Sneak Peek: Inside the Budding River Oaks District
May 14, 2015
Sneak Peek: Inside the Budding River Oaks District
Houston Business Journal

A long-awaited luxury retail development — once stalled in the recession — is coming to life in Houston’s upscale Galleria area.

The River Oaks District was first conceived as a high-rise development back in 2006, when OliverMcMillan Inc. bought a 14-acre parcel of land on the former site of the Westcreek apartments. The San Diego-based developer, known nationally for its high-quality mixed-use projects, envisioned a mix of hotel and retail towers on the site, at 4444 Westheimer Road, near the 610 Loop.

But then the Great Recession hit in 2008, and OliverMcMillan was forced to hold off on its plans for the River Oaks District. Houston’s economy recovered faster than most, however, and after a similar mixed-use project in Atlanta saw success, OliverMcMillan returned to the River Oaks District.

“All the luxury retailers in Atlanta really liked our project and asked, ‘When are you going to start in Houston?’” said Greg Wattson, senior managing director at OliverMcMillan.

In the aftermath of the recession, OliverMcMillan scaled back its ambitious plans for the River Oaks District. Instead of a high-rise development, River Oaks District became a mid-rise complex of ultra high-end shops, restaurants and apartments.

Despite its more humble plans, River Oaks District still is a formidable project. The 650,000-square-foot project — designed by the Houston and Los Angeles offices of San Francisco-based Gensler — features 252,000 square feet of luxury retail and entertainment, as well as 92,000 square feet of office space and 279 apartment units. The general contractor is Dallas-based VCC, the landscape architect is Chicago-based Hoerr Schaudt, and the multifamily architect is Chicago-based Pappageorge Haymes Partners.

As a result, OliverMcMillan has been able to attract some of the most coveted retailers around the world— particularly from Europe — to open up shop in Houston.

Signed tenants include: Akris, Anne Fontaine, Bonobos, Brunello Cucinelli, Canali, Cartier, Chopard, De Boulle Diamond & Jewelry, Dior, Diptyque,Dolce & Gabbana, Etro, Giuseppe Zanotti, Hermès, Intermix, John Lobb, Kiton, L’Occitane, Moncler, Roberto Cavalli and Tom Ford.

With its mix of international luxury retailers, the River Oaks District reflects Houston’s global identity, said Dene Oliver, founder and CEO of OliverMcMillan. Houston has become an “it city,” able to attract high-end brands from around the world, Oliver added.

“It’s not a mall. It’s not a shopping center,” Oliver said of his project. “It’s a destination.”

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