Who won what in this year’s Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate? You’ll find the answers here!
This announcement caps an almost month-long process that began with calls for nominations in 10 separate award categories. After the official nominees were presented, voting was opened up to all readers.
Winners of the 2010 Swampies: We salute you for your unique contributions to this city. It takes a lot to stand out in Houston’s real estate landscape. On Swamplot, Houston real-estate fans have noticed you!
Big thanks are due to the many Swamplot readers who took time to nominate, evaluate, vote, and comment on competitors in each category. It’s your descriptions and observations we’ve featured below. Does this honor roll of award winners — along with the list of runners up — provide a good snapshot of this year in Houston real estate? Let us know what you think!
The winners of the 2010 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate are . . .
1. Favorite Houston Design Cliché. Award winner: Lone Stars.
The nomination: “They’re stuck to the exteriors of local houses, welded into fences, topping weathervanes and incorporated into thousands of local front doors. What inspires such a need to express pride in one’s state by tacking distressed stars onto everything? Please, stop doing that. It’s not like we’re going to forget we live in Texas.”
- From Valerie: “The only place those don’t annoy me is in a barbecue restaurant.”
- From Kim: “When my husband’s aunt moved here from California, her daughter begged her not to decorate with ‘all those tacky metal stars that everyone in Texas has’!”
- From Amanda: “I started counting [stars] once in my in-laws’ Katy neighborhood, but I lost track and gave up. Pretty much every other house.”
- From Sunsets: “The really horrifying thing is that I am starting to see the Texas Lone Stars all over the Lehigh Valley (near Allentown) in Pennsylvania. I have no idea why. On the other hand, I’ve spotted two PA Dutch Hex signs in the Heights, so maybe there’s some kind of tacky state specific kitsch exchange going on?”
- From Carol: “Secretly I like the stars — at least they show our shared pride in something. But from a design standpoint, it’s cliche and tired.”
- From Ash: “I blame Buc-ee’s.”
Runner-up: Masonry-front houses. Other nominees in this category: Oval leaded glass front doors with shiny brass trim, Suburban office buildings touting “green” credentials, Poolside stone waterfall additions, Outdoor fire pits, Mailbox mansions.
2. Best Teardown. Award winner: Candlelight Trails, 5500-5600 DeSoto.
The nomination: “The squatter-and-crime-filled condo complex was shut down by the city in 2007, but it took a lawsuit against 150 absentee owners of the festering 11-acre spread to get them to sign off on the demolition. When the demo finally began this September, Mayor Parker was thrilled to take her own whack at the place.”
- From Larissa Lindsay: “. . . so very hard to do, and a great accomplishment.”
- From Ash: “If only because our Mayor enjoyed it so much.”
- From Darby Mom: “Definitely, considering all the time and effort it took . . .”
Runner-up: Imperial Sugar Company, Sugar Land. Other nominees in this category: National Flame and Forge and Foundation Steel and Wire, Houston Heights; 4221 Byron St., West University; 306 E. Friar Tuck, Sherwood Forest; Sheraton-Lincoln Hotel, Downtown; 3394 Chevy Chase and 3401 Sleepy Hollow, River Oaks; 3613 Goodhope St., South Union; Transmission Dome, 3420 Chimney Rock.
3. Houston Parking Lot of the Year. Award winner: Parking Lot for Blue Fish House, Yelapa Playa Mexicana, Hobbit Cafe, and Mugsy’s, 2241 Richmond, Montrose.
The nomination: “Compared to the perfectly lined Truman Show-esque parking lots of the strip-center world, this awkward, irregular, serpentine, patchwork quilt of a parking lot is such a refreshing challenge.”
“An homage to our rustic, pioneer days when earlier Americans braved hardship in Conestoga wagons crossing the great frontier. Not knowing if you would be able to endure the crossing to the other side was frightening and somehow filled with optimism for a new, better life. This parking lot is a reminder of how far we’ve come as a country and yet a prime example of how far we still have left to go. Hark! I see the purple mountains’ majesty, and a shattered U-joint.”
“Every time I eat at one of those restaurants, I worry about losing a portion of my vehicle.”
- From Balthazar: “You just can’t find lots like that any more! It’s the closest to off-roading I get on a regular basis.”
- From BrewWench: “When the weeds haven’t been cut back in the summer, even the sidewalk can be a dangerous place to be. My favorite is that they offer valet parking in there? Yes, please. Here are my keys — please let me pay you to go and grind down the bottom of my car or pop off my tires.”
Runner-up: Freeform lot on former AstroWorld site. Other nominees in this category: 2528 Amherst St., Rice Village; City of Houston lot under Southwest Fwy., Museum District; Single-sex Catholic high school parking garages, Memorial and Magnolia Grove; Mekong Shopping Center rooftop lot, Midtown; Future Parking Lot for Montrose H-E-B; Interstate 45; Central Market parking lot, Highland Village; Sonoma Memorial Parking Lot, Rice Village.
4. Drive-Thru of the Year. Award winner: The City of Houston.
The nomination: “The most drive-thru friendly city in America. I’d challenge anyone to find another city with a greater per capita number of drive-thru banks, restaurants, dry cleaners, daiquiri stands, donut shops, pharmacies, coffee shops, etc.”
- From biggerintexas: “Because just like all the people ordering at fast food drive-thrus….I can’t pick just one. I want it all….and super size it too!”
- From SanchO: “i love to drive-thru Houston!”
- From Bill: “A very efficient Drive Thru city.”
Runner-up: Chick-fil-A Highway 59 at Kirby, Upper Kirby. Other nominees in this category: Connie’s Frozen Custard, Cypress North Houston; El Rey Taqueria, Washington Corridor; Shipley’s Donuts, Oak Forest; W Grill, Washington Corridor; Eskimo Hut, Spring; Daiquiri Shack, Crestmont Park; The Original Beck’s Prime, Upper Kirby; Advantage BMW, Midtown.
5. Walmart of the Year. Award winner: Washington Heights Walmart, Yale St. at Koehler, West End.
The nomination: “Hasn’t even been built yet, but already it’s made quite an impression. If this Walmart hadn’t caused such a kerfuffle, we wouldn’t even have had this award category — right? The mere thought of it opening has exposed all kinds of issues with how development in our city takes place and the attitudes of our elected officials (and what they talk about in their emails to each other). But even if this Walmart does get built as planned, it will still be the best — for the way it opened a lot of people’s eyes.”
- From NorhillJoe: “for all the entertainment provided to the Swamploters.”
- From happy in the heights: “It brought out everyone’s true colors in this heated debate.”
- From Old school: “The good news is that this has mobilized residents and put future big box developers on notice that life will be very difficult for them if they take suburban sprawl and transplant it to urban areas. The Heights needs a Walmart as much as Cinco Ranch needs a Historic District.”
Runner-up: Walmart Distribution Center, Cedar Crossing Industrial Park, Baytown. Other nominees in this category: Dunvale Walmart Supercenter; Pearland Walmart Supercenter; Angleton Walmart Supercenter; Crosby Walmart Supercenter; Supermercado de Walmart, Spring Branch; Northline Commons Walmart; Meyer Park Walmart.
6. The Washington Ave Award. Award winner: Wabash Antiques & Feed Store, 5701 Washington at Malone.
The nomination: “My favorite place to shop in all of Houston.”
“Awesome. My kids love to see the animals.”
“If you need a special pet food, they usually have it. I’ve actually bought various birthday, Christmas and other presents there. The addition of farmer’s market products (though pricey) is nice too. My tomatoes were great this year.”
- From I love Idylwood: “I can spend hours shopping in there.”
- From a reader: “I actually go there with my kiddo, it is like the zoo, but free! Plus, they are able to accurately diagnose problems with my lawn from a few grass clippings and vague descriptions.”
- From Old school: “What makes Houston great is the ease at which Wabash fits into an upscale neighborhood (Rice Military). No one thinks ‘oh my, what in the world is this doing here?’ when they go to Wabash. Instead, they are grateful for the reminder that beneath the oil riches and medical marvels, Houston is a city surrounded by wonderful farms and farmers. We all have a bit of an old ranch hand in us.”
- From BrewWench: “I don’t and won’t go anywhere else for my herbs, fruit trees, and seeds.”
Runner-up: 4601 Washington Ave. Other nominees in this category: Catalina Coffee, Catalan Food and Wine, El Tiempo Cantina, The Corkscrew, The Washington Wave, Gentrifying Jesus, Laredo Taqueria, Esperanza School, Glenwood Cemetery.
7. Most Improved Neighborhood. Award winner: Brookesmith.
The nomination: “It has seen a lot of improvement in the past year, despite the recession. Remodeling is picking up, a few bungalows have been moved in to occupy some of the vacant lots, and there has even been some new construction of single-family homes. In addition, there have been some infrastructure improvements: the reconstruction of North Main below Airline is complete, Tabor St. has been widened, and Enid St. is being widened as well.”
- From EmilyM: “The neighborhood is turning around quicker than I ever imagined.”
- From Caneco: “With the reconstruction of Main, I expect this area to really take off in 2011 . . .”
- From Miz Brooke Smith: “Brooke Smith also boasts many fine Mexican restaurants including Teotihuacan, Spanish Flower and Rico’s, which now features a drag show on Friday nights. Across the street from Rico’s is our Shipley’s on N. Main, the only place in town for boudin kolaches and Cajun music on the radio. Where else in Houston will you find such riches?”
- From John (another one): “You mean there’s a place in Houston with Mexican food *and* donuts? I never dreamed it could be so! If only I’d known before I bought my house.”
- From D: “Remarkable growth and improvement over last year or two . . . It also has my favorite retro icehouse ‘D&T Drive Inn’ at Enid/Calvalcade.”
8. Least Historic Neighborhood. Award winner: Cinco Ranch.
The nomination: “Feels completely cut off from the rest of the world. And it just keeps on marching west, toward the future, every year. As you drive west on Cinco Ranch Blvd., you can see the cutting edge of suburban design just get sharper and sharper.”
- From NorhillJoe: “Cinco Ranch, the antimatter of historic.”
- From anon: “Cinco Ranch, because I find the Cinco Ranch vs. Katy rivalry hilarious.”
- From anon22: “Why is Cinco Ranch singled out of all of Houston’s expansionist suburban neighborhoods. I don’t even think it’s in Houston.”
9. Houston Neighborhood of the Year. Award winner: Idylwood.
The nomination: “People who actually know their neighbors and look out for one another. A sense of community that welcomes a variety of cultures and backgrounds. Residents who have a passion for preserving their neighborhood and ensuring quality of life. A central park that provides a gathering place for both official and informal gatherings, for children to play, and for dogs to run. Affordable housing. Varied and eclectic offerings at nearby dining establishments. Beautiful historic homes with mature trees, varied wildlife and actual hills. Convenient access to all areas of Inner Loop Houston (no 20-minute treks through Heights traffic to reach home after exiting the freeway). As yuppie-vanilla culture invades the Heights and Montrose, Idylwood will only grow in popularity.”
- From IPLawyer: “Great neighborhood, great neighbors, and it’s not flat!”
- From Great Homes: “Idylwood provides The Most for the Most Reasonable Price. Hills, historic houses, 5 minutes to downtown, lots and lots of green space, neighbors who work at the Med Center or the universities or NASA, and price appreciation. Houston’s hidden jewel.”
- From Rat and Red: “When the metro rail arrives nearby, it will be an even more convenient location for inner-loop access. Plus, the golf course, Villa de Matel, and cemetery make ideal neighbors for tranquility. Right now, the chimes are softly echoing from the villa and cemetery and the scent of freshly-roasted coffee (Maxwell house plant) is wafting through . . .”
- From MM on Meadowlawn: “Once people start to hear about us more and more . . . the surrounding areas will change and we will be the most popular area in the inner loop.”
- From I love Idylwood: “Once people move to Idylwood, they tend to find their forever home and stay. Besides, the 729 trick-or-treaters that came to our home cannot be wrong about their choice of the best neighborhood!”
10. Greatest Moment in Houston Real Estate, 2010. Award winner: Walmart bags its first location Inside the Loop, June 11th.
The nomination: “The story breaks on Swamplot a few weeks after Walmart outbids H-E-B for Ainbinder Company’s 16-acre parcel of former industrial land just south of the Heights, but it’s still before the national retailer can get its formidable marketing machine revving; madcap hijinks ensue. Compared to protracted battles the company has fought in other cities, Walmart doesn’t have too much of a problem winning the approvals it needs to build the exact new 152,000-sq.-ft. suburban-style store and 664-car surface parking lot it wants — just 3 miles northwest of Downtown, in the old West End. Along the way, Ainbinder even bags a tax agreement with the city worth $6 million — to cover infrastructure improvements surrounding the new strip centers the company plans to build fronting Yale and Heights Blvd. The developments’ organized opposition doesn’t appear to have come away with much of anything to show for its efforts. But for Houston, this kind of fight against a big-box chain retailer waged online, in the media, in rallies, and in city forums is a whole new thing.“
- From Heights Guy: “My vote goes to Walmart just for the giant shitstorm of panic and hypocrisy that ensued.”
- From Ash: “Gotta vote for Walmart. I love it when people vent passionately, especially when they’re so wonderfully wrong.”
- From htownproud: “[The] Walmart issue will go away in a year or two (as sad as that will be, as the rhetoric on both sides is amusing).”
- From Ranger: “I can’t believe that there are people voting for Walmart as the greatest moment in Houston Real Estate. Come on people, it’s a Walmart . . .”
Runner-up: Weingarten backs off its plans to demo the interior of the Alabama Theater. Other nominees in this category: Dynamo Stadium gets its go-aheads; Springwoods Village makes its debut; Houston puts teeth in its preservation ordinance; Wind turbines at the top of Hess Tower start to spin.
- The Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate, 2010: The Runners-Up [Swamplot]
- Swamplot Awards Ballots 2010 [Swamplot]
Images: Aaron Carpenter (Lone Star), Jessica Michan (Mayor Parker), Swamplot inbox (2241 Richmond), Michael Bludworth (I-45), Moody Rambin Retail (Washington Heights Walmart), Candace Garcia (Wabash), HAR (502 Enid St., 27519 Myrtle Lake Ln., 6648 Merry Ln.).