The “It’s Alive!” Award — The Official 2012 Ballot

And now we come to the zombie category of the Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate. Or, to be more precise, the “It’s Alive!” Award. What place, person, or effort deserves such an honor? One of the official nominees listed below. You tell us which, with your votes!

You’ve got 4 of them to spend in this category: You can cast one vote in a comment at the bottom of this post, another in an email to Swamplot, another from Twitter, and another by posting on the wall of Swamplot’s Facebook fan page. (All the rules for voting are spelled out here.) If you want to help your favorite candidate win, start a campaign! The voting ends for this and all categories of the 2012 Swampies at 5 pm on Wednesday, December 26th.

The official nominees for the 2012 “It’s Alive!” Award are . . .


1. 1624 Holman Apartments, 1624 and 1630 Holman St. and 3508 Mosley Ct., Midtown. “We thought for sure this place would be a goner. A few months ago new owners took over and it’s been completely different. We haven’t seen any of the drug dealers or prostitutes we’d see daily before. No more condom wrappers and needles in the street. My wife literally cried with joy at the improvements; we no longer feel we have to move. No, it’s not much different looking from the street, and there’s still plenty of work to do. In the common area of one of the buildings, most of the interior windows were boarded up; there was busted drywall and hand drawn ‘NO SLEEPING IN THE HALLWAY’ signs. But that’s all been fixed. It’s now clean and painted, with new hall windows and doors. This complex was for sure bound for the wrecking ball or at least to be boarded up. Now it’s becoming quite a nice place.”


2. The University Line. “Wasn’t 2012 the year everyone realized that the crosstown University Line is probably not going to get built anytime soon? To hear some hopeful Metro officials describe it, though, the light-rail line is simply in a zombie state. ‘We’ll figure out how to fund it after we pay off $400 million in debt with reduced revenue streams . . . But we promise: It’s alive!’”


3. I-45 Expansion. “After years of lying dormant, plans to widen the North Freeway from Beltway 8 to Downtown cropped up again this year. Will portions of Woodland Heights and other adjacent neighborhoods be gobbled up by the expansion? Or will the city, TxDOT engineers, and community groups put their heads together and develop a less aggressive solution?”


4. Repurposed Commercial Buildings in the Greater Heights Area. “Crisp did a great job turning an old convenience store into a restaurant and bar (before and after, above). The Heights Art Studios and Gallery just opened a second location in an old grocery store on Harvard and Aurora. Sonoma renovated an old storefront on Studewood. The Revival guys are doing the same to an old storefront on White Oak for Coltivare, a new Italian restaurant. The Liberty Kitchen guys are reviving an old burger shack on E. 11th St. for a fried chicken and donut venture. Killen and the Hubcap Grill folks plan on turning an old 19th St. auto repair shop into a casual steakhouse. The iconic Harold’s in the Heights men’s clothing store is being repurposed into a Torchy’s Tacos, plus maybe another restaurant and some other commercial space. Then there’s an old restaurant and club — the King Biscuit — that’s been revamped as the Avis Frank Gallery. Throughout this whole area, developers, restaurateurs, and property owners are resisting the typical urge to shove all new commercial activity into near-the-highway strip malls. Instead, they’re bringing older buildings back to life for a new generation of tenants.”


5. Lucky Burger, 1601 Richmond Ave., Montrose. “Don’t know how they stay in business, but they’ve been there for more than 30 years.”


6. AIG, America Tower, 2929 Allen Pkwy., North Montrose. “The AIG nameplate was secreted away from its perch high above the American General office complex (at top, above) sometime after the 2008 financial crisis and the resulting bailout and outcry that launched a thousand tea parties. But late this year, only weeks before the Treasury Dept. announced it had sold its last stake in the giant insurance company — realizing a net profit for the government of more than $22 billion — the AIG sign reappeared, as if nothing had happened.”


7. Penguin Arms Apartments, 2902 Revere St., Upper Kirby. “When it was put up for sale late last year, few figured Arthur Moss’s 1950 Googie icon would survive. Instead, the distinctive apartment building was snapped up by the owners of Kuhl-Linscomb, the home-goods store down the street. A full year later, they announced their plans: The building is to be renovated in all its Googie glory and connected to the growing home-shopping campus of Kuhl-Linscomb’s Upper Kirby empire. That’s a new life for a unique building — and a lot of people are happy about it.”


8. The Astrodome. “For an empty, moribund stadium, the Astrodome sure did work its way into public attention more than a few times this year. Photos published on Swamplot in March showing the decrepit state of the building’s innards sparked a couple of rounds of news coverage in local media. A few months later, a long-awaited report from some Dallas consultants revisited earlier suggestions that the unused Dome be turned into a vaguely defined ‘multipurpose facility.’ By late October, though, the Astrodome had been drafted to serve a new, important purpose: as a storage warehouse for rolls of neighboring Reliant Stadium’s new-generation AstroTurf.”


9. Crooms Cemetery, under Park Memorial Condominiums, 5292 Memorial Dr., Rice Military. “Long sorta-forgotten Crooms Cemetery attracted attention over the summer, after workers demolishing the beleaguered Park Memorial Condominium complex came across human bones buried on-site. Authorities first suspected that the skeletal remains might be long-ago-deposited leftovers from some seventies-era missing-person case. However, a medical examiner later determined that they came from a cemetery ‘nearby.’ Crooms Cemetery didn’t appear in the archeological report commissioned by JLB Partners, the company that’s planning to build a 372-unit multistory apartment building on the site. But 75 years after the last body was buried there, it’s finally making its presence known.”


Okay, now — it’s the end of the line! Which one of these nominees deserves to win? Vote now!

Images: Andrés Fernández‐Cueto (1624 Holman); Metro (University Line map); North Houston Highway Improvement Project (I-45); Candace Garcia and Crisp (2220 Bevis); Wolfgang Houston (Lucky Burger); Candace Garcia and Mary Ellen Arbuckle (America Tower); HAR (Penguin Arms); Russell Hancock (Astrodome); Matt Sampsell/News 92 FM (Crooms Cemetery)

44 Comment

  • Great googie moogie, #7 please

  • I have to vote for Holman (and if the neighbor that wrote those kind words could contact me that would be awesome)
    Why Holman? I’d have to assume anyone that was looking to buy the Holman apartments was looking to buy it and blow it up. So while I might be biased, depending on what it means to win this catagory, Holman might be a fit. It was knocking on deaths door. The city would have loved it blown up. It’s old and ugly in a “hot” area of town. It had all the markings of something about to be toast.
    As was pointed out, the property still has a ways to go but it’s a lot better now. A lot of that improvement is foundational and hard to see (sadly, in a way). It’s cleaning out tons of empty units and upgrading them to get a stable tenant base. It’s upgrading the lights to make the place feel and become safer. It’s putting systems in place to help effectively manage tenants/payments/vendors/units. It’s behind the scenes leak fixes, roof fixes, plumbing fixes, electrical fixes. Stuff that isn’t sexy for before/after shots.
    When our property manager for that place has time, I’m going to ask him to update our site with interesting facts/figures of what’s been accomplished (in the ~2 months we’ve had it). He’s really done a great job.

  • I admire 1 a lot and wish we’d see more of it. It demonstrates that when a owner or manager of a property decides not to to be a slumlord, it can make a huge difference.

    However, for purely sentimental reasons, I’m going to vote for 5.

  • The Astrodome. It’s the most iconic structure in a city that relishes the destruction of iconic structures.

  • Number 7. An interesting building that deserves a new lease on life.

  • I vote for Lucky Burger. I used to live down the street from it, and can’t understand how it remains in business either.

  • I have to vote Holman. A lot of the choices have the backing of large partnerships and companies. Holman is some young local guy who put everything at risk (including any possible admiration from his wife and friends) in order to do it. I hope he taped it and plans to aire “Landlord Wars” now that Storage Wars is on the downturn.

  • I’m voting for #1. Good job, Cody.
    Now, I wish I had taken advantage of the rent deal offered a few months back.
    Looking forward to seeing what more good stuff you do in the new year.

  • #8. While I think #1 is a great success story and hope we see more in the future, the Astrodome situation is sooooo Houston.

  • Decisions, decisions…oh, heck, I’ll go with #1, since this is a great way to preserve old apartment buildings which could have been torn down.

  • #1 Thanks, Cody! Bit by bit, we can reclaim this land…

  • Cody is going to win this one no matter what, and he should. I’m voting for 2 because Gus was so kind to use my comment for the ballot, though.

  • #1, Holman

  • ugh. #8

    That place has worn out its welcome, implode it, drag away all the rubble and leave the crater, do not infill. let it fill with water and bring in some jetski races.

  • #1, but just because so many on swamplot would normally cheer for its demolition and scowl at anyone bemoaning the loss of affordable housing and old architecture when a building like that would appear on the daily demo reports.

  • Holman – it exemplifies taking the high road in real estate…saving a building that still has residual value, giving it a noble purpose, and most importantly…keeping townhomes at bay.

  • #3 because that’s a photo of 288 not 45 :)

  • #7 March of the Penguin Arms

  • #1. Thank you Cody for this and all the others you have put your time, effort and money into!

  • Wow… Thanks everyone for what you’ve said in regards to Holman. We don’t have outside money so turning around some of these properties isn’t easy (and bank financing isn’t there either) and takes longer than we like as we can’t go as “full throttle” as we’d want to. It’s done out of pocket, using the income from properties that have already been ‘fixed’ to help subsidize those that need fixing. Then ones fixed, it’s off to the next property (where the previous property joins the ranks of properties that help fund an upgrade), and so on.
    The one doing the heavy lifting at Holman is Stefan ( We hired him just for that property. If I were to say he’s working under fire, that wouldn’t be an exaggeration. He’s cleaning it up via baseball bat in hand (that’s not a joke).
    Sally, we still are renting units there, we’re just not doing the fire-sale pricing we were doing for the pioneers that were willing to trust what we said we were going to do when we first took it over.

  • #7. I drive by that building all the time. I can’t wait to see the inside. Thank you Kuhl Linscomb!

  • #1 definitely. Lucky Burger is a photo finish 2nd.

  • #1 Holman. When I drive thru the area and see all the new townhomes, it so nice to see some of the areas original buildings and history. I never thought it could be done, be saved. Many have tried and failed, but Cody is up to the task. Congrats Cody

  • 7 – Penguin Arms

  • #1 Holman Apartments. As others have stated, this is a building that had “tear me down” and “put me out of my misery” written all over it. Instead of destroying it and putting up a bunch of townhomes (or whatever is the trend du jour), the new owners began restoring it while bringing in/attracting stable tenants. I think this property truly embodies the spirit behind the “It’s Alive!” category. For a property that looked like it was condemned to die, it certainly got a well-deserved second chance!

  • #1. I want to give the owner or manager or someone over there at Holman a hug!

  • #1 Holman


  • 2. The University Line. I don’t know that it actually is alive, but any news that it could be is huge.

  • I’m voting for #1: Holman!

  • #1 – Holman

  • #4 REPURPOSED COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS IN THE GREATER HEIGHTS AREA. I think its great having restaurants and other commercial buildings in residential areas, so residents can walk to shopping instead of drive. I currently live 2 blocks away from the old harolds. I have a small Kroger, a couple fast food restaurants, and all the shops/restaurants on 19th all in walking distance. I can’t wait until torchy’s tacos opens. It will beat driving to the torchy’s on shepherd.

  • #1 because it’s a compelling story of homegrown success from hard work. Many of the others have merit and deserve a vote, but Cody and his crew get my vote this time.

    I, too, wonder how Lucky Burger is still around?