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Houston's Busiest Square Mile? New Projects Bringing Density To Montrose

People who think Houston is all about urban sprawl haven’t been to Houston lately. Houston’s 610 Loop has been a hotbed for infill development. A stretch of land just south of Buffalo Bayou — roughly 1.5 miles long and 0.5 miles deep — is attracting infill development at a rapid pace. The latest projects, a 600-unit mid-rise with 50K SF of retail from GID and a separate $500M mixed-use development from DC Partners, are a sure sign the city’s real estate perception is changing. 

GID Team: Vice President Construction Brady Grace, President of GID Development Group James Linsley and Vice President Development Ian Ward

"It has been amazing to see the transformation of Houston in the decades since GID first acquired this property, and we feel patience has truly been a virtue in determining how best to knit this site into the area's ongoing evolution," GID Development Group President James Linsley said. 

The area is expected to add 1,700 new units on West Dallas between Dunlavy and Shepherd, according to Most will be in mid-rise or high-rise projects. 

GID Development Group broke ground on the second phase of Regent Square, an 8-acre tract at West Dallas and Dunlavy Street, just south of Houston’s prominent Buffalo Bayou Park. Announced in spring 2019 and designed by acclaimed Boston-based architectural placemaking firm CBT, Phase 2 aims to be a game-changing urban infill development, bringing an Old World-style town square into the thriving heart of Houston’s most rapidly densifying neighborhood. 

DC Partners Chief Operating Officer Acho Azuike

Tomorrow DC Partners will break ground on its $500M project known as The Allen, set to be anchored by a 34-story hotel and condo tower. DC Partners’ The Allen will rise on a 6-acre tract, featuring 250K SF of Class-A office, a 170-room Thompson Hotel and 95 condos. Once completed, five towers will occupy the site. 

Blocks away, Weingarten Realty is planning The Driscoll, a 30-story luxury high-rise with 300 residential units. The Montrose at Buffalo Bayou, under construction, will add another 224 units in an eight-story mid-rise. Hanover is planning Hanover Buffalo Bayou, which looks to be the company’s biggest project in Houston yet, with early documents showing plans for a 23-story residential tower and 21-story office building. 

All of this new density coming to Houston is happening in roughly one square mile. 

“It’s very clear one could see four or five additional towers there over a long period of time,” Weingarten Realty Investors CEO Drew Alexander said during a third-quarter conference call with analysts.

Weingarten hasn't announced formal plans for additional towers at the site near the historic River Oaks Theater, but with the rapid densification, it may be in the future. 

“I think it will become denser over the next 10, 20 years certainly,” Weingarten Senior Vice President Gerald Crump told the Houston Chronicle when the project was announced more than two years ago. “It is possible you could end up with office, hotel or further residential units.”

A rendering of Phase 2 of Regent Square in Houston's Montrose neighborhood.

GID's plan at Regent Square is further along. Regent Square's first phase and eastern anchor, The Sovereign at Regent Square, was completed in 2014. Regent Square will ultimately span 24 acres along West Dallas Street between College Memorial Park and Waugh Drive. 

Projects this big on land this valuable have been a long time coming. Weingarten had its eyes on the site of its future tower for years, finally acquiring the tract in an undisclosed off-market transaction. DC Partners has owned its acreage since 2016 as it finalized plans and financing for the massive project. Hanover recently worked a complicated three-way deal with fellow local developer Lovett Commercial to acquire an adjacent tract to its forthcoming Hanover Buffalo Bayou. GID's Regent Square has also suffered from delays. Still, everyone wants in on the area. 

In a deal with the city of Houston, Hanover showed what developers are willing to pay for parcels. Last year Hanover paid $30.6M to the city of Houston for a 4.5-acre site at 3540 West Dallas. 

“With what the Buffalo Bayou Partnership has done updating the park,
it made it our Central Park,” DC Partners Chief Operating Officer Acho Azuike said. “It’s in a central area, but not really downtown, so you don’t have to deal with the parking.”

Like New York City’s Central Park, Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Park could
be lined by high-rises in a few decades. High-rise developers particularly like the area because of its views of three of Houston’s skylines: Downtown, Uptown and Greenway Plaza.

“The land’s not cheap,” Azuike said. “People are going to have to go
upwards to make that make sense. Then you also get the views. Our
first floor of condos doesn't start till the 15th floor.” 

A rendering of The Allen, a mixed-use development along the Allen Parkway

Eastward facing condo units at The Allen, with a view of Downtown
Houston, are priced at a premium, Azuike said.

"It’s easy to see that area becoming dense with high-rises over the next decade,” CoStar Houston Director of Market Analytics Justin Boyar said. “That’s our beachfront real estate.”

Master-planned communities and suburban sprawl are still common in the outlying Houston areas. With few land constraints, historically Houston has had few reasons to pursue density. As renter demographics shift and the city grapples with increasingly frequent flooding issues, density and height have become favorites in Houston's urban core. While the city has a long way to go, areas like Downtown, Uptown, Greenway Plaza and now the Buffalo Bayou southern bank show promise for Houston's dense, walkable future. 

UPDATE, NOV. 5, 3:45 P.M. ET: Comments from DC Partners' Acho Azuike were added.