The New Concrete-Block Homes on a Fifth Ward Block by the Tracks

Going up along Rawley St. just east of Gregg St. in the Fifth Ward: A row of five 3-story freestanding concrete-block townhomes from a company called Castro Novum. The photos were taken earlier this week — after Harvey storms had cleared out of the area. The homes are 2 blocks north of Lyons Ave. and back up to Union Pacific’s Terminal Subdivision freight-rail line. This one is furthest along:


Photos: Dwight

5 in a Row

24 Comment

  • Would love to have one…but. It should have one hell of a foundation, using long piles to stand on an underground sand layer. Otherwise I am afraid the gumbo won’t be able to carry the weight.

  • looks like how they build the houses in the barios around mexico city

  • You could wave to your neighbor… Through three other homes.

  • You must have such houses to protect from stray bullets, It is fifth ward after all, the Deadly Nickel.

  • They look gritty reflecting their indu-slum roots and fronting the train tracks and sturdy to endure the ravages of time, weather, and sound.

  • Looks like new homes under construction, in China

  • to make them more authentic they need to have the long ends of rebar sticking out of the top for a rust weakened future expansion

  • With a decent coat of stucco, no one will even know what’s underneath. What I’m wondering is how they’ll get the plumbing, wiring, and insulation into the walls? Very thick fur-outs?

  • Don’t adhere to the pathetic construction technique normally employed by matchstick/stucco McTownhome builders…must be stopped! It’s dispiriting to read comments on here which relegate these to some inferior status, some by subtle and not-so-subtle racist comments, because these are made from, gasp, concrete block, and they are being built in, gasp, the fifth ward.

  • These will be stuccoed over or some other exterior material will go right over. They will look just fine and will sell if they have the right granite counters. Houston earth moves a lot though. Will the blocks move with it? I’m curious if this is more cost effective or less than the tinder frames? What are the flooding pros and cons, if any?

  • I don’t get all the hate for cinder-block construction in homes; as far as I am aware, if well built, they are meant to last much longer and are more tolerant of heavy winds and floodwater damage than the cardboard homes we are used to around here. I’m actually surprised it’s not a more widely available.

  • Interesting commentary. Houston builders generally use wood because it’s less expensive than blocks. Latin American builders use concrete BC its less expensive than wood. It’s all regional price points. Apples to Apples, concrete construction makes much more sense in this environment – my friends from Miami are always aghast when they see all the wood frame construction in this town.

  • I would take one of these concrete block houses over a matchstick wood ticky tacky house any day. People build like this in Chicago all the time. It is recognized by building codes and insurance companies as being a superior type of construction compared to wood framing.

  • @dbghouston, so talking smack about eastern block style construction is now racist? Got it, I’ll update my list of stuff white proper can’t say. Thank you.

  • I’ve had the opportunity to get up close and personal with a number of structures like these overseas and…well it always came down to workmanship as to whether it was a good structure or a bad one for its occupants and owners. (That’s pretty much consistent with my observations about wood frame structures in the US, especially as repairs are effected by owners.) With very few exceptions, the geotechnical side of things was very well-understood and most foundations were perfectly sound in a variety of soils, but these things mostly exist in places that have newfound wealth — so, its not entirely clear how well they’ll stand the test of time. The biggest problems have to do with properly sealing roofs and walls from rainfall, which manifests itself with moisture and mold problems that can be astoundingly bad; it usually has to do with incompetence, but sometimes it is corruption. Hopefully the International Building Codes and Code Enforcement are enough in the US to head off such problems, but I’ve previously observed a number of cinder block retail buildings around the Houston area with issues, some old and some new. Regarding electrical and plumbing runs, well I always thought to myself that if I were going to build one of these that all conduits and pipes would be exposed and that there’d be ample room set aside vertically and horizontally for additional service runs based on whatever might come up in terms of future tech…and also for effecting easy repairs.
    I don’t think that there’s anything inherently wrong with masonry and concrete that money and good design can’t solve, however I tend to lean toward the old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” If I were in the developing world, I’d use concrete and masonry — but I’d also exercise a lot more caution with architects and contractors and do some things that are aesthetically outside the norm. But I’m not there. I’m in the United States, so wood frame all the way.

  • commonsense, it’s bloody nick, not deadly nickel. If you’re going to be scared of an area, at least call it by the correct name.
    as far as cinder block construction, isn’t it lighter than a tilt wall? Why aren’t you guys commenting on the foundation of every prefab strip mall in Houston?
    These will do just fine.

  • It may be worth the home (Depending on the price) if they are not planning on building another home next to these. Big yard and a driveway are hard to come by with townhomes in the inner loop.

  • Seems like cinder block was selected to mitigate the train noise and vibration.

  • I would not want my concrete block houses to look anything like these. =)

  • I’m sure these will be covered or painted. The price point will be well under$200,000 and all that space and driveway and an actually good park right next door. Only a mile from downtown.

  • dbghouston: As someone that sort of likes the idea of a block house, I’d agree that the hate on them might be misplaced.
    I don’t see the racism though? Maybe when you see racism everywhere, it’s not a sign of others being racist. Maybe it’s you?

  • The weasels popped their nasty little heads up right on cue. Seems the snarkiest aholes turn into fragile offended grannies the minute you call them on it.

  • these suckers look like they’d handle hurricanes, floods, suitcase nukes whatever….a home made for Houston not some wimpy northern city.

  • Please build these concrete houses in the surburban as well. I would love to buy one. Anyone knows any builder that builds houses like these in Katy or Sugarland?