What was this year’s Best Demolition? That’s what we aim to find out in this, the second category in the 2011 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate. And the official nominees are now in the (soon-to-be-demolished) house!
The voting rules for this year’s Swampies are posted here, but they’re not that complicated: You can vote for this category once each through each of 4 methods: in a comment below, in an email to Swamplot, on Twitter, or on Swamplot’s Facebook page. If you’ve got a favorite candidate, start a campaign! The polls close for all categories at 5 pm on December 27th.
The nominees for Best Demolition of 2011 are . . .
1. Sheraton-Lincoln Hotel, 711 Polk St., Downtown. “Floor by floor, workers in Brookfield Properties’ Total Plaza cheered the delicate removal of this long-vacant 28-story Beatles-blessed 1962 hotel, which stood in the way of their southern view — and bequeathed them an actual plaza.”
2. Houston Main Building, 1100 Holcombe Blvd., Texas Medical Center. Why did the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center decide to go ahead this year with its longstanding plans to demolish the iconic tower it bought in 1975? To make way for 2 new structures on the site. Except the UT medical institution has put its plans for those buildings on hold for 3 to 10 years, and hadn’t begun any design work on them anyway. No matter; the stripped, hulking corpse of Kenneth Franzheim’s 18-story 1952 building — Houston’s first-ever office campus, designed originally for the Prudential Life Insurance Company — awaits a January implosion. Once the debris is cleared, the site will be turned into a “park-like setting” until better plans are worked up. A curved, 46-ft.-long mural painted for Prudential by Peter Hurd and appraised at $4 million may have been damaged before it was removed from the building in April.
3. Buffalo Grille, H-E-B Buffalo Market Parking Lot, 3116 Bissonnet St., West University. “An incredibly efficient demolition: One week the restaurant was there, serving pancakes; the next week the building was gone. Torn down for parking; how much more Houston can you get?”
4. H.A. Lott House, 818 Sugar Creek Blvd., Sugar Land. “Frank Lloyd Wright acolyte Karl Kamrath’s 1975 steel-frame home for Astrodome builder H.A. Lott looked all redone and ready to go for a mere million bucks when it was bought last April. ‘Had I known, I would have never sold to them,’ the former owner commented on Swamplot: The buyers, it turned out, had other plans for the 36,041-sq.-ft. waterfront lot. Another MacKie and Kamrath house at 59 Tiel Way in River Oaks was also demolished this year.”
5. Exterior, River Oaks Shopping Center, 1952-2047 West Gray. “What was the problem, exactly, with the portions of the sleek, sophisticated, and distinctive Art Deco landmark its owners hadn’t already knocked down and replaced? Apparently, the ‘sleek, sophisticated, and distinctive Art Deco’ part. Weingarten Realty’s high-eyebrow-look ‘update‘ covered over the Moderne shopping center’s low-slung lines, removed more of its original black clay tiles, pasted fresh expanses of sandstone and beige stucco over the buildings’ painted brick, and tacked on turrets at the corners.
6. Interior, Alabama Theater, 2922 S. Shepherd Dr., Upper Kirby. “Last year, Weingarten Realty backed off from demolishing the 1939 Art Deco landmark’s noted interior after Swamplot published plans the company had drawn up to prepare the space for a big-box-style retailer such as Staples. This year, while dangling the still-unconfirmed prospect of a Trader Joe’s moving into the space, the company went ahead with an only slightly scaled back interior demo of the former Bookstop bookstore, burying the sloped floor and lower levels of the former auditorium in concrete (when a less-permanent platform system could have served most tenants just as well), and destroying 2 giant murals and the theater’s original screen wall in the process. If a Trader Joe’s doesn’t materialize, the REIT will at least have succeeded in unburdening itself from the unenviable task of trying to lease a popular and distinctive space.”
7. YMCA Building, 1600 Louisiana St., Downtown. “As part of a deal with Chevron, the YMCA of Greater Houston had its own 10-story 1941 Kenneth Franzheim building dismantled. One reader said he’d miss ‘the swimming pool in the dungeon and the disproportionately high number of creepy old naked men hanging around the locker room.’ The shiny new Tellepsen Family YMCA down the street is smaller, has a swimming pool that’s entirely visible from the street, but made no room for residents of its predecessor’s 132 apartments.”
8. Forbidden Gardens, 23500 Franz Rd., Katy. “Was there ever a Houston demo like this? Garden-gnome-hungry visitors ransacked the mock gravesite of an ancient Chinese emperor, after the 14-year-old cultural museum that had been tending to it failed to find any institutional buyers for its painstakingly created but well-worn exhibits, including the 6,000 vaunted one-third-scale terracotta soldiers and a smaller scale model of Beijing’s Forbidden City. Why evacuate Katy? To get out of the way of the impending Segment E of the Grand Parkway. Oh, but for a few feet of property — or maybe just a different strategy on the part of the institution’s mysterious owner — Forbidden Gardens could have become a true roadside attraction with actual feeder-road frontage.”
9. Flagship Hotel, 2501 Seawall Blvd., 25th St. Pier, Galveston. “Tilman Fertitta’s quest to build a Kemah Boardwalk-style attraction on the site of the Hurricane Ike-battered Galveston landmark had a few bumps on the way. In March, Landry’s denied that demo crews were knocking large chunks of debris from the pier-mounted hotel into Galveston Bay — until video footage posted on YouTube proved otherwise. Later, the demo contractor’s disposal problems were overshadowed by the death of one of its workers, after a concrete floor collapsed on top of him.”
So . . . what’ll it be? Which one of these smashing contestants wins the year? Let’s hear your vote!
- How To Vote in the 2011 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate [Swamplot]
- Swamplot Awards Ballots 2011 [Swamplot]
Photos: Swamplot inbox (Sheraton-Lincoln), Karen Lantz (Prudential Tower), Josh Burdick (Buffalo Grille), HAR (Lott House), Weingarten Realty (River Oaks Shopping Center), Laurie Ballesteros (Alabama Theater; license), Flickr user bilbao58 (YMCA and Chevron Tower), Candace Garcia (YMCA demo), Jennifer Gray (Forbidden Gardens), Ellen Yeates (Flagship Hotel)