Greatest Moment in Houston Real Estate, 2009: Vote for One of These Official Nominees

And now, the final category in this year’s Swamplot Awards: the year’s Greatest Moment in Houston Real Estate. It’s time to vote for the winner!

The voting rules have been posted. So have the rules for voting a second time — through Twitter. Now it’s up to you to vote — in the comments below, or in an email. The voting deadline is Monday, December 28th, at 5 pm.

The official nominees for The Greatest Moment in Houston Real Estate, 2009 are:


1. The Ashby Highrise Permit Double Fakeout. August 21. City officials had staked their entire case against permitting the 23-story tower on Bissonnet at Ashby on the provisions of an old but often-ignored city law governing driveways. So when, after 10 earlier rejections, the city engineer notes that newly revised plans for the tower meet all conditions specified by the city, he has no choice but to approve it. Success for Ashby? Not really. One of the developers later told a Chronicle reporter that they hadn’t been serious about the revisions, and had only submitted a scaled-back version to “test whether the city would approve their project under any circumstances.”

2. Bankruptcy Day for Wilshire Village. November 3. Jay Cohen and Matt Dilick, the 2 apparent (and apparently feuding) owners of the Wilshire Village Apartments on West Alabama and Dunlavy, weren’t exactly forthcoming about their motivations earlier in the year — as all tenants of the decaying complex were evicted, city fire and building officials just happened to appear on the scene to shut the place down, the entire almost-8-acre complex was demolished, for-sale signs appeared on the site, and Dilick whispered to a Chronicle reporter about his own plans to redevelop the property. But after all that comes . . . what is it? A clue, a comeuppance, or maybe just another wacky twist in a slowly unfolding real-estate soap opera? Two banks file for foreclosure on the owning entity, Alabama & Dunlavy Ltd. And on the day of the scheduled foreclosure auction, the partnership declares bankruptcy.

3. The Gragg Building Reopens. December 11th. The low-slung, Frank Lloyd Wrighteous building on South Wayside just south of Buffalo Bayou was designed as the corporate headquarters for a local construction company in the late 1950s by Houston’s own FLW acolytes, MacKie and Kamrath, who collaborated on the 48-acre site with landscape architect Garrett Eckbo. In the early 1960s, the building served as headquarters for the Mercury program and NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center — until the much larger complex now known as the JSC could be built further south. Since 1977 the Gragg Building and surrounding park have been occupied by the far less glamorous Houston Parks and Recreation Department. But the park people appreciate the building’s history and design enough to commission a $16 million renovation from Houston’s HarrisonKornberg Architects — to turn the complex into a more public venue. The building and its famous courtyard will be available for special events beginning next year.

4. Third West Gray Starbucks Disrupts Space-Time Continuum. September 15th. When comedian Lewis Black first encountered the two Starbucks across the street from each other at the corner of West Gray and Shepherd, he soon realized that he had come to the end of the universe. But universe or no, in Houston expansion and franchising must go on: This fall a third Starbucks opens next door to the second one, inside the River Oaks Shopping Center’s new Barnes and Noble.

5. Metro Accessorizes Eastwood Park with Old-Fashioned Timepiece. August 31. A brief exercise likely to be studied in Historic Preservation textbooks for generations: After protests from local residents, Metro realizes that the 1935 streamline moderne Sterling Laundry & Cleaning Co. building at 4819 Harrisburg — in the way of its new East End light-rail line — is worth saving! The only questions: Which chunk of it should be preserved? And what new structure across the street in Eastwood Park should it be tacked onto? Fortunately, there turns out to be plenty of storage space available in a Metro warehouse for the thin slice of non-functioning clock that workers extract before demolishing the building.

6. Pearland Comes to Terms with the Blue Ridge Landfill, or Shadow Creek Ranch Settles on a Sell-By Date. May 20. After years of battles, the City of Pearland reaches an agreement with Allied Waste, which had sought to build a 170-foot-tall odoriferous mountain of garbage at its Blue Ridge Landfill site, just across FM 521 from those family-friendly homes at Shadow Creek Ranch. Allied agrees to monitoring, screening, extra layers of clay, and temporary height limits on the current landfill, as well as some dump-truck traffic restrictions. But the company will get its mountain — in 20 years. That should provide enough time for current landowners in the area to sell their homes to newcomers.

Okay, now it’s your moment — to choose the winner! Which one should it be? Which qualifies as this year’s greatest moment in Houston real estate?

Images(top to bottom): Buckhead Investment Partners (Ashby), Swamplot inbox (Wilshire Village demolition), HarrisonKornberg Architects (Gragg Building), Jason Witmer, Houston Chronicle (video), Spencer Howard and Metro, via Spencer Howard (4819 Harrisburg), HAR (2610 Ravenlake Ct., Shadow Creek Ranch)

26 Comment

  • I vote for #1. It’s the battle to end all battles- property rights vs quality of life, development vs something else. Nothing else like it has happened in Houston since I have been paying attention (which I admit hasn’t been very long. I’ve only lived here for <9 years and only been paying serious attention for 1/2 that time) and the final outcome could make a serious difference on the way we do development in the city.

  • What has this year come to that the “Greatest Moment in Houston Real Estate” comes down to a developer prepping for a lawsuit, the bankruptcy of a single land owner, the re-opening of a parks department building (not a real estate event), the opening of a chain coffee shop, the demolition of a former laundromat, or a suburb spared from stank?
    Given the six options, three of them unpleasant and most definitely not “great”, one of them not a non-event, one that happens many thousands of times per year around the world, and a suburb that’s given a mere 20-year reprieve on decay (like any other) at the expense of a real estate investor of a different sort…I suppose I have to pick the Starbucks.
    The Starbucks opening was an event, wasn’t a downer, and didn’t hurt anybody. It’s the “greatest” thing on the list.

  • What else but Ashby? The word alone captures attention. And has for the past two years. Slap a wig on Bill White and he’s turned into Joan Crawford at the Pepsi board meeting. “Don’t f—k with me fellas…”

    No doubt it will go down in history as the first hirise financed by the taxpayers who in turn will not be seeing a dime back on the financing.

  • I will vote for #5. Is someone going to fix the clock?

  • #3 – the renovation instead of demolition of the MacKie Kamrath Houston Parks Building. About time that somebody showed that historic structures can be re-used appropriately.

  • #1. Maybe we can get this in the dictionary. “He got his plan for a 10-foot clown-sandwich themed anniversary party approved, but then he just bought pizza instead. Talk about pulling an Ashby”

  • #3, because this type of thing needs to be praised in public venues as often as possible.

  • As much as I laugh at the Starbucks trifecta, I agree with MattMystery that “Ashby” has earned a place in Houston’s real estate lexicon, if not Funk & Wagnalls.

  • Sorry, guys. Have to go with “none of the above” on this one. That’s my final answer.

  • As a SCR resident have to be honest that in 4 years have never felt the presence of the current landfill.
    The expanding plans were crazy and in 10-20 years that the area is even more developed, I can see another interesting round of negotiations.

    My vote however is for #1

  • Good old Ashby.

  • The Gragg Building, definitely. The city cared enough about a significant historical building to renovate and modernize it, even in a recession. Even though the Julia Ideson Library expansion didn’t make the list, it’s still nearly as significant in its sympathetic response to the original and the priority it demonstrates for history and historical research. No controversy, no legal battles, no questionable motives. Yes, obviously those are public buildings, in less jeopardy, theoretically, than privately owned residences or commercial buildings. But we can now proudly point to those two shining examples when the accusation is made that Houston always tears down its history. Besides, I already voted for Ashby in the “Only in Houston” category!

  • As much as I’d love to vote for the third Starbucks I really am going to have to go with Ashby. It’s been a feud like nothing else and everyone knows its name.

  • Ashby. And I’m not talking about Lynn.

  • Is it too late in the year to add Gus Kopriva’s HAM idea to the list of nominees? It may only be under contract, but I think that the idea of it is preferable to the “greatest” thing on our list so far.

  • #3 Gragg Building.

    Because this is the only “great” moment of the nominees. Certainly the Ashby and Wilshire proceedings have been newsworthy and fascinating to follow but I wouldn’t say they were great. The clock is pretty cool but not exactly a huge event. There are many, many examples of 3+ Starbucks within a block around the US so I don’t know why Houston is so hung up on theirs. So, more default than merit, I vote Gragg in hopes that an excellent example of architectural preservation will serve as a guide for future projects.

  • #4. Starbucks. That’s just ridiculous.

  • No offense Gus, but it’s a pretty disappointing list I must admit. Because of alot of obnoxious behavior, Ashby must be the one that takes the cake on this one. I know… that’s sad.

  • Tower of Traffic!! Tower of Terror. hats off to the comic who made the get Ashby High signs to mock the whole thing.

  • #1 on the list, #1 one in the hearts of Southampton\Bill White for Texas and my #1 choice. The Tower of Terror. Long live Ashby Highrise.

  • My vote is not for any of these, but for the sad list of “events”. It sums up the state of Houston Real Estate in 2009.

  • Let’s try something positive. Go Gragg! Thanks for using our tax dollars wisely COH.

  • Gragg. With all the drama of the past year for Ashby and Wilshire, it is fitting that they be snubbed. Here’s hoping for a 2010 with more “great”…

  • Bankruptcy Day for Wilshire Village

  • 3rd Starbucks. And I can’t wait to hear the new round of jokes.

Comments are closed.