RALPH BIVINS: Welcome to the Ralph Bivins Project. We’re here today with architect Johnny Cruz. He is with Robert A.M. Stern Architects, known as RAMSA. He’s working on a phenomenal deal here that a lot of people are talking about. It hasn’t come out of the ground yet, but there is a lot of anticipation about the Ritz-Carlton Residences at The Woodlands. There’s no hotel, but the development has the same quality and marketing firepower of the Ritz-Carlton brand. It’s being built on the shore of Lake Woodlands in The Woodlands. Johnny has been working on the project. We want to ask him what we’re going to see there.
JOHNNY CRUZ: You’re going to see something that you’re never seen before, that’s our hope for The Woodlands. If I might step back for a moment, thank you, Ralph, for the introduction. I am a partner here at RAMSA – and a native Texan. So, this project is very special and near to my heart. We have put a lot of work into it for the past couple of years or so, working with the Howard Hughes Company and their excellent, excellent, fabulous aspirational developers, and that’s something that has really made this project.
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RALPH BIVINS: They’ve announced it and sent us renderings of what it will look like in a couple of years. I talked with Jim Carman, the executive in charge of the Houston area for Howard Hughes Holdings. He said they are taking reservations and reporting strong results.
JOHNNY CRUZ: It’s interesting, given today’s economic climate, interest rates and so forth. We notice that people are a little more hesitant to pull the trigger on the purchase of a house or even make a reservation. But it’s great for the Howard Hughes folks that a lot of interest and reservations are being secured even as we speak. And the sales center is not even open. I believe it’s set to open in March. So, that’s really great news, I’d say.
RALPH BIVINS: I think they’ll do well. What Jim noted was that in The Woodlands, there are a lot of affluent people. And a lot are aging Baby Boomers and empty nesters who don’t need the 6,000 SF of house anymore. But they love the Woodlands – their friends are there, the community, their church. So, they want to stay. He thinks the project will meet that market.
JOHNNY CRUZ: Sure, absolutely. In this project we have 111 units and 36-unit types. That’s quite a bit. Any typical condominium project is essentially a box going straight up. It may offer two or three unit types. We have quite a variety. Think of a neighborhood, a beautiful neighborhood in America with a variety of homes – small, large, mansions. We have it all. The Ritz-Carlton a vertical neighborhood, if you will. This variety is definitely appealing to buyers. Jim noted that quite a few of them are already reserved. Variety makes this a unique project, a special project as well. Moving from a single-family home to a condominium is sometimes a leap of faith for some. We have carefully designed these unit plans. There’s something for everyone: one-bedroom, two-bedroom, three-bedroom and so forth; penthouses and townhouses. We have everything, and it helps people who are considering making the jump to a Ritz-Carleton residence.
RALPH BIVINS: How did you come up with 36 different floor plans? That’s pretty creative, Johnny.
JOHNNY CRUZ: I understand you walked the site—it’s a beautiful site — and that’s good. Think of that site – it’s eight acres within The Woodlands. They were saving this parcel for something special – this project, actually (winks). The site features a lakefront view _( to the south, to Lake Woodlands. The north is bordered by Lake Woodlands Drive. The eight acres are sprawled out a bit.
One of the goals from the beginning was to make sure every unit had a lakefront view. All of the corridors – all the corridors and circulation — happens to the north. All of the units are arranged to the south, following the landforms of that parcel. We introduced several true setback terraces which are open to the sky. The building has a number of facets as it travels around the site.
RALPH BIVINS: From what I’ve seen in the renderings, it seems like there are two connected towers.
JOHNNY CRUZ: Correct. There are two major components: the West Tower which rises to 15 stories at its highest, and the East Tower, about 10 stories at its tallest. There is a lot of undulation of the skyline as you go up and down. In between the two towers is an entry lobby and above that, we have a few more units that connect the two towers. Also, there is one corridor for the West Tower and one corridor for the East Tower. Beyond that on the north side is a garage structure for the owners.
RALPH BIVINS: Some people look to the west to the lake and others look to the south or southwest. And this is not a small waterway. They tell me it measures about 200 acres.
JOHNNY CRUZ: That’s correct.
RALPH BIVINS: Also, this area has tons of trees. If you’ve ever been to The Woodlands, this is one of the markings – preserving trees. George Mitchell, when he developed this acreage, he left a lot of the trees. Many portions of the lots are the way they have been for quite a while, maybe hundreds of years. You’ve got the trees, you’ve got the lake, it should not be surprising that sales are pretty brisk.
JOHNNY CRUZ: Early on, when we were doing the siting of where the buildings might sit on the land, we were very conscious of preserving as many of the trees that were there as possible. We are still working to make sure there is the least amount of disruption to the trees.
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Johnny Cruz biography
With a conviction that architecture has a responsibility to future generations, Johnny Cruz designs projects that encourage a holistic relationship between buildings, people and the environment. He is one of RAMSA’s leading experts in emerging design and collaboration technologies and regularly gives presentations and workshops to share his knowledge of software platforms.
He has worked on market-leading multifamily residential developments in the U.S. and abroad, including 220 Central Park South in New York City; ELEVEN, RAMSA’s first residential project tower in Minneapolis and the award-winning Heart of Lake high-rise garden suburb in Xiamen, China, among others.
Johnny received his Bachelor of Architecture from The University of Notre Dame and his Master of Architecture from Yale University.
Jan 12, 2024 Realty News Report Copyright 2024
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