May 01, 2015

BY REBECCA SHERMAN | PaperCity Magazine

Generations of well-heeled River Oaks denizens have lived at this River Oaks high-rise on Westheimer between Edloe and Buffalo Speedway, gazing toward the leafy environs and mansard rooflines of some of Houston’s priciest real estate. The rental high-rise, then called The River Oaks Apartments, was built in the early ’60s and has had a long,illustrious life as home to the up-and-coming, empty-nester and newly divorced.

New York-based Arel Capital purchased the landmark Miesian-style building, originally designed by CameronFairchild, in September of last year and is breathing new luxury into it. Architectural firm EDI International and interior architect Rottet Studio have been enlisted to transform the 17-floor mid-century gem, now renamed The River Oaks, into a luxury condominium with 84 large residences, starting at $875,000. The building, which was in bad repair, is being taken down to its frame and completely rebuilt, says Richard Leibovitch, Arel Capital’s managing partner. The original footprint of the three acre property will be retained, along with its classic modern

feel. Construction started last December, and the building will be ready for move-in Fall 2016. “What we really loved about this large site was the relatively small building occupying it,” says Leibovitch. “The tendency in Houston is to bulldoze and build as big as you can on as little land as possible. We wanted to go in a different direction and retain its grandeur, in terms of the gardens and space.” The dream team also includes landscape architect McDugald-Steele, who is designing sitting gardens surrounding the private pools (each penthouse has the option to have one), as well as terraced gardens to insulate the building, and expansive, stately grounds.

If the interior finish-out is any indication, the River Oaks might just be one of the sleekest, most well-considered residential high-rises in years. This will be interior architect Lauren Rottet’s first condominium in Houston, but she’s got several $100 million-plus condos in New York under her belt, as well as such clients as The Beverly Hills Hotel, the Surrey Hotel in NYC, the St. Regis in Aspen, Sony Music and the United Talent Agency. It’s early in the design phase, but Rottet promises that it will “possess that spirit of minimalism,” where the outside is brought inside, with floor-to-ceiling windows that look straight through the lobby to the back terrace. True to the period and Miesian precepts, conceptual design ideas include slabs of limestone and book-matched wood walls, marble floors with metal inlay and antiques mixed with fi ne modern art in the lobby. There have been burbles of excitement and some frenzied phone calls as details of this landmark transformation have leaked through the social set, as news of this nature tends to do. As Sudhoff reminds us, “There hasn’t been anything new for the River Oaks crowd since the Huntingdon 30 years ago.” He’s right. Jacob Sudhoff of Sudhoff Companies, which is handling the sales and marketing, says that one of the target markets is the empty nester who has been living in River Oaks and surrounding neighborhoods and wants to remain in the area. esidences include two 9,000-plus-square-foot two-story penthouses with unobstructed panoramic views, says Leibovitch. “Because of the location of the building, which is surrounded by St. John’s School, and St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, the view will likely remain unobstructed.” The second fl o or will contain six two-level garden residences with double-height ceilings and elevated gardens. There will also be a dog park and dog grooming spa. “We listened to what people were telling us they wanted,” says Sudhoff, “and one of the reasons people don’t move to a high-rise is because of their pets.” Naturally, the building will also have the kind of luxury amenities expected at this level, such as a state-of-the-art fitness center, yoga and massage rooms, concierge and valet services, 24-hour doorman, outdoor and catering kitchens and overnight guest suites.