Project Profile: River Oaks District



Project Name: River Oaks District

Location: Houston, TX


Project Scope: Installation of over 450 2″-16″ caliper trees, 2,000 shrubs, 9,000 sq/ft of granite pavers, 2 water walls, 300 planters and 100 planting beds filled with over 23,000 perennials and 5,000 annuals, 62 benches and trash receptacles, and more.

Project Completion Date: November 2015

Ruppert Branch: Texas Landscape Construction Branch

Ruppert Team Members who Worked on the Project: Patrick Luzier (branch mgr.); Joe Maes (operations mgr.); Slade Salmon (production mgr.); Stacy Smith (project mgr.); Jose Coreas, David Esquivel, Chip Herring (field mgrs); Abel Robinson, Steven Cade, Josh Carpenter, McKenna Salmon (asst. field mgrs); Jose Lopez, Ramon Loyola, Angel Lopez, Alberto Lopez (crewmen).

Industry Awards Won: National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) 2016 Grand Award, Landscape Contractors Association (LCA) 2016 Grand Award

Site Description: The intent of this project was to turn this expansive 14-acre district into a walkable city street environment. Upon completion, the area was to become a Rodeo Drive experience for affluent Houston residents and international travelers alike, and would include a mix of 740,000 square feet of luxury retail, restaurants, office space and residences. Visitors experience high-end, world-class retail experiences in a carefully crafted complex that lends a contemporary feel with some Texas flair in its landscaping and building materials which are native to the state. The overall design of River Oaks prioritizes streetscape design as an important element in placemaking. Distinctive and welcoming landscape elements – including mature trees that give instant shade, beautiful plantings that celebrate the seasons, and quality materials and furnishings– identify River Oaks as a special place.

Streetscapes are overflowing with a mix of tropicals, shrubs, groundcover and annuals—in total, over 45 varieties were used to create impactful and overflowing displays.

With the goal of creating a richly landscaped district, installing a mature tree canopy that would provide shade during spring and summer was a must. Three 30’ Live Oak specimen trees were craned into the center courtyard using a 160-ton crane, 10 months ahead of the majority of the planting on site to enable adjacent buildings to be constructed and to provide access for other trades.

The 13’ rootballs on these three Live Oaks had to be precisely guided into pre-finished holes using radio communication between ground personnel and the crane operator. Once in place, a 15’ x 15’ custom built steel frame was installed over the rootball to provide additional structural support for the granite pavers, tables and chairs that were installed on top.

The landscape architect developed 12 planting palettes for street plantings to create an ever-changing environment as visitors walk along the sidewalk. Inspired by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, planting designs include a playful mix of textures, varieties and colors in an assortment of heights to create a garden-like experience.

To prevent the limestone used to stabilize the concrete roadways from seeping into adjacent beds and negatively altering the soil pH, landscape crews expended nearly 12,000 man hours excavating just over 100 planting beds, to install impermeable root membrane and over 10,700 cubic yards of structural soil and sand in just over 100 planting beds that were adjacent to roadways.

These one of a kind, stainless steel planters were custom built and shipped to the site. The landscape contractor assembled them on site, filled them with Styrofoam and placed them on top of the 9,000 SF granite paver central plaza using a 12,000 lb. forklift. The six planters (pricetag: $160,000) were then installed with nearly 1,000 one-gallon custom-grown boxwoods, planted at angles to make them appear as if they were one large boxwood.

There were 450 trees installed throughout the site ranging in size from 2”—16” caliper. Several native varieties—Overcup Oaks, Cedar Elms. Mexican Sycamores, Indian Hawthornes and Pistachio trees—were chosen to connect with the project’s Texas roots.

The landscape contractor installed over $1M worth of site furnishings on the site including over 300 pots, trash receptacles, furniture and benches.

High client involvement was a hallmark of this project. The landscape architect laid out all 30,000 plants throughout the entire project by hand with the landscape contractor’s crews following behind to perform the installation.

$1M worth of work was completed on two amenity decks, requiring the use of a forklift to hoist trees, soil, concrete, pavers, granite counter tops and plant material into place in four outdoor kitchen areas. One particular challenge was maneuvering several 900 lb. seamless granite countertops into place, which took 12 men to hand-carry them to their place.

With over 100 different subcontractors onsite performing work in a compressed three month time schedule, tasks had to be done out of sequence and then protected from potential damage. The amenity decks’ work was performed early on, and then the landscape contractor was responsible for pouring concrete around what was installed to create the basins for the fire pits, benches and water features.

The water walls pictured here have a custom built stainless steel frame that holds the ghost glass, from which the water flows. The landscape contracted hoisted the stainless steel frames onto the amenity deck with an extended 12,000 lb. forklift and hand-carried them to their installation point.

To maximize the space in the courtyard areas, vertical features were used to soften the area, creating both privacy and shade while buffering the noise from the streetscape below. Espaliered jasmine, wisteria, Purple Heart and foxtail fern work in concert here to create the desired effect.

River Oaks District is a curated collection of luxury and best-in-class retail, dining, entertainment and living amenities set in a sophisticated open-air environment. Visitors enjoy the walkable, tree-lined streets and plaza with a magnificent canopy of mature oak trees and lush landscaping that evoke the cosmopolitan streetscape experience of great cities worldwide while remaining authentic to its Texas roots.