I had a unique opportunity while in Houston to visit with a number of members and supporters of Houston Mod. While I saw mostly commercial and institutional buildings in Chicago, Houston was focused on residential architecture. While I will write more on the individual houses I saw, there are three larger issues here.
First, in my discussions with Houston Mod, I learned that Houston does not have zoning. That’s right, no zoning. Residential next to commercial? Sure! As long as the deed restrictions allow it. Are there other municipalities without zoning?
Second, in an unusual outreach effort, Houston Modders often hold happy hours (called “Mod of the Month”) in mid-century homes listed for sale. In addition to providing good exposure for the seller, these gatherings also provide a nice opportunity to see a variety of residential structures as well as to get together with like-minded folk.
Third, I spoke with Robert Searcy, a real estate agent and one of a growing number of agents who are increasingly focusing on mid-century properties. I was curious to learn from him how he pitches a mid-century modern house to prospective buyers. We spoke mostly about a specific neighborhood in Houston, Glenbrook Valley, but the idea of a targeted pitch for mid-century structures goes beyond a neighborhood. Searcy said that he tries to market properties as having a distinct architectural style that is interesting and has unusual features. Not the repetitive cookie cutter newer tract housing, mid-century modern residential properties, he says, have the ability to be outstanding houses even if they do not have the finest architectural pedigree. Solid design provides a good base on which to build as the new homeowners customize their own Houston mod. An added bonus is that established neighborhoods tend to be in locations that are closer to Houston, while new developments are a bit further out of town.
Next stop: Salt Lake City
Seth Tinkham is a self-employed grant writer and preservation planner located in Alexandria, Virginia. Prior to starting his own business, he worked for the citywide preservation organization in Washington, DC helping to plan activities related to modern architecture.
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