PaperCity Magazine

October 2017- Houston

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Page 83 of 147

82 W hen it comes to high- rises, most people tend to look up — to gawk at a building stretching toward the clouds. It's instinctive to imagine what life must be like, swaddled in a cocoon of sky-high luxury, literally above it all — this sense of looking up and being able to escape is powerful and almost primal. Hines director William Elser, how- ever, knows it's often just as important to look down the hall. These seemingly innocuous corridors can set a tone for a tower — which is really, if one thinks about it, supposed to be a home first. "That's one of the first things Mr. Hines looks at when he tours a building," Elser says, referencing Gerald Hines, founder, chairman and still very active 91-year-old visionary for the company that bears his name. "He looks down the hallways. It can't look institutional." Therefore, Elser and the rest of the team orchestrating the development and build of the Southmore, a new 24-story Hines high-rise in the Museum District, made sure that its hallways are not simply long rows of doors. Instead, doorways are recessed, the lighting is muted, and fresh outside air is pumped in. This kind of attention to detail marks the next wave of high-rises now trans- forming Houston's skyline — and our way of life. Why does every little detail matter so much now? "It's certainly an arms race," says Hines director David Haltom. "Our competitors are putting out some high-quality product, too, and we need to stay ahead." Haltom, who shepherded the newly opened Aris Market Square — Hines' 32-story downtown tower — to comple- tion, knows the lines have been drawn. Now it's "May the best towers win." Sitting in his own old-school offices near the Galleria, developer Marvy Finger notes the escalation with a sense of nostalgia. In many ways, Finger is the godfather of the modern high-rise in Houston, with his then-audacious One Park Place heralding a new era with its 2009 opening. "The demands are so much greater from people who live in these buildings now," he says. "People expect much more. Everyone wants to live in a Class A building [the highest rated]. People who used to live in a Class B building won't accept anything but Class A amenities. Whatever you do, it had better be special in some way." The Power of Distinction Customization rules in this next wave of buildings. No project embodies this more than The Sophie at Bayou Bend. This six-story, 39-residence condomin- ium from Jacob Sudhoff and Mirador Group architect Jerry Hooker, offers near-complete customization — which is vital, considering most of its future resi- dents are accustomed to living in nearby elaborate private homes. When one power couple considered buying at The Sophie (a $1.6 million- and-up proposition), they said they'd only do it if they could have a wine cel- lar with room for 2,000 bottles. Sudhoff and Hooker had it built into one of the residences. To Hooker, this is the way special buildings should be done — and it's a change long needed in Houston. "All too often, especially in Houston," Hooker says, "you'll get this decked-out lobby and a cool façade, but then inside, it's like a generic prison." The Land-Hunt Pressure Finding a prime swath of land for such ambitious developments has become so difficult that making a mistake is not an option. The power brokers behind this new generation of high-rises know that many of these projects are their one shot to get it right. Hines had to make nine separate land purchases to cobble together a space for Aris Market Square. By Elser's calculations — and he's one of Hines' numbers guys, as data driven as any sabermetrics-obsessed baseball GM — the site secured for Hines' Southmore high-rise, across from Asia Society, is one of only two that could have worked for such a tower in the Museum District. Developer Jacob Sudhoff relentlessly, and fruitlessly, pursued a Rice Village site for years before taking over a stalled project and reimagining it as The Moderne. "There are no do-overs," Sudhoff says. "We're not going to find a spot like this in Rice Village again." In other words, the pressures centered around this new wave of buildings is intense. Veteran developers Robert Bland and Derek Darnell of Pelican Builders see The Wilshire, a 17-story high-rise in the shadow of River Oaks District, and The Revere at River Oaks, a nine-story building that caters to River Oaks empty nesters, as legacy-type projects. "I re- ally do think these are the best buildings we've ever done," Bland says. They'd better be. In this next wave of showcase buildings in Houston, expectations are sky-high. Vertical living is no longer a concept that draws perplexed looks. No one has to sell Houstonians on the advantages of the high life, especially not in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. A flurry of high- rise openings over the last few years made power players from River Oaks to Katy aware of the ben- efits of this lock-and-leave urban lifestyle. Now, a new wave of buildings is raising the stakes — a spectacular view and valet parking is no longer enough. Houston's new cloud-huggers must stand out to make their mark. These next-gen buildings will change how the city looks at the sky. A NEW GENERATION OF ULTRA-AMBITIOUS HOUSTON HIGH-RISES AND MID-RISES RAISES THE CEILING ON THE SKY-HIGH LIFESTYLE. BY CHRIS BALDWIN W A V E THE NEXT HIGH-RISE (continued on page 84)

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