Withering Townhouses of the First Ward

A First Ward resident wants the scoop on a nearby development that’s “really going to pasture” on the 1500 block of Bingham, just west of Houston Ave. and across from Brock Elementary.

It is a townhouse project that got started 1-2 years ago, was never finished, and is now becoming a huge eyesore (broken doors, windows, garage doors…they got as far as putting mesh siding but stopped short of actually getting the stucko on there).

I have lived in the first ward for about 2 years in a renovated bungalow. it makes me sick to see all these properties built on spec to make a quick buck that are becoming abandoned, and only after demolishing what was there in the first place.

A few more photos our reader sent in:


I have not seen construction on it since at least last summer, probably more like a year. The damage to the siding has been gradual. You can see the wood is starting to rot at the crown because it is exposed plywood. The broken windows and garage doors are just due to vandalism, I assume, from being vacant for so long.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

19 Comment

  • This is such a shame. We have some similar properties close to my neighborhood in the Clark Pines / Heights Annex area.

    Sooner or later, these properties will go back to the bank and hopefully get purchased at a discount to a developer / homeowner that can demo or complete the projects.

    Haven’t seen much of that going on yet, though…

  • I wonder about the townhomes fenced off on West Clay and the still-born “high end” townhomes on Washington near Jackson Hill and next to the OReign lounge which is about to open. Anyone have the 411 on those?

  • I am with the writer on this. So sad to see perfectly good and rehabbable bungalows, torn down and then the neighbors not only have to look at out of place homes, but abandoned out of place homes.

    All you developers out there that claim to be responsible should police those that are not. They give you a bad name or show you for who you are.

    Custom home builders hired by the homeowner, good…developers trying to make a quick buck…bad!

  • 1-2 years? Heh, I got you beat. There is a “development” that has been underway since October of 2006 on Rutland in the Heights. http://swamplot.com/how-to-demolish-new-construction-without-using-a-hurricane/2008-09-12/

    We have had to call the police a few times to kick out the bum who was calling it home. Classy.

  • I also live in the first ward area and also have checked this development out a few times. I spotted a real estate sign (can’t remember the name but it was a smaller brokerage) and also saw some contractor-looking folks mulling around the property about 3-4 months ago. I can only hope that someone snagged the property…although it looks to still be bank owned from the HCAD records. I just don’t understand how the investors could sink that kind of money and give up. There are a few other examples in the first ward area, but there are definitely plenty of successful projects too.

  • On a separate note, the main problem with the first ward is that a majority of the homes in the area are maybe 900 sq ft and so tightly packed (Crockett Street for example) that the only option is to ‘doze em and throw up some 3-story townhomes. But, hey, they will have rooftop terraces that I can TOTALLY see the Drake and Pandora from!

  • I live in the First Ward, in a townhouse. I like the well maintained bungalows in our neighborhood. However, the majority of the original houses in the First Ward unlike The Heights & much of the 6th Ward are in horrible shape. Most are too far gone to rehabilitate.

    The unfinished project highlighted in this article is an eyesore but so are half the delipidated bungalows w/ cars parked on the lawn, worn away paint, tilted 30 degrees, and about to fall over. Most are owned by slumlords and inhabited by people on welfare who wear their pants half way hanging off their behinds while loitering outside of the El Charro convenience store.

    This neighborhood is changing, will continue to change, and for the better.

  • Many of you are giving the developers a hard time, but they’re the ones sticking their financial necks out there. Sometimes things go south, but they will dust themselves off and get started again once the market is better. Someone lost their ass on that deal and doesn’t have any money to fix or finish it.
    …and no, I’m not a developer.

  • I renting at the next block down on bingham. There’s something like 15 more houses going in this area (the spanish Mediterranean one is going to he be the show house).

    There’s some nice and also full developments between here and bingham and this one will likely fill up too.

    This area is going to see more yuppieization because Washington’s becoming the next midtown type bar scene.
    It is sad to see the old arcatecture get destroyed, but i think this building project was 2 years too early for the neighbourhood. As long as developers can multiply the tax value of a lot twenty fold the city is going to turn a blind eye to this stuff.

  • I actually live in a townhome development as well, but the area around me helped me really like the prospects of the first ward. With the Washington area to the south, woodland heights to the north, and the Target shopping center to the west, I don’t see how it won’t be a great investment. There’s still plenty of architecture to go around — the fire station on Houston, Dharma Cafe, The Corkscrew, etc… The rice silos will be down soon enough also.

  • Houston without Rice Silos inside the loop just doesn’t seem like Houston.

  • You can take some action. RE the half-finished properties at Rutland & W. 22nd, the neighbors sent a petition and photos to all of the city council members, and to neighborhood protection dept. Some action has been take over the years, but properties are still a wreck and every now and then the builder or builders make a half-baked attempt to work on them. Builders/developers should have to put up a substantial bond to prove they can complete a project.

  • On the note of unfinished projects inside the loop, would anyone happen to know anything noteable about the half-built modernish construction in far less diverse Royden/River Oaks at the corner of Maconda LN and Westheimer? It’s been there for at least 5 years and as far as I know hasn’t been touched since. I’m surprised if there hasn’t been any clamor from neighbors in a high-end neighborhood like this.

    View Larger Map

  • Old areas of town get redeveloped.Which brings in more taxes ,which improves city services,which attracts more development and the cycle continues.Unfortunately,the new development runs amok due to NO zoning laws.So when people bitch about townhouses,condos,shopping centers,commercial properties popping up in their neighborhood, do something about it. I helped reform my old neighborhood Civic Association,which included tighter land use restrictions,installation of street lighting,etc.,which helped lay the groundwork for new construction in the neighborhood,which has made the neighborhood more desirable. And there is always several negative people who don’t want change.But the majority rules.Of course teh City wants its cut I mean taxes.But that is how it works. And unfinished projects usually mean the owner(s) ran into financial and/or legal problems.

  • Analog: The house on Maconda has been mentioned here before. I knew the owners. They are (or were) building it themselves. I don’t know if they’ve abandoned it or not, but up until a couple of years ago I have first-hand knowledge of them still working on it.

  • I agree with Bugs Bunny and I currently putting together a minimum lots size and building line application with so far 95% signing by my neighbors. Once I get that in place I am going to lobby my neighborhood to adopt the Houston Heights deed restrictions. Each house can adopt them individually.

  • Individual adoption of deed restrictions seems somewhat pointless, as it doesn’t guarantee what your neighbors can do with their properties.

  • Sam H, you’re right, but if you can get your neighbors to also adopt them, it is then effective. It’s kind of I’ll scratch yours if you scratch mine. If all your neighbors can agree on SMLP and SBLP then chances are many of them will agree with the deed restrictions. Once signed, they are in effect for 20 years, regardless of change in ownership.

  • I’m sorry, I’m not going to feel much pity for developers who run out of money and leave nuisance properties behind that apart from being eyesores, are prone to infestation by vermin, can become squats, can become handy places for drug activity, and so on. These properties have a real impact on the people who live near them, and the owners of the half-completed mess should be held accountable for dealing with them.

    Clearly a lot of the old housing there was too far gone to save… but that doesn’t mean that these half-build, decaying structures are an improvement.

    I did get a chuckle out of the statement that the problem with the old houses was that they were 900 square feet and thus there was “nothing to do” but tear them down. I actually think there’s quite a market for 900 square foot living spaces located right near downtown. When they are condos or apartments, they’re quite popular, and there are quite a few houses that size in the Heights that continue to sell – and not as teardowns. It’s an ideal, efficient living space for a single person or a couple, and the existence of smaller houses creates housing options – so the entry price in a neighborhood isn’t higher than many can afford – and thus you get a healthy mix of residents, from young professionals in the smaller houses to families in the larger ones.

    Having small houses in the mix is really good for an urban neighborhood; the idea that they all have to go is kind of crazy.