While the Houston City Council continues to wrangle with issues of high-rises in established neighborhoods and changes to the Chapter 42 development ordinance, a stealth trend appears to be emerging, particularly inside the 610 Loop: Call it the rise of the mid-rise.
A number of four to six-story projects with luxury features are popping up across the city as developers rush in to entice renters who want nice amenities at a premium price. Finger Companies plans to break ground next month on a six-story, 431-unit complex next to Whole Foods Market at West Dallas and Waugh. Just down the street, the former Tavern on West Gray has been demolished to make room for a five-story apartment complex developed by the Houston-based Hanover Company.
New complexes now have features like demonstration kitchens in the clubhouse, music rooms, a Click Cafe (where residents can stop in for coffee and meet their neighbors) and places to repair a bicycle.
Hines plans a six to eight-story complex adjacent to The Galleria, on property where the high-rise Turnberry Houston Tower was once slated. Post Properties is building a third phase of the Post Midtown Square, a mixed-use mid-rise development that has brought street life to midtown Houston.
The Dinerstein Companies has broken ground on a third Millennium apartment complex in Houston, a "boutique" complex with 237 units on McCue, just north of the Galleria. And there's talk of a mid-rise on Dunlavy and Alabama, in a shopping center that currently houses a Fiesta supermarket. Cushman & Wakefield is marketing the property, although no deal has been signed.
Neil Brown, chief development officer at Archstone Apartments, which owns Lofts at the Ballpark, Memorial Heights and Westchase complexes and is currently building a new complex near the Texas Medical Center, told participants at the Baker Botts/Ernst & Young 2012 Real Estate Forecast event last month that there's a lot of pent-up demand for apartments as construction has lagged in recent years due to the sluggish economy.
He added that young professionals between the ages of 25 to 35 are prime targets in the rental market because they aren't as enthusiastic about home ownership. They have seen home prices lose their value and don't want to be tied down in case they have to move for a job. But they are open to the good life.
"It's almost a nuclear arms race for amenities," Brown said.
New complexes are offering features like demonstration kitchens in the clubhouse, music rooms, a Click Cafe (where residents can stop in for coffee and meet their neighbors) and places to repair a bicycle. For a San Francisco complex, Brown even suggested a room to store Segways.
"We're trying to put in a lifestyle that you can't even find in a house," he said. "By providing more than they can get in a home, it encourages them to stay in an apartment a little longer."