Building Back Up the Heights Blvd. Townhomes That Toppled

It looks like these 4-story townhouses are filling out a bit here on the corner of E. 2nd and Heights Blvd., where in late April their stick-frame precursors fell over in a wind-aided collapse. Fortunately, no one was hurt, though the garage doors of several finished and already occupied neighboring units were damaged. Keystone Classic Homes is the builder of this 8-pack located just south of White Oak Bayou.


That’s what the Madison Park development looked like one morning in late April. Though there had been a thunderstorm the night before, several Swamplot readers wrote in doubting that that had anything to do with it: “The weather was not that bad,” reports one reader. “There are lots of buildings in the area being built by other builders and still in the wood frame phase of construction and they held up perfectly fine.”

At any rate, this is what the site looked like soon after:

And a reader sends these closer-up photographs, taken today, of the continued progress:

Photos: Thomas Heinold (new construction); Swamplot inbox (old)

34 Comment

  • And all but one of them is sold? Good luck to these brave new owners during the next hurricane…

  • Guess we’ll see how well OSB wicks floodwater next time a big one puts White Oak Bayou out of its banks.

  • Plywood houses with cheap plastic siding. In 20 years they will either be torn down or turned into section 8 housing.

  • Cheap plastic siding? Really? More likely the siding is fiber cement such as Hardie siding. Pretty much a sound and proven product. Try again with the snide commentary.

    How well will OSB wick flood waters? Probably was well as any other wood construction.

  • Can attached tract townhouses like this become blighted? Yeah, if owners neglect shared maintenance or repairs like roofs, plumbing, foundation. HOAs often can’t do much and if the place starts looking ratty, prices drop, renters come and go..and people will get really tired of those stairs after a few years…But they’re probably built no worse that suburban tract homes.

  • JP, thanks for shilling for the corporate interests otherwise how would we know the builder is all butt hurt over the comments section?

  • I always find it amusing when people with no construction experience or understanding of building materials bash certain products. It’s just ignorance and hysteria.
    OSB is more resilient in wet situations than plywood, Hardiplank will outlast all of the Shitgalows built in the supposed golden age of Heights construction. The original structure collapsed because the sheathing, which provides most of the rigidity was not yet installed. Once the wood frame structure is framed, sheathed, and stuccoed, you can rip a wall off with a bulldozer and the entire structure will keep standing.

  • No real construction experience here, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. When the FRAME of any structure can not sustain a high wind that aint a good sign. No matter how many layers of plastic concrete you cover it in. A four story tall wind sail, built deep in the flood, yep that is where I woudl want to raise my family…think of them Bi-youuuu views!

  • A good example would if you have a thin sheet of metal, you can bend it with you fingers, but if you shape the same thin sheet of metal into a salad bowl shape, you can put it on the floor upside down and stand on it with all your weight without distorting it.

  • Hopefully these home owners can turn their sticks and stucco into bowls when their bayou fronting homes, flood. No better materials out there for boating or bowls, than sticks and stucco.

  • Once, again, the hysteria about flooding. IF that site is in a flood zone, it would be next to impossible to get financing to build or to buy those townhomes, plus it would be un-insurable. Hence, it must not be in a flood zone, which is predicted to an acceptable degree of accuracy. Also, I hate to break it to you but the entire Houston is in a flood zone, be it 50 year, 100 year, or 500 year flood. I’m sure all the Shitgalows will be floating down the bayou at one point or another.

  • Commonsense sure is keen to defend the materials and quality of cosntruciton of these townhouses. Hmmm…

  • There is nothing classic about these at all, they’re 3 shoe boxes stacked high. Good luck with your new homes geniuses..

  • “Shilling for the corporate interests?” Wha??? Merely identifying the siding product for what it is. And it is a good one at that. No “butt hurt” here.

    I don’t live in The Heights. Probably never will. It’s a fine enough neighborhood with good stuff (new and old) and bad stuff (new and old). My neighborhood is the same way and pretty much like any neighborhood in Houston.

    Do I like these particular townhomes, you may ask? Nope. Not my cup of tea. Am I going to bash them and the developer because I don’t like them? Nope.

    If you don’t like the townhomes then don’t buy one. If you think you can find a better use for the property then buy it and do what you gotta do(if you’ve got the credit, know how and guts) or just look away and live where you want to live.

    Being a petty, know-it-all busy body is not a trait that anyone likes. So….go away to your ivory tower, have your anti-redevelopment circle jerk and don’t come down. Your magnificent radiance if just too much for rest of us.

  • Merely pointing out your ignorance on the subject.

    In my opinion the whole hatred of stucco townhomes is based on pure jealousy (or class warfare)… jealousy that they’re brand new, three times the size of a bungalow, 10 times as energy efficient, none of the lead, asbestos, and termites, more functional, better resale value, not a fire trap, but most importantly you can’t afford one and have to justify living in a glorified outhouse form the Sears catalog of the 1920’s.

  • Yes much of Bellaire, the TMC and most low lying tracts next to Bayous are in the flood plain. Some how commonsense tells you that this tract wont flood, since the city of Houston is in the flood…and it floods reguraly, brilliant!

    Let me guess if you build the living space up out of the flood you CAN get insurance. So your pillow will be dry but the foundation of your structure and your wheels will underwater. That is is your framing doesnt fall down, again.

  • I noticed how you left off more structurally sound, Mr Commonsense.

  • vertical mobile homes..yuck!

  • You couldn’t be; not even a shred of jealousy. I could easily afford to live in one, and instead chose to restore a 1936 brick house which is not only a better investment but has also stood the test of time. Good luck with your stucco monstrosities, and piss poor resale values.

  • >>Once the wood frame structure is framed, sheathed, and stuccoed, you can rip a wall off with a bulldozer and the entire structure will keep standing.

    I sense a “Mythbusters” challenge. Maybe Urban Living can pony up one of their gems.

  • Ugh, I meant to say “you couldn’t be more wrong”.. No idea what happened to the back end of that sentence.

  • Guys, commonsense is right about the sheathing providing much of the strength of the structure. The sheathing keeps the framing from twisting in the wind, and provides shear strength. There’s a reason they have all those props nailed to the walls until the sheathing is installed.

  • So are all the homes built in the go-go late 70s and early 80s falling apart? After all everyone thought they were slapped up to accomodate the boom. You just can’t convince me that architecturally all those 1920s bungalows are truly significant in terms of good architecture. They were tract homes of their day just as all these townhomes are the tract homes of today. I mean if you could buy the house out of the Sears catalog, it just could not have been that special.

  • I work in the flood management field and I advise them to buy every dollar of flood insurance they can.

  • We love our three story “monstrosity”. Thanks to developers like @commonsense, we didn’t have to buy an old, dilapidated, energy inefficient, traditional Heights bungalow where we’d have to sink 100k+ just to bring it up to code. There’s a reason these style homes go under contract so quick. People, like ourselves, want to buy them. I know it’s a tough concept for the typical snooty Heights resident to grasp, but not everyone wants to live in an old tract home.

  • Just a question here: how many of these structures (finished or unfinished) collapsed in Ike? Does anyone know of an example?

  • @Allen, finished, practically none, only ones that were hit by giant falling trees. Since there was a few days warning for Ike, most framers either deferred starting, hurried up and finished or installed extra temporary bracing.

  • Twelve.. And stucco apologists, buy a power washer, you’ll definitely need it, again good luck with your horrible resale value as some of us know all too well how cheaply and shoddily your homes are made. They will not stand the test of time; go look at some from ten years ago, and see what lovely condition they’re in now (mold, sluffing, cracking, etc. — money well spent if you’re delusional and have more money than common sense (bad pun intended).

  • cm,
    Twelve of these structures damaged in Ike? To what are you referring, please?

  • No 12 toppled in a light rain earlier this year, the ones referenced in the article above.

  • cm is still reaching for far fetched reasons to live in a shitgalow. Don’t even start about resale values, new townhomes are much easier to resell and hold their value better. The shitgalows only value is land which it currently litters with it’s temporary presence.
    P.S. you misspelled Sloughing, not that you would even recognize it when you saw it.

  • cm,
    So 12 toppled in light rain but 0 toppled in hurricane winds. Got it. The thing is, there probably is a case to be made for what you are saying but I just don’t see you making it. You just seem like you have an axe to grind with these things and you’ll throw around anything you can get a hold on in terms of criticism.

  • I feel sorry for anyone who plunks their money down for townhomes going up in Houston these days. The majority of them are badly and hastily built, with generally cheap materials. In 10 to 15 years we will be looking at slums.

    The sickening thing is that many historic structures have been torn down for these things. Our landfills are overflowing from the wreckage of these irreplaceable buildings along with equally irreplacable materials, such as old growth timbers and heart pine.