Creepy Third Ward Mansion Sold for $251K

Categories: Surreal Estate

Thumbnail image for wichita.jpg
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

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

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

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

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

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 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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5 Reasons It Might Be Time to Move Out of the Heights

Categories: Surreal Estate

Photo by Jeff Balke
Time to go?
I am a big fan of the Houston Heights. I lived there for the better part of 15 years and spent countless summer days at my grandparents' house just about 8 blocks east of there. It has so many things that make it a desirable place to live, from the big old oak trees to the quaint shops to the location so close to town. It's a far different place from when I bought there back in 1996.

At that time, there was still regular gunfire nearby. I saw a car chase right on my block complete with one car blowing out the back window of the other with a shotgun in a drug deal gone bad. About 2 a.m. one New Year's Eve, I heard the familiar sound of a machine gun -- yes, fully auto and everything -- being fired off just down the street. Of course, my house cost about one-third what it would cost now -- when I sold in 2009, I got substantially more than double what I paid -- and my guess is that the OK Corral-style shootouts are mostly a thing of the past.

Still, over the years, the growth and the popularity of the charming neighborhood has begun to take its toll. The gentrification has begun in earnest and doesn't appear to be beaten back in quite the same way it has been in the Montrose. But, the Heights has never had the level of commercial and retail development as Westheimer, so this is happening more to the homes and streets themselves, which is why, if you live there, I think it might be time to consider a move.

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Pearland Makes List of Most Affordable Suburbs in America

Categories: Surreal Estate

Photo by Patrice Shuttlesworth
Live there if for no other reason than this place!
Houston has been and continues to be one of the most affordable cities in which to hang your hat long-term. Though housing prices inside the Loop have been escalating rapidly over the past five years, housing can still be had on the relative cheap as compared to other cities around the country. Add to that plentiful jobs and a generally robust economy, and you have the makings of a pretty good place to live economically.

It is also true that much of our affordability comes at a cost, namely sprawl (we can debate smog, traffic, humidity and hurricanes on another day), with communities spread all over the 600-plus square-mile radius we call home. One of those communities was recently ranked on a list of the most affordable suburbs in America, and would you believe it was Pearland?

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Saving the Astrodome: Demolition Crews to Tear Down the Dome Already?

Not shown: piles of rubble.
According to Swamplot, Reliant already has crews in place to begin demoing parts of the Astrodome as soon as next week. But before you go into a panic, the work is only being done to portions of the facade and the outer structure that is apparently beyond repair and would be removed regardless of the vote on the stadium in November.

The ballot initiative will determine whether or not the Dome will remain standing. Harris County wants to turn it into a new convention center-type-building thing, but if voters say "no," the old gal will be torn down and a beautiful, gleaming parking lot will appear in its place.

For now, the county says this is all part of the process, but some are concerned that if Houstonians drive by and see the Dome surrounded by rubble, they will assume the vote won't matter.

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Suggestions for What to Put in Place of the Downtown Macy's

Categories: Surreal Estate

Photo by Jeff Balke
On September 22, the downtown Macy's (formerly Foley's for you olds) will be imploded. to make way for...well, we just don't know. So far, mum's the word on what will take its place other than a giant hole in the ground, but that should only be temporary. Anyway, given the fact that a giant hole in the ground isn't exactly what you normally find in the middle of a downtown district, unless you live in Detroit, they have to fill it with something. We have some suggestions.

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