Greatest Moment in Houston Real Estate: The Official 2016 Ballot

This is it, folks. We’ve reached the final ballot in the final category of the 2016 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate: the award for the Greatest Moment in Houston Real Estate.

What makes something great? This award aims to honor the event this year that stood out above all the rest. Is that a Houston real estate happening that made the city a better place? Or is it something that left its mark on the local landscape in other ways? It’s up to you to decide who gets this award, and what it means — so be sure to explain yourself when you cast your ballots!

You can vote by adding a comment below, or by email, Facebook, or Twitter. And you can vote using all 4 methods — as long as you follow these rules. Tell us which of the following nominees represents the greatest moment in Houston real estate — and then tell us why.

Here they are — your 2016 nominees:


2016 Oil Bottom-out1. Oil Prices Slip Below $27 per Barrel, January 20th. “The oil collapse set the tone for the coming year in Houston real estate (and, perhaps, a few years to come) more so than any other event. All year, low oil prices were seen rippling through the Houston market, from cancelations of planned luxury condo developments to the flood of office sublease space in the Energy Corridor; from headquarters reshufflings and departures of big players in the energy industry, to the economic hurt that trickled down.”


Former KBR Campus, 4100 Clinton Dr., Fifth Ward, Houston

2. Midway Snags the KBR Site in Fifth Ward, May 18th. “The KBR days at the campus centered at 4100 Clinton Dr. were followed by teardowns, industrial cleanup, helicoptering, and years of sitting around before CityCentre developer Midway finally struck a deal on the down-low this spring for a joint venture on the site with its previous buyer, William Harrison.  Now, the 147-acre property on Buffalo Bayou is purportedly headed toward a total redevelopment as a mixed residential, commercial, and entertainment district with another New York-flavored moniker: East River; Midway claims the project will ‘shift the center of gravity of Houston’s urban core toward the east.’”


Mecom Fountain with Limestone Paneling, Main at Montrose, Museum District, Houston, 77006

3. The Mecom Fountain’s De-Restoration Is Reversed, May 29th. “It’s a great coming together story: Preservationists raise a fuss over the installation (apparently only accidentally okayed by the Texas Historical Commission) of limestone panels (which may have caused structural damage). Mayor Turner eventually reverses course on the city’s original ‘let’s just see how it turns out’ position, and asks TxDOT to stop adding panels. Then some members of the mayor’s transition team launch a private crowdfunding effort to help pay for the de-Tuscanization and subsequent restoration of the fountain to Midcentury-ish glory, as well as to replace the grant money originally spent on the limestone skin.”


Ashby Highrise Site, 1717 Bissonnet St. at Ashby St., Boulevard Oaks, Houston

Ashby Highrise, 1717 Bissonnet St., Boulevard Oaks, Houston4. Ashby Highrise Damage Award is Overturned, June 30th. “Wrapping up the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of the Ashby Highrise, an appeals court not only upheld the 2014 decision that the highrise planned for 1717 Bissonnet could be built, but overturned the previous ruling that the developer would have to pay the suing neighbors. The appeals court declared that no damages could be owed for something caused by the building’s construction, since it hasn’t actually been constructed yet.  (The judge didn’t say, however, that the neighbors couldn’t sue again later, if the place does finally go up).”


Proposed Housing Development at 2640 Fountainview Dr., Briargrove, Houston, 77057

5. Mayor Turner Nixes Affordable Housing Project Planned for Briargrove, August 1st. “The project would have been the first public affordable housing project in a ‘high-opportunity’ area. The project also would have required the Houston Housing Authority to knock down one of its own office buildings to make space for the apartment complex in Briargrove — where some vocal residents didn’t want the apartments built. For some, the whole saga raised lots of questions about NIMBYs, schools, and Houston’s post-lawsuit compliance with Federal Fair Housing standards; others saw it as marking a shift in power in City Hall. Either way, it led to the resignation of the Houston Housing Authority’s chairman, after Mayor Turner implied the agency’s leadership would be replaced as soon as was feasible.”


Proposed Astrodome Parking Garage Plans

Proposed Astrodome Parking Garage Plans6. County Gives Go-Ahead To Turn the Astrodome’s Playing Field Into a Parking Garage, September 27th. “This year the county got the ball rolling (and some of the cash flowing) on its new plan to convert the Astrodome’s main below-ground-level floor into a 2-story underground space for cars to hang out (and maybe reminisce about Billy Jean King, Elvis, or the Oilers). It’s a rare case of preservationists getting excited about the creation of a new parking lot, and finally opens back up the possibility of someone actually using the remaining portion of the 8th Wonder of the World for something, at some nebulous future date.”


Map Showing Dry Area of Houston Heights

7. The Heights Votes To Loosen Dry Zone Restrictions, November 8th. “The closure earlier this year of the Fiesta on N. Shepherd Dr. set in motion a series of events that led to the alteration of the 1912 alcohol sales prohibition laws still operating in much of the Heights (as mapped above). At the urging and petition-collecting of a campaign funded at least in part by H-E-B, the city of Houston revived the ancient boundaries of the city of Houston Heights for the sake of a local option election on this year’s ballot. That option passed handily, making it legal to sell beer and wine for carry-out-only purposes (like, say, a grocery store might do). The neighborhood-wide prohibition on drink-it-now sales is still in place, for now — though just as effective as before.”


A big round of applause, please, for all of this year’s hard-working contestants. Now tell us: Which of these moments was the greatest? Voting ends for this and all other categories on Tuesday, December 27th at 5 pm. Get your votes in now!

Images: LoopNet (KBR listing photo), (WTI graph), Harris County (Astrodome plans), Houston Housing Authority (2640 Fountainview Dr. rendering), Houston Heights Beverage Coalition (Heights Dry Zone map with corrected H-E-B location), Mike Bloom (Ashby Highrise site work), Buckhead Investment Partners (1717 Bissonnet St. rendering), Swamplot inbox (all others)

The 2016 Swampies

18 Comment

  • Since the criteria is something that was for the better, I’d go with #4, the East River Midway development. Though the near Eastside ( EaDo) has been developing for about a decade, this will be the first large-scale, significant office/residential/retail East of 59 in years. If they do it well, it really could be a game changer for that part of the city.
    As an aside, I think #7 was significant in that it will change the complexion of the Houston Heights over the next several years, but I’m not sure it is a good thing. Let’s see how it plays out. It’s not just going to be an HEB coming in and everything else stays the same.

  • #2: MIDWAY/KBR

    This has such huge potential and Midway is the best company for this kind of grand vision that I can think of.

  • Tough choice for me personally. I have to say Midway’s purchase of the KBR site in 5th Ward has got to be at the top of my list. This is the same company that’s turned blight into something the whole community can be a part of. They grew the former Town and Country Mall property into a destination, and more recently with the announcement of Buffalo Heights.. What this company is doing is exciting, and it’s changing the landscape of Houston. Where an apartment city once stood will soon be multi-use, something that developers are taking their cues from. Honorable mention to the demise of the Heights dry zone ordinance. Now developers in the Heights can vie for their share of the Washington Avenue, Downtown, and Midtown bar crowd.

  • 3. This was a great moment in Houston history. Simple, poignant proof Houstonians can muster the right thing halfway through doing the wrong thing.

  • Oil Prices Slip – the crash of the price of oil put the brakes on many projects and caused many more to change hands. Rents are falling and concessions are now back in play. This, more than anything, changed the look of Houston’s real estate. Thank goodness for the hard fast deadline of the Super Bowl that saved many projects!

  • Oil crash mainly because it demonstrated that Houston is no longer a one trick pony and can ride out downturns in the energy market.

  • I’d say #1 with the caveat that we’re discussing the whole cycle of price fluctuations and economic prognosticating. Early on in the year, we (the real estate community) witnessed the economy finally appearing to give way and scrape bottom; at long last were reminded and forced to come to terms with the possibility that Houston’s economy might actually be more or less a one-trick pony. We briefly had cause to panic. The short-term concerns were compounded in some quarters by concerns that a flood of investment into electric and autopiloted vehicles (possibly hurried along by a Democratic sweep of congress, as seemed increasingly plausible at the time) might pose a medium-term existential risk to the oil & gas sector. Projects were cancelled in droves. We then watched as the oil industry nimbly restructured, got leaner, and re-wrote its own rules on the cost of producing oil. They demonstrated that there really is more to it than the top-line price of oil and they managed to carry on. Any lessons that might’ve been learned were promptly forgotten. Then, to cap off the year, we witnessed the Republicans sweep the government, Rex Tillerson elevated to Secretary of State, and Rick Perry to Secretary of Energy. So here we are again, things look like they’ll be okay — if not necessarily booming again — and we’re all gonna sell some more swampy lots to all comers.

  • Voting for East River/midway but honorable mention to the cancelled affordable housing by Turner. He said it wasnt cost effective at $250k/unit and instead gave money to redevelop Cleme Manor at $166k/unit. Turner does a good job of keeping the poor in the poor neighborhoods.

  • #1. Oil crash. Sweeping effects in all parts of town.

  • Number 1. This particular oil downturn has been unprecedented and yet the city and its citizens continue unabated. I’d say the ‘mark left’ would arguably be the resilience of Houston.

  • #2 Midway/KBR for me. Redevelopment could be a boon to the area, IF they encourage the surrounding neighborhoods to be part of the picture, offering green spaces and (non-boutique) grocery shopping. If nothing else it will look nicer than it does now… would just hope to see bridge building and not fence building.

  • Number 3. Success in preventing the thoughtless from screwing up something that did not need messing with. By the way, number 1 is not a real estate event, and should retroactively be disqualified. Just a thought.

  • #1 This threw a wet blanket on the real estate market.

  • #1, it’s the only one that was still any bit surprising even if already old news at turn of the year. Everything else was standard rinse, wash & repeat Houston. Nothing to see here, move along.
    #1 will still be by far the most important topic in 2017 for the majority of houstonians.

  • #2. This one is a game changer.

  • Midway and KBR/East River. Like others have said – going to be a game changer.