Surveying the Damage After an Overnight House Fire on E. 8th St. in the Heights

Fire Aftermath at 717 E. 8th St., Houston Heights

Builders of a home under construction in the 700 block of E. 8th St. in the Heights, near Antidote coffee house, are looking at the damage to the large structure after an apparent fire that took place a few hours ago. “We heard a fire truck, with sirens blaring, at 4:30 this morning,” reports a Swamplot tipster. The house, which is being constructed by Whitestone Builders, “dwarfs its bungalow neighbors and appears to fill the lot,” writes the tipster: “I have no idea how the fire started but it appeared to have been underneath the house with visible damage to the siding on both sides and on the porch.”


Fire Aftermath at 717 E. 8th St., Houston Heights

Photos: Swamplot inbox

Under Construction

43 Comment

  • Way too much house relative to the size of the lot. Green space-to-house ratio is way out of balance IMO. It’s builds like this one that are ruining what makes the Heights so great.

  • Is that a small apartment building ?

    Horrific. Shame on you, Whitestone.

  • @Craftsman – Right, let me buy a lot for $400K and build a cute bungalow around 1,400 sq ft on it for $200K more. Yup, seems to make perfect financial sense. I’m not a big fan of in-fills myself but given where the market is right now, I’m just happy that the developers didn’t sub-divide the lot and build two houses on it.

  • And it’s not even on the edge of a cliff. But it is far too large for the lot and the block.

  • I think Whitestone builds good houses but they take up every inch of the available lot and it doesn’t seem to matter how big the lot is. No sense of proportion. No sense of proper scale. Builders like that wouldn’t leave a single tree in the city. Near where I live, Whitestone cut down a dozen trees that HUGGED the lot line (they cut down every single tree on the lot but the ones on the lot line were hard to take).

  • Back to the drawing board Whitestone Builders!

  • The fire appears to have blown up the house like a balloon, for it is way out of scale for the neighborhood.

  • HeightsRealist- nobody told this developer to buy this lot. That is so tired, “oh, but the poor developer cannot make a big enough profit unless it builds big and fills the lot with cheaply made ugly construction”. Boohoo.

  • As the economy turns – wondering if these huge houses will someday be subdivided into apartments.

  • @HeightsRealist – You definitely have a point, but you can still build a home with a similar footprint as an original home, say ~1100 sqft (two story home would be roughly 2200) and make a profit. For example the the home below is currently for sale at $829k:

    I never made the statement that only 1400 sq ft homes work in the neighborhood. I’m just saying there are more responsible ways to develop a neighborhood than this.

    The home listed in this posting looks to be a 3500-4000 sq ft behemoth that eats ever (legal) bit of lot space it can in the name of maximizing profits, but to the detriment of the neighbors. The house would be much better served on a 10,000 sq ft lot.

    Neighborhoods like Norhill to the north have gotten it right with their deed restrictions. They limit the footprint of a home to 40% of the lot size to ensure a harmony between house size and green space.

  • Aren’t we talking about a fire here?

  • Kinda begs the question, accident or arson?

  • I’m very shocked and concerned over the comments made on this story. I can’t believe how insensitive some people can be. There were and still are people’s lives and property at risk and all you are concerned about is the size of their home. We should just be thankful that no one has been injured at this time and no other homes were effected by this unthinkable act. It was the people, not the bungalows that made the Heights great. Unfortunately, I am not seeing any sense of community in these posts that make me proud to be a part of this neighborhood. Shame on you for putting your materialistic ideals above your neighbor’s personal wellbeing.

  • While I like OTHER homes around me to have less house / more green space, obviously that’s not what BUYERS want. I’m sure if BUYERS preferred less house / more yard then that’s what builders would build. But people don’t want that, so why do you think builders would do that?
    Builders are building what buyers want to buy. It’s in their best interest and their customers best interest. People are not going to build properties to suite the desires of people who are not buying them.

  • Jesus that is tacky. 4k sq ft on that lot? Come on.

  • While the house is big for a relatively small lot, I agree that builders are only building what buyers want. While the old folks with no kids at home anymore may dream of the Heights as it used to be (or of the day when their property tax was not skyrocketing) – that is not the Heights anymore. Never will be again. Families are buying in the Heights now, and families want space inside, not outside. There are plenty of parks to play in the grass spotted all throughout the Heights.

    I sure wish the bungalow folks would just keep their opinions to themselves b/c everyone knows what they think….its pretty easy – No new construction that is bigger than mine or uses more green space than mine – b/c I am right, you are wrong, and I was here first, so I am more important, and I should be able to force my idea of desirable onto you in order to keep my taxes low.

  • When you have no real zoning, pathetically lax ordinances, a pro developer city government, what can you really expect?– The developer doesn’t care about The Heights nor what will happen to this house in 20 years, get real. He simple wants to maximize his profit, period. Honestly, I don’t think people are being insensitive in saying this house is wayyy to big for that lot and is completely overwhelming to the neighborhood. Look, nobody was hurt, this wasn’t the towering inferno, so chill out…. And no it’s the bungalows, deep history, great trees, and proximity to downtown that make the Heights, the “people” are secondary, believe me.

  • Considering the tone in these comments i would say there is a very good chance it was arson.

  • @mel – I never said poor developer, I am simply pointing out the economic factors that incentivizes builders to build lot lines to lot lines. New builds in the heights easily fetch $300/sf these days.

    A typical lot is 50 ft wide with 3 ft build line restrictions so for argument sake, let’s assume a two story 4,000 sq ft house is exactly 45 ft deep. Now let’s say that a developer decides to reduce the footprint by 3 additional ft on each side to placate Swamplotters, he will essentially leave $162K of revenue on the table (3 ft x 2 x 45 ft x 2 stories x $300) assuming buyers are willing to pay … which they are. ]

    From a cost standpoint, the additional 540 sq ft, as long as it isn’t the kitchen or bath, will only cost about $50/sf to build which amounts to $135K of profits at the end of the day. So talk is cheap – if you are the builder, would you pocket the $135K and give everyone the middle finger or would you play nice? Let’s be real now.

  • If I lived next door, I would try to burn it down too …. luckily I can say I don’t live next door.

  • i’m just glad none of you people are urban planners or we’d all be screwed. stick to your day jobs folks.

  • OMG! I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and thought my new a/c unit was on fire! I live two blocks from that house. I had my a/c guy out over this. So glad I found out what happened.

    P.S. They can’t split the lots over there, we have pvls ordinances in Studes 2nd. Now they just cover the entire lot with the house. I laugh when I hear them rolling their garbage cans down the alley, around the corner and up the block.

  • PS: Not saying I like this home, or that I’d want to live next to it, or that I’d want it.

    I have a 2000 SF house on a 9000 SF lot. And I have 2 stories. So only 1/9th of my lot is covered by house. Personally I wish the house was a bit bigger as I don’t need such large front/side/back yards but at the same time, I like that my daughter has room to play and swim in the back yard and run around in the front.

  • If you want to buy in a neighborhood where construction will be controlled to a certain scale and style then buy in the historic district. If you want more freedom to decide what style and size house you have then don’t. Can’t we all just get along?

  • @Cody – there are homes of all sizes selling w/ no issues from 1000 sq ft 2/1 all the way up to 5000 sq ft mansions. Builders are cramming as much house as possible to maximize their profits not because people don’t want a 2000 sq ft 3/2.

    @Concerned Heights Resident – calm down. The article has no mention of anyone injured and it’s fairly obvious from the pictures on the posting that the home is unfinished and the neighboring houses were unharmed. Don’t mistake the conversation going on a tangent b/c ppl don’t care about their neighbor’s well being. It’s just that people have used context clues and common sense to determine that noone was at harm.

  • Second tired refrain: “Builders only build what the market wants.” BS. First of all, the “market” is what wallstreet uses to justify greed (don’t blame us, it’s market driven!). The fact is that the “market” does not drive this sort of construction. No, developers/builders/flippers build the biggest and cheapest construction they can get away with, to maximize their profits at the expense of the neighbors and the market gets whittled down to who can afford what was already built. Give me a break. Nobody asked these spec home builders to, as many of our developer posters like to say, risk their own money by buying a small house on a small lot (i.e., affordable housing), level it and then build an out of scale/cheap construction house.

  • Third tired refrain – Large and/or new construction is cheap and shoddy whereas in the late 19th / early 20th century all homes were built with the utmost care and craftsmanship from only the finest materials.

    Also, why are you assuming that this is a spec home? A good number of the lots bought by developers sit empty now until they are sold precisely so that the buyer can determine what they want built. Could it be because it fits your narrative better?

  • “The fact is that the “market” does not drive this sort of construction. No, developers/builders/flippers build the biggest and cheapest construction they can get away with, to maximize their profits at the expense of the neighbors and the market gets whittled down to who can afford what was already built.” @mel – The market doesn’t drive this? I think you need to go back to Econ 101. As long as people are buying “the biggest and cheapest construction they can get away with”, the builders are going to continue to build “the biggest and cheapest construction they can get away with.” The buyers ARE the market – they control what the builders build. None of your other drivel matters for the sake of this conversation.

  • If any one sees a tear down or empty lot in Norhill or Proctor or in the Heights for 100k or less buy it now, or I will ! Location, buyers and sellers set the prices. Not that crazy about all the Apts, townhomes , sprouting up in the Heights, with the old narrow and dark streets, but the COH has its agenda and could care less. Possibly I may be priced out of my home due to annual property tax increase, that is scary.

  • @Shannon, I can’t believe it but, for once have have to agree with you. I know it’s Friday so I figured you are stoned out of your mind and actually making sense and don’t sound like your normally angry self. Bottoms up!

  • I moved into a Heights historic district within the past year. New construction, appr 3800 sqft and it takes up the vast majority of the lot. My wife and I chose this in order to have ample space inside for a growing family, and quite frankly to enjoy & entertain. That was our choice. Sure a bigger yard would be nice, but not at the expense of sacrificing what was more important to us (size & a short commute to have more time with our children before bedtime). To suggest that builders are the drivers behind the market of “over-sized” homes is an emotional statement that is baseless & categorically false. Also, may I ask the some members of the group how you define cheap construction? I could really use some help understanding the basis behind this commonly echoed sentiment. My wife or I stopped by our new home no less than 2x weekly during construction to monitor progress. Based on our observations I feel our home was very well constructed. Perhaps we have low standards or are simply ignorant. Speaking of “tired”, when did it become wrong for someone to maximize profits? I am self employed and guess what .. I try to get the most $ for my products & services that I can, while reducing waste and expenses where I can reasonably do so, b/c it is a FOR PROFIT business. If some want to call that greedy, I can live with that.

  • NO ZONING people! NO ZOOOONING… This is exactly why our City has these problems. At an event last week, even the new director of P&D Mr. Patrick Walsh stated that the ONLY way to avoid this is for property Owners to come together and write their own deed restrictions. Which make use of minimum lot size requirements, or approve/vote for zoning! We ALL know that’s not going to happen…

    If you need assistance, find me?

  • Tho I appreciate you agree with me, I don’t consider Swamplot a popularity contest. I try to give well thought out opinions and let the chips fall where they may–this isn’t Facebook, someone “liking” my comments isn’t really my concern. We are all entitled to our opinions and we can’t all be right all the time—not even….me

  • It appears that the Heights arsonist has never been caught.

  • Well said gentry T. I am self employed and rely heavily on being able to respond in person to customer concerns. I am married and have two kids. My wife and I both work. I was born in Houston and my Dad grew up on Waverly St. The new construction is better built. I’ve torn these walls open enough to know. It all boils down to class jealousy if you have enough time to waste on such a thing. If someone can provide a better life for their kids than my parents could then more power to them.

  • @ Mel, TexMex01, and WR: #highertaxesistherealissue … Complain all you want about very nice homes that are constructed with superior material than that of existing old small homes, and increasing the value of surrounding dirt. It won’t change anything. So please spare us from your uninformed comments.

  • People have the right to not want new constructions in their neighborhoods that cover the entire lot and are on top of the houses on either side. I’m sure this house has many more amenities and is much larger than the house it replaced, however then in and of itself do went make it a welcome addition to the neighborhood. I’ve always suspected that developers of these houses read and blog on Swamplot, reading many of these comments makes me feel my suspicions were correct.

  • Sad to see everyone blasting Whitestone. This isn’t a spec house. They are building what their customer wants.

  • I see what you did there, Whitestone =) The developer was just trying to give some “flair” to an otherwise bland, oversized cookie cutter styled house. Mission accomplished, Whitestone.

  • You people are sick. This is a custom home. A family has had their dream go up in smoke and you lot are celebrating. Anyone who says new construction in the Heights is “cheap” doesn’t know a damn thing. This house would have easily lasted for 200 years if a degenerate arsonist hadn’t set it on fire. What a bunch of arrogant, condescending pricks you all are.

  • If it wasn’t for the people living in the BUNGALOWS then the fire would have been much worse because they were the first ones to call 911, it was on the verge of extending into two other properties when the fire department arrived. Why would the older generation of the neighborhood cause harm to another home when it could potentially harm their own? Setting the son of a bitch on fire didn’t do much to prevent it from being built… only a delay. Yay! Yall love construction!! No one gains from this event, people are the most important aspect of a community
    -The a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
    -a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

  • I can’t believe my neighbors in the Heights are taking this opportunity to discuss their opinion on the house to lot size when the issue most disturbing is that someone seems to have intentionally set this home on fire. This was a custom home being built by a future neighbor (not a spec home). You may or may not like what is being built, but this was someone’s dream home that has been destroyed! And it is clear that those bashing Whitestone know NOTHING about them. As a past client, I know them and their product quite well. I have nothing but good things to say about them, their integrity and the quality home they build.

  • Doesn’t matter who the builder is. It’s too BIG for the lot.