Inspired by Melbourne’s local culture and eclectic vibe, Laneways in Midtown Houston is Australian developer Caydon’s first U.S. project. The initial phase of the mixed-use development, a $200 million residential tower named Drewery Place, was completed last summer. The 27-story high-rise was designed and built around the concept of wellness and is a key piece of the Laneways puzzle.
In December 2019, the former Art Supply store on Main Street was demolished to make way for the next phase of the project. When completed, Laneways will include five buildings—four residential and a hotel—on a 3.5-acre lot bounded by Main, Fannin, Tuam and McGowen streets. In an interview with Multi-Housing News, Caydon Principal & CEO Joe Russo talks about the company’s first American venture and how it encapsulates concepts such as wellness and progressive living.
Why Houston for your first U.S. project?
Russo: When I came to the U.S., I instantly had a good feeling about Houston. I loved the city’s diversity and vibrant community from every corner of the globe. From a business standpoint, the city had a strong appeal as it has a rapidly growing population rate, booming economy, strong employment growth and has attracted 22 of the Fortune 500 companies.
Houston also reminded me a lot of the culture and livability in Melbourne, Australia. My team and I saw great potential in the Midtown area, as it is located between two large employment hubs, the world’s largest medical center and Downtown, and the premier green space, Midtown Park. The neighborhood is one of the most vibrant and active areas in the city, with the highest walkability rates. Our team instantly knew we could build a landmark destination that would complement the lifestyle in Midtown and thrive for years to come.
In addition to Drewery Place and the Kimpton Hotel, what will Laneways offer?
Russo: Caydon will be breaking ground on the second phase of the mixed-use development in the second quarter of 2020. In addition to the Kimpton Hotel, the full development will include multifamily properties, a high-rise condominium, ground-floor retail, art and outdoor spaces.
Wellness seems to be at the core of Laneways. How does this very trendy concept materialize in this Houston development?
Russo: Caydon takes pride in creating dynamic projects that encourage a sense of community and support people’s health, happiness and well-being. One of the reasons we were drawn to Midtown was that it is Houston’s only truly walkable neighborhood and we have designed Laneways to ensure it complements the community and premier green neighbors—Midtown Park and Whole Foods. Laneways will become a destination where residents, community members and their pets will enjoy a 360-degree active lifestyle with walkable alleyways, greenspaces for outdoor fitness programs, health-centric tenants, tech-savvy homes and more.
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For instance, Drewery Place’s wellness-centric tenants, Black Swan Yoga and Earthcraft Juicery, will lead community events on Saturdays to make fitness more accessible to all members. We also have a fitness director leading Laneways FitFam, which will allow our residents to have access to exclusive workouts and build a community. Residents can sign up for 45-minute classes with high- intensity workouts and educational seminars to assist with dieting.
What amenities make Laneways stand out?
Russo: Laneways will feature walkable, transformed alleyways full of life and flooded with cafes, street art, high-end restaurants, indoor and outdoor settings, speakeasy bars and an eclectic mix of high-rise residences and boutique hotels. Laneways Midtown will pay tribute to our hometown Melbourne’s lanes, which are known to infuse the local culture and creativity.
How does tech fit into all of this?
Russo: In July 2018, Caydon partnered with Amazon to bring the popular Alexa cloud-based voice service in each of the 1,205 apartments in Hall Street and Margaret Street buildings in the Mason Square neighborhood of Melbourne, Australia. We extended our partnership with Amazon and gifted an Alexa to the residents of Drewery Place in Midtown Houston to enjoy a connected living lifestyle. The 27-story is one of the only developments in Houston that offers endless tech-savvy features, including scene programmable lighting, smart Honeywell thermostats, Latch Bluetooth-enabled door hardware, IT consultants to set up new tenants.
We also offer tenants a custom-designed resident portal, Caydon HQ, which allows them to book their move-in, receive delivery notifications, advertise their PT services to other tenants, enjoy discounts from location businesses and more. We have also teamed up with Spruce to offer housekeeping and dog walking services to our Drewery Place residents.
Tell us something about Laneways that the public doesn’t yet know.
Russo: The amenities will be located on the top floors, providing incredible views.
What can you tell us about financing such a project?
Russo: Drewery Place is a $200 million residential tower. Caydon worked with HFF to secure debt and equity financing for Drewery Place through Bank of the Ozarks and Invesco Real Estate.
What is the timeline for Laneways?
Russo: Phase one of Laneways is completed, with Drewery Place opening its doors in July 2019. Phase two of the development is set to break ground in the second quarter of 2020. The Kimpton Hotel is scheduled to open at the end of 2022.
What was the most challenging aspect of this development so far? How did you overcome it?
Russo: We are constantly including innovative ideas within our developments to offer our residents a unique and urban lifestyle, such as smaller units, home automation, one-of-a-kind amenities and services. Typically, there is no data to support these decisions. We just go with our gut instincts and it has paid off.
How does the lifestyle of the Caydon resident in the U.S. look in 2020?
Russo: Our residents will be able to enjoy the Caydon Lifestyle, which is bringing an Australian flair to the U.S. Our hometown, Melbourne, was voted the world’s most livable city for seven consecutive years. It is packed with art, food, coffee, modern architecture, iconic entertainment and sporting hubs, great transport, nightlife and a friendly welcoming ambience from the people. We are aiming for our U.S. developments to reflect this lifestyle.
Our Laneways residents will be located in a cosmopolitan neighborhood, near public transport, walking distance to cafes and bars and close to employment hubs. Our project will feature well-designed buildings with well-thought-out apartment layouts, maximizing space, light and storage. Each building will offer curated amenities, from pools to gyms to games and karaoke rooms, all that embrace the local culture and diversity.
We aren’t just creating places for people to shower and sleep, we strategically select sites in locations that enhance people’s lives. Whether it be getting more time back in their day by catching public transport or meeting new people within the community with FitFam classes, Caydon’s focus is on enabling progressive living.
Tell us about your current and future projects in the U.S. What should we look out for?
Russo: We are working on an exciting condo project in San Diego. It’s located in Downtown and is home to the New California Theater, which was opened in 1927. We will be recreating the façade of the theater in the design. It will be the largest condo building in Downtown.