Real Estate, Like Everything Else, Getting More and More Public

Categories: Surreal Estate

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Websites like Trulia and Zillow have $3.5 billion reasons to stay in business.
Recently I was speaking with a colleague who lives near me. We are both rather fixated on the development to our entire area, hoping as property values continue to rise and nearby infrastructure is improved, the surrounding commercial developments will improve. Better grocery stores. More restaurants. The whole nine yards.

The question we both had, however, was how to find out when those changes were coming. It was then I realized there are lots of ways thanks to the Internet, but with apps and websites and databases full of public information comes an openness about our homes and businesses we must learn to accept.

In the neighborhood where my wife and I bought a home last years, there is a home owners association. I never thought I would want one let alone want to be involved but the rapid growth of virtually every area inside the Beltway and the dramatic increase in the cost of real estate makes me interested in protecting my investment. But for many of the older residents of my new hood, the biggest concern is privacy, something nearly always guaranteed until recently. Now, with technology, that protection is threatened, but that's the price we pay for information.

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Rice Professor Will Study People Displaced by Houston's Residential Developments

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Photo by Norm Lanier

It doesn't take a lot of looking around to see new construction all over the place in Houston. A Rice sociologist wants to find out who is being affected by Houston's rapid residential development.

Led by sociology professor Steven Murdock, the former head of the U.S. Census Bureau, Rice will begin a three-year study examining the impacts of recent urban development in Houston's metropolitan area.


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Five Things You May Not Know About 45-Year-Old IAH

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Photo by Alan Cordova

Time flies, doesn't it? This weekend, George Bush Intercontinental Airport celebrated its 45th birthday. It's an international hub for the Bayou City, bringing people from around the world to Houston (sometimes for things other than tourism, we imagine).

In honor of the airport named after the 41st president, here are five things you may not know about the place with the airport code IAH:

5. Charlotte and Phoenix see more domestic travelers than IAH.
You'd think having the fourth-largest metro population in the United States would mean Houston's largest airport would see lots of domestic travelers pass through. Yes and no. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, approximately 29 million domestic flyers passed through IAH -- good enough for 13th among major U.S. airports.

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What's the Deal with 6737 Southwest Freeway?

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Photos by Aaron Reiss
The three cars in the showroom have been there for years.
"Thank you for calling the Tennessee Titans. If you know your party's extension, please dial now."

Maybe you're like me. Maybe you've seen it and wondered what the hell it was doing just sitting there.

At 6737 Southwest Freeway you'll find an abandoned car dealership. For years, as I drove on 59 South toward my mother's office, I passed the dealership. Three cars in a showroom. Another car in the lot, where a security guard sat.

At night, the lights turn on, illuminating the emptiness.

It wasn't until I started working at the Houston Press a few weeks ago that I ever had an outlet to investigate the property. Who owned it? What are their plans for it? Hell, why not at least lease it rather than just let it sit there?


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Creepy Third Ward Mansion Sold for $251K

Categories: Surreal Estate

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Photo by Houston Association of Realtors
Spooky, right?

Towers, unfinished walls and a new owner -- oh my! This 4,861-square-foot five-bedroom mansion at 2309 Wichita Street sold Tuesday.

Listing Realtor Brenda Ames said in an email that the property was listed at $150,000 but after approximately 25 offers, the property sold for $251,000. That's a lot of money to pay to feel like you live on the set of American Horror Story.


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3400 Montrose: Piece of Houston History Going...Going....Gone

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photos by William Michael Smith
Early stage of the demolition of 3400 Montrose Boulevard
The parking lot of Disco Kroger at the corner of Montrose and Hawthorne has been an ideal vantage point from which to watch the two-month-long demolition of yet another curious piece of Houston history. While the ten-story building at 3400 Montrose is little more than twisted girders and concrete rubble now, in its day it was one of the swankiest business addresses in the city and a night-time hot spot for several generations of Houstonians.

It will soon be replaced by a Hannover Group 30-story glass apartment tower with all the personality of a corporate headquarters, scheduled to open in 2016. But the building had in fact outlived its design and utility. One former renter of space in the building described it as "a dump."

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Ruling Means a Win for So-Called Ashby Tower Monster

Categories: Surreal Estate

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Photo by Keeping it Real
Usually the monsters don't win, but we'll still have to wait and see.
After they won the first round, we're sure the folks over in the Rice Village area are quite upset after a judge today ruled to let what they consider a monster high-rise move ahead.

State District Court Judge Randy Wilson denied a motion to stop the 21-story tower project after hearing arguments in the case last week, according to reports. Neighbors in the area have been fighting for close to a decade to halt the project; the latest salvo was to get the building deemed a nuisance.

But that didn't happen.

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Putting Lives Back Together at Beacon Day Shelter

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There is a shelter smack dab in the middle of downtown Houston where those who are homeless are welcome to go. There are no beds, and no overnight hours.

This place, decorated with a scattered array of cafeteria tables and not much more, is known as The Beacon. This is a homeless shelter for the daylight hours.

See more: Houston's Hidden Homeless

Clients can use the phone, eat a warm meal, or simply find a seat or a corner to rest in. Shower and restroom facilities are available, as are laundry services. Beacon clients are even offered a set of scrubs to wear while volunteers wash their clothing, because that's often the only clothing they own.

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Reality Check: Calling the Side of the Freeway Home

Categories: Surreal Estate

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Photo by Brian Austin

Way out in the west Houston suburbs, there is a tent sitting on the banks of the freeway.

It is obviously someone's home, and has been for a while. It is surrounded by milk crates and bags of clothing, and I always find myself surprised at how neatly everything is stacked. Care has been taken with the placement of the belongings, and it's evident even as they sit stacked atop the dirt embankment.

I pass that tent every day on my way into our midtown office, and although I've often wondered what the story was behind it, I never bothered to do much more than hypothesize. Daydreaming about what leads people to life on the bridge was comfortable. The reality was not.


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How Much More Can The Woodlands Keep Growing?

Categories: Surreal Estate

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Thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov
Construction on highway 242 flyover means more mobility in The Woodlands.
It's no surprise to the 108,000 people who live there already, but The Woodlands is growing ... and keeps growing. For some purists who love to see the wildflowers grow there in the spring, all those new arrivals might be taking some of the charm out of the master-planned community built in the 1970s.

Last week the consumer finance and investing website Nerdwallet.com crunched the numbers on 2009 to 2012 Census data on Texas and named The Woodlands the top city on the rise (Houston ranked in the 90 out of 127 cities). How come? Because of its 9 percent median income growth, 3.6 percent job growth and the fact ExxonMobil will be bringing some 10,000 or so people to nearby Springwoods Village next year.

But that's not the only reason, since the township already hosts 60 companies with nearly 30,000 employees, according to the study. And officials in The Woodlands (note, the capital "T" in the) say the vision for the area was always to grow and attract big business. Even if infrastructure needs to catch up a bit. (Sit in traffic passing through there? There's a reason for that.)

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