Houston’s Uptown district, one of the country’s largest central business districts, has long held appeal for developers.
The area is near the city’s iconic Philip Johnson designed Williams Tower, adjacent to the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall public park, and by The Galleria, the city’s premier shopping center.
And it was here that real-estate developer Hines, whose headquarters is in the Williams Tower, completed its WaterWall Place apartment building on a three-acre site. The vacant land was purchased for $69 a square foot in 2011 as the area’s multifamily market was heating up.
“Land costs now have more than tripled,” says Kevin Batchelor, managing director with Hines and head of its Southwest Region Multifamily division.
Houston has been a darling of the multifamily industry the last few years, registering as one of the nation's hottest secondary markets. In fact, Hines has three other communities under development in the Galleria area, Museum District and Central Business District
Because of the stellar location and strong residential area housing mix—young professionals, empty nesters, “gypsy” empty nesters with multiple homes, and international visitors—Hines knew to go the luxury route with WaterWall Place.
Working with two Houston-based architecture firms—Wallace Garcia Wilson and Jackson & Ryan Architects—the decision was made to construct a seven-story, 316,000-square-foot, steel building that could meet the area’s increasing density demand. It presents a classical, timeless facade compatible with area buildings through brick and cast stone materials, fenestration, and rhythmic design, says architect Jeff Ryan, principal at Jackson & Ryan. The base reflects a pattern reminiscent of older neighborhood structures.
Leaning Into One Bedrooms
Because of the site’s proximity to offices, shopping, entertainment, and parks, Hines executives also knew that a variety of one-bedrooms would appeal most, and made three-quarters of units that size, and the remaining 25 percent two bedrooms. All range from 700 to 2,000 square feet and lease for $1,500 to $4,500 a month.
“We knew there would be a lot of single men and women, some with children, who wanted to rent by choice rather than buy,” says Batchelor.
All were designed with 10’ to 12’ high ceilings, wenge cabinets, granite countertops, built-in bookshelves, wood floors, balconies or terraces; some have computer desks and wine cabinets.
Since Houston has a humid subtropical climate, the building was constructed in a U shape to take advantage of outdoor living in a shielded courtyard, complete with a swimming pool, fire pit, fireplace, and gas grilles.
Ample perks were featured indoors as well--ground-floor fitness center, business center that’s part of an Internet café rather than a separate office—a newer trend, conference room, living area with fireplace, entertainment room, and theater with large screen for TV or movies, and a 7th floor “sky” lounge, another increasingly popular feature that here includes a catering kitchen for private dining.
The building expects to be certified LEED Silver based on its high walkable and transit-oriented scores, proximity to people and dog parks, brick from an area resource, and landscaping, selected by Bill Robinson, whose Houston-based Robinson & Co. Landscape Architecture firm also helped site the building’s carriage-gate entry on an axis with the iconic waterwall.
Wide sidewalks--6’ to 12’--were paved with granite and brick to connect visually with other area walks. New oak trees offer a human-scaled canopy while low-lying plants anchor the building. A special soil mix will help all thrive in the urban infill site, and an underground vault stores storm water. Residents will move in come mid-January, with completion by June.
Barbara Ballinger is a contributing correspondent for MFE.