The Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate, 2008: The Winners!

Here they are at last: the winners of the first-ever Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate! Swamplot’s real-estate-obsessed readers swarmed over the official nominees in 10 distinct award categories. The results celebrate the best and most in a tumultuous year.

This announcement caps an almost month-long process that began with calls for nominations in each award category. After the official nominees were presented, voting opened up to all readers.

The competition was fierce. In some categories, only a few votes separated the winners from the runners-up. Swamplot salutes the award winners for their special contributions to this city. Thanks are due also to the many Swamplot readers who offered brilliant or well-considered nominations, for raising the stakes; to the many others of you who worked hard to promote your favorite candidates, for making this a more exciting contest; and to all participants in Houston’s peculiar real-estate scene, for giving us so much to write about every day.

Who ended up on top?

Presenting the winners of the 2008 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate:


1. Favorite Houston Design Cliché. Award winner: “Tuscanization.”

Vague approximations of Tuscany are so easy to find in Houston. And they’re your favorite!

The nomination: “First came the interior Venetian plaster effects. Then the Tuscan-themed homes and shopping centers. Now the ‘we’re in Tuscany’ fantasy is taking over entire swathes of Houston.”

  • From Brad: “As much as I love the real thing… Tuscany, be gone.”
  • From Buildergeek: “If I see one more triple-arched tower with mediterranean tiles on an apartment building in this town I’ll projectile vomit. The fun thing is that they all think they’re unique!”
  • From Shannon: “Nothing says ‘I’ve never actually seen a real Tuscan kitchen’ [better] than having what you call one in Houston.”

Other nominees in this category: Keystone Details on Wood Buildings; Home Turrets; Shopping-Center Towers; Two-Story McMansion Entrances; The Blue FEMA Tarp.

2. Best Project Cancellation or Delay. Award winner: Ashby Highrise.

If Boulevard Oaks residents and Buckhead Investment Partners can’t agree on anything else, can they at least agree to keep disagreeing?

The nomination: “The easiest way to start a fight on Swamplot? Just post some news about the Ashby Highrise. I hate to think what will happen if the project goes ahead — or if it’s killed. Clearly, the Ashby delay is the best delay of them all this year, because the limbo has managed to keep things relatively peaceful.”

  • From Katie: “. . . this delay is the result of a tremendous coordinated effort by the residents of Boulevard Oaks and Southampton. The logo of the cartoon looming high rise is actually enough on its own to justify voting for this.”
  • From Tricia: “Ashby Highrise needs to win this award and loose the neighborhood.”

Other nominees in this category: Archstone Memorial Heights Redevelopment; Boulevard Place; Regent Square; Turnberry Tower Houston; Sonoma.

3. Best Teardown. Award winner: 647 Arlington St., Houston Heights.

Heights-area builders keep getting better at replacing older housing stock with newer, more historical homes. But they still need more practice.

The nomination: “Recently renovated two-story 1910 Victorian with double front porch is torn down to make way for new three-story Victorian with double front porch and popup dormers. It’s the story of the Heights in a nutshell.”

  • From Andy: “Wow, just wow.”
  • From pierce: “My favorite part? They tore down the cool old house and kept the cheesy pre-fab ranch house detached garage – just slapped some paint on and a new garage door and called it ‘good enough’. Classy.”
  • From Mr Red: “Which of this year’s home tour houses will be gone next year?”

Other nominees in this category: The Carousel House, Meyerland; 1 Waverly Ct., Museum District; 2205 Bartlett St., Greenbriar; 2472 Bolsover St., Rice Village; Park Memorial Condos.

4. Best Rebranding Effort. Award winner: Cordell St. Shipping Container House.

Shipping containers, corralled to do a little housework!

The nomination: “Three steel shipping containers reinvented as a low-impact, modern house in old-timey Brookesmith. Who’da thunk of that?”

  • From Rob: “My vote goes to Numen Development, they did a terrific job turning surplus shipping containers into a open, spacious, energy efficient home. The home is awesome, and needs to be seen from the inside to be fully appreciated.”
  • From Susan: “Love the idea, love the way they ran with it. I want one.”
  • From Katie: “. . . not only is it made with recycled shipping containers and other super groovy green materials and mechanical systems, but only 10 contractor bags of trash were produced during the ENTIRE build! All other materials were recycled or reused. No dumpsters.”

Other nominees in this category: New Planned Parenthood Headquarters; Downtown Houston; Hotel ZaZa; Glenbrook Valley; Mosaic on Hermann Park.

5. Most Grandiose Development. Award winner: The Titan.

What timing! The Titan wins a Swamplot Award . . . just as Randall Davis announces the Galleria-area project is dead. Maybe the dream wasn’t big enough?

The nomination: “The plan: Build a Rocketships of the Roman Empire-themed luxury condo tower on Post Oak Blvd., with the units named after reg’lar folks like J. Paul Getty, Frank Sinatra, Warren Buffet, Rupert Murdoch, and Coco Chanel. If Randall Davis can get it built, it should have very convenient access to the McDonald’s drive-thru next door.”

  • From Carol: “The name itself is so grandiose it makes me laugh.”
  • From Beachwatcher: “Does anyone else find it creepy that Davis wanted to recreate the look of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis for a building targeted at the obscenely rich? Metropolis is about the struggle of abused workers against a fascist corporate state.”
  • From Scott: “Is there a Madoff Suite?”

Other nominees in this category: One Park Place; The Two 150-ft. Crosses Planned for I-45; Memorial Hermann Tower; 16427 Telge Rd., Cypress; Turnberry Tower Houston.

6. The “Only in Houston” Award. Winner: The Roller Coaster Next Door, Kemah.

So the winner in this category is actually outside Houston’s city limits. Doesn’t that make the award even more appropriate?

The nomination: “When Coy and Carol Killion refused to sell him their home on the Kemah Boardwalk, Landry’s President Tilman Fertitta went ahead and built the 96-ft.-tall Boardwalk Bullet roller coaster a few dozen feet away.”

  • From Larissa Lindsay: “I vote for the rollercoaster. The [other nominees] are in the astonishing category, but I have heard of similar type things elsewhere, and before . . . Isn’t it odd though, that one nomination, Astroworld, lost its rollercoaster while another nominee is about the desire to build one? Only in Houston.”

Other nominees in this category: The Marketing of 6040 Glencove St., Glen Cove; Rock the Bayou; The Ongoing Ashby Highrise Melee, Boulevard Oaks; The Abandonment of Bolsover St., Rice Village; Grand Parkway Homes, Lakes of Avalon Village.

7. Best Home Sleuth. Award winner: Miz Brooke Smith.

This award honors the top overall competitor in Swamplot’s weekly Neighborhood Guessing Game. Armed with a quick wit — and friends willing to visit Swamplot’s ballot box on her behalf, Miz Brooke Smith won the field.

The nomination: Calls ’em as she sees ’em.”

Sample Miz Brooke Smith Guessing Game guess:

How generic can one place get? This could be anywhere, any time between 1979 and 2005. Definitely somewhere flood-prone, given all that room-expanding bias tile. And the wood floors in the bedrooms look suspiciously like laminate. Home-Doodle-special builder’s-grade cabinetry, marbuluxe countertops and molding-less nekkid window frames scream 1980’s el cheapo condo, as does the treeless view out the sliding glass patio doors. But where, oh where could this grim pad be? I will defer to fellow Guessing Game contestants to pin the tail on this donkey that could be anywhere in a wide swath from Westpark [counter-]clockwise to 288.

  • From Frances Rubin: “Brooke Smith obviously has a great eye for the details.”
  • From Chef Al:Miz B. S. is astute, articulate and all-knowing. A bottle of bubbly awaits her when she wins the Best Home Sleuth Award for 2008.”

Other nominees in this category: HoustonAreaGuy; karen; marmer; tcpIV; Jeff.

8. Most Fattening Real Estate Development. Award winner: West Ave and 2727 Kirby, Kirby and Westheimer.

Readers expect these two neighboring developments to thicken things up a bit at the corner of Westheimer and Kirby.

The nomination: “It will be interesting to see what these new developments along Kirby do to traffic patterns on an already congested street. By going to the sky with their volume, they have been able to compact the number of people in the footprint. If the area doesn’t end up being that walkable, it could be a very interesting change. If it’s too trafficky, will people stay away?”

  • From Jimmie Kay: “I can hardly wait to move to West Ave. on Kirby! This is truly the life of luxury with the best of everything within easy reach.”

Other nominees in this category: Woodforest; Bridgeland; Silverlake and Shadow Creek Ranch, Pearland; 6249-6285 Bissonnet St., Houston; Cross Creek Ranch.

9. Houston Neighborhood of the Year. Award winner: Southampton.

A flood of last-minute votes put this Inner Loop neighborhood over the top.

The nomination: “Rich, powerful, and full of surprisingly quirky homes. And able to keep the threat of a towering nearby development at bay — for this year, at least.”

  • From Allan Reece:Quirky homes, check. Stately oaks, check. Proximity to wonderful city attributes, check. Accessibility, check. Great people, check.”
  • From I’mJustSaying: “Casting vote for SOUTHAMPTON now before rich/powerful/quirky over-build it to extinction.”

Other nominees in this category: Houston Heights; Memorial Bend; Bear Creek Meadows, Katy; River Oaks; Southfork, Pearland; Glenbrook Valley; Southside Place; Old Sixth Ward; Jersey Village.

10. Greatest Moment in Houston Real Estate, 2008. Award winner: The Opening of Discovery Green, April 13.

Swamplot chronicles great moments in Houston real estate. Here’s your pick for the year’s greatest:

The nomination: “Thousands of Houstonians discover the strange new experience of walking outdoors, surrounded by large groups of other people, in an open, pleasant Downtown space that has no entrance fee. Most report that they actually enjoy it. Does Discovery Green count as public space? For most of us, it’s close enough.”

  • From Beachwatcher: “Great to have public fun space in downtown Houston – let’s start a trend!”
  • From Scott: “It almost makes Houston a real city.”

Other nominees in this category: Construction Is Completed on the Katy Freeway; Vestalia Opens for Business; The Astrodome Goes Dark; Discovery Tower Begins Construction; Inland Houston Escapes Extensive Flooding; Get-To-Know-Your-Neighbor Week.

Photos: HAR (new home at 647 Arlington St.); Jennifer Feldmann (Cordell House); Lou Minatti (Roller Coaster house); Swamplot inbox (Kirby); HAR (1835 Sunset Blvd.); Jackson Myers (Discovery Green).

9 Comment

  • Congratulations to all the winners — and to the folks who bring us Swamplot. This was fun. Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s hoping for some interesting real estate goings-on in 2009!

  • What a great website. Swamplot makes coming to work so much easier. Miz Brooke Smith…watch out in 2009!

    Thanks for all you do Gus.

  • Best Teardown: The property owner didn’t do his homework before he bought. Had he torn down the garage, he would not have been able to rebuild due to setbacks put in place since the garage was built. He also could not build out the way he wanted due to same setbacks.

  • If not in it’s current proposed location, I hope that Ashby highrise goes up SOMEWHERE. It’s a beautiful building and would be a shame if it didn’t get built at a different location.

  • What a year it has been and knowing Houston 2009 will be just as interesting.

  • EMME – so that explains it! The irony remains, and now with a nice whiff of non-diligence.

  • QUOTE/Jessie M
    “If not in it’s current proposed location, I hope that Ashby highrise goes up SOMEWHERE. It’s a beautiful building and would be a shame if it didn’t get built at a different location.”
    WTH? Are you kidding? Have you actually SEEN the conceptuals? It was another tall, anonymous highrise. It had no distinguishing features, and was certainly nothing to brag about.

  • SH snooty…

    I’ve been to their website and seen the renderings. I’m not sure if those are the conceptuals you’re referring to.

    But yes, it’s classic, from top to bottom and the architecture would snuggle in nicely to the surrounding neighborhood. I also really liked the townhome idea and the huge sidewalk area with benches etc looked great as well.

  • Regarding the roller coaster house in Kemah, I drove down there two weeks ago. The house was heavily damaged by Ike.