Swamplot mentioned the cancellation of Randall Davis’s Titan condo project in passing yesterday, announcing at the same time that the project had scored the first-place spot in the hotly contested Most Grandiose Development category of the Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate. But really, if any 2008 event in Houston real estate deserves its own separate post on Swamplot, this is it.
Davis told the Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff that slow sales convinced him to shut down the 25-story highrise project. There’ll be no rearranging of the deck chairs, no putting the project “on hold,” no “My Heart Will Go On.” It’s all over.
But the Titan will be sorely missed.
Why? Because no project dreamed or built better dramatized the frightened, defensive pomposity rampant in the Houston development scene. It’s the mid-late-’00s Houston real-estate zeitgeist: Make it grand, but make it grand in a way that we really hope other people will think is a lot like something else they also think is grand, so they’ll think we’re grand too! In its concept, its design, and its marketing, the Titan grasped desperately at themes — from anywhere but Houston — that might somehow bestow on the project a greater nobility than otherwise possible from its humble origins in a McDonald’s parking lot.
Really, the Titan just wanted to be loved.
Buck Rogers deco profile? We’ll do it! Pools high on top-floor balconies? We’ll do it! Celebrity suite names for the social-climbing set? We’ll do it! Pointless spire? Hey, it points! It may not have had the absurdity factor of the toilet-obsessed Turnberry, or the overwhelming “live here, and you’ll be able to forget you’re in Houston” quality of so many other local luxury developments, but the Titan threw as many marketing wows as it could into its theme blender, whipping up a frothy glass of condo Kool-Aid. This time there just weren’t enough takers.
Will Houston ever see anything like the Titan again? Are you kidding? Just drive around. The local landscape is already dotted with shopping centers, apartment complexes, and lifestyle centers trying hard to compensate for low self-esteem in similarly cartoonish ways. The Titan wouldn’t have been so different, really. It’s just that when you hop onto a 5-story parking garage and stick your spire straight up into the sky, people tend to notice what you’re wearing.
It may be a long time before the local economy makes it safe for pretension and bluster on such a Titanic scale again. In the meantime, if you run into a lonely, down-on-its luck, wannabe-deco condo tower drowning out its sorrows in a crenellated Uptown Park bar, please try to be supportive and understanding. And tell ’em Swamplot loves the Titan and all those other buildings for what they really want to be, deep inside: nice, friendly, helpful pieces of the city.
- Proposed 25-story luxury condo tower bites dust [Houston Chronicle]
- The Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate, 2008: The Winners! [Swamplot]
- The Titan: Uptown Theme Blender [Swamplot]
- The Luxury Highrise and the Drive-Thru: They’re Lovin’ It! [Swamplot]
- Nine and a Half Bathrooms: The Turnberry Tower Penthouse Evacuation Plan [Swamplot]
- Not So Gaudi on Antoine: Barcelona Villa Boxes! [Swamplot]