The Best Sign of the New Houston: The Official 2014 Ballot

It’s a new era for Houston.

And with this year’s Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate, we aim to identify the Best Sign of the New Houston.

Based on your prescient nominations, we’ve compiled the official ballot. But what’s the most defining sign of where the Bayou City’s bound? You tell us!

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. That includes one minor tweak to this year’s awards — we’ll only be counting votes submitted via the first 2 methods from voters who’ve signed up for the Swamplot email list. (If you haven’t done so already, you can join it through this link or the box at the top left of this page.) Just don’t forget to tell us why the neighborhood you selected is getting your vote.

Now allow us to introduce the official nominees for the Best Sign of the New Houston:


Strip Center, 1901 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights

1. The Intersection of W. 19th St. and N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights. “Just a few years ago, this intersection had only empty strip centers, closed up tote-the-note car dealerships, and greasy independent auto repair shops. Soon, this area will have 4 new restaurants (Ka Sushi, Southern Goods, Bernadine’s, and Hunky Dory), and a donut shop from the Houston StrEATs guys. All in addition to Fat Cat Creamery, a new hair salon, a store for gamers, and one of those booze and paint a van Gogh places. Almost all of the redevelopment is from local folks doing new and interesting things in repurposed buildings and a new build that is actually keeping a mature tree on the lot. This area is taking off without the usual stripmallers (nail salon, Quiznos, cell phone store and dry cleaners), drugstores, and fast food chains that seem to always gobble up any available land with a high traffic count inside the loop. This is the ‘new Houston’ that all the magazines are writing about. Creative young entrepreneurs responding to the demands brought about by gentrification of Inner Loop neighborhoods and adding more and more value to the neighborhood.”


Tank Farm, LyondellBasell Houston Refinery, 317 North Allen-Genoa Rd., Meadowbrook, Houston

2. The Price of Oil. “The best sign of the new Houston is the same as the old Houston. The differences might be attributed to direction. What are the most defining characteristics of where Houston is heading? Fracking technology and $100+bbl oil, leading to a great influx of new, well-educated young people attracted to high-paying jobs in our energy industry, driving up demand for housing, restaurants, and bars, especially in Inner Loop neighborhoods. What’s the clearest sign of that direction? Price of oil drops 40 percent in 6 months, energy companies cut back on R&D spending in 2015, and no more young people from out of state moving into $2,000 a month ‘luxury’ apartments in the Inner Loop, or dropping $300 in a night on ‘bottle service‘ at trendy clubs.”


Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston


3. Buffalo Bayou Beautification. “Houston finally woke up and realized it had the makings of a lovely greenway where once only bats pooped and garbage collected.”

“For most of my 35 years here (‘old’ Houston), we’ve treated the stretch of Buffalo Bayou between downtown and Shepherd Dr. as a trash dump. I’m glad city planners have finally recognized this area as the urban jewel it is by adding pedestrian bridges, lighting, more public art, and better hiking and biking paths. Can’t wait to see the finished product!”

“Houston is becoming more walkable and bike-able by the minute with its newly restored parks that link our bayous and neighborhoods together. Places you could never walk before have been opened up by new bridges, new sidewalks and new bikeways, something that truly makes Houston more livable.


Opening of Reliant Energy Solar Splash Park, 3711 Lyons Ave., Fifth Ward, Houston

4. No Murders in the Fifth Ward. “Earlier this year it was reported that no murders took place in the Fifth Ward during 2013. None! Which was 4 less than the Heights and 5 less than Montrose and Midtown. It appears that the no-offing streak was broken over this past summer, but the statistics show a lot of changes have been going on in this close-in neighborhood.”


we heart houston at i-10 and patterson

5. We Heart Houston Sign, I-10 feeder road near Patterson St., Old West End. “The best sign of the New Houston is literally a sign. More specifically, it’s that huge ‘We Heart Houston’ sign sculptor David Adickes put up on his property by the side of the Katy Fwy. inbound near Rice Military. I actually saw someone being photographed in front of it last week. That sign confirms that for the first time ever, people are actually proud to be from here or to claim it as home — and that we’re ready to go public with it in a big way.”


Cranes at Sunrise, Houston

6. The Construction Crane. “They’re visible everywhere. Currently out of my office window by Discovery Green I bear witness to 9 whole city blocks under construction. Add in the ones in the Energy Corridor, at the new ExxonMobil campus, along I-10, in the Galleria, in various Inner Loop spots and wherever else they have sprouted up and you certainly see signs of the ‘new’ Houston. Or the ‘old’ Houston getting a facelift. You choose.”


Proposed Pierce Sky Park Bayou Overpass, Houston

houston needs a swimming hole

7. Big Urban Proposals. “Various people in the community are coming up with big ideas to create large-scale public spaces in this city, and they’re bringing them to public attention. The Houston Needs a Swimming Hole campaign has almost reached its Kickstarter goal in just 2 weeks and the Pierce Skypark team is making its way around town to drum up support for its plan to turn Pierce Elevated into a park in the sky. Instead of waiting for the wheels of City Hall to churn up an idea and funding, people are showing confidence that there are enough like-minded individuals to create momentum for multi-acre greenspace projects inside Loop 610.”


Ghost Bike Memorial for Chelsea Norman, W. Gray St. at Waugh Dr., North Montrose, Houston

8. Ghost Bikes. “Our attitude toward bicyclists seems to be shifting, which I wouldn’t have predicted 10 years ago. Sure, Houston drivers are still often rude and often act recklessly around bikes, but maybe their more murderous sentiments aren’t as warmly received.”


New High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Caroline St. and Rusk St., Downtown, Houston

9. HISD School Construction and Consolidation. “The new Houston may be pretty close to the old Houston. But if there’s an inflection point in any particular long-term trend, it might have to do with HISD schools. The bond money is getting spent, closures and consolidations are under way along with a fair bit of new construction, and demographically there are some pockets of notable improvement.”


So which is it? Time to sign in with your comments! Let’s see those votes!

Photos: Re:Vive Development (1901 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights); Russell Hancock (tank farm at LyondellBasell Houston Refinery); Marc Longoria (Buffalo Bayou Park); Reliant Energy (Opening of Reliant Energy Solar Splash Park, 3711 Lyons Ave., Fifth Ward); elnina (Houston sign); Russell Hancock (cranes); Pierce Skypark; Houston Needs a Swimming Hole; Dave Einsel/Houston Independent School District (New High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Caroline St. and Rusk St., Downtown); Dane Schiller (ghost bike for Chelsea Norman, W. Gray St. at Waugh Dr., North Montrose)

The 2014 Swampies

40 Comment

  • #3!!! The bayou-tification is the best sign of Houston’s future. A first class city deserves a first class park! Huzzah!

  • I’ll vote for #8. I nominated it.
    Then I’ll vent about number one (“The Intersection of W. 19th St. and N. Shepherd Dr.”). There seem to be a lot of commenters here that want every strip center to be filled with sweets. Maybe not literal sweets (but maybe), but at least figurative sweets. Instead of nail salons, Quiznos, mattress and cell phone stores, they want something more exotic and fun. That’s understandable, but probably not realistic. Apparently the world needs a mess of nail salons and mattress stores. You can’t just get rid of them and build an economy on fun.

  • #3 is my vote! The Bayou City is finally making our Bayous the asset they ought to be.

  • This is truly a delightful list. How about the whole list as the “best sign of the new Houston”? No?, Okay, I’ll go back and think about it some more.

  • #3 Buffalo Bayou Beautification. A fitting way to launch the “new Houston” is to sufficiently respect the city’s original lifeline.

  • #3 for sure. The Bayou park(s) will be a treasure for a long time.

  • Definitely #3. Buffalo Bayou Park is looking great these days.

  • #4 – Wasnt the Bayou voted last year anyways…. 5th ward not having a murder has taken close to 50 years to accomplish. There were two this year so far but that is still damn impressive. #keep5alive

  • #8 Ghost bikes. Seriously.
    #4 for 5th Ward was a good one, though.

  • #3. Lots of kinds of this beautification in many different places.

  • #3. A good number of these are boom/bust things, but bike paths along bayous…that’s for the long term, a universal positive, and a big improvement from before.

  • 6. The Construction Crane. I see these everywhere I go around Houston. There’s a sea of cranes at the Exxon mega-campus. There’s a plethora of cranes out on the Energy Corridor. There’s a handful of cranes downtown. There’s cranes in the Galleria. There’s even cranes down on 288 South in Pearland. In addition to buildings under construction, there’s a slew of cranes used on the Grand Parkway project and the 290 widening- project.

    Has there ever been a time with more cranes in Houston?

  • #3 by a landslide. What an incredible change, and how long overdue. The work they are doing is very, very impressive, I suggest everyone go take a walk on Allen Pkwy if they haven’t lately.

  • This one’s easy: #3

  • #3 please. It is more than just another park in my view. It makes use of the historically significant waterway that spawned the city, it makes excellent use of the space under the freeways, and it starts in downtown.

  • I vote for #6. The Construction Crane.

    Houston continues to be on the up and up! With so many projects starting off, midway or wrapping up, these things are popping up everywhere! It seems like for every crane that comes down at a completed job, two appear in its place elsewhere in town!
    I think it shows Houston is progressing forward in development and “densification” at a rapid pace. Houston has many good opportunities for improvement that other large cities have failed to engrain. There are relatively plentiful amounts of vacant or abandoned inner city properties for a city this size. I look forward to seeing more of this continuing to be filled by development and neighborhoods gentrified.
    If Houston can truly develop a balance between lower, mid range and high priced living in the loop (or entire city, for that matter) while improving upon all of these areas in positive ways – whether it be infrastructure, housing, recreational space, etc. – that could truly set us apart from some of the most renowned cities in the U.S. Many of these cities have also experienced major periods of development and growth somewhat similar to Houston, but have priced far too many out of the inner city.

  • #3 by far

    #5 is a hazard, with the number of people walking out into the feeder to take pictures…

  • For a retrospective of 2014, it’s got to be #6 the construction crane. For December-to-December 2014 to 2015, it’ll certainly be #2, falling oil prices and all of the fallout that results from them.

  • #4, definitely. Changes in the rich side of town are neat, but sort of expected. Real change happens in the worst parts of town.

  • @MrErection – Well Said!

  • #4. Excited that this was nominated.

  • Seriously, #1? “This area is taking off without the usual stripmallers” I’ll admit, it sounds like an interesting strip mall,, but let’s posit there are nail salons and Quiznos aplenty within a mile of this place, in brand new digs, near, say, WALMART…

  • #6! Everything is under construction and the cranes create their own skyline

  • Big urban proposals are definitely a sign of the new Houston. Think about it. Instead of going to the city or the county, these folks are pitching their ideas to the pubkic amd actually getting funding. Imagine the process this would take if they’d gone through more bureaucratic channels.
    I’m happy to see that Houston’s innovative spirit is alive and well today. A repurposed freeway ramp and a giant swimming hole may not be a domed stadium, but it’s a start. I hope to see more projects like this in the future that embody that can-do attitude Houston is known for.
    If big urban proposals like these take hold, it could mean a lot for Houston’s future. Just think how it could shape the landscape of the city. If we can turn railroad tracks into hike and bike trails instead of freeways, anything is possible.
    Ghost bikes would be my second choice. It’s a sign that Houston’s car culture is slowly shifting. Hopefully I’ll see less of these in the future.

  • I’ve been quoted by Swamplot – golly! #3 for the win!

  • #3, Bayou Beautification, though I think it goes hand in hand with #7, Big urban proposals.

  • #3!!! Without a doubt!!


  • Why isn’t the parklet on here?!

    I guess I’ll just have to vote for #7

  • 3, Buffalo Bayou.

  • #3 Buffalo Bayou Beautification — It’s an honest-to-goodness urban public amenity in a town that doesn’t take kindly to such nonsense. Plus, there’s the alliteration.

  • An easy one: 3. Buffalo Bayou Beautification

  • Construction Cranes – it’s amazing to see the progress

  • #3 obviously, but this goes for the entire bayou system. As a native Houstonian, we have always been missing world class outdoor spaces, not anymore.