Houston’s Least Recognizable Neighborhood: The Official 2013 Ballot

“Would you even recognize that neighborhood today?”

That’s the underlying idea behind the next award in this year’s Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate, which goes to Houston’s Least Recognizable Neighborhood.

Of course, there’s more than one way to define what makes a neighborhood unrecognizable, as this official ballot of nominees put together from your nominations show.

In the end, only one neighborhood will get the recognition (heh) of winning this award, so tell us which it deserves to be. You can vote for your favorite by leaving a comment below this post or through email, Facebook, or Twitter. You can do all 4, too — as long as you follow these rules. Just don’t forget to tell us why the neighborhood you selected is getting your vote.

Now allow us to (re)introduce the official nominees for Houston’s Least Recognizable Neighborhood:


Graffitied Sign at Hyde Park and Waugh, Montrose, Houston

1. Montrose. “Where to begin? More and more single family homes are being wrecked for townhomes, McDonald’s is remodeling, and now I hear they want to get rid of that strip with Half-Price Books and other stores. Lower Westheimer east of Montrose Blvd., once lined with strip clubs, is now completely unrecognizable, having been gentrified to within an inch of its life. Oh, and Kroger remodeled, H-E-B joined, and Fiesta closed.”


BP Offices off I-10, Energy Corridor, Houston

2. The Energy Corridor. “I lived in this area before it was even known by that name. The huge changes were definitely there a couple of years ago, but with the continued building and development, this part of town simply blows my mind now. Fifteen-plus years ago, no one would’ve imagined that Kirkwood would be opened to I-10; it was just a sleepy suburban part of town. The small podunky little airport that was near Westheimer and Kirkwood is now long gone, too. The pace of new glossy glass office buildings going up here is simply incredible.”


2246 quenby st.

3. The Museum District. “Sure the neighborhood’s changed some, but what’s really become unrecognizable is its boundaries — they just keep growing. Is a house near Shepherd and Westheimer in the Museum District? A realtor might say yes. Is one at 288 and Binz? Sure thing! Sunset and Greenbriar? Yep! How about Richmond and Main? Close enough! The only thing that doesn’t matter is whether any museum is nearby.”


Memorial Hermann Tower, Memorial City, Houston

4. Memorial City and CityCentre. “All those new buildings didn’t pop up overnight, but this area now looks completely different from the way it did before 2008. First up by the Memorial City Mall was the big new Voltron-like hospital building, then the hotel next door (and the pedestrian footbridge over Gessner connecting the hospital and hotel with the mall). Then on the east side of Memorial City, 3 new office towers and a large condominium (and don’t forget the woodsy parking garages). In 5 years, they have drastically changed the landscape there. Back then, the area by CityCentre felt more like a single-family zone. Now it feels like Uptown West.


Greenway Plaza, Houston

5. Greenway Plaza. “It’s as if Greenway Plaza has already disappeared. When Costco was built, it was vetted as the ‘Galleria’ location, despite being within rock-throwing distance from Greenway. Whenever I use the term Greenway Plaza these days, people give me a confused look, then ask, ‘Isn’t that up by the airport?’ (confusing it with Greenspoint). For the record: There was a time when the area around Weslayan/Buffalo Speedway and 59 was ubiquitously known as Greenway Plaza.”


1261 Du Barry Ln., Oak Forest, Houston

6. Oak Forest. “It’s the West U of the twenty-teens around here. Once filled with 1960s ranchers sitting in the middle of large yards with lots of mature trees, now it’s the spot to go build McMansions that fill the lot. Already, many streets are unrecognizable from a couple years ago. At the current pace of demo work, there will be very few original homes left in 5 years, and the ‘forest’ part of the neighborhood’s name will be reduced to a marketing moniker. The change has definitely picked up speed this year; Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Reports reflect a lot of what’s been happening recently in Oak Forest.”


5611 Cohn Meadow, Cottage Grove, Houston

7. Cottage Grove. “Back in the early 2000s, Cottage Grove was all old single family homes and industrial. Now, the older homes are nothing more than holdouts and many streets are filled with townhomes standing shoulder-to-shoulder from one end of the block to the other. And there are more and more townhomes on the way. If you toggle back and forth between 2002 and 2012 on Google Earth, you won’t believe the pace and scope of the transformation.”


1432 21st St. Unit F, Shady Acres, Houston

8. Shady Acres. “I live here and if I haven’t walked down a particular street in some time, I am often amazed at what’s happened in the meantime. We have attended Live Oak Friends Meeting since 2004 and most of the shade is now from 3-to-4-story townhomes crammed 4+ on a lot where a single family home once stood. Tall townhomes are multiplying like gremlins in a waterpark. Sidewalks appear (and then suddenly end). There are a couple of ‘Hill Country’ suburban-style homes of what must be 3,000-plus sq. ft. There’s a trendy new restaurant now where an abandoned grocery store once sat for years. On the other hand, the gulley must be more polluted and trashed-out than ever.”


5017 Gibson St., Rice Military, Houston

9. Rice Military. “It’s funny listening to residents complain about not having on-street parking so that people can visit their own street-facing, full-width curb-cut townhouse — since everyone else’s townhouse has rendered the streetscape an unbroken string of . . . broken-ness. The upside: there are so many driveways over the old ditches that they are now almost all effectively covered over!”


There you have it! Now let’s see those votes!

Photos: Candace Garcia (Montrose sign); H-Town-West Photo Blog (BP Westlake Campus); HAR (2246 Quenby St., 1261 Du Barry Ln., 5611 Cohn Meadow, 1432 21st St. Unit F, and 5017 Gibson St., all for sale); elnina (Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center); Bill Barfield (Greenway Plaza)

The 2013 Swampies

33 Comment

  • Shady Acres – No one knows anything about that area and never goes over there.

  • Cottage grove

  • Cottage Grove

    And for the record, it’s unfortunate everything east of I45 IS so recognizable. Uniformly identical townhouses and retail can be better than identical vacant lots and abandoned houses. Which is what much of the area west of I45 would look like if not for the new boom. Change can be good.

  • Oak Forest, hands down. All of the other places are immediately more recognizable by their landmarks or the peculiarities of infrastructure. There are so few landmarks that its even sometimes difficult to figure out which street you’re on if you’ve made a wrong turn.

  • I’d say Oak Forest as the only thing that remains there from the original 50s sitcom setting is the name, and even that’s in danger of losing out to GOOF (or Faux Forest).

  • No brainer- #9- Rice Military is gone.

  • Shady Acres. You know you’re in Cottage Grove when the trains roll through. It also seems to me that Montrose has been slowly evolving for at least a decade or two. Seems like the other neighborhoods are transforming a lot faster.

  • 7-Cottage Grove, but honestly it is an improvement

  • I’ll vote for #4 since that’s my neighborhood

  • All of the above. So many of Houston’s neighborhoods and retail districts were built in boom and bust cycles that the City has basically become a real estate compost heap. Shiny new houses and retail are slapped down to meet the needs of the most recent oil boom and quickly fall apart when left to rot after the bust sends everyone fleeing. But then the next boom takes root in the rich composted soil of cheap forgotten real estate and it all begins again.

  • Rice Military. I get lost one street from the next and get claustrophobic in that neighborhood.

  • #3 – Museum District

    Since it’s further away from the oil money this neighborhood didn’t really start knocking em down left or right until after the likes of shady acres and cottage grove were well on their way to becoming entirely new income brackets. Much more change to come, but I think it’s the best choice for 2013.

    Energy corridor/citycentre area could change a thousand times over and still look like the exact same pit of misery. that place will always look the same no matter how many office buildings and retail strips they can build, but then again i avoid the lexus lanes so maybe i’m looking at different details than some of the others.

  • # 6, Oak Forest, the change is fast and furious.
    If the timeline were spelled out, as in over 5 or 10 years, I might have voted for one of the “transitional” neighborhoods like Cottage Grove, Rice Military, or Shady Acres. The funny thing about all 3 of those is how they were originally built out by and for working class people with no political power and had the infrastructure to match. Today the median lot value/income level has completely changed, yet they are still stuck with the same sh***y infrastructure they’ve enjoyed for the last 50 years.

  • The ‘podunky little airport’ off of Kirkwood was turned into Royal Oaks CC.

  • Energy Corridor

  • #6 – Oak Forest – It stands to reason that of each of the nominations Oak Forest has had the most drastic change in the past year. C/p-ed from my original nomination….I purchased my home in 2011 and after no new construction in my section in 1.5 years, in the past six months at least six homes have been demo-ed in the near vicinity to me. When I protested my property taxes, two of the homes they compared mine to are empty lots waiting for construction. And it’s not just the demo of homes, old businesses are being razed for new projects (see the old Mobil station-to-Berry Hill) and 610/290 construction is reshaping how folks get to/from the ‘hood. I can see the argument for many of the other nominations, but I think their unrecognizable-ness is not unique to 2013.

  • @Rex – thanks for mentioning that! The next time I go there to see my dentist, I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for it. I am so disoriented each time I go see him since new things are being built when I go quarterly to see my dentist. My dad used to love going there and taking my baby brother out to see the planes. Super nostalgic.

    I vote Energy Corridor. A bit surprised at the votes for Shady Acres, though. Mom has lived there for over two years now, and it still looks the same to me (just with more townhouses being put up). I guess new category, so we’re starting from scratch vs. 2012?


  • ditto, JR – Cottage Grove. Since the entire neighborhood has been redeveloped in less than 10 years, one can see that everything was built under the same version of Chapter 42.

  • My pick is Garden Villas just might be the best kept secret neighborhood in Houston lots are a min of 20ksqft and you can get a decent home and big lot for under $250k

  • Oak Forest! I grew up there and my Mom still lives in the same house. My sister managed to buy a house a few doors down before the McMansion influx. Now they’re both flanked by them with more and more going up on the block. It makes me so sad to see all the trees gone!!!

  • I’m going to go for Memorial City–so much happened there between 2008 and 2011. Montrose an extremely close runnerup.

  • Oak Forest definitely. Do this experiment. Exit Ella from 610, make a right on any street between 34th and 43rd (Wakefield, Chippendale, Lamonte, Althea), repeat two months later and you won’t recognize it from the last time. The neighborhood has not only changed on the surface, it has also changed within. In the last 4 years OF has become a more vibrant, engaged and activist community. Problems and angst are openly discussed, debated and resolved, neighbors pro-actively help each other, and diversity is embraced and welcome. On a quick walk around the neighborhood you may meet a gay couple, an original owner, young professional and blue collar families, a flasher on TC Jester park, and some dude named Harry painting curbs.

  • 6. Oak Forest

  • Shady Acres, but it wasn’t recognizable even before the icy grip of gentrification took hold of it.

  • Oak Forest


  • Cottage Grove.

  • Again, Oak Forest. It looks nothing like its original incantation (but what does, these days?) and the old timers howl every time a new, sturdier structure replaces the sad victim of deferred maintenance.

  • #8 shady acres. I drive through saying where am I?