12/12/14 12:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ENJOY THE RIDE Houston Driver“Houston: the wonder city that showed the country how laissez-faire economics, conservative values, and lax planning lead to growth and prosperity. It turns out Houston was just benefiting from another bubble and a siphoning of wealth from the rest of the country via higher gasoline prices. The shale boom was supposedly proof that peak oil was dead and we can keep building car-dependent cities. Houston was riding into the future in its new Mercedes. It turns out that shale was only accessible at prices too high to pay to maintain strong economies around the world. When consumers cut oil demand, the shale, deepwater, and tar sands dry up. We’re on the slope downward, folks. Oil prices will likely spike again when demand returns, Houston may boom temporarily, but consumers aren’t going to be able to pay for it forever. After the spike, demand slackens, prices drop, and expensive new oil projects are cancelled. Production drops, demand outstrips supply, and we hit another price spike. Over and over it goes until we one day wonder why we can’t afford to open the oil taps as wide as we could in the 2000-2010s. The thriving economies will be the ones that depend least on oil.” [Carpetbagger, commenting on Oil Price Plunge Leads to Stock Downgrade for New Greenway Plaza Owners] Illustration: Lulu

12/12/14 11:45am

3925 Del Monte Dr., Tall Timbers, River Oaks, Houston

3925 Del Monte Dr., Tall Timbers, River Oaks, Houston

3925 Del Monte Dr., Tall Timbers, River Oaks, HoustonBack in April, Swamplot asked whether, for $8.1 million, this 1941 River Oaks estate by architect Hiram Salisbury with a later addition by John Staub might be torn down to allow the construction of 2 newer mansions on the same property. Today, we have our answer: No. But for $7.2 million, the answer appears to have been yes — for the tearing-down part, at least. Yesterday, the city approved a demolition permit for the property, which changed hands in July.

Named a Texas Historic Landmark in 2001, the central part of the home was designed by Salisbury for attorney Thomas D. Anderson and his wife, Helen Sharp Anderson. In 1950, the Andersons had Staub design the home’s east wing. Mrs. Anderson died last year, 7 years after her husband. The listing, which featured carefully staged photos of the home’s well-tended grounds and interiors as well as its won’t-ward-off-bulldozers medal from the Texas Historical Commission, also noted that the River Oaks Property Owners association had already given approval for the 67,458-sq.-ft. lot to be subdivided.


Oligarchs in River Oaks
12/12/14 10:30am


Is there more change coming to lower Richmond?

The former Shell station and grocery at 1810 Richmond Ave known until recently (formally) known as Richwood Market and (informally) as “Freaky Foods” is boarded up and graffiti-tagged:


Death Knell For The Shell?
12/12/14 8:30am


Photo of 5311 Maple: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

12/11/14 5:00pm

Here they are, straight from your submissions: the official nominees in the first category of the seventh annual Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate. That, of course, is Favorite Houston Design Cliché. Thanks to all of you who contributed! These awards wouldn’t happen without you.

If you’ve voted in the Swampies before, please note we’re making a slight tweak to our voting rules this year. You can still vote up to 4 times in this category by 1) leaving a comment below this post; 2) sending us an email; or by expressing your preference on 3) Twitter or 4) Facebook. This year, however — to encourage signups — 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). Make sure your vote counts by reading and following our voting instructions.

Just as important as the votes you cast, though, are the explanations you provide with them. Tell us why you’re voting for who you’re voting for! What you write may sway other readers to vote as you did. And if your candidate wins or comes in second place, your clever comments might be included in our round-up post.

Here, then are the 2014 nominees for favorite Houston design cliché:


The 2014 Swampies
12/11/14 3:30pm


Here is the lot plan for University Grove, a 39-lot single-family development to go in at the corner of Leeland St. and Cullen Blvd., across the Gulf Freeway from UH, just across the street from Mandola’s Deli, right behind the Polk St. Kroger and hard by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railway line.

Landowner Leeland Baking Company, Inc. is listed as a subsidiary of Flowers Foods Inc., the Thomasville, GA-based mega-bakery behind such brands as Nature’s Own, Whitewheat, Wonder Bread, Cobblestone Mill, and Tastykake.


The Yeast End
12/11/14 1:30pm


“We went there the very last night they were open and ended up on the TV news,” remembers reader Laura Friedl Jones of the 24-hour Shipley Coffee Shop and Grill that stood for years at the corner of W. Gray St. and Dunlavy St., where the Office Max above squats today.

While you could pick up a dozen glazed there, the fare at this Shipley ranged far afield of the norm for the homegrown chain:


Memories Of Old West Gray
12/11/14 11:45am



Previously remodeled and recently tidied, a Norhill cottage is attempting a flip with a twist — and a big finish. Having last sold in mid-October, for $416,000 after a $369,900 listing, the 1928 property popped up again over the weekend with an asking price more than $200K higher: $640,000. Could the price escalation be an example of how frighteningly frothy the local housing market has become, a reader asks? See if you can spot the updates . . .


Pricing Structure
12/11/14 11:15am

This year’s Swampies are starting to take shape. Nominations closed at midnight last night for the first 2 of the 7 categories in this year’s Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate: Favorite Houston Design Cliché and Best Demolition. Later today, we’ll kick off the voting when we announce the official nominees for the first of those categories. Then, throughout the rest of this week and next, we’ll work our way through the remaining categories in order, announcing the official nominees and opening the voting for each.

But your chance to make nominations hasn’t ended entirely. For the categories that still have nominations open, we still need your help. Peruse the suggestions posted in the comments sections of the 5 remaining categories (all the categories are listed here). If you find anything missing, please add your nominations. If you think you can improve on any of the explanations already submitted, do that, too. If you see a nomination without any explanation at all, fix that and add a good one. Got photos of any of the nominees? Send them our way!

The deadline for nominations in the next 2 categoriesBest Body of Water and Best Mobile Food Vendor Location — is midnight tonight.

The 2014 Swampies
12/11/14 10:45am


An excavator yesterday was hard at work scraping the 3300 block of the west side of Kirby clean.

Bounded by West Main St. and Colquitt St. and Lake St. to the rear, this block was long the site of a Settegast-Kopf funeral home, but like that seemingly straitlaced great-aunt with the closet full of empty gin bottles, the staid mortuary and adjacent buildings descended into drink, spending their final years as taverns Roak, Hendricks Pub, and the OTC Patio Bar.

Here’s what the Kirby frontage looked like in both its sober and lush incarnations:


Cremation By Excavator
12/11/14 8:30am


Photo of Stude Park: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool