01/20/15 2:30pm

YOU’RE NOT FROM TEXAS, BUT TEXAS WANTS YOUR MONEY ANYWAY 11711 Cedar Point Ct., Lakewood Forest, HoustonWondering why a bunch of out-of-towners are afoot hunting down $214,000 homes (such as the Lakewood Forest number pictured here) to buy as investments in Houston — just as locals start to feel a bit jittery about the possibility of coming oil-price-drop aftershocks? The sudden outsider enthusiasm may stem in part from a roundup of “Best Buy Cities” published last month by Forbes, which purports to tell folks with extra cash on their hands Where To Invest In Housing In 2015. Number 3 on the list, which magazine writers in concert with a firm called Local Market Monitor came up with after exploring data on job opportunities and population increases — is Houston. But all 5 major Texas cities make it to the Top Ten. What, oil prices are falling? That just means you shouldn’t buy a home in Midland, declares the quoted expert, whose first name and credentials the article doesn’t bother to identify. (It’s Ingo Winzer, Local Market Monitor’s founder, who lives in North Carolina.) The list is revised annually, though between those efforts Forbes is generally busy producing a steady stream of clickbait ranking cities on various other criteria. [Forbes] Photo of 11711 Cedar Point Ct.: HAR

01/20/15 12:30pm

Future Equilibrium Social House, 1030 Heights Blvd., Houston Heights

The latest in a stream of coffee shops to grace the bungalow at 1030 Heights Blvd. will open next month, the owner of the new establishment reports. Equilibrium Social House will serve coffee, teas, and baked goods in a building that’s been repainted (see above) since the departure of Boulevard Coffee. Inside, there’s a new counter and serving area and new furniture. New sliding doors will allow some interior spaces to be closed off for private meetings. The EQ patio will be open to both humans and dogs.

Photo: Equilibrium Social House

Three for Coffee
01/20/15 11:45am


The Midtown joint long considered to be Houston’s oldest bar — except for that period 5 years ago when it closed for renovations —- closed down for good last night. This morning workers were removing furnishings from the building at 1006 McGowen St. and dismantling the front deck. Leon’s Lounge owner Pete Mitchell, who bought the establishment from the daughter of Leon Yarborough (he had bought it, as La Bomba, in 1947), had been arguing with his landlord about the building’s condition: “The sewer line, which Mitchell said he thought it would take ‘massive’ repairs to fix, was a principal sticking point,” he tells reporter Chris Gray.


Last Night at Leon’s
01/20/15 8:30am


Photo of the Menil Collection: Bill Barfield via Swamplot Flickr Pool

01/19/15 12:30pm

Broken Obelisk by Barnett Newman, Rothko Chapel, Menil Collection, Houston

Today being Martin Luther King Jr. Day and all, Swamplot is taking a breather, along with some but not all of you. Check back with us tomorrow and most days thereafter for continuing coverage of Houston real estate goings-on.

Photo of Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk and Rothko Chapel: Ed Uthman [license]

MLK Day Off
01/19/15 11:15am

NEW ALEXAN BLAIRE HOUSE WILL EAT BLAIR HOUSE APARTMENTS ON BELLAIRE BLVD. Blair House Apartments, 4139 Bellaire Blvd., Southside Place, TexasEven though the location isn’t specified, there’s enough detail in a press release put out by Bluerock Residential Growth REIT last week announcing its joint venture with Trammell Crow Residential to build a 269-unit apartment complex “2 miles from the Texas Medical Center” to identify where the new construction will take place. And to know that if it goes forward, it will spell doom for the Blair House Apartments, next door to the Palace Bowling Lanes, at 4139 Bellaire Blvd. in Southside Place. The biggest giveaway: The new project’s name, Alexan Blaire House, which combines Trammell Crow’s multifamily brand with a can’t-quit-it developer addiction to adding a trailing ‘E’ wherever it might stick. Plus, both Blair(e) houses sit on 4.16 acre sites. The existing 12-building complex of 2-story structures was built in 1963. [Bluerock Residential, via Houston Business Journal] Photo: Apartment Science

01/19/15 8:30am


Photo of Rice University: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

01/16/15 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE PROBLEMS SPRAWL SOLVES Some Tubes or Something“. . . the concern about cities expanding out into the suburbs is about worker mobility and our ability to fund adequate infrastructure. That’s great if the woodlands, katy, and sugarland could become real functioning cities comparable to that of Houston. However, it’s unsustainable if you have poor transportation options affecting the supply of qualified labor and an undiversified industry base that leads to boom and bust cycles. We can barely afford Metro’s reach in central Houston and with more low-income workers being pushed further from the city’s core we will continue to lose workers from our supply of labor. I love Houston the way it’s always been though. having multiple office centers spread across town helps keep housing demand distributed across a wider area rather than turning the central part of town into an enclave for well paid dual income families only. Allowing land to continue being gobbled up further and further out allows for affordable housing for new residents increasing our supply of labor. Anything that helps cities expand, even if endless suburban sprawl, and make better use of their existing resources and infrastructure is a positive to me.” [joel, commenting on Comment of the Day: West Houston’s Plan for Suburban Domination] Illustration: Lulu

01/16/15 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES THE PRICE OF OIL MAKE TO HOUSTON REAL ESTATE? Drop of Oil“Let’s assume 100,000 people live and work in Houston and are employed, somehow, someway, by the energy industry. That’s a very high guesstimate, but let’s go with that. Now let’s assume one of four, or 25,000, are in danger of having their hours reduced or jobs eliminated. Again, a very high estimate. 25K folks in financial distress is less than one percent of the giant Houston SMA (5M or so). Even if you tripled the number to 75K folks living in Houston that are instantaneously released from their employment ’cause oil dropped to $25/barrel, that’s still less than 2% of the city’s population, and a blip on the ‘financial health of Houston’ radar. Home prices may dip a bit in Houston, but that may be more due to a massive number of shit houses being constructed and sold cheap than $1.95/gallon gas.” [c.l., commenting on Houston Housing Market Reaches All-Time Highs --- Before It Crashes, Dips a Little, Remains Steady, or Climbs Further] Illustration: Lulu

01/16/15 2:30pm



One of the lookalike garage-front homes on a redeveloped block in the western reaches of the Houston Heights took steps to distinguish itself in that brick-faced lineup by doubling up its corner holdings and putting in a pool — a really, really long one (top). At more than 75 ft., its footprint waters down most of the additional narrow side lot, which parallels 15th St. a block west of Durham St.  The wet-dry property (above) dove into the market last week floating a $529,900 price tag. The current owner picked it up new in 2006 for $312,000.


Lap It Up
01/16/15 11:00am

Proposed Hotel Alessandra, Dallas and Fannin Streets, GreenStreet, Downtown Houston

If the giant 25-story-tall question mark built into the profile of the Hotel Alessandra — the Modern tower pictured above, planned for a spot directly behind the XXI Forever store along Fannin — spurred any of you to wonder when or whether construction of the promised residential expansion of GreenStreet (formerly Houston Pavilions) might begin, here’s an answer: Next Monday, MLK Day, workers will begin blocking access to the urban mall’s center court at 1201 Fannin St. and other areas to begin demolition work. Their target: The much shorter structure that once housed the Houston Pavilions’ Yao’s restaurant, owned by family members of Houston Rockets star Yao Ming, which stands in the way.


Clearing Yao’s Away