Real Estate Rumblings

The sky's the limit: Houston's high-rise craze moves into the suburbs with new towers and $4,000 a month rent

The sky's the limit: Houston's high-rise craze moves into the suburbs

This 40-story apartment building, under construction at the corner of Weslayan and West Alabama, will be Houston's tallest apartment tower 2929 Wesleyan September 2014
This 40-story apartment building, under construction at the corner of Weslayan and West Alabama, will be Houston's tallest apartment tower. Photo by Ralph Bivins
This land in Pearland will be the site of Pearland's first midrise residential project. September 2014
This land in Pearland will be the site of Pearland's first midrise residential project. Photo by Ralph Bivins
Novare Group is developing SkyHouse River Oaks, a 352-unit, 25-story apartment building at 2031 Westcreek Lane, near San Felipe and Loop 610. This is one of three new SkyHouse brand rental towers in Houston September 2014
Novare Group is developing SkyHouse River Oaks, a 352-unit, 25-story apartment building at 2031 Westcreek Lane, near San Felipe and Loop 610. This is one of three new SkyHouse brand rental towers in Houston. Photo by Ralph Bivins
Giorgio borlenghi Belfiore condo
Giorgio Borlenghi is constructing Belfiore, a 26-story condo with prices starting at $2.5 million. Sales have been strong in the project, located in the Uptown Park area. Photo by Ralph Bivins
Skyhouse Houston, a 24-story apartment building in downtown, opened this summer. September 2014
Skyhouse Houston, a 24-story apartment building in downtown, opened this summer. Photo by Ralph Bivins
Hanover Post Oak, a rental tower under construction in Uptown, is located next to the new Whole Foods on Post Oak Boulevard September 2014
Hanover Post Oak, a rental tower under construction in Uptown, is located next to the new Whole Foods on Post Oak Boulevard. Photo by Ralph Bivins
This surface parking lot, bounded by Main, Pease, Fannin and Jefferson, will be the site of SkyHouse Main, a twin to the new apartment tower that opened across the street. September 2014
This surface parking lot, bounded by Main, Pease, Fannin and Jefferson, will be the site of SkyHouse Main, a twin to the new apartment tower that opened across the street. Photo by Ralph Bivins
This 40-story apartment building, under construction at the corner of Weslayan and West Alabama, will be Houston's tallest apartment tower 2929 Wesleyan September 2014
This land in Pearland will be the site of Pearland's first midrise residential project. September 2014
Novare Group is developing SkyHouse River Oaks, a 352-unit, 25-story apartment building at 2031 Westcreek Lane, near San Felipe and Loop 610. This is one of three new SkyHouse brand rental towers in Houston September 2014
Giorgio borlenghi Belfiore condo
Skyhouse Houston, a 24-story apartment building in downtown, opened this summer. September 2014
Hanover Post Oak, a rental tower under construction in Uptown, is located next to the new Whole Foods on Post Oak Boulevard September 2014
This surface parking lot, bounded by Main, Pease, Fannin and Jefferson, will be the site of SkyHouse Main, a twin to the new apartment tower that opened across the street. September 2014

Two-stories are out. High-rises are in.

More Houstonians are choosing to live in high-rise and mid-rise buildings and the trend is about to spread to an unlikely place — outer suburbia.

Consider this: A developer is considering a mid-rise apartment in Pearland, the Brazoria County ‘burb, south of Houston. And a high-rise condo is being talked about for The Woodlands.

Amazingly, a significant number of home buyers have been requesting high-rise living units in the suburbs, realty experts say.

 The average unit will rent for $4,000 a month, but a high-roller can rent the penthouse for $12,000 a month. 

“In the suburban areas, they are starting to consider plans for development of high rises in areas where there haven’t had high-rises before,” says long-time Houston realty executive Cheri Fama, president of John Daugherty Realtors. “There’s interest as people who are living out in the suburban areas go through their life cycle.

"If they want to travel more or have a second home, they could be attracted to vertical-type living and there’s not a lot of that offered out in the suburban areas.”

Most of the high-rise residential buildings under construction today are located in Houston’s Inner Loop. A lot of the new construction has been devoted to high-rise units for rent, but the sales have been strong in the few new ones that are being built — Giorgio Borlenghi’s Belfiore and Randall Davis’ Astoria in Uptown. Two smaller new projects were recently announced: On the site of the former River Cafe on Montrose and another called the Riva at the Park project near Dunlavy Street and Allen Parkway.

Rosie Meyers  — the Houston agent who has been called “The Queen of High-Rises” — says it’s hard to imagine a high-rise condo in a family-dominated community like Cinco Ranch. But other suburban communities may have the density, work force and urban qualities to support high-rise construction.

“I would say The Woodlands, yes, for sure,” Meyers says.

Going Higher

The biggest change in taking Houston to vertical living is happening with rental buildings.

A tall new rental tower is underway at 2929 Weslayan, a 40-story project at West Alabama street, between River Oaks and Greenway Plaza. The average unit will rent for $4,000 a month, but a high-roller can rent the penthouse for $12,000 a month.

Hanover Co. is erecting a number of high-rise rental towers: A 30-story project on Montrose Boulevard on the site of the former Scott Gertner Skybar; a 30-story project on Kirby Drive at West Alabama and a high-rise next to the new Whole Foods in Uptown.

 Two-story apartments just aren’t being built any more. Land is so expensive that developers are forced to build taller buildings to cover their costs. 

In Downtown, a number of new rental residential towers are coming.

SkyHouse Houston just opened a 24-story tower at Main and Leeland. The developer, Novare Group, also has a twin tower underway in the next block.

Around Market Square, Travis at Preston, Woodbranch is developing a 40-story apartment tower and Hines is developing a 32-story project.

Downtown also has a number of mid-rise apartment buildings underway, typically seven, six or five-story projects.

Two-story apartments just aren’t being built any more. Land is so expensive that developers are forced to build taller buildings to cover their costs and make the project financially viable.

Many of the new Inner Loop apartment projects have at least four floors of living units stacked atop two-level parking garages.  So even though it may not be high-rise, the residences on the sixth level often get a very decent view of the skyline. The Inner Loop of Houston has a significant number of mid-rise multifamily projects under development — the most in decades. 

The trend is even spreading to the suburbs.

Pearland is about get a four-story mid-rise residential building, just west of Highway 288, says realty broker Brad LyBrand of NewQuest Properties.

“It’s a first for Pearland,” LyBrand says.

The dense urban-like development plan for the Pearland site makes sense because two hospitals (read: job base) are under construction within walking distance, says Houston developer Allen Crosswell, who has owned the acreage for several years.

Bottom line: Houston is changing. Houston led the nation in population growth last year. The city is more urban and residential development is more vertical.

Says Fama: “It’s interesting to see how our city is going more vertical with so many buildings.”

Ralph Bivins, editor of Realty News Report, is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.