October 16, 2014
Tall Buildings to Rise Near River Oaks District
With most of the Westcreek apartments now gone and the River Oaks District well underway on a portion of the property, residential developers are staking their claims on the remaining parcels of land behind it.
Their plans include a cluster of tall buildings to house well-to-do Houstonians who can pay the steep prices that come with living next to one of the city's newest and flashiest mixed-use developments.
"People will be able to walk to restaurants, high-end retail and theaters. It's something that hasn't been offered in Houston," said Robert Bland of Pelican Builders, which is planning a 17-story residential tower on Westcreek Lane just north of the River Oaks District, which is being built just inside the 610 Loop along Westheimer.
Randall Davis also recently said he is in the early stages of planning a condominium tower on nearly 2 acres near the project.
On another nearby site, developers are building the 25-story SkyHouse River Oaks. The building will have 352 rental units when completed.
And Gables Residential is planning to break ground next year on a 15-story, 300-unit apartment tower with rents in the $2.60-per-square-foot range.
All of the projects are planned for sites along Westcreek Lane north of the River Oaks District.
"Everything being built around there is all high-rise buildings," said Bland, who developed several other residential projects in the area. "It'll be kind of like the Wilshire Boulevard of Houston."
Bland plans to break ground on the 96-unit building next summer and have it open two years later. Kirksey designed the building, which will go up on a 1.5-acre site.
Individual condominiums will average 2,000 square feet, and prices will range from $800,000 to $2 million.
The company will start marketing units soon, but Bland said his lender is not requiring him to pre-sell a certain number before breaking ground, which is often the case. He said he wouldn't reveal the source of his financing until their agreement is final.
The River Oaks District is one of the largest real estate developments in Houston's urban core.
A number of luxury brands, including Cartier, Dior, Hermès and Tom Ford, have signed agreements to operate stores in the 15-acre complex. San Diego-based OliverMcMillan is the developer.
The Westcreek apartments were built in the 1960s by Houston builders Charles Swain and Harvey Houck Jr. There were more than 1,000 units in the complex, which went all the way from Westheimer to San Felipe. All but one building has been demolished, Bland said.
An office building, a hotel and two additional high-rise apartment building are planned on the remaining Westcreek property, Bland said.
The surge of development has led to concerns over increased traffic congestion.
High-density development will increasingly take the place of low-rise buildings in desirable, close-in areas, Bland said, as more people want to live in the city center and land become more expensive.
Additional traffic, he said, is the price of progress. But he also points out that the number of new residential units proposed on the old Westcreek site won't be a whole lot higher that what was there originally.
"Surprisingly, if you take all the apartments that were demolished, the total number of residential units is not going to be much more," Bland said.
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