control the views outside the windows. With this, we were able to ensure there was green space over the next three to five blocks, creating the view we wanted so tenants are always looking at something good,” Paterson said.

Gensler designed the complex on a street grid rather than a fake pedestrian façade, encouraging visitors to walk among the amenities.

“The fact that there are so many walkable amenities nearby will make this attractive to tenants,” said Paul Wittorf of Transwestern, who is handling the leasing of the office space.

The visibility of the office, which can be seen from Westheimer, is also a plus, he said.

So far, several law firms, financial service providers and wealth management companies have shown interest in the office building.

Rental rates for office space in the Galleria market have increased by about 25 percent to 35 percent over the past two years, according to Wittorf. Currently, they run around $30 per square foot and up. He would not comment on what the space in the River Oaks District may cost.

The project broke ground in June 2013 and is scheduled to open in May 2015.

“The thing I have been most surprised about in developing this project has been the commitment of the labor force in Houston. If they lost a day from rain, they would pick up that Saturday or Sunday or work past eight to make sure we stayed on schedule,” said Greg Wattson, who is managing the project for San Diego-based developer OliverMcMillan.

Wattson said the project is unique for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it will house so many luxury retailers in one mixed-use development.

So far, four major luxury retailers have signed agreements to open stores in the River Oaks District. They are Cartier, Dior, Hermès and Tom Ford.

Dallas-based VCC is the general contractor, Chicago-based Papageorge/Haymes is designing the residential component, and Chicago-based Hoerr Schaudt is the landscape architect of the development.

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