Vertical Living

High-Rises, Mid-Rises, Lofts and Townhouses Abound In Houston
If you ask urban professionals the difference between high-rise living in Houston and in other large U.S. cities, right away they mention the value—larger space and more amenities for the price. Similar to reasonable single-family home prices in the region, high-rise properties come in many varieties—lofts, condos and high-rises—that are typically located close to employment centers, major freeways, shopping and cultural venues. With the cost of fuel increasing, many are opting to live closer to work and spend less time commuting. This section highlights various areas of the region attractive to vertical living and the amenities you can expect.

Vertical-living options can be found throughout the city, including downtown and the Historic District, the Museum District, Uptown/Galleria, CityCentre, Midtown, Montrose, the Historic District, Upper Kirby, River Oaks and The Woodlands.

In recent decades Houston has matured and settled into becoming a more sophisticated, international city. This is drawing more people to move to Houston from all over the world. For example, in large cities, like Mexico City, people are accustomed to high-rise living and like the convenience and Houston offers a variety of options to fit that need.

DOWNTOWN AND HISTORIC DISTRICT
Thanks to a major revitalization effort in recent years and new development activity, including the downtown Pavilions project that combines high-end retail and office space, many are interested in living in a downtown setting. For those accustomed to Manhattan, Chicago or other major world cities, the proximity of the Theater District, Bayou Place with its complex of restaurants, clubs and movie theaters, major sports venues and access to METRORail, make this location an easy choice. Speaking of choice, there are many great spaces in this area, including historic and renovated loft spaces, such as Bayou Lofts, Franklin Lofts, Hermann Lofts and Rice Lofts. One Park Place, the first new construction of a residential building downtown in 40 years, is conveniently located across the street from the 12-acre park Discovery Green. The 37-story, 346-unit luxury high-rise rental residence defines luxury high-rise living in Houston. As a long-established luxury brand in hotels, the Four Seasons Place consists of 64 newly redesigned, fully furnished apartments available for both short- and long-term leasing options. The residences are on the top five floors of the Four Seasons Hotel downtown. This area carries a price range of $150,000 to more than $1 million.

MUSEUM DISTRICT
This attractive area can be reached via METRORail, which travels from downtown in minutes. The Museum District is anchored near world-class museums, the Houston Zoo, Rice University and the Texas Medical Center, the city’s largest employer. The price range in this area is from $140,000 to more than $2 million.

UPTOWN/GALLERIA AREA
As the city’s No. 1 attraction, The Galleria is a natural draw for those with discerning tastes who also want to live in a sophisticated and international setting. It’s no surprise that many high-rise living options are located in this district. Prices range from the $120,000 to more than $4 million.

CITYCENTRE
Offering a city within a city is the new multimillion-dollar premier development called CityCentre, self-described as “Houston’s hip new mecca for hot retail, upscale dining, luxurious living and so much more!” Located in West Houston at I-10W and Beltway 8, CityCentre offers two vertical-living options. Three-story brownstones called the Brownstones at CityCentre are priced started at $670,000 and have a classic exterior that leave a lasting impression. The Vista Maravilla at CityCentre are just 22 ultra-exclusive penthouse residences located on top of the Hotel Sorella. The privileged occupants will enjoy all the amenities that only a world-class hotel can offer. Prices start at $500,000.

MIDTOWN
Probably no area has benefitted more from the improvements to downtown than the Midtown district. Several large developers purchased large tracts of land and building has continued. Townhouse prices range from high $145,000 for a resale townhouse to more than $1 million. One of the luxury high-rise rental buildings in Midtown has converted to condos where units are available from the $200,000s and up. The lifestyle appeals to working professionals who live above and can shop and dine below. The developers have succeeded in creating a neighborhood attractive to many.

MONTROSE
Probably the most bohemian of all Houston neighborhoods, the Montrose area attracts established as well as up-and-coming artists. Along Montrose, you’ll find charming cafés, unique boutiques and more of an alternative lifestyle. Prices range from $150,000 to more than $1 million.

UPPER KIRBY
Located adjacent to River Oaks, the most exclusive section of Houston, Upper Kirby is experiencing a building boom, including 2727 Kirby. The 32-story condo tower has 90 units all with dynamic views and spacious layouts. Gables West Ave is a new urban-environment mixed-use project taking shape at Kirby and Westheimer. The project includes 390 high-end apartments averaging 1,070 square feet with access to a dramatic rooftop pool and health facility. Approximately 45,000 square feet of the development is being allocated to food and beverage vendors.

RIVER OAKS
A high-rise home in this prestigious location provides peace of mind and cachet for selective buyers, making the choice worth it. Expect luxury and ample amenities in the selection of mid-rise, loft and high-rise properties available. Prices range from $125,000 to $6 million.

THE WOODLANDS
Within The Woodlands, one of the most successful master-planned communities 27 miles north of Houston, you’ll find residential lofts, stylish brownstones and condominiums in several locations, including Town Center along The Waterway and in East Shore’s Garden District. All of these locations are near fine dining, shopping and entertainment venues. Prices range from $450,000 to nearly $3 million.

WHAT’S YOUR HIGH-RISE STYLE?
Before you go shopping, review the various styles of high-rise living available in Houston to determine what’s right for your lifestyle.

— Townhouses
According to the Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR), nearly 9 percent of all housing transactions in the Houston region involve townhouses and condominiums. In Houston, townhouses are usually two- or three-story residences that are individually owned and interconnected. Townhouses are virtually maintenance free and conveniently located close to business centers and shopping. Prospective buyers will find an ample selection with affordable pricing, various styles and quality features. For many, townhouses provide more space and privacy as there is generally nobody living below or above you. Often, there is a small yard for pets and entertaining.

— Lofts
Traditionally, lofts were situated in low-rent downtown areas. While the neighborhoods were not great, the empty spaces above were appealing to artists who needed large studio space and great lighting. Times have changed, and these spaces are now desirable. The following characteristics identify loft living today. Spaces usually are located in downtown areas or near it. Spaces have high ceilings, exposed brick walls, pipes and ducts in the ceiling, few hard walls separating rooms, expansive windows, open kitchens, hardwood floors and contemporary design accents. Examples abound in Houston, especially downtown. To learn more about lofts located in the downtown area, visit www.downtownhouston.org.

There are also many examples of newly constructed lofts in the Houston region, including The Woodlands Waterway Lofts (www.waterwaylofts.com), that provide homeowners with modern amenities and large spaces in a new community with plenty of urban feel.

— High-Rise Developments
Where Houston’s lofts are open and airy, Houston’s high-rises are sophisticated and worldly. Chances are that while waiting for your elevator, you can hear several different languages being spoken as the city is a hub for international business. One delightful surprise for many is discovering the views from upper-story high-rises. Despite what many may think, Houston is a very green city with beautifully lush green spaces and trees.

One trend that is driving the move to vertical living is interest among empty nesters to select a more maintenance-free lifestyle. With children out of the house, there is no need to do yardwork, pool maintenance or gardening, leaving more time for hobbies and travel with easy access to airports. Amenities also appeal, including media rooms, concierge service, spas and lifestyle programs.

— Mid-Rise Developments
Mid-rise properties are defined as consisting of buildings that are of moderate height, about five to 10 stories. Locally, mid-rise properties are enjoying great success and are located and being built throughout Houston, including the Texas Medical Center, the Post Oak area and other Inner Loop areas. According to real estate experts, this is because of a combination of factors, including excellent locations, smaller buildings (from 70–100 units) and efficient floor plans. In addition, limited amenities help keep the expenses down and overall pricing affordable.

AMENITIES
As with any important investment, ask yourself what’s important and prioritize your needs. What amenities do you really need and which ones would be nice but not critical? Once you’ve determined your list, you’ll be in a better position to tour properties and not be influenced by extras that can add up. In today’s competitive market, amenities can include a grocery store in the building or nearby, delivery service, valet service, a 24-hour concierge service, rooftop pool, a fitness center, special education and training activities, wine rooms and guest suites.

FEES AND COSTS
According to an HAR June 2011 report, the average price of a townhouse or condominium in the greater Houston area was $175,958, which represented an increase of 9.2 percent from June of 2010. In general, though, pricing can run from the $100,000s to more than $6 million depending on the neighborhood, amenities and features. What distinguishes the Houston market is the ample supply of properties in all styles and price ranges, especially compared to other U.S. and international cities.

All lofts, high-rises, townhouses and mid-rises are subject to homeowners association (HOA) fees, which covers most amenities, depending on the property and also may include homeowners insurance (the building and common elements), waste disposal, garbage pickup, water, cable, exterior maintenance, lawn maintenance, pool and security costs.

Before embarking on a search for your new home with a view, use the help of a professional by visiting www.har.com and searching for a REALTOR®. Look for REALTORS® in the Houston region who cater specifically to the vertical living market. When looking for a rental, newcomers can visit the Houston Apartment Association at www.haaonline.org to look for a leasing agent.

 
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