The Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate, 2008: The Runners-Up

The first-ever Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate went . . . swimmingly! More than 500 votes were cast in support of nominees in 10 separate categories. Thanks again to all of you who voted, nominated, commented, and cajoled in support of your favorites. Many readers, with their eyes on the prizes, sent out emails to friends and neighbors, Twittered, and annoyed their Facebook friends . . . just to get them to vote.

So what were the results?

We’ll get to the winners in an upcoming post. First, though, come the runners-up. You know what it means: If, for any reason, a winner of the Swamplot Awards is unable to fulfill its duty at any time during the upcoming year, the runner-up in the category will be asked to step in.

Yes, they are ready! Yes, they are willing to serve! A big round of applause, please, for the 2008 second-place winners of the Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate . . . the Swampies!


1. Favorite Houston Design Cliché. Second-place winner: Home Turrets.

The nomination: “These suckers are popped onto nearly every new home going up in Bellaire to add to their ‘European appeal.’ Swamplot had an entertaining article about some of these houses which you can see here.”

  • From Scott: “Oh the turrets! They remind me of the people that (likely) live in the houses. Sort of round where they shouldn’t be, showy when they shouldn’t be, wearing too much decoration…you get the picture.

2. Best Project Cancellation or Delay. Second-place winner: Sonoma.

The nomination: First there were delays as Randall Davis and Lamesa Properties tried to convince the city that it should close a public street in the Rice Village and sell it to them; then there was the announcement that Davis would build phase II before phase I; and then there were more delays as he tried to sell enough units to get enough financing to start even one of the phases. And finally, there was the announcement that the project was on hold, but that they now have until 2015 to do something with the property. Meanwhile, a perfectly good mixed-use building with several popular restaurants and hangout spots was torn down, and the neighbors get to look at a work in progress for the next 7 years.

  • From Carol: “It’s just so sad to think they tore down that great old building, and are about to close the city’s best Walgreens, all for naught. Now we get to look at a mudpit for seven more years.
  • From Happy Historian: “Sonoma is at the top measurement of my puckerometer.

3. Best Teardown. Second-place winner: The Carousel House, Meyerland.

The nomination:
Spectacular and visionary, it fell victim to an unscrupulous tenant and no doubt became an embarrassment to its mega-millionaire owner. Sat vacant and vandalized for months, finally sold to a builder. Structure and slab were so solid they resisted normal teardown efforts. Now the builder is trying to sell the empty lot.

  • From Robert: “If you saw the film on youtube of the equipment breaking while trying to demolish it, well, you gotta give it points for fighting back.
  • From Happy Historian: “Maybe, just maybe as the sands of time recede, we’ll rediscover the Carousel House in back of the Carousel Motor Inn. Save your quarters for the vibrating beds!

4. Best Rebranding Effort. Second-place winner: Glenbrook Valley.

The nomination:
“This year’s Houston Mod ‘Mods of the Month’ produced throngs of young, hip architecture aficionados (plus a few classic-finned Cadillacs and a near-carnival atmosphere) at Glenbrook Valley open houses. Just a couple of years ago, nobody even knew these mod & ranch style homes were there. This year’s new arrivals in the hood included a college president, an M.D. Anderson physician, and an architect from Rottet Studios. It has become a hot topic on the architecture forums. The increasing gay contingent has railed against local icon T.C. Burton, fighting him with everything from flags to tombstones. The growing gay contingent is starting to challenge Westbury’s mantle as the edge-of-the-Loop gay alternative to Montrose. The rebranding success has even spread to neighboring hoods, such as Meadowcreek Village, where a number of people who didn’t find the perfect GV mod ended up, including the chef of uber-trendy Benjy’s bistro in the Rice Village, and Chronicle columnist Lisa Gray.”

  • From Shannon: “Whether it’s fabulous parties (thrown by the straights too), redneck kooks, or neighbors helping neighbors with projects – it’s never boring.
  • From Stephen: “I have much in common with that subdivision: We were both built in Houston in the 50s, and we both need a little remodeling.

5. Most Grandiose Development. Second-place winner: The Two 150-ft. Crosses Planned for I-45.

The nomination:
Grace Community Church’s scheme to mark territory in a big, big way is limited only by the FAA.

  • From sarahc: “The crosses of Grace get my vote. The Titan is very grandiose but ‘titans of industry’ don’t typically promote the virtues of humility while building self promoting monuments.
  • From Happy Historian: “When the Egyptians find out they will want to put big flashing blue beacons on the pyramids next.”

6. The “Only in Houston” Award. Second-place winner: Grand Parkway Homes, Lakes of Avalon Village.

“Back in the good old days of just a few months ago, even those brand-new Lennar and J. Patrick homes built directly in the path of the Grand Parkway in Spring were selling like hotcakes!

7. Best Home Sleuth: Honoring the best player of Swamplot’s weekly Neighborhood Guessing Game. Second-place winner: Karen.

The nomination: “Skilled at assembling clues identified by other players.

Low ceilings = either revolutionary war era or after 1945.

No moldings = 60’s thru 80’s

Paneling, fake marble countertops, wrought iron = focusing like a laser on the 70’s, man!

Kitchen, fireplace surround = renovations done about 10 years ago

new master bathroom cabinets, real granite countertop = renovations finished this year to prep this baby for sale

fish bathroom = clearly a redo circa ‘00 – love that sink – but why? why? why?

House plants, clutter, more clutter = older homeowners who remember the 70’s really, really well

Given the clue to imagine this house NAKED – I’m going to go with BEAR CREEK.

8. Most Fattening Real Estate Development. Second-place winner: 6249-6285 Bissonnet St., Houston.

The nomination: “The newly built, nondescript little strip center in the southeast corner of Hillcroft and Bissonnet. It’s tiny and shoehorned on a little pie-shaped tract, but contains Hoagies and More, something called Bongos Cafe, Moo Hive Honey Ice Cream, Panaderia La Mexicana, Taqueria La Reyna, and Tortilleria La Reyna. I drive by it most evenings on the way home and I think my arteries begin to clog just thinking about yummy fresh tortillas and taqueria tacos and honey ice cream . . .”

9. Houston Neighborhood of the Year. Second-place winner: Old Sixth Ward.

The nomination:
“In its first full year as a ‘protected’ historic district. ‘For the self-reliant activism of its residents. A very special place to live, and improving all the time.’”

  • From john long: “When the McMansions go the way of the Hummer, these historic bungalows and casitas in the shadow of downtown will be seen as revolutionary in their modesty as well as their location. Besides, the Washington-Memorial-Buffalo Bayou corridor is just plain fun. Almost like living in a city.
  • From JD: “Its residents fought for a period of 30 years to get the distict protected as a whole. It is now the only historic district without the 90 day/you can do whatever you want waiver. It has the oldest privately owned landmark. (Guese House 1854). It is a complete village with churches,corner stores, schools, and of course the highest concentration of 19th century homes.
  • From coolbreeze: “OSW is a surreal neighborhood . . . It’s a great walking around hood. It kind of has a New Orleans flair to it.”
  • From Mark Parthie: “Convenient to downtown, midtown, Montrose, Heights, and all major freeways if you’re forced to leave for some reason.
  • From ArlingtonSt: “Thanks to the residents who worked and fought for what protection was available! Houston has benefited not just from the preservation of the houses, but also your example that what truly makes a ‘neighborhood’ are the ways in which neighbors come together for reasons OTHER than mutual financial interests.
  • From Corey: “I see this was forwarded to the OSW association mailing list …”

10. Greatest Moment in Houston Real Estate, 2008. Second-place winner: Get-To-Know-Your-Neighbor-Week, September 13-20.

The nomination: Large portions of the Houston-Galveston area are without power after Hurricane Ike, and some are without water. With the city at a standstill, many Houstonians meet their neighbors for the very first time.

  • From RMG: “. . . the fourth largest city in the United States going without power for weeks on end is one for the history books and stories to tell your grandkids, and the one that deserves this award.”
  • From Matt: “I’ll go with Get to Know Your Neighbor Week. It was fun. And some of the neighbors are still fighting over who is responsible for the new fence and the tree removal. And of course none of the neighbors are talking to the one neighbor who kept everyone up all night with the constant noise of his generator which reminded everyone that not only could they not sleep but that he had air conditioning.”

Congratulations, all! Next up: The winners!

Photos: Bellaire Home Tour (turret); Miya Shay (Sonoma site on Bolsover St.); Ben Hill (Carousel House); HAR (8211 Colgate St., Glenbrook Valley); Grace Community Church (cross); HAR (Lakes of Avalon Village); Swamplot inbox (Bissonnet); HAR (Old Sixth Ward); Daniel Sommars (neighbors)