The votes have been counted (and recounted, in a few close races). Now’s the moment you’ve been waiting for — well, almost. It’s time to reveal the second-place winners of the 2016 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate!
Before we do that, a hearty thank you is due to all of you who voted, commented, nominated, campaigned, and cajoled in support of your favorite candidates. You make the Swampies possible.
The actual award winners will be announced in a later post, but now’s the time to let the second-place finishers shine. Several categories had very tight races; under slightly different circumstances of voter turnout, the candidates listed below might have been the winners. So let’s have a big round of pixelated applause for the 2016 runners-up of the Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate!
1. Favorite Houston Design Cliché. Second-place winner: The Retail-Corridor-Hogging Self-Storage Midrise.
The nomination: “Dropped in the middle of neighborhoods undergoing a residential or redevelopment boom, these 4-to-6-story flat-faced boxes can eat up an entire block of prime frontage.” “All these Inner Loopers living in new apartments has led to no one having storage space — and now we get the result. How many of these will we need?” “There is a huge trend in ‘smaller living.’ But the trend of ‘having less stuff’ hasn’t really caught on.”
- From Balthazar: “These things keep popping up everywhere. I really love the super-max security levels, especially when you consider that this is where people keep the odds-and-ends that were not of sufficient value to keep at home.”
- From Evan: “If only out of morbid curiosity for how long it will take for them to be redeveloped into something else.”
2. Best Demolition. Second-place winner: Charley’s 517 and Longhorn Cafe, 517 and 509 Louisiana St., Downtown.
The nomination: “Old meets new parking lot: The duo of 1906 buildings next to the renovated Lancaster Hotel on Louisiana St. had a storied run of over a century, between them serving as everything from an early Star of Hope shelter to a sail factory to (in their later years) the elegant Charley’s 517 and decidedly-less-elegant Longhorn Cafe. The buildings met their end when the Lancaster’s owners decided to clear out the adjacent properties to make some more parking spots for the hotel; the possibly-haunted pecan tree, long hidden in a secret courtyard behind 509, got a final day in the sun before its final disassembly.”
- From Old School: “Nothing is more Houston than taking down a historic building and a tree just to get enough parking for a dozen or so cars.”
- From HouCynic: “Lancaster practices self-preservation by conquering and destroying its historic neighbors, all in the name of parking.”
- From BenG: “Lancaster Hotel should be ashamed of themselves (they’re not).”
3. The ‘Where Are They Now?’ Award. Second-place winner: The Section of N. Shepherd Dr. Between I-10 and 610, Houston Heights.
The nomination: “A shift from declining dealership strip to foodie enclave: Many folks suspected the tote-the-note car lots along N. Shepherd would eventually move out, as commercial property taxes shot up. But would the corridor transition smoothly from auto lots to strip malls, packed with the usual array of nail salons, cell phone stores, mattressiers, and build-a-sandwich chains? While a few of those popped up, much of the current redevelopment is instead going toward high-ish-end restaurant spaces (both local and imported), artisanal sugar shops, and craft-focused
bars private clubs.”
- From Adoile Turner III: “You wanted a quick car, this was well known as the spot for a long time. That’s totally no more.”
- From ShadyHeightster: “There’s less visible blight produced by row after row of used vehicles.”
- From Al: “A very positive transition.”
- From Balthazar: “Pizaro’s is still my #1 in my heart, but having a Cane Rosso in walkable distance has made me stray more than once . . .”
- From joel: “There’s not really a Mellow Mushroom inside the Loop off Shepherd, is there? I thought there was only the one somewhere up in Spring.”
4. Best Industrial Incident. Second-place winner: Holmes Road Recycling Plant Fire, November 16th.
The nomination: “That’s some serious distance and impeccable aim, for a burning debris pile: From 3 miles away, the fire managed to shroud the Medical Center in smoke probably worsened by burning car fluids, while spreading haze and weird smells all the way across the Loop to the Near Northwest.”
- From Urban Jungle Survivalist: “Ya gotta give kudos to the Holmes Road recycling plant fire. The city must have figured ‘that’s far enough away from civilization, it wouldn’t be that big of a threat . . .’ That is, until the place went up in flames and spread its acrid tentacles across the city, from the Med Center all the way into the northwest side of town. (Nice try, Spring Branch fire, but that we all [already knew] the dangers of living in a city that has a lax sense of zoning, in a state that cares little to nothing about clean water regulations.)”
5. Special Achievement in Parking. Second-place winner: Astrodome Basement Parking Plan, Harris County.
The nomination: “A true-to-form Houston mashup: There is nothing that says ‘Houston’ quite like filling the floor of the 8th Wonder of the World and our city’s greatest historic landmark with a basement-level parking garage.”
- From Darryl: “Whereas Buffalo Bayou was transformed into something great and the parking was an afterthought, parking at the Astrodome is the catalyst (in theory) that will allow it to turn into something great. Or that’s the plan, anyway.”
- From Blake: “The Dome will have a new purpose (and perhaps be more demolition-resistant). The beloved Astrodome, the 8th Wonder of the World, has lasted a long time as an abandoned stadium. Parking will give a new purpose and hope for an above-ground future.”
- From Urban Jungle Survivalist: “It may not [live up to] the delusions of grandeur that everyone envisioned when the open call for uses for the old Astrodome went out, but it’s a start. Everyone knows what a nightmare parking is at the NRG complex during Rodeo time, football season, etc., and this is probably the best solution, shy of building unsightly parking garages around the 8th Wonder of the World.”
6. The Houston High Water Award. Second-place winner: The Addicks and Barker Dams.
The nomination: “Despite being put to a historic stress test just as repairs were finally getting underway, the 2 aging and ‘extremely high-risk’ dams managed to hold their own (except for the wildlife), and hold back waters that might have unleashed an additional $60-billion-dollar flood down Buffalo Bayou through all the central hubs of Houston commerce and industry. Well done!”
- From Blake: “It seems many gripe and comment on Houston’s disregard for planning and flood prevention. But these vast reservoirs and dams limited the damage, as designed. And they weren’t even half full. And with deferred maintenance!”
- From Quantum: “The prescient design and good engineering involved in these structures is definitely appreciated.“
- From Urban Jungle Survivalist: “In all my years growing up in the Houston area, I don’t ever remember seeing the reservoirs of the Barker and Addicks dams that high. Thankfully, the dams held and the reservoirs emptied. Watching Clay Rd. close due to flooding not once but twice was historic in and of itself. Now let’s hope the next time Houston has Biblical-proportion flooding, the Army Corps repairs will be finished.”
7. Neighborhood of the Year. Second-place winner: Greater Fifth Ward.
The nomination: “Where else do residents get tattooed with a symbol of their neighborhood? This area has withstood decades of neglect, but is now bringing in major development for local residents (without severe displacement like what has been seen in some of the other former Wards.) Notable highlights of the area’s ongoing transformation: the revitalization of the Lyons Ave. corridor, the rededication of the Cleme Manor apartments, Midway’s plans to turn the KBR brownfield site into a massive mixed-use complex east of Downtown, restoration of the historic DeLuxe Theater, several updated HISD schools . . . And hardly a single murder in years, despite its sticky reputation as a high-crime neighborhood!”
- From MisfitCity: “Its potential is great, and there has been little displacement. Would love to see this neighborhood get some positive attention for once.”
- From Adoile Turner III: “The most popular neighborhood for over 180 years!”
- From Mr.Clean19: “Shout out to the murder map statistics!”
- From John F: “Midway’s contribution with ‘East River’ will be huge and transformative for years to come (and Buffalo Bayou here does look more River than Bayou). Bonus: if you haven’t yet visit the new Neighborhood Bar The New Potato on Clinton, you are missing out. (BTW: The ‘EADO Edge’ photo in the EaDo nomination actually is in this neighborhood, not in East Downtown — this is the front line of the EaDo Creep.)”
- From TheNiche: “‘East River’ . . . may be the single most transformative project in Houston once it gets going — but 5th Ward can have its year when Midway breaks ground. I’m also looking forward to something eventually happening on the former Superfund site on Baer St., and at Hardy Yards.”
- From HouCynic: “Development at a slow, steady pace, minimal displacement, lots of great upcoming projects . . . if they ever get started. We still have not seen much of anything on Hardy Yards of late, or on how the Hardy Toll Road extension will divide the Northside section.”
8. Greatest Moment in Houston Real Estate. Second-place winner: Midway Snags the KBR Site in Fifth Ward, May 18th.
The nomination: “The KBR days at the campus centered at 4100 Clinton Dr. were followed by teardowns, industrial cleanup, helicoptering, and years of sitting around before CityCentre developer Midway finally struck a deal on the down-low this spring for a joint venture on the site with its previous buyer, William Harrison. Now, the 147-acre property on Buffalo Bayou is purportedly headed toward a total redevelopment as a mixed residential, commercial, and entertainment district with another New York-flavored moniker: East River; Midway claims the project will ‘shift the center of gravity of Houston’s urban core toward the east.’”
- From John F: “This has such huge potential, and Midway is the best company for this kind of grand vision that I can think of.”
- From ShadyHeightster: “Though the near Eastside (EaDo) has been developing for about a decade, this will be the first large-scale, significant office/residential/retail east of 59 in years. If they do it well, it really could be a game changer for that part of the city.”
- From Urban Jungle Survivalist: “This is the same company that’s turned blight into something the whole community can be a part of. They grew the former Town and Country Mall property into a destination, and more recently with the announcement of Buffalo Heights . . . what this company is doing is exciting, and it’s changing the landscape of Houston.”
- From Chuck: “Redevelopment could be a boon to the area, if they encourage the surrounding neighborhoods to be part of the picture, offering green spaces and (non-boutique) grocery shopping. If nothing else it will look nicer than it does now . . . would just hope to see bridge-building and not fence-building.”
- From Lindley: “This one is a game changer.”
- From Wandering Nomad: “Like others have said — going to be a game changer.”
Congratulations to all! Coming up next: The Swamplot Award winners!
Images: Bix Tex Storage (Big Tex Storage); Jack Miller (517 Louisiana St. demo); Ricky M. (Mellow Mushroom); Harris County Engineering Department (Astrodome plans); USGS (Addicks reservoir water level chart); HAR (1704 Dan St.); LoopNet (KBR listing photo); Swamplot inbox (all others)