The Ground-Floor Retail Award: The Official 2013 Ballot

Here are the official nominees for another signature category in the Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate this year: the Ground-Floor Retail Award.

The award is meant to celebrate — well, whatever you think it should celebrate: all manners of ground-floor retail, from surprisingly thriving retail centers to valiant attempts to plain ol’ missed opportunities. The nominees have been selected from reader contributions.

Which of them deserves to get the award? You tell us! You can vote by leaving a comment below or through email, Facebook, or Twitter. You can use all four methods (once each) to vote — but that’s the limit. And don’t forget to tell us why your pick should win.

The nominees for the 2013 Ground-Floor Retail Award are:


Centre at River Oaks, West Alabama at Kirby, Upper Kirby, Houston

1. Centre at River Oaks, West Alabama at Kirby, Upper Kirby. “When Borders closed down last year, its 2-story space in this shopping center got split up. Now there’s an Ulta Beauty located below a new Texas Children’s Hospital and Pediatric Associates clinic. Somehow I doubt that women are popping into the store for a little makeover while they wait for their kids’ radiology scans to come back. It’s a strange combination. Yet somehow it seems to be thriving.”


Phoenicia Specialty Foods Downtown Market, 1001 Austin St., Downtown Houston

2. Phoenicia Specialty Foods, 1001 Austin St. in One Park Place behind Discovery Green, Downtown. “For doing what no grocer or other retailer has been able to successfully do downtown. That place is always packed.”


Proposed Alexan Heights Apartments, Yale St. Between 6th and 7th, Houston Heights

3. Alexan Heights, Yale St. Between 5th and 7th, Houston Heights. “I would wag my finger at Trammell Crow for blowing off ground-floor retail in its new Yale Street development. While the folks at Dry Creek and Revival Market are probably happy to have 700-plus new residents across the street, the retail potential was excellent at this spot. It is right on the hike-and-bike path and 2 blocks from a popular park for the kids and the running trail on Heights Blvd. There is already retail development to the north (art gallery, furniture store, etc.) and there will probably be some retail development just to the south someday. A good restaurant or 2 would have printed money at this location. Instead, there will be an exercise room and some lame coffee bar/lounge that no one will use. Not to mention a giant over-the-top leasing office.”


Drawing of SkyHouse, 1625 Main St. at Leeland, Downtown Houston

4. Skyhouse Houston, Main Street at Leeland, Downtown. “Atlanta’s Novare Group appears to be going ahead with its out-of-the-ordinary (for Houston, at least) plan to put actual ground-floor lease spaces in both its recently topped-out apartment tower as well as the adjacent parking garage. There’s nothing to see yet, but the drawings make it look kinda quaint, don’t they?”


300 Block of Main St., Downtown Houston

5. Main St. between Congress and Prairie, Downtown. “I would give a big thumbs up for the revival of ground-floor retail here. There’s Goro and Gun, the Pastry War, Clutch City Squire, Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge, and Little Dipper; the OKRA Charity Saloon, Batanga, and others are nearby, and there’s plenty more on the way. All are fresh, new and interesting places to eat and drink in a strip of downtown that has seen many failures and long-term vacancies over the years. This time really feels different as the block is reaching a critical mass in terms of occupancy — without getting all Washington Ave stupid.


Coppa Patio, Hanover Rice Village Apartments, Dunstan and Morningside, Rice Village, Houston

6. Hanover Rice Village, 2455 Dunstan St., Rice Village. “This brand-new apartment block that rose from the ashes of Randall Davis’s Sonoma flop is lined with restaurants along Morningside and Kelvin. When everything’s open, you’ll have a Zoës KitchenCoppa Osteria, Fellini Cafe, Cloud 10 CreameryCyclone Anaya’s and Punk’s Simple Southern Food. Plus there’s a boutique called Saint Cloud and the Hand and Stone spa. The real innovation isn’t putting retail in Rice Village. It’s adding the apartments above. This sets a model for the redevelopment of the entire district — though it doesn’t look like even Hanover will follow it.”


Which one of these nominees are you buying? Add your vote now!

Photos: The Ainbinder Company (Centre at River Oaks); H-Town in Pics (Phoenicia, Main St.) Trammell Crow Residential (Alexan Heights); Wulfe & Co. (Skyhouse Houston); Allyn West (Hanover Rice Village)

The 2013 Swampies

53 Comment

  • #2 Pheoncia. How you not love it. And it’s downtown.

  • #6, Hanover. Great example of what GFR can do to the development and the urban fabric.

  • 2. Phoenicia Specialty Foods

  • I love Phoenicia, but I don’t see this as something exclusive or new to 2013. Phoenicia was just as busy now as it was in years past. Therefore, my vote goes for #5, Main Street b/w Congress and Prairie. With a slew of businesses opening this year in 2013, this area has never seemed more prosperous or vibrant. Repurposed buildings give this part of town some wonderful character (yes, I used the c-word!), and it’s wonderful to see that Downtown is becoming a place where people can hang out and spend time, post-business work day. I’m seriously jealous of all the cool stuff happening on the other side of Downtown within reasonable lunch/happy hour-walking distance compared to the BORING southwest side (near Pease and I-45).

  • #5 should win this category. You have true ground floor retail supporting a budding 24/7 neighborhood (although with a long way ahead of it). The proprietors are all local, with strong interest in investing long term. The level of access to multi-modal transit is unparalleled for Houston. And the spaces are all quality reuses of some of the few historic buildings in town.

    #6 is a close second, but the selection seems more like a mixed bag of investors tyring to make a quick buck and small businesses with a local focus

    The rest show the ridiculous state of GFR in Houston
    #1 is a strip mall
    #2 is nice, but has pretty poor street presence compared to the opportunity of being in a CBD
    #3 doesn’t even have retail
    #4 maybe I’ll vote for when it exists (alongside the Ashby Highrise)

  • #2. Phoenicia

  • 6 is the easy winner. The village is currently the only walkable area in Houston (midtown is almost there). Phoenicia has been open for years. That’s like nominating post midtown.

  • #2. PHOENICIA SPECIALTY FOODS, because even though it is not new to 2013, this category IS new to 2013, AND #5 has had retail since the 1800s and the buildings were not repurposed, just new businesses replacing failed businesses that replaced the failed businesses after the Super Bowl. Phoenicia took a suburban concept and despite a poor street presence in a new building downtown, has succeeded for multiple years. Also Phoenicia has easy parking that is free :)

  • Hanover Rice Village!

  • Phoenicia cause it is the only one i’ve actually been to.

  • I’ve been a regular at a #5 bar for years now, and I won’t vote for it because seeing yuppies and hobos sharing sidewalk Downtown weirds me out too much. I’ll go with #6; if I had limitless funds with which to buy in a walkable Houston neighborhood, I would buy near the Rice Village.

  • #2 Phoenicia

  • #6 Hanover….opened this year, and shows that mixed use can actually be operated in Houston, just like in other cities all over the world.

  • #5 FTW. Love the scene going on downtown.

  • #2 phoenicia. the reason people care about ground floor retail is that it makes a neighborhood a place where you can live without getting into your car and driving to the mall or a strip center, and unlike a bar or a restaurant, phoenicia is a full on grocery-store that serves an actual need that people who live in the area would have. when you go to a real city – new york, san francisco, or even where i used to live in albany ny and in new jersey – it was these types of places that made an area truly livable without needing your car for everything.

  • #5 echoing paulbtucker

  • #2 Pheonicia -this is the start of a downtown residential neighborhood outside of the historic district (#5).

  • I will go with no. 6. Those of us who have been crying for ground floor retail have been shaking our heads at all the retail-free Houston wrap apartments going up on major thoroughfares and in and around other retail centers. The developers always claim that they do not do ground floor retail in these buildings because ground floor retail only works where retail would work standing on its own. But, retail works best on major thoroughfares and next to other big retail centers. So, we have all been shaking our heads and wondering “when will dummy learn”. Hanover Rice Village is the moment dummy finally learned. After this development, people are going to have to explain to investors why they aren’t planning ground floor retail instead of the reverse.

  • #2. Phoenicia. Yum!

  • @Spencer – Just to clarify, I was referring to the fact that the buildings weren’t demoed and new monstrosities were put up for “new businesses.”

  • I’ll go with the Skyhouse plans. That lower downtown area has been a dead zone forever so it’ll be nice to see some life around there.

  • 5. But if they all close in 2 years, switch my vote to Phonecia.


  • #5. I love #2 as well, but #5 wins.

  • #6 Hanover Rice Village — because it truly represents 2013 and hopefully the future.

  • #2 – wish there were more of these around town

  • My vote goes to #5. However, Hanover could end up winning this thing because of a downtown split ballot between Main St., Phoenicia and SkyHouse. It’s a testament to downtown’s ground floor retail that it has three of the six options but I’ll still be disappointed if a downtown space doesn’t win.

  • I vote for #6 as well. Rice village is the epitomy of ground floor retail in the Houston area.

  • #5 – for the sole reason that when i go there and ask “whats your special?” I dont get a typical response about $1 off miller light. Interesting drinks and a flavour of Houston I dont see anywhere else. Keep this going!

  • #5 main st. For giving the drinking crowd many fun options along the rail and near many taxis.

  • #5, downtown because I spent over half my working life in the area. I used to love walking down Main, looking at the buildings (across the street, from which ever side I was on) and thinking back to how times must have been when they were built.

    No A/C or heat, windows that actually opened and stairs. Some even had other businesses on the second floors. One I remember was Houston Costume Co. where some of my co-workers and I went on our lunch hour to rent costumes for a Halloween party. Imagine that, renting a costume. And they were very well made with ‘real’ fabric and fasteners. I rented Cleopatra.

    Houston Costuume Co. was eventually bought by Frankels.

  • #2 Phoenicia, partly on the strength of that great signage. It’s a tough decision though, #5 is very worthy too.

  • #5 This has actually made me want to hang out on Congress, and as a native Houstonian that is pretty astonishing.

    About #1, the owners of that property aren’t really thrilled with the nature of the tenants they have, but they are a lot better than the huge vacancies without them. While Ulta may be the best they can do, it sure isn’t the sort of tenant one built such a project for. With the death of Borders that development has a lot in common with a dead albatross.

  • #3- because Trammell Crow deserves shame and ridicule for dropping this monster in the Heights and then providing no benefit to the surrounding (already existing) community. Typical of an out of town developer that does not know or care about the community. We all deserve better than this.

  • #5 Main Street downtown

  • I love #2. Phoenicia , but have to vote for #6Hanover for their willingness to do something that is all too often ignored.


  • Main Street downtown.

  • Love #2, Phoenicia, but vote for #6, Hanover Rice village, since it sets an example of what can be done w/apartments and ground floor retail pretty much anywhere inside the loop.


  • Number five. That stretch of Main is incredible now.

  • #5 Main Street


  • #2 PHOENICIA. Those Hanover apartments in the Village are awful–too much cost cutting instead of quality construction.

  • I actually like West Ave. but since it isn’t listed I would have to say Main Street b/c of the potential to revive a part of downtown that’s struggled for sometime now.

  • 5. Hands down.

  • #2 Phoenicia

  • #5 not that I’ve been there