Best Neighborhood Upgrade: The Official 2011 Ballot

On we go to the “neighborhood” categories in the 2011 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate! First: Which little slice of Houston deserves to win the award for Best Neighborhood Upgrade?

The official nominees, culled from your choices and descriptions, are listed below. Now’s your chance to choose the winner! Add your vote to a comment below, send it in an email to Swamplot, announce it on Twitter, write it on the wall of Swamplot’s Facebook page — or all 4! (That’s right, if you follow these rules, each of you can vote 4 times.) If you think you can drum up more support for your favorite candidate, go right ahead! Just make sure all votes are in by 5 pm on Tuesday, December 27th.

The nominees for Best Neighborhood Upgrade are . . .


1. White Oak between Studewood and Heights Blvd. Christian’s Tailgate, D’Amico’s, BB’s, Tacos a Go-Go, the renovated Fitzgerald’s, Happy Fatz, Revival Market nearby, and the soon-to-be French cafe Sale-Sucre. Beer Island is no longer an island, but more of an archipelago. Write Now! led the way on the retail front, with a new record shop and dress shop following. Just up the way on Studewood: a new Sonoma wine bar and more retail coming soon. And still room available for more shops and restaurants.”

“It used to be that if you told someone you wanted to go to ____ on White Oak, they would say, “Are you sure?” — meaning why go to that dumpy street? Now, people still say, “Are you sure?” But they’re asking whether you want to deal with the crowds and parking.


2. East Downtown. “The new soccer stadium is under construction, and so are the 2 light-rail lines that will converge there. Some much-needed street reconstruction is coming with each of these projects.The Columbia Tap hike-and-bike trail was installed just a year or so back. Finger Furniture ended up reopening. New restaurants such as Huynh, Moon Tower Inn, Calliope’s, and Epicurean Express continue to filter in to join the entertainment venues. Multiple new museums are opening up nearby. And it seems like there may actually be some momentum on the Promenade proposal, along with the proposed convention center hotel — which could be the first highrise for that neighborhood.”


3. The Oak Forest Library Renovation, 1349 W. 43rd St. “They kept the beautiful original mod look, but freshened it up a bit and added a neighborhood-friendly second entrance on Oak Forest Dr. A terrific improvement for a great neighborhood.”


4. New Sidewalks on White Oak just East of Houston Ave., connecting Woodland Heights to the Near Northside over I-45. “There hasn’t been safe pedestrian access on this block for decades. It lets Northsiders walk safely to Woodland Park and Stude Park; for Woodland Heights, it’ll provide a convenient pedestrian route to the upcoming light-rail stop at N. Main and Quitman.”


5. Montrose. “Two amazing new grocery stores opened in the last year: Whole Foods on Waugh, and the H-E-B at Wilshire Village. Not just new places to shop, but neighborhood hangouts too.”


6. St. Agnes Academy Athletic Facility, Bellaire Blvd. at Fondren, Sharpstown. “A huge improvement to the corner of Fondren and Bellaire. So much better than a car lot or an empty lot — or a disco.


7. Resurfacing of Shepherd Dr. from Memorial to Washington, Rice Military and Magnolia Grove. “How about something Houstonians can really get behind — like their steering wheels? The new smoother surface has truly changed the lives of anyone who drove this pockmarked stretch of asphalt and had to risk wheel and axle. Instead of sounding like tennis shoes in a dryer, my car now sounds like a sleek jet engine! Backhanded compliments to the City of Houston for finally getting around to doing its job.”


8. Conversion of Inwood Forest Golf Course to a City Park, Antoine at W. Little York. “220 acres of open space and detention ponds. No greens fees.”


9. Street Art, Montrose and the Heights. “Each time I see one of Coolidge’s pink pigs, little ponies, Boston terriers, or T-Rexs, it makes me smile and happy to live in the Heights! I know this is somewhat controversial and that these guys and girls are breaking the law by defacing public and private property. But at the same time these pieces bring joy and life and humor and perspective. And I am not alone. Google Coolidge and you’ll see links to people’s Photobucket accounts and blog entries where they’ve photo-safari’d these ‘public works.’ It appears that these artists are creating a little micro-tourism hub in the Heights and Montrose.”


10. Kirby Dr. between Westheimer and Richmond, Upper Kirby. “West Ave, 2727 Kirby, straighter oaks, a whole new streetscape. It’s now actually . . . nice!


Okay,  neighborhood experts! This year, which one of these nominees has earned the title of Houston’s Best Neighborhood Upgrade?

Photos: Candace Garcia (Happy Fatz and D’Amico’s on White Oak; White Oak sidewalks; Whole Foods; H-E-B; St. Agnes; Shepherd Dr.; Kirby); Flickr user lc_db (Dynamo Stadium); Natalye Appel + Associates Architects, Architect Works, and James Ray Architects (Oak Forest Library); Travis Foote (Inwood Forest Golf Course); Paul Viscontini (Brontosaurus)

52 Comment

  • Even though my vote was for the Northside, I’m glad to see White Oak win. This was a big year for the Heights.

  • #6 – love the underdog

  • #9 – Public Art!

  • #1
    Happy Fatz alone is enough reason, but BBs, Tacos A’ GoGo, and D’Amicos just put this section of the hood on another level. Decent retail is the next step (write now and the vinyl record store just don’t do it for me)

  • #8 – that area looked like a war zone after Alison. The last thing it needed was another apartment complex.

  • There are an amazing number of construction detours in the East Downtown Warehouse District, so #2 gets my vote. Makes it difficult to get around right now, but I think that that’s a good metric for comparison.

  • #3.gets my vote – great upgrade! Great place for kids.

  • #10 – Houston needed a beautiful area in the loop with an actual smooth new road to compete with the burbs.

  • #10. It is closest to River Oaks and; thus, the most meaningful.

  • I live in Montrose, but I definitely have to go with #8. That area looked bad long before Ike. And yeah, I grew up in Oak Forest, Spring Branch and Memorial so you see where I’m coming from.

  • Sorry, I meant Allison. Take my word for it, working for a newspaper I had to go into that neighborhood with great trepidition and that was long before Allison.

  • #3 Oak Forest Library is awesome!

  • #3 Oak Forest Library Renovation is my vote!

  • The Best Neighborhood Upgrade by FAR – by assists, chestballs, chips, cornerkicks, deflections, lobs, lofts, passes, traps and volleys – is the new soccer stadium in East Downtown!!
    Inwood re-Forest-ation, #8, comes in a close Second.

  • #1 happened too fast and is too good to not get my vote.

  • A great modern preservation effort gets my vote ~ #3. The architects did a top notch design. A must see.

  • All of these are amazing. There is still so much do do in Houston, but these changes are definitely in the right direction. I dream of a clean, cool and walkable city with efficient public transportation. I know, I’m a dreamer, but this is a start. And because I decided to stay here for life… I’m patient. We’ll get there and nobody will think Houston=bad air and oil rigs. Our city is amazing and has a lot of potential!

  • #3…Oak Forest Library

  • #3 – Oak Forest Library. Great Job!

  • I vote #8 and hope that things like this continue to happen and improve Houston’s greenspace.

  • I’ll go with #8…golf course conversion, in the fond hope that Hermann Park can use this example and end the “space waste” that is the HP golf course. Our philanthropists, along with the city, should purchase an existing course in a less-crucial area (eg, “Wildcat”) and convert HP to exactly that: a PARK, with lower maintenance, native landscaping and people-not golf cart- friendly amenities to serve the greater good. This high-density area is no longer suited for a large, single sport venue. There are numerous other options around town on less-valuable (tangible AND intangible) parcels, as developers have clearly overbuilt over the recent decade. Let’s do it!

  • My choices :# 8(PRESERVE the green space),9,3,2,4,7,5,10,1,6. I really like the fact the City SAVED a huge chunk of green space.It’ll be a welcome respite from the hectic urban jungle. Next,I really dig Coolidge’s urban art attacks, unexpected,yet such witty, amazing injections of humor in the gritty city scape. The Oak Forest library reno is awesome. The sidewalk additions along White Oak are long overdue and will be utilized a lot.The new HEB and Whole Foods stores are excellent (I walked the dogs for 10 months in the Whole Foods area while the building was going up,but I really like the Lake-Flato designed HEB bldg.And thankfully the neighborhood pressured HEB to save some of the old growth oak trees. The White Oak resto /retail additions are kewl,but the parking/congestion is a pain in the derriere .And my fave design:the Dynamo Stadium – it looks like a UFO crash landed in Old Chinatown !! Congrats to all the nominees.

  • I nominated #1, but will vote for #3. Pitch perfect MCM rennovation. And it is so incredibly important to have good public amenities like libraries in re-emerging neighborhoods like Oak Forest/Garden Oaks. If I was a realtor showing homes to a family looking at the neighborhood, I would be sure to drive by that library as often as possible.

  • #3 for sure! PS – The library is now open Saturdays!

  • I’ll go with #3, the Oak Forest Library. Nice amenity for what has really become a family-friendly neighborhood.
    On another note, I think it’s actually kinda pathetic that 2 of the nominees are city street re-surfacing projects that were long overdue. The idea of giving a shout out to the city for doing something thay are supposed to do with our tax dollars in the first place is just sad.

  • @ Shadyheightster,
    Yes, sad but true.

  • #8 – conversion of golf to city park — public places definitely needed throughout the thriving metropolis!

  • #3–such a classy upgrade for the neighborhood

  • My vote’s for #3.

  • Good choices. I will vote for number 3 because I’m a sucker for libraries and mod buildings.

  • #3 gets my vote. We thought we lost this library after the hurricane, it was closed for weeks & came back without floor tile, just sad gray concrete floors. So glad for the renovation! The style is true to the surrounding mid-century neighborhoods.

  • Number 3, for sure. Let’s have a little love for the books!

  • gonna have to go with #3…but the Inwood golf course plans are good news for the area

  • #3 Oak Forest Library – such a beautiful renovation/expansion!

  • Oak Forest!! Its awesome

  • My vote: Inwood Golf Course Conversion to City Park.

    Another touch choice, but the street art on Montrose will be short-lived as the hipsters pack it up and head north by northwest. East downtown is still way too early. You go a few blocks past Warehouse Live or around the Moon Tower Inn and you’re neck-deep in sketch. If anything, this will be an area to watch, but it’s still not ripe.

    Good for St. Agnes, and good for Sharpstown, also another area to watch, but still several years from a full head of steam.

    As for the others, like street-repaving or library refits, those should just be business as usual.

  • #10 – Houston needed a grand boulevard dedicated to retail that is similar to other great cities like Paris, London, Rome, Berlin, Buenos Aires, etc. They all have similar grand streets that seem to say “you have arrived”.

  • My vote is for #8 – Inwood Forest golf course conversion to a park. I live in IF and am looking forward to the day that people rediscover this great neighborhood we have!

  • #6, St. Agnes Academy!

  • I vote for 6: St. Agnes

  • #6 of course!

  • #6. St. Agnes athletic facility!!

  • #6 St. Agnes!

  • #6 St. Agnes gets my vote!!

  • oak forest library is beautiful now.

  • #2. Not just a neighborhood upgrade but an fantastic upgrade for the whole city.