For the past 12 years, power brokers, quality of lifers, industry insiders, and Houstonians acutely attuned to the city’s ever-changing landscape have flocked to a simple — yet powerful and influential — real estate website, wittily dubbed Swamplot. Sadly for real estate obsessives, the site famous for announcing closures has announced that it is shuttering.
Launched at a time when the online world was still trying to wrap its head around just what made a blog vs. a website, Swamplot shrewdly and deftly analyzed, criticized, and summarized the weird gumbo that is Houston’s real estate zeitgeist. The site fostered an impressive community of commenters and tipsters. Every variance request, every TABC notice was sent in and posted — making the site a go-to for real estate gossip.
Soon, with its morning links and daily demolition report of buildings approved by the city for tear-down, Swamplot became a daily must-read for anyone interested in development in Houston.
One local favorite was The Annual Swamplot Awards that celebrated good urban planning and mocked poor design like “lick and stick” brick facades; townhouses built next to railroad tracks; and “Tuscanization,” a design trend mockingly referring to poor updates to old structures.
Early on, the blog was initially penned by an anonymous host, which made the razor-sharp (and often skeptical) reporting that much more titillating. Journalists and professionals loved to love it or, in some cases, hate it — for its biting veracity and unapologetic tone. Later, Larry Albert would reveal himself as the site’s founder, many recognizing him as a lecturer at Rice University. Albert found himself embroiled in a bitter and salacious lawsuit in 2012, one so over-the-top that it seemed made for TV.
In his farewell, Albert notes a change in Houston’s sense of self and pride of place:
Houston has always been a funky town. It’s rarely been served well by those who ignore that, or who promote it with a chip on their shoulder, or who build in it without recognizing the profound handicaps and weirdnesses that continue to shape it. In Swamplot’s dozen years of documenting the odd details of its growth and destruction, we’ve noticed a gradual but steady change of attitude — one that we hope we’ve helped to effect: People here, we get a sense, now pay more obvious attention to the things that make Houston unique, bizarre, wacky, frustrating, and lovable.
A sad day for fans of Swamplot, to be sure. But, at least the site wasn’t Tuscanized — and one certainly gets the feeling that Albert will return in some witty, snarky fashion.
Speaking of snark: In reacting to the news, one Facebook commenter dryly notes, “I heard they’re tearing down Swamplot and building $900k townhouses.”
Eric Sandler contributed to this article.