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Houston’s Most Ambitious New High-Rises — Including an Exclusive Look at a Downtown Stunner

October 9th, 2017

When it comes to high-rises, most people tend to look up — to gawk at a building stretching toward the clouds. It is instinctive to imagine what life will be like swaddled in a cocoon of sky-high luxury, often literally above it all. This is why Houston’s high-rises are seeing a surge of local interest in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s historic destruction — this sense of looking up and being able to escape is powerful and almost primal.

William Elser, director at Hines, knows it’s often just as important to look down the hall in his job, though. For these seemingly innocuous corridors can set a tone for a tower, which is really, if one thinks about it, still supposed to be a home first.

“That’s one of the first things Mr. Hines looks at when he tours a building,” Elser says, referencing the founder, chairman and still-very-active 91-year-old vision setter for the company that bears his name. “He looks down the hallways.

“It can’t look institutional. You’ve got to make sure it doesn’t look like you’re in The Shining.”

With that in mind, Elser and the rest of the team orchestrating the development and build of The Southmore, a new 24-story Hines high-rise in the Museum District, made sure that its hallways are not just long rows of doors. Instead, doorways are recessed, distinctive digital wallpaper graces the walls, the lighting is muted rather than hospital glaring, and fresh outside air is pumped in. When you notice a smell in a hall, it’s rarely a good thing — it’s like coming across a used car with “an interesting history.” In this case, the scent is memorably invigorating.

Paying this kind of attention to what many would dismiss as a small thing marks the next wave of high-rises now transforming Houston’s skyline — and way of life. While the first wave of new high-rises have been open for a little while now, a new surge of ambitious buildings that truly sweat all the details is slowly, but surely transforming the market.

Why does every little thing matter so much now? For the answer, many titans of the sky only have to look right across the street.

“It’s certainly an arms race,” David Haltom, director at Hines, says. “Our competitors are putting out some high-quality product too and we need to stay ahead.”

Haltom, who shepherded the newly opened Aris Market Square — Hines’ 32-story downtown tower — to market, only needs to look across Market Square Park to see one competitor, Market Square Tower. Whether it’s downtown, River Oaks District, or the Galleria area, the lines have been drawn — and it’s may the best towers win.

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