Voting begins this afternoon for the penultimate category in the 2016 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate: the Neighborhood of the Year Award. A big thanks to everyone who took the time to submit a nomination!
Please note: This category is not meant to recognize the Houston area’s “best” neighborhood (whatever that might mean). It’s meant to recognize the area’s Neighborhood of the Year — which affords you, the voter, much more latitude in your choice. It also means that it’s especially important that, as you vote, you take time to tell us why the nominee you’ve selected deserves special attention above all this year’s other worthy contenders.
You can votes 4 times for this category (as is the case with all of this year’s awards) — once each by means of a comment below, an email to the Tip Line, and a proclamation of your affections on Facebook or Twitter. If you aren’t familiar with Swamplot voting rules, check out the explainer here — and be sure to get your friends in on the action (which ends on Tuesday, December 27th at 5 pm, when voting for all categories will close).
Without further ado, we present the nominees for 2016 Neighborhood of the Year:
1. Greater Fifth Ward. “Where else do residents get tattooed with a symbol of their neighborhood? This area has withstood decades of neglect, but is now bringing in major development for local residents (without severe displacement like what has been seen in some of the other former Wards.) Notable highlights of the area’s ongoing transformation: the revitalization of the Lyons Ave. corridor, the rededication of the Cleme Manor apartments, Midway’s plans to turn the KBR brownfield site into a massive mixed-use complex east of Downtown, restoration of the historic DeLuxe Theater, several updated HISD schools . . . And hardly a single murder in years, despite its sticky reputation as a high-crime neighborhood!”
2. Memorial City. “A major center of outside-the-Loop development in recent years, and one of the few neighborhoods in the city where nearby residents are currently involved in suing the local Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (on the grounds that the zone was formed to fight flooding issues but has allegedly worsened them in the area). The neighborhood legal battle is, in microcosm, a showcase of the many competing interests and forces shaping the rest of Houston: developers, representatives of the opaque TIRZ system, angry disputes over how flooding works . . . all as new projects slowly but surely spread outward into the city’s ever-widening concrete periphery.”
3. East Downtown, AKA EaDo. “Warehouse after warehouse is now under redevelopment into trendy bar after brewery after restaurant, as the townhome farms ready their crop for sale. Meanwhile, the 2-syllable developer nickname has been spreading infectiously beyond the boundaries of anything historically corresponding to the original East Downtown label. Have we reached peak EaDo? Or will the name continue to creep into surrounding neighborhoods until we find ourselves hitting up the next hot bar in . . . um, EaDo Heights?“
4. The Heights: “Lots of people like to poke fun at the Heights for its culture of complaining (and much of that ribbing is warranted) — but people still want to live here in droves. Because all that bitching has paid off! We have complained about the quality of commercial and retail development in the area for years — now developers have actually listened, and have had great success in the Heights by breaking the strip mall pattern, with interesting repurposing for old buildings and progressive architecture for new builds. We bitched about historic preservation — now landmark status is helping to preserve the Heights Theater and the Water Works. (There was even a bitch-off between those who had been pining for years for H-E-B to open a store in the Heights, and those who did not want to soften the dry restrictions to suit H-E-B’s needs.) We will soon see the fruits of what may have been the nadir of Heights complaining: the Yale St. bridge reconstruction, originally planned to wrap up in 2018, is way ahead of schedule, and will probably be complete in early spring.“
5. Acres Homes. “Acres Homes is being set up as another great frontier for artsy folks inside the Beltway. The neighborhood (known for its huge lots and its vehicle-equine traffic encounters), is, for example, the future site of NoLo Studios (the high-end artist housing project by Francois de Menil, which advertises itself as ‘a creative community in the woods’, rather than ‘a creative community in a historically black neighborhood founded during World War I’). “
6. Montrose. “Long before the recent showdown in the years-long scuffle between the neighborhood’s not-entirely-popular management district and some of its taxed constituents, the Montrose area had already become one of the most visible battlegrounds of Old Houston and New Houston. Drag clubs are being replaced by parking garages for hip co-working space; eccentric junk shops are fleeing west as townhouses close in; the Westheimer building that once housed leather bar Mary’s now houses an artisanal coffeehouse that closes at 5 pm. Can a neighborhood keep its soul without keeping its grimy dive bars (or its step-into-the-back-room erotica shops)? Right now Montrose, more than any other neighborhood in Houston, is fumbling for the answer to that question.”
7. Downtown. “Sure, Shell and Exxon have left, and there’s a lot of empty office space. But the transformations of the Market Square, Discovery Green, and Skyhouse areas of Downtown signal pretty significant progress away from the after-hours ghost town that Downtown used to be. I guess time will tell if all that new residential and convention-center-related construction was a bad investment — but if it holds on, it’ll really change the character of our downtown. Downtown could win every year through 2017 because of its incredible ongoing transformation. The energy and new development is setting up an incredible background for the Super Bowl next year (which I think will blow people away — both visitors and local folk who have generally avoided the area).
There you have it! Which nominee deserves to be this year’s winner? You tell us — voting begins now!
- How To Vote in the 2016 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate
- Swamplot Awards Ballots 2016 [Swamplot]
Images: HAR (1709 Dan St., 11102 W. Sherwood Gardens Dr., 1404 Paige St., 1111 E. 7th 1/2 St., 7121 Edmont Ln.), FdM:Arch (Nolo Studios), Montrose Management District (Montrose signage), Garrett Robles (Skyhouses), Swamplot inbox (all others)