What an embarrassment of riches! For Best Demolition, the second category of the 2014 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate, we had far too many contenders than available places on the ballot. So several valiant contenders for the title got knocked out of the running.
Thanks to your help, a terrific slate of candidates for this award remains, however. And with some additional help — in the form of your votes — we’ll all pick the winner. What qualifies a nominee to be declared Best Demolition of the year? Does it refer to the best act of demolition, the removal that produced the best results, or the best building that happened to be torn down? That’s up to you!
The voting rules for this year’s Swampies, which includes a slight tweak to our previous rules, are posted here. You can still 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. This go-around, however, we’ll only be counting votes submitted through the first 2 methods from voters who’ve signed up for the Swamplot email list. (If you haven’t done so already, you can through this link or the box at the top left of this page.) When you cast your vote(s), please try to explain why you’re voting for that particular nominee, so we’ll have plenty of entertaining comments to include in our roundup of the winners and runners-up.
And here they are! Or rather, here they were! The official nominees for Best Demolition of 2014:
1. 3400 Montrose, 3400 Montrose Blvd., Montrose. Having spontaneously begun the process on its own a few years earlier, the 61-year-old 10-story office building across from the Kroger at the corner of Montrose Blvd. and Hawthorne St. was lovingly dismantled piece by piece, leaving an ever-diminishing sculpture morphing daily to hover over Montrose Blvd. Over the course of a few spring months, the top-down demo slowly erased the property from the skyline — beginning in earnest in March with the parking garage in back. The top of the 10-story building, which formerly housed Scott Gertner’s Skybar (and before that, Cody’s), came down in April, followed by the centerpiece in May. After a short breather, Hanover Company began constructing the building’s replacement, which will also be called 3400 Montrose. But it’ll be a 30-story apartment tower.
2. Macy’s at Sage, 2727 Sage Rd., Galleria. In the game of Galleria musical chairs, the Macy’s at Sage lost. The retro, 1980s-era store made its last sale on May 4 — before being demolished as part of the Galleria III redo. A relocating Saks Fifth Avenue is ready to take its place, along with a high-rise residential development. What makes the demolition of this well-worn department store even more notable is that even in its absence, it leaves behind a part of itself — the other Macy’s at the Galleria, on W. Alabama.
3. Skylane Central Apartments, 2222 White Oak Dr., Woodland Heights. This apartment complex stood proudly at the flooding-friendly northern gateway of Woodland Heights (see storied neighborhood welcome recorded by a Google Street View camera in 2011, above). In its more recent incarnation, it was known as 2222 White Oak. Under new ownership, tenants were ordered out at the end of April. Going up in its prominent place: the 8-story, 276-unit Elan Heights apartments.
4. Six City-Owned Oaks Surrounding the Wendy’s Drive-Thru, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby. Working under cover of darkness shortly before Halloween, crews from Freddy’s Landscaping and More removed 6 mature oak trees from the public right-of-way along Kirby and North Blvd., adjacent to the fast-food restaurant. The day-before and day-after photo pair above helps tell the story of the unpermitted view-clearing work. What makes this wood-deconstruction demo job so special? For one thing, it came with a hefty after-the-fact price tag: After the city put a stop-work order on ongoing renovations at the Wendy’s, the franchise owner quickly settled with city attorneys and agreed to make a payment in restitution for trees’ unpermitted removal. Mohammed A. Dhanani and Haza Foods ended up paying a $300,000 fine. After the agreement, reconstruction work on the restaurant began again — but so has the tree-cutting: This week, the city’s legal staff has been investigating an aggressive pruning job inflicted last weekend on the lone remaining Kirby Dr. street tree in front of restaurant property. Bonus fast-food tie-in: Following the settlement, the city’s tree-defending legal staff turned its attention to a series of limb-hacking incidents on oak trees surrounding Burger King franchises owned by Dhanani’s brother, Shoukat Dhanani of Houston Foods, which happens to be the second largest BK franchisee in the country.
5. North Loading Dock Access Ramp, George R. Brown Convention Center, Downtown. The highway-style ramp at the north end of the convention center (in top photo), which brought vehicles and goods up to the structure’s third level, was demolished in June — to make room for new construction on what had been an adjacent surface parking lot. In its place, a new office building and garage will connect to the GRB, with the new light-rail lines tracking through the garage’s ground floor. The replacement ramp will wrap under U.S-59, which brushes against the GRB’s backside. The new path should help keep trucks away from Avenida de las Americas fronting Discovery Green, and take them directly to Chartres St.
6. The Houston Club Building, 811 Rusk St., Downtown. Rumors of this building’s impending disappearance have been swirling since 2010. But the multi-stage demo took its time completing various complicated redevelopment exercises: Building denuding, de-asbestosing, de-muraling, re-parking-garaging, and scratch-marking phases all took their time. And then there was the big bang (see video above) on a Sunday morning in October. Skanska’s new 35-story Capitol Tower will go up in its place once all the rubble is cleared. Bonus fallout: never-before-seen views of Pennzoil Place across the street are now available, for a limited time only.
7. The Bullock-City Federation Mansion, 411 Lovett Blvd., Montrose. This 1906 building’s status as the first Houston home ever to be graced with central air conditioning (the system was installed in 1926) wasn’t enough to save it from being visited by salvage and demolition crews starting in February. The destruction of the property, which had been renovated recently, caused quite a stir. In a first for a Houston building demo (as far as we know) sound recordings made of the smashing and removal work were turned into a downloadable album; remixes of the catchy tunes and clanging made by various artists have just now been released. In place of the former wedding and event venue turned high-tech office building will rise 14 attached townhomes in Croix Homes’ Courtlandt Manor development.
8. Axis Apartments, 2400 W. Dallas St., North Montrose. JLB Partners’ 5-story, 368-unit apartment block caught fire back in March while it was under construction, sending dark clouds into the air and featured the dramatic rescue of a construction worker shown in the video above. The woodframe construction burned fast; demolition began the next day. Among those most rattled by the incident: The feng-shui expert who had appeared on teevee news the night before complaining to a reporter that the apartments were being built too close to adjacent Magnolia Cemetery. Though the parking garage appeared to survive the blaze, it was eventually demolished 6 months later so reconstruction could start afresh.
9. Wheatley High School, 1700 Gregg St., Fifth Ward. What a see-saw! HISD’s attempts to demolish the historic 85-year-old school to make way for a new all-boys facility began on August 31st and appeared to take neighbors and alumni by surprise. An alumni group filed a lawsuit to put the demolition on hold the very next day. After a holdup of several weeks and a settlement with a plaintiff, a judge dismissed the suit, allowing the demolition to proceed. That is, until another judge halted the demo. Preservationists won another round after a judge granted a temporary injunction against demolition pending the outcome of a December 1 trial. A ruling in that trial came on December 10, this time in favor of demolition. The verdict wasn’t even 24 hours old when crews hired by HISD finished what they started way back in August — before another lawsuit or injunction could get in the way.
So . . . which one of these ghosts of Houston’s recent past deserves to be remembered forever as the Best Demolition of 2014? Cast your votes!
- How To Vote in the 2014 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate [Swamplot]
- Swamplot Awards Ballots 2014 [Swamplot]
Photos: Jackson Myers and colonialsong (3400 Montrose); Louisiana and Texas Southern Malls and Retail (Macy’s at Sage); Google Maps (Skylane); Swamplot inbox (Wendy’s; Bullock-City Federation Mansion); Christof Spieler (George R. Brown); Silberman Properties (Houston Club building); Judith (Axis Apartments); Click2Houston (Wheatley High School). Videos: Culturemap (Houston Club); Karen Jones (fire)