Best Demolition: The Official 2012 Ballot

What was this year’s Best Demolition? That’s what we aim to find out in this, the second category in the 2012 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate. 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 in this category 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 26th.

The nominees for Best Demolition of 2012 are . . .


1. Former Home of the MuffinMan, 2310 Converse St., East Montrose. The demolition of this 1940 foursquare in December drew to a delayed and dusty close an entertaining episode in Montrose restaurant history. Yes, America, this was the home of — in the humble words of proprietor Jason Perry — “the greatest penis shaped muffin restaurant Houston [ever] had.” Even more notable: That Perry was able to launch his venture and operate it as a late-night after-club sobering-up hole for a few months in 2010 apparently without benefit of any city permits — despite announcing the operation’s jaunty slogan on a 6-ft.-by-6-ft. front-yard sign. (It read: “A four inch muffin is better than an eight inch cock.”) What did the neighbors think? Perry says it took him 3 months to clean up the pile of dead fish that a local welcoming committee deposited as a housewarming present in his back yard. After a foreclosure and sale, the new owner called in the wrecking crew.


2. Houston Main Building, 1100 Holcombe Blvd., Texas Medical Center. Dynamite blows sped up the protracted decommissioning and denuding of the landmark former Prudential Life Insurance Tower early last January, shutting down the Med Center for a dust-filled weekend spectacle. UT’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the building’s owner, appeared to treat the vanquishing of architect Kenneth Franzheim’s 60-year-old 18-story building — Houston’s first suburban corporate campus — as if it were some sort of malignancy that had to be prevented from metastasizing elsewhere on campus, by putting out a video of the final eradication procedure (above) that concludes with the institution’s jarring “Making Cancer History” tagline. (Less subtly, the included animated version of the M.D. Anderson logo features a majestic invisible red crayon dramatically crossing out the word “Cancer” in the institution’s name.) The 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 the previous April. Though the institution had initially claimed the demolition was necessary to make way for new construction, those plans were put on hold shortly before the implosion; M.D. Anderson announced nothing new would be built on the site for an estimated 3 to 10 years. In the interim, it would be turned into a “park-like” setting.


3. Ben Milam Hotel, 1521 Texas Ave., Downtown. Ben Milam went down a half-mile from the Alamo in 1835; the hulking remains of the long-vacant Houston hotel named in his honor collapsed in a cloud of dust after a series of dynamite blasts this past Sunday. Having gained approval from the city to shut down a block of Prairie St., new owner Marvy Finger plans to build a 7-story, 380-unit dual-courtyard apartment complex (with space for a restaurant or 2 on the ground floor) on the site and the adjacent block, across Crawford St. from Minute Maid Park‘s leftfield fence.


4. 77018. It’s the most popular Zip Code in Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report. Portions of Oak Forest and Garden Oaks have taken over from the Heights — and earlier busy demolition grounds West U and Bellaire — as the latest happenin’ places for small-home removal. The demolitions have been going on for a while, but they sure ramped up in 2012. Homebuilders and investors on the prowl for large lots find space here for big new homes to spread out a little more than they typically can on tighter Inner Loop properties. How much of these neighborhoods will be replaced — and with what? — before builders move on to their next conquest?


5. 3640 Willowick Rd., River Oaks. The prize $8.6 million River Oaks listing from 2011 became the notable $8.5 million River Oaks teardown in 2012. The 3-bedroom, 7,780-sq.-ft. showcase had been designed for its original owners in 1940 by Harvin C. Moore. The Italianate home with the purple kitchen featured formal gardens and an elaborate rear portico. Such poor judgment by the architect, though, to place it smack dab in the middle of a 1.6-acre lot backing up to the golf course at the River Oaks Country Club.


6. Park Memorial Condominiums, 5292 Memorial Dr., Rice Military. The demise of this garden-style condo complex already qualified as a slowmotion real-estate disaster long before the body was discovered. Yes, this was the compound at Memorial and Detering that city officials, fearful of imminent structural collapse, ordered shut down more than 4 years ago. Locked out of their homes, many residents were forced to sell their units at a significant loss, go bankrupt, or both; others took the city to court over the hasty eviction order. A few residents fought plans to sell the property. Earlier this year, JLB Partners finally managed to carry out a purchase agreement with as many as 108 separate property owners. The developers plan to build a new 5- and 6-story apartment complex on the property, more than tripling the density of the 4.85 acres. By the time demolition crews moved onto the scene this past summer, though, it seemed as if the site’s problems were ancient history. And indeed they now seem to be: Skeletal remains discovered under a removed foundation — which authorities at first thought might be signs of 1980s-era foul play — have since been identified as remnants of a somehow-forgotten African-American cemetery that once stood there.


7. Katy Prairie Animal and Plant Habitat. Segment E of the Grand Parkway, the Katy-Mills-Mall-to-Cypress-Outlet-Mall portion of Houston’s latest way-way-way out ring road, is billed as a $350 million construction project. But for the critters and growy things known to inhabit or visit the ecosystem in its path, there’s fun-filled demolition going on too. (Bonus act of destruction: The tollway-through-the-prairie drives right through previously identified 10,000-to-14,000-year-old burial sites by Cypress Creek. Their recent “discovery” by contractors threatened to delay the project; but now that the bones and artifacts have been upended by construction equipment, their value to researchers has been decimated. TxDOT, a few Native American tribes, and the Harris County Historical Commission have agreed to re-bury the disturbed remains under layers of rip rap and leave the whole thing for some future generation of anthropologists to care about.)


Which one of these smashing contestants wins the year? Let’s hear your vote!

Photos: Candace Garcia (MuffinMan); HAR (1628 Lamonte Ln., 1617 Hewitt Dr., 922 Wakefield Dr., and 987 W. 41st St. in 77018; 3640 Willowick Rd.; Park Memorial); David Hille (Park Memorial demo); Community Impact/Shawn Epps (Grand Pkwy.). Videos: M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (Houston Main Bldg.); Lauren M. (Ben Milam).

27 Comment

  • Though I nominated the Texas Medical Center demo, by far the best demo this year has been the Park Memorial Condos. So much suffering finally put out of its misery.

  • I’m going for #5, the Willowick property. In a city that’s been buying and scraping residential property for almost 3 decades, it still blows my mind that you could destroy a nice mansion that you paid multi-millions for.
    The other nominees are all very worthy in their own right, and the demo of the old Prudential building still makes me a little sad.

  • Park Memorial Condos is far and away the best demo of 2012.

  • In terms of truly “best” demo, I vote for #6, Park Memorial Condominiums. It has all of the makings of a soap opera that eventually culminated in its demise. :)

    #5, Willowick stings. It’s probably the best “worst” demo of 2012. Truly such a waste.

  • #4 77018, We live in this zip and have noticed small 3 bedroom homes are coming down in favor of large homes designed to shield families from interaction with neighbors, never looks like any life is going on in those new construction homes in our neighborhood. Sorry to say, we are losing our charm of the small city neighborhood.

  • 3640 Willowick Rd.

  • Park Memorial Condos was the “best” demo for the City of Houston. The others might be rated on a scale that includes “progress”, “sad”, and “WTF?”.

  • I am torn between number 5 &6, but I will go with #5. Seems like a lot of older homes were better built and sturdier than new construction, that is what I keep hearing anyway. I have no doubt that whatever will be built there will be generic and boring. You would think with that kind of moolah you could afford an experienced architect who could draw you up something beautiful and with some hints of originality.

    I will give a shout out for #1 however, just because the back story is interesting. Or mind-boggling.

  • Park Memorial Condos because it is the only building nominated that actually had to be torn down.

  • #4 77018 is definitely seeing lots of tear downs and new construction.

  • #6 was the best by far.

  • #6 for Best Demolition. If there was a category for Worst it would be #7–water from severe weather events will have to go somewhere and the Addicks and Barker Dams may not be much help.

  • #4 77018 – The proof is in the daily demolition report. 77018 is changing, whether we like it or not. Builders can keep sending solicitations to my little one-story in OF, they make great kindle for the fire pit.

  • #6, that was a long time overdo.

    But #3, the Ben Milam was also really overdue. A long abandoned fleabag hotel, the area is already better.

  • #6 Park Memorial Condominiums

  • 5 – Willowick

  • Park Memorial, obviously.

  • 6 without question, with #2 coming in a distant second.

  • It takes a lot of brass to tear down an 8+ million dollar house, just because it’s not big enough, so that gets my vote.

  • #6 Park Memorial Condominiums. Emergency evictions and skeletal remains. No place but Houston.

  • #2 Houston Main Building

  • #2 was awesome to watch. That would be my ‘best demolition’. #5 would be my worst. What does that actually mean my vote is for? uh?