Some Houstonians—the kind who are likely to drop a few grand on a Love cuff at Cartier—are veritable experts on the ins and outs of the new River Oaks District, the luxury mixed-use development under construction on the far west side of the Inner Loop.
Then there are those who do not follow high-end retail like its a new kind of fantasy league and who have only the foggiest notion of what River Oaks District even is, or why they should care. This explainer is for the latter group.
So River Oaks District is in River Oaks?
I guess it depends how much of a stickler you want to be about boundaries, but I'd say that River Oaks District is actually adjacent to River Oaks on the west side, in the same way that River Oaks Shopping Center is adjacent to River Oaks on the eastern edge. District is actually closer to the Afton Oaks neighborhood, west of Highland Village. Even if the name is a bit of a stretch, the location does offer the benefit of a very cool address: 4444 Westheimer. That's undeniably dope.
So it's the new building with the Seasons 52 restaurant in it?
Nope, that's Millennium High Street, which is a block east. We know, it's a lot to keep up with.
When does it open?
It's open now! The official grand opening was Oct. 1, although Cartier opened a month early at the beginning of September. And though you wouldn't have believed it from the amount of construction mess a couple weeks ago, but there are a dozen additional stores open following the grand opening. They are Brunello Cucinelli, Canali, Chopard, Dior, Etro, Giuseppe Zanotti, Intermix, Moncler, Roberto Cavalli, Stella McCartney, Tom Ford and Vince.
Is that all the stores that are planned for District?
Oh, honey, no—this place is huge. Think 14 acres of developed space and over 250,000 square feet of retail and dining concepts. In addition to the 13 stores above, there are 20 more stores, restaurants and other destinations that are slated to open, and I quote, "soon." That could mean during the month of October, when both Bonobos and Planet Blue have announced opening dates, or possibly any time before the end of the year. But peak holiday shopping season is approaching quickly, so there is a lot of pressure to open as soon as possible.
The stores that are in the works but not yet open are Anne Fontaine, Bonobos, Cos, Davidoff of Geneva Since 1911, Diptyque, Dolce & Gabbana, Harry Winston, Hermès, John Lobb, Kiton, L’Occitane, Patek Philippe at deBoulle, Planet Blue, St. Nicola, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Vilebrequin. There will also be a luxury movie theater, iPic Cinema, with its own small gastro-lounge, The Tuck Room. Of the eight announced dining concepts, the only other one listed as opening soon is Toulouse Café & Bar, which is a very popular and adorable bistro out of Dallas.
Why is this such a big deal, exactly?
Contrary to what the past half-decade of living in Houston has taught us to expect, major shopping centers don't just come along every day. This will probably be the biggest new non-skyscraper development inside the inner loop for the foreseeable future. In a time when most luxury brands are expanding in Asia and the Middle East, that Houston is attracting huge amounts of new luxury concepts stateside is rather unique. Whether that's because the oil slump hasn't yet made a major dent in our "Texas miracle" economy, or a symptom of the city tipping into unaffordable territory is hard to say.
Regardless, by the end of the month or so Houston will be home to a bunch of stores that have never had locations in Houston before, and people love new stuff, so that's exciting. Some of them aren't even in Dallas yet, which we like because hopefully it will annoy Dallasites. Also Equinox is opening in November and all but guaranteed to take the mantle of Houston's fanciest gym away from FIT, if that's the kind of thing you go to the gym for.
Do I have to be rich to shop at District?
You don't have to, but it certainly helps. I mean, this is a shopping center that will boast no less than five high-end jewelry stores, so District is certainly a luxury concept built with those who have a lot of disposable income in mind. But there are also stores like Bonobos, which offers reasonably priced menswear that shoppers can try on and then order to be delivered. For those that love Zara, it's worth a trip to check out COS, short for Collection of Style. Owned by H&M, COS has a European minimalist aesthetic and lots of options for under $100.
As for the rest, expensive is a relative concept. You don't have to be a millionaire to treat yourself to a lipstick from Tom Ford, a candle from Diptyques or a cigar from Davidoff of Geneva, though each is something of a splurge. If you are looking for clothing that costs less than a coach ticket to Europe, try Intermix, Baanou, Planet Blue, the Adidas collection at Stella McCartney and shoes from Vince.
Are we allowed to just call it District?
Oh god, I hope people are not going to insist we refer to it by the full name. That's like someone named Elizabeth refusing to go by a nickname. It's just rude. Too many syllables to deal with in my busy day. Plus District has a nice upscale sound to it, don't you think?
River Oaks District is open now at 4444 Westheimer, riveroaksdistrict.com.