Bonus Copyright Lawsuits Mean Urban Living Could Have Another Thing Coming

The 2016 lawsuit that just last week resulted in a multi-million dollar judgment against Houston developer Urban Living isn’t the only litigation the firm’s caught up in right now. Since the beginning of the year, the same plaintiff, Preston Wood & Associates, has filed 4 more suits against the developer and its partners, alleging that at least 6 more Urban Living projects were based of derivatives of the design firm’s copyrighted townhome plans.

One of the projects, dubbed The Modern on Sabine, is shown at top on the corner of Sabine and Bingham streets. Another, The Modern on Austin, went up in place of a few row houses torn down at Austin and Tuam near the end of 2013:


Construction on all of the sites named in this year’s spate of lawsuits started shortly after Urban Living inked a license agreement in 2014 to use some of Preston Wood’s designs. But according to Preston Wood, Urban Living never notified it that construction was beginning at any of the townhomes based off the plans, as required by the contract. On top of that, Urban Living also allegedly sublicensed the plans to a number of its subsidiaries — including Zenith Urban Living and Signature Homes — none of which included Preston Wood’s copyright statement on the plans they reproduced.

Zenith handled the Sabine St. houses (shown at top), while Signature built the Modern on Austin and Bomar Terrace, viewed below from the corner of Crocker St.:

(Only the 2 houses on the left qualified as infringement, said Preston Wood, putting the corner one in the clear.)

At Graustark Villas just north of the bridge across 59, Tanglewood Builders handled construction while Urban Living took care of sales and marketing:

Rainier Custom Homes helped out with 1515 Bonnie Brae St., another Castle Court project named in the lawsuits:

At Barletta — a row of 6 structures on W. 16th and Beall streets — Urban Living partnered up with Surface Properties:

Photos: HAR

The Kicker

3 Comment

  • It’s almost as if, given an environment in which they are allowed to get away with anything, developers will do whatever they wish without regard to anyone else.

  • Admittedly nitpicky, but the Modern at Austin did not replace row houses but a single multi-family home with a parking lot. Spoke with several shoppers who toured the UL units and walked away over quality of construction concerns.

    Less nitpicky is a real concern for the future viability of Urban Living projects. The UL project (investment provided by ATMA at Elgin) on Elgin and Crawford seems to have stalled at 4 units while it was granted variance for 17 townhouses.

    Perhaps other developers will step in to complete, perhaps they will think beyond the nuevo-tuscany aesthetic washing over the area.

  • I’ve toured some of UL’s TH’s. They’re shoddily built. You couldn’t pay me any amount of $$$ to live in , much less buy ANY UL product. I talked with 14 people after Harvey and ALL of them had flooding from the rooftop decks &/or the roof/top floor to the levels below. I told all of them call a VERY experienced real estate attorney and explore their legal options. I don’t know if any of those owners homes are UL products. But the majority of builders/developers that DO “build” the current inventory are cutting corners. Which are concealed by cruddy cement board, synthetic stucco and sheetrock. People want the lifestyle but DON’T educated themselves about the actually building/construction processes of the properties they buy.