Best Vacancy: Vote for One of These Official Nominees

Our second category in the 2009 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate has its official slate of candidates!

As the nominees are announced, voting can begin. You can cast your vote by entering a comment below or by sending Swamplot a private message indicating your preferences. This year you can also cast an extra vote from your Twitter account. More details about voting rules for the awards are available here.

The nominees for Best Vacancy are . . .


1. Mosaic and Montage. “Bankruptcy, mass foreclosures, and a bank failure — all just this year. What more vacancy excitement could you want? The lights on in these buildings at night still make up a somewhat empty mosaic. If the twin towers of 288 don’t win this year, they’ll probably still be deserted enough next year to try again.”

2. Houston Pavilions retail. “Yes, those three stories of brightly colored walls were supposed to be filled with stores. There’s some action in the restaurants and clubs, but most of them don’t face into the dead-and-narrow mall courtyards. Good thing new office tenants NRG Texas and Reliant will be sucking up a lot of the shoulda-been-retail flex space.”

3. Dr. Watkins’s giant Manvel/Pearland mansions. “What’s the only thing weirder than a huge, unfinished, vacant, creepily institutional mansion? One that’s half again bigger, right next door!”

4. Alabama Theater. “The Alabama Bookstop was a perfect use for the old theater, had a cool ambience, and was a great historical save. Now it’s gone. What happens to this place next?”

5. Randall Davis. “Can I nominate Randall Davis for being ‘vacant’ from the local real estate scene this year? How long will Houston be able to survive without any more new dressup-playing themed condo buildings?”

6. 2727 Kirby. “It’s a great looking building (just a little out of place) and will shape the Upper Kirby skyline forever. But what a miss on the pricing and demand estimation. Maybe sometime soon a foreclosure proceeding or a distressed sale/auction will fill it up. But for now the place looks mostly empty.”

7. Villas at the Heights, 114 Heights Blvd. “How about that townhome on Heights Blvd. that was built right next to the railroad tracks? I’m sure it’s still vacant and will be for some time to come.”

8. Tower Theatre. Doing time, until recently, as the now-shuttered Hollywood Video on Westheimer. “This place was Houston at its gritty core. I actually hated to see it as a video rental store.”

So . . . what’ll it be? Which one of these nominees earns your vote for Best Vacancy?

Photos (top to bottom): Matthew Rutledge (Mosaic and Montage; license), Flickr user cameraman1006 (Houston Pavilions), HAR (2552 County Road 59, Manvel), Chris Adams (Alabama Theater), Ziegler Cooper (Sonoma and 2727 Kirby), Chris Adams (Tower Theatre). Video: Dave McC

48 Comment

  • Mosaic. Vacant/vacuous, same difference.

  • Mosaic, fo’ sho’.

  • Randall Davis decided to throw up on Galveston Island this year. At the west end of the Seawall is Diamond Beach. Just what Galveston needs! (note sarcasim)

  • The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts, so I vote for ALL OF THE ABOVE.

  • #3 is in my backyard and quite creepy inside, but I have to go with #7 and its easy access to rail transportation.

  • yeah i gotta vote #7, too. such a small scale, simple attempt at ripping off a potential homebuyer. or, if not evil, than just so stupid.

  • “then” not “than”

  • # 2. It should serve as a reminder that downtown Houston needs hotels rooms and residential units, not three puny stories of Lidz and Cinnabon.

  • I vote for #7. May it remain vacant for a long time, if only to teach idiot developers a lesson.

  • #7 – This place is a hoot! We can watch the trains roll by from our super cool turret!

  • #2. It’s like a mall, but vertical, and outdoors, with no parking. Yeah, that’ll work in Houston. I guess the developers wanted to cash in on all the retail business moving downtown.

  • Tough decision between #1 and #2. The failure of Mosaic/Montage triggered a developer bankruptcy, bank failure, and an FDIC bailout. But the failure of the subsidized retail component of Houston Pavilions illustrates to the “build it now, damn the numbers, damn the consequences” crowd that downtown boosterism is sometimes best served by way of patience.
    I’m going to have to go with #1. I called it out as a failure in 2004, before most people were even aware of it, and here we are five years later, proof positive that I was correct.

  • The Pearland/Manvel mansions. I drive by these on occasion. I always thought they were warehouses with McMansions attached at the front. Weird…

  • Tower Theater! This is a fabulous location in the heart of everything HIWI. Let’s use what we’ve got before we go filling up new construction. Or, wait a minute, are we voting for the most desirable or the least desirable vacancy? Or the most ludicrous?

  • I vote for 7 as “most ludicrous”.

  • Has to be 2727 Kirby. It’s a giant goose egg sitting in the middle of what should be (and otherwise is) a vibrant and affluent area.

  • I vote for the Mosaic. At the very least they should have known how bad things were when they decided to pull the trigger on the second tower.

  • #2. More malls!

  • The closing of the movie theater spaces is undeniably sad, and who wants to be sad for the holidays? So I vote we turn our eyes to the Mosaic — a project so gargantuan in its ill conceived hubris that after it started failing they decided to split it in two and call half of it “Montage”.
    How can you feel guilty about laughing at something called “Montage”?

  • #5. The fewer RD projects that get built, the better. His are Dr. Watkins’ mansions extruded 15 stories.

  • #7. Just to see how long it stands vacant.

  • I vote 7. I am going to go out on a limb and say that it will bring repeat nominations for years to come.

  • #7, for sure. It would be impossible to duplicate the nightmare of the railway tracks on the north side, weird u-turn Heights Blvd on the west, pub-crawling traffic snarls on Washington on the south side, and the “We’re asking the city to move it” recycling center on the east side of the complex.

  • #7. The house would be convenient if A) Houston would extend the lightrail west from downtown along the existing freight rail line. B) No more freight trains were allowed to use those tracks because of A. C) The city conveniently located a lightrail stop there, connecting that house with the rest of the city. Until then, it’s stays vacant.

  • #4 This one makes me sad. That shopping center was a thumbtack on the map of my teenage years, with Cactus and Half-Priced Books right next to each other, and the River Oaks Theater just down the street(relative to what a kid from the suburbs considers down the street.)

  • I could be happy voting for any of those. I’m tempted by Houston Pavilions. That “limp excuse for a mall” comment is still making me laugh. But as another poster stated in a different category, vacant condos, failed projects, and even vacant old movie houses are pretty common in cities throughout the country. I’d bet there’s NOTHIN’ like those Pearland “mansions” anywhere else, and they get my vote.

  • I’m going to vote for #4 and keep my fingers crossed that it isn’t on the “best teardown” list next year.

  • No. 1 for me. A big, shiny landmark on my near daily trips up and down 288 each day in ’09.

  • #7. A perfect storm of idiocy, and prime example of wretched lending practices and builder excess.

  • #7, all the fun of being close to train tracks, none of the benefits.

  • #7 for the cheap hotel Magic Fingers bed effect every time a train rolls past.

  • #7. Every time I pass by, I shake my head at the collective idiocy that it took to build this place.

  • #2 Pavilions because no matter how many of these downtown things fail, no one learns the lesson and keeps building them.

  • P.S.

    Probably with some kind of tax break/incentive that my taxes have to pay for.

  • Mosaic/Montage which probably will be the first upscale condominium project that ended up a public housing project.

  • Although it lacks the scale of vacancy of my second choice, Mosaic/Montage, it has to be #7. I drive by the Villas almost daily and when I look down the track I am always surprised to see how close the north wall is to the track. I am not an engineer but I would think it would cause some kind of damage over time.

  • Villas at the Heights, 114 Heights Blvd…Maybe if it had a little bit of “lick and stick” stone it might sell.

  • #7 to represent the ‘hood. Here’s hoping Tower and Alabama find new tenants soon.

  • Alabama Theatre.

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