Real Estate / Neighborhoods

Houston’s Own Enclosed Village — This Anything but Typical Hines Development Just May be a Social Distancing Paradise

Inside Somerset Green's World of Canals, Shooting Fountains and Walking Trails

BY // 04.20.20

Walking past the shooting fountains along the winding canals, with birds chirping and a breeze blowing, it almost feels like you’re in a world set apart from the rest of Houston. In a way, you are.

Enclosed behind gated brick walls, off of Old Katy Road right by the Houston Design District, Somerset Green is a 46-acre community that could almost pass for Texas’ version of a European village in these social distancing times. This place already stood out as a rare showcase Inner Loop single home community for Hines before anyone ever heard of coronavirus.

Now that the value of having your own retreat within a major city has become more apparent than ever, it is easy to imagine this self-contained world of $500,000-plus homes becoming even more coveted. Having a picturesque place to stroll is suddenly top of mind for many.

“The streets are very walkable inside the community,” Adil Noorani, Hines senior managing director and COO of Hines Southwest Region, tells PaperCity. “It’s just a very walkable streetscape. You don’t have ditches.”

You do have canals — a network that started as an irrigation solution and quickly morphed into a distinctive feature. Somerset Green’s canals are not going to make anyone think of Venice. But that does not make them any less unusual – and striking to have — in Houston.

“We’ve adhered to the most stringent engineering standards,” Noorani says of the irrigation and drainage system. “It’s not sexy to talk about, but it’s important when it rains for two straight days.”

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Somerset Green Water Canal with Fountain; Image Credit Bryan Malloch
Somerset Green brings the canal life to Houston.

Somerset Green has room for 500 homesites — and five builders along the luxury spectrum (Coventry Homes, Darling Homes, Pelican Builders, Riverway Homes and Toll Brothers) are active in the community. These are essentially townhomes (albeit with no shared walls), but they are unlike most townhomes you’ve ever seen.

These are mini palaces in many cases — three and four-story homes that stretch into the sky, but are also plenty wide. Somerset Green’s homes range from 2,000 to 4,000-plus square feet — and a number of them include top floor patios.

“Houston four stories up is a little different in the summer,” Noorani says. “Believe it or not, the mosquitos kind of leave you alone up here.”

All of Somerset Green’s three and four-story homes are elevator ready if a homeowner chooses to take that option. “Some people use it almost as dumbwaiter,” Noorani notes.

Elevators are hardly the only customizable options at Somerset Green. A car fanatic who lives there was able to get a four car garage. Some of his rides may be worth even more than his house.

Houston interior designer Steve Clifton‘s four-story townhome on a canal includes a 17-foot Swarovski crystal chandelier that hangs from the fourth floor over the twisting stairway. It took months to put in this chandelier, a work of art in its own right that’s almost a shining light for the entire community.

Yes, Somerset Green is a place where eccentric creatives can make a home their own.

The fact that is behind a manned security gate and those brick walls — with the license plate of every car that enters recorded — adds to the sense that this is its own mini world in many ways.

Somerset Green’s l0cation is another draw. Being tucked away on Old Katy Road can still feel a little secluded. In reality, the revamped, revitalized Memorial Park is right around the corner and downtown and The Galleria area are both 10 to 15 minute drives away at many times of the day. Then, there is The Heights, Houston’s hottest restaurant neighborhood, practically within strolling distance.

The new super nearby Railway Heights development could be the true game changer, however. This ultra ambitious food hall/beer hall/farmers market/shopping spot could spur even more development in this swath of Houston.

There is even a helipad next door to Somerset Green. It is actual the personal helipad of  Glenn Seurea, the owner of Star Motor Cars, which is also on Old Katy Road. But in the world of helipads, it’s etiquette to let anyone with a chopper land there (the world of people with personal helicopters is pretty small).

Somerset Green Comes Into Focus

This land of canals seems to be in the right spot to takeoff. While some of the homesites are still being built on, Somerset Green looks like a full active community these days. There are even people who moved from their original home at Somerset Green into a new larger one within the community.

Darling Homes is the latest builder to have come in. This is Darling’s first time In the Loop after more than three decades of building showcase homes in the Houston suburbs and Dallas area. This firm is decidedly on the high end, fitting with the Somerset Green trend.

This is what Hines envisioned when it first secured this land years and years ago.

A number of Somerset Green’s residents have sold million-dollar-plus Memorial and Bellaire homes to get the lock-and-leave, easy stroll lifestyle of this enclosed community. Wandering these paths along the canals, past the pool, dog parks and little pocket parks, you’re not just a little separated from everyday Houston.

You just may be walking into the future.

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