Best Demolition: The 2016 Official Ballot

Smashing nominations, everyone! Thanks to you, the ballot for 2016’s Best Demolition award is loaded up with some truly impressive has-beens.

With your help, we’ve compiled a bang(ed)-up list of potential candidates. And with a little more help — in the form of your votes — we can now pick the winner! Before you vote, ask yourself this: Should this category commemorate the best act of demolition, the demolition that produced the best results, or the best building to meet its unmaker?

The voting rules for this year’s Swampies are posted here, but they’re not that complicated: You can vote in this category through each of 4 methods: in a comment below, in an email to Swamplot, on Twitter, or on Swamplot’s Facebook page. If you’ve got a favorite candidate, start a campaign! And don’t forget to add why you’re voting for that particular nominee. The polls close for all categories at 5 pm on Tuesday, December 27th.

Without further, um . . . adieu, here’s the list of this year’s Best Demolition contenders:


Demolition of 517 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

1. Charley’s 517 and Longhorn Cafe, 517 and 509 Louisiana St., Downtown. Old meets new parking lot: The duo of 1906 buildings next to the renovated Lancaster Hotel on Louisiana St. had a storied run of over a century, between them serving as everything from an early Star of Hope shelter to a sail factory to (in their later years) the elegant Charley’s 517 and decidedly-less-elegant Longhorn Cafe. The buildings met their end when the Lancaster’s owners decided to clear out the adjacent properties to make some more parking spots for the hotel; the possibly-haunted pecan tree, long hidden in a secret courtyard behind 509, got a final day in the sun before its final disassembly.


Kay's Lounge, 2324 Bissonnet St., Rice Village, Houston, 77005

2. Kay’s Lounge, 2324 Bissonnet St., Rice Village. Fun while it lasted (however long that was): The land beneath questionable but perennial oldest-Houston-icehouse claimant Kay’s Lounge, which opened sometime between 1939 and 1945, was quietly sold last year to Frasier Homes. The structures next door, also bought up by the same folks, got the excavator treatment a few weeks before the bar’s imminent closing was announced; Kay’s Labor Day weekend last hurrah was followed by an October teardown. The fate of the land freed by the icehouse’s icing: It’ll soon be the site of a townhome 6-pack.


3. Corporate Plaza Parking Garage, Kirby Dr. at Hwy. 59, Upper Kirby. The one that fought back: Deconstruction work on the first few buildings in the Corporate Plaza office park at 59 and Kirby Dr. progressed slowly but surely from December into the spring. As the crew crunched its way through the complex’s 7-story parking garage, however, the last narrow slice of the doomed structure almost turned the tables, toppling forward onto a lone excavator as it attempted unsuccessfully to reverse out of range. The whole dramatic scene — including the settling dust cloud, the crew’s rush forward to the center of the collapse, and the operator’s emergence from the cabin of the excavator, apparently unscathed — was captured from a nearby office window in a profanity-peppered cellphone video (above) that made the national news. The new owner, California-based Triyar, has since put up a better fence.


Former Fiesta Mart, 2300 N. Shepherd, Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

4. Fiesta Mart, 2400 N. Shepherd Dr., Recently Dampened Houston Heights Dry Zone. The demolition that launched a thousand yard signs: The neon parrot had hardly flickered out before rumors (followed soon by petition signature gatherers) began to circulate through the neighborhood around the under-deconstruction grocery store’s 4-acre lot, culminating in a special local option election backed by H-E-B, and a change to the neighborhood’s 1912 alcohol sales restrictions.


Former Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002

5. Former Houston Chronicle headquarters, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown. A tunnel tussle and a cease-and-desist: Following the newspaper’s departure for more Brutalist pastures, the hodgepodge of office and theater buildings wrapped behind a 1960s faux-marble facade at the corner of Preston St. and Texas Ave. got all dressed up to go away — before a lawsuit paused the process. A development group owned by construction firm Linbeck took buyer, developer, and-would-be demo-er Hines to court (along with the Hearst Corporation, the Chronicle’s owner) over claims that Theatre Square had rights to the building’s basement to build tunnel access for a hypothetical future highrise next door — and a complete demolition of the building would mess up Linbeck’s plan. A judge eventually ruled that Hines would have to let Linbeck do its thing on the property — but also that the agreement couldn’t prevent Hines from doing whatever it needed to do to build its own hypothetical future highrise on the spot. Demolition resumed.


Former City of Houston Code Enforcement Building, 3300 Main St., Midtown, Houston, 77002

Proposed Highrise at 3300 Main St.6. Former City Code Enforcement Office, 3300 Main St., Midtown. Once the epicenter of Houston red tag distribution, the 1960s mod office building and its remaining half-block of parking lot are still undergoing pullapart following this summer’s asbestos removal. The lowrise, which also once commanded an additional block of empty lot now occupied by the MATCH theater complex, is making way for even further Midtown densification — the spot will host the area’s first residential highrise, developed by PM Realty.


So which of these knockouts deserves the title of 2016’s Best Demolition? It’s up to you — get down there and vote!

Images: Jack Miller (517 Louisiana St. demo), Kay’s Lounge (Kay’s lounge demo), Andrew Grizzle (video), Mosaic Clinic Hair Transplant Center (Fiesta), AECOM (rendering of planned highrise at 3300 Main St., Swamplot inbox (all others)

The 2016 Swampies

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