Here they are at last — the results of the fourth annual Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate! Who won what in this year’s competition? You’ll find the answers below.
This announcement caps an almost month-long process that began with calls for nominations in 9 separate award categories. Official ballots were were put together from reader nominations. Then voting was opened up — to everyone.
Winners of the 2011 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 the many Swamplot readers who took time to nominate, evaluate, vote, and comment on competitors in each category. It’s your judgments, your descriptions and your observations that are featured below. Does this honor roll of award winners — along with the list of runners up — provide a good snapshot of the year in Houston real estate? All were determined by reader votes. Let us know what you think!
The winners of the 2011 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate are . . .
1. Favorite Houston Design Cliché. Award winner: “Lick ’n’ stick” fake-rock siding.
The nomination: “It started on small commercial structures several years ago (see bank branches) and has now spread into the residential marketplace. In a city built atop clay and sand it always just seems a bit odd, like it’s trying to evoke ‘Denver on the Gulf’ or something. . . . Sure, the phrase ‘lick ’n’ stick’ sounds a bit exaggerated, but if you’ve ever seen it put on a house, you’ll attest to its appropriateness.”
- From BrewWench: “A truly ugly thing to do to a building.”
- From Carol: “It rarely looks good, let alone real.”
- From ZachColor: “The picture from  is perfect. . . . Builders using this material in this way have lost touch with the point of stone.”
- From Lost_In_Translation: “77079 is being overrun by these monstrosities.”
- From Hellsing: “Rampant in 77018 and splattered so randomly on the structures that it usually looks launched from a trebuchet a couple of blocks over.”
- From Michael DeVoll: “Adding the lick-n-stick stone to the 60′s ranch in Westbury does not give you a CO chalet.”
Runner-up: The New Charlestorleans Style. Other nominees in this category: Art niches, Parking-lot-facing restaurant patios, Outsized strip-center foreheads, Giant metal chickens, Icicle Christmas lights.
2. Best Demolition. Award winner: H.A. Lott House, 818 Sugar Creek Blvd., Sugar Land.
The nomination: “Frank Lloyd Wright acolyte Karl Kamrath’s 1975 steel-frame home for Astrodome builder H.A. Lott looked all redone and ready to go for a mere million bucks when it was bought last April. ‘Had I known, I would have never sold to them,’ the former owner commented on Swamplot: The buyers, it turned out, had other plans for the 36,041-sq.-ft. waterfront lot. Another MacKie and Kamrath house at 59 Tiel Way in River Oaks was also demolished this year.”
- From Michael DeVoll: “Just too sad!“
- From Vincent M: “I found it by accident one day several years ago and would gawk at it as I slowly drove by. Amazing home made more amazing by the way it took advantage of its lot.”
- From paulbtucker: “Such a waste.”
- From shadyheightster: “Good architecture can’t easily be replaced. You know, if you’re looking for a lot to build your dream home upon, the Houston area comprises over 1500 square miles. You mean to tell me that this was the ONLY suitable location the new homeowner could find to build on?”
- From Hanabi-chan: “I liked that house and wished I had the funds to buy it. I hope whoever purchased the land builds something just as lovely and not another unimaginative, cookie cutter McMansion.”
Runner-up: Sheraton-Lincoln Hotel, Downtown. Other nominees in this category: Houston Main Building, Texas Medical Center; Buffalo Grille, West University; Exterior, River Oaks Shopping Center; Interior, Alabama Theater, Upper Kirby; YMCA Building, Downtown; Forbidden Gardens, Katy; Flagship Hotel, Galveston.
3. Best Parking Lot Dining Experience. Award winner: Lola, 1102 Yale St., Houston Heights.
The nomination: “I went to a strip mall in the dry Houston Heights, where you order champagne and instead they serve you cherry-cola. (See-oh-el-aye cola.) I walked inside and said hello. The waitress looked at me long, and then said ‘welcome to Lola’s.’ (El-oh-el-aye Lola’s la-la-la-la Lola.) I looked around and saw the place swarming with kids, they looked at me back and shouted at me ‘hola.‘ (Oh Hola la-la-la-la Hola.) I asked the waitress if I could sit outside, she grabbed a menu and walked me back out to the parking lot–ola. Well I’m not dumb but I can’t understand, why part of the patio is filled with Toyota Corollas. (Toyota Corolla la-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola.) Eating with Toyota Corollas at Lola’s. (Lala-la-la-la Lola’s.)”
- From Tacotruck: “The elevated island of patio jutting into the parking lot . . . makes this a much different parking lot dining experience than the usual strip center with tables on the sidewalk.”
- From shadyheightster: “Not only does the ‘patio’ deck face the parking lot, it is actually built out OVER the parking lot.”
- From Mark: “Lola’s outside seating area is IN the parking lot, taking up what were once two parking spaces.”
- From Vincent M: “My dog and I enjoy that little island deck in the parking lot overlooking the chain link fence and the curiously raised Heights mansion.“
- From caneco: “I love that I can get pancakes at night and eat them on the parking lots dock.”
Runner-up: La Vista, Westhaven Estates. Other nominees in this category: El Rey Taqueria, Memorial; Brasserie 19, River Oaks Shopping Center; La Madeleine, Katy; The Rice Box, Montrose; Urban Harvest Farmers Market, HCC Southwest College; The Italian Cafe and Casa Anita’s Mexican Restaurant, Seabrook; Black Walnut Cafe, Rice Village; El Ultimo Taco, Spring Branch.
4. Most Notable Recycling Effort. Award winner: CompuCycle, 7700 Kempwood Dr., Kempwood Industrial Park.
The nomination: “Refurbishes and resells — or demanufactures and recycles — almost any electronic device you wouldn’t know what to do with otherwise. And your computers and phones won’t end up in overseas landfills, because all the downstream recycling centers it sends parts to are audited. It’s now an official City of Houston recycling location too. The city’s most successful and effective actual green business.”
- From Sara Speer Selber: “The only completely certified and safe way to recycle electronics in Houston.”
- From Eric Danziger: “I always wondered what happened to old electronics.”
Runner-up: Julia Ideson Library, Downtown. Other nominees in this category: Houston Permitting Center, Downtown; El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, Montrose; Arts Complex in Former JCPenney, West Oaks Mall; Friends of Houston Public Library, East Little York; Punks who steal copper wiring; City of Houston ReUse Warehouse, Independence Heights; Sundance Cinemas, Bayou Place, Downtown.
5. The “No Zoning” Award. Award winner: Zone d’ Erotica, 2626 West Loop South, Galleria.
The nomination: “‘Mommy? Daddy? What’s in that cute pink-and-purple store next to Dillards?’ Yes, that lumpy looking building is Houston’s highest-profile sex shop, bulging near the base of the city’s highest-profile skyscraper, and next to its highest-profile shopping mall. Do Galleria managers grimace in distaste every day as they drive by? Or do they even notice it anymore? Sure, Houston has zones — they’re just different from the kinds you might find elsewhere.”
- From Rachael: “I asked my mom about it when I was younger and I’m pretty sure she told me it was an internet cafe. Not that that makes any sense, but I was a kid.”
- From Benny Cargill: “When I asked, my mom told me it was a “santa’s workshop” hahaha. Houston is OPEN, let’s get it on.”
- From movocelot: “that Zone d’Erotica must be underwritten by the CVB. Every visiting businessman, passing between the obligatory Galleria shopping trip and Starbucks face-time, snickers and snaps a picture of it. And, as shown in the photo, the virile Williams Tower helps send the message Let’s Get It On: Houston is Up for Business.“
- From Michael DeVoll: “Just gotta love the combo of sex and excess.“
- From jg: “Not a zoning issue; it’s a Dillards problem. The spot is ‘zoned’ retail commercial, just as it would be anywhere in America. Dillards SHOULD have a provision in their REA that prevents SOB from operating in the parking lot.”
- From TheNiche: “Zone D’Erotica is a tenant operating in a retail store. The fact that it is a retail building in that location would be perfectly acceptable in any zoned city. If y’all don’t like the signage, propose a modification to the sign ordinances. We have lots of those.”
- From Old School: “Lots of cities have adult business zoning that would have sent Zone D’Erotica to the obligatory service road near the airport.“
Runner-up: Proposed 40 percent increase in required number of off-street parking spaces for new bars, City of Houston. Other nominees in this category: Office towers on St. James Place, Galleria; Spec’s Wine & Spirits, Camp Logan; St. Agnes Academy Athletic Complex, Sharpstown.
6. The Swamplot Award for Special Achievement in Sprawl. Award winner: Segment E of the Grand Parkway, now slicing through the Katy Prairie.
The nomination: “The ‘one road to ring them all’ just took out an entire Chinese army this year. How’s that for the power of sprawl? Here’s to Houston, for continuing to fund road projects where people do not live, destroying entire ecosystems in the process.”
- From cooperella: “Takes the cake. And the prairie.”
- From Old School: “Build it, and they will sprawl.“
- From Lakes of Tuscan: “The Grand Parkway, for its sheer persistence . . . simply will get built. The reason is not because anyone wants it, but because that is what they are; just like the inevitability of time, so too are our freeways. Surely it is time to start planning the next road, which will make Sealy, Hempstead, and Navasota the new suburban frontier.”
- From Hanabi-chan: “I honestly don’t believe that another ring road will have that much of a positive effect on traffic in this town. All it will do is encourage more people to move much further out and drive in. Not to mention the environmental damage. Just ridiculous.”
- From Donnie: “How many more new ring roads can we build, while the existing roads connecting the different rings are so horrible (except for the new I-10)?”
- From S: “I think it will have the most detrimental and irreversible downstream effects, literally.”
Runner-up: Houston’s Reverse Sprawl. Other nominees in this category: Proposed expansion of Houston’s “Urban Area” from the 610 Loop to Beltway 8; New ExxonMobil corporate campus, Spring; The sprawl of “River Oaks”; Proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
7. Best Neighborhood Upgrade. Award winner: Oak Forest Library Renovation, 1349 W. 43rd St.
The nomination: “They kept the beautiful original mod look, but freshened it up a bit and added a neighborhood-friendly second entrance on Oak Forest Dr. A terrific improvement for a great neighborhood.”
- From Becky Werlla: “We thought we lost this library after the hurricane; it was closed for weeks & came back without floor tile, just sad gray concrete floors. So glad for the renovation! The style is true to the surrounding mid-century neighborhoods.”
- From Michael DeVoll: “Such a classy upgrade for the neighborhood.”
- From shadyheightster: “Nice amenity for what has really become a family-friendly neighborhood.”
- From Old School: “Pitch perfect MCM renovation. And it is so incredibly important to have good public amenities like libraries in re-emerging neighborhoods like Oak Forest/Garden Oaks. If I was a realtor showing homes to a family looking at the neighborhood, I would be sure to drive by that library as often as possible.”
- From Karen Lantz: “A great modern preservation effort . . . the architects did a top notch design. A must see.”
- From CoralieKilgore: “Great upgrade! Great place for kids.”
Runner-up: St. Agnes Academy Athletic Facility, Sharpstown. Other nominees in this category: White Oak between Studewood and Heights Blvd.; East Downtown; New sidewalks on White Oak just east of Houston Ave.; Montrose; Resurfacing of Shepherd Dr. from Memorial to Washington; Conversion of Inwood Forest Golf Course to a city park; Street Art, Montrose and the Heights; Kirby Dr. between Westheimer and Richmond.
8. Houston Neighborhood of the Year. Award winner: Glenbrook Valley.
The nomination: “This year it became the first outside-the-Loop neighborhood to receive historic-district status, and the first historically designated neighborhood in Texas made up of post-World War II homes. Nominated for Swamplot’s Neighborhood of the Year award for 3 out of the last 4 years. Is 2011 finally Glenbrook Valley’s turn?”
- From James: “Great stylish homes, huge lots, wonderful friendly neighbors, historic designation, and a fantastic, active civic club! We fled Montrose to live here and never looked back! Goodbye ugly new town homes and McMansions, hello swanky atomic ranches!“
- From Larry: “A wonderful diverse neighborhood. Best value for your money.”
- From shannon: “We survived the negative mud slinging and erroneous news stories. We are still here, decorating for Christmas, mending fences and looking out for each other.”
- From owen: “Large, affordable homes and yards with a nod to midcentury modern design. . . . Close proximity to downtown with access to major highways. A very active neighborhood association. And the gays. We all know what the gays do to a neighborhood. Remember Montrose?”
- From eugene: “If you love ‘Mad Men’ this place is for you. It’s just sooo sexy, with its midcentury modern feel, huge lots, great neighborhood association, and it’s new designation as a historical district. Lots of professionals from U of H, San Jacinto College, the medical center and NASA call this place home. The locals gather at and support the local bars and restaurants. You should see all the Christmas displays at this time. So festive!“
9. Greatest Moment in Houston Real Estate. Award winner: Woodland Heights, Glenbrook Valley, and Heights South Become Designated Historic Districts, June 29th.
The nomination: “The long process of vanquishing the quirky wait-90-days-and-do-whatever-you-want exception to Houston’s pretty-please preservation ordinance began last year. But for individual historic districts, the battle to put the new rules in force plays out through a series of protracted public campaigns, city council votes, and neighborhood surveys in 2011. First up: a controversial “reconsideration” process for existing districts that results in only a single historic-district property escaping the strictures of the tightened rules. With this council vote at the end of June christening 3 new districts under the new rules, the battle appears to be over. 18 districts now have stronger preservation rules in place. But will any other neighborhoods want to join them?”
- From shadyheightster: “The Historic Districts: changing the way development is done in a very tiny portion of this city.”
- From Old School: “It was a very rare win for residents against a well funded group of builders, realtors and developers who tried to use the occasion to get rid of the historic districts altogether.“
- From Claire de Lune: “But it’s going to get complicated.“
Runner-up: Metro starts laying track again. Other nominees in this category: River Oaks Shopping Center puts on a new stucco suit; Phoenicia Specialty Foods opens in One Park Place; Dynamo Stadium construction begins; West Ave retail opens; Houston begins charging a drainage fee; ExxonMobil announces its new North Houston campus.
Happy new year, and congratulations to all who participated in this year’s awards! Swamplot will resume posting next Tuesday, in shiny new 2012.
Photos: HAR (5201 Beech St., Lott House, 8030 Glenforest Ct.), Candace Garcia (Lola, Zone d’ Erotica), CompuCycle, KUHF News (Grand Parkway route, Woodland Heights house), Natalye Appel + Associates Architects, Architect Works, and James Ray Architects (Oak Forest Library)