New York developer Richard Leibovitch plans to bring "a certain Manhattan flair" to Houston when The River Oaks is completed in early 2017. In the meantime, the managing partner of Arel Capital is overseeing every step in the $100 million conversion of the mid-century modern River Oaks Apartment building into a luxury condominium property.
In Houston during the recent deluges, Leibovitch inspected the new sales center at 3433 Westheimer, set to open next week, in his stocking feet, umbrellas parked on the front step. The rains did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for the project.
"You do things that are friendly to the community. You don't double the occupancy. You don't increase traffic. You don't draw more power. We're doing all of that in reverse."
"I didn't feel it was very risky in the sense that the location was so excellent," Leibovitch said when asked about the timing and the make-over as opposed to starting a building from the ground up. "There is such a need for luxury condominium units in good locations in Houston and there aren't any available right now and certainly in River Oaks, there are none right now."
The real estate investment firm is transforming the former apartment building with 240 units into a state-of-the-art condo project with only 78 residences including two double-decker penthouses priced at $10 million each.
In the process, the developer is taking the Miesian-style structure back to slabs and beams has brought on board three of H-Town's leading design firms — EDI International Architects, Rottet Studio and McDugald-Steele Landscape Architects.
"I thought it was important because, clearly, I recognize that I am a New York developer and not a Houston developer," Leibovitch said. "I thought it was very important to have Houston architects and designers who could make sure that we have the right esthetic for Houston and the River Oaks area. And Lauren Rottet lives in River Oaks."
The building sits on a generous three-acre site, located between St. John's School and St. Luke's United Methodist Church.
At a time when many high-rise properties in Houston are facing criticism and even lawsuits, there has been little if any dust-up with The River Oaks. "How do buildings get accepted in a community?" Leibovitch poses. "You do things that are friendly to the community. You don't double the occupancy. You don't increase traffic. You don't draw more power. We're doing all of that in reverse. We're going to reduce the amount of traffic. We're very community friendly in the sense that we are taking an eye sore that was so visible and transforming it."
Residences range from 1,563 square feet to 10,000 square fet with the average home at 3,391 square feet. Prices range from $875,000 to that $10 million. The two-story penthouses will each feature a private swimming pool, 14-foot ceilings on the top floor and 10-foot ceilings on the lower floor.
Sudhoff Companies is marketing the building.