Looped In

From urban renewal to suburban sprawl, Houston’s real estate market is going through one of its most dynamic times in decades. Join real estate and development reporter Nancy Sarnoff as she meets the city’s developers, deal makers and dreamers and dishes with colleagues on all things Houston real estate.
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Looped In



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May 17, 2018

Real estate investors rushed to buy flooded houses after Hurricane Harvey, buying many for dimes on the dollar and turning neighborhoods into rental enclaves. A few months ago, Chronicle investigative reporters David Hunn and Matt Dempsey set out to find out how many investors were out there, who they were and where they were buying. Their investigation was published last week. They join Nancy to explain how they did it and what they found.

May 9, 2018

Scenic Houston President Anne Culver talks with Nancy and Allyn about how Houston can become a more pedestrian-friendly city. They also talk Walk Scores, billboards and the best neighborhoods to stroll.

Apr 24, 2018

Rice University is spending $100 million to transform Midtown’s 1930s Sears department store into a high-tech home for startups. But as with any urban redevelopment, there's likely to be tension between the newcomers and the existing stakeholders who might not want to see the area change. Paul Takahashi reported on Rice’s plans for the Mitown area after interviewing the university's President David Leebron and taking an extensive tour of the old Sears, one of Houston's first buildings with air conditioning and escalators. He spoke to Nancy and Allyn about the project and what city and university leaders think it could become.

Apr 16, 2018

In her attempts to bring a communal-style pocket neighborhood to Acres Homes, Heidi Eagleton discovered another way she could build in the underserved area: affordable housing. But her homes don't fit the typical image of affordable. They have exposed beams, screened-in porches and fenced yards. They are designed to meet energy efficiency standards. Eagleton joins Nancy and Allyn to discuss her new homes and the challenges building affordable housing in Houston.

Apr 4, 2018

Whenever Houston finds itself in competition with another city, it’s usually about the food, the fashion or the attitudes of the people – and it’s usually Dallas that we’re defending ourselves against. Houston recently found itself fending off another big-city rival, but for a very different reason: a giant silver bean.
Nancy is joined by the Chronicle’s Allyn West and Lisa Gray, who go into it with a Chicago Tribune columnist who wrote a scathing piece on Houston and our newly installed Anish Kapoor “bean” sculpture. Plus, Looped In’s former co-host Erin Mulvaney brings her own hot take to the discussion.

Mar 21, 2018

Perhaps unlike any other time in history, immigrant labor is playing a critical role in getting Houston back on track, a theme highlighted in a new documentary called "Immigration's crossroad, rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey." Director Gregory Kallenberg and producer (and former Chronicle columnist) Loren Steffy discuss the film, which is part of a series of short documentaries that attempt to bridge the two sides of the immigration debate by framing the issues in a historical context and through personal stories.

Mar 6, 2018

Hurricane Harvey destroyed the lower portions of Buffalo Bayou Park, devastating the beloved dog park and causing the loss of some 400 trees. After hauling off 30,000 cubic yards of sediment -- at a cost of more than $1 million -- the Buffalo Bayou Partnership continues its costly efforts to repair what's become Houston's central park. President Anne Olson joins the Chronicle's Nancy Sarnoff and Allyn West to discuss the park's future and the long-term plan for the bayou's eastern stretch.

Feb 27, 2018

Ryan Walsh, one of the county officials guiding the redevelopment of the Astrodome, and local preservationist James Glassman join Nancy and Harris County reporter Mihir Zaveri to discuss the plans, the funding and the ethos of the project, which aims to transform the Houston’s most legendary landmark into what officials hope will be a coveted event space.

Feb 20, 2018

Nancy and Allyn talk to Chronicle writer Molly Glentzer about her story on dismantling the 18th century ballroom at La Colombe d’Or, the boutique hotel on Montrose Boulevard, to make way for a luxury residential tower.

Feb 14, 2018

Houston native and L.A.-based filmmaker Jon Schwartz talks about his 1987 documentary This is our home, it is not for sale. The film explores integration, real estate blockbusting and white flight in Riverside, a historic Houston neighborhood along Brays Bayou.



Feb 6, 2018

In its failed bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, Houston offered up three urban sites with tremendous potential: a vacant downtown skyscraper, a sprawling property along Buffalo Bayou and an aging department store in the center of urban life. Nancy and Allyn talk with Chronicle reporter Katherine Blunt about her recent story on the snub, the sites and the silver lining.

Jan 29, 2018

Nancy gets a look behind the curtain on an industry that’s playing a key role in Houston’s post-Hurricane Harvey real estate market: investing in flooded homes. She and her Chronicle colleague David Hunn talk to Brian Spitz, a local investor who’s bought hundreds of inundated properties, about the local investment ecosystem and how it influences the market.

Jan 4, 2018

For the first episode of 2018, Nancy and Allyn asked their social media followers to cast their votes for some of 2017's most outstanding real estate deals and developments in the inaugural Loopie Awards. They, along with the help of some of their Chronicle colleagues who have been covering many of the projects, discuss the winners of "the Loopies."

Dec 22, 2017

Scott McClelland, the newly minted president of H-E-B, will open nine stores in and around Houston in 2018 and will begin building what could be H-E-B’s most anticipated store yet: Meyerland. McClelland joins Nancy to talk Meyerland, kosher tortillas and how H-E-B competes in such a crowded grocery market.

Dec 14, 2017

Houston architect Brett Zamore earned high praise more than a decade ago for his modern reinvention of the shotgun house. His next move was designing and building kit houses in the urban core. Zamore joins Nancy and Allyn to discuss his latest design: the “zFab,” a tiny pre-fabricated dwelling he sees as a counterpoint to the city’s hulking townhomes and out-of-scale McMansions.


Nov 29, 2017

New storm data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, or NOAA, could lead to sweeping changes in the way real estate is developed in the Houston area.

The research shows the amount of rain typical of a 100-year storm has risen by as much as 5 inches. That means the Houstonians could expect up to 18 inches of rain in a single day compared with the previous estimate of 12 to 14 inches.

Harris County government reporter Mihir Zaveri joins Nancy Sarnoff to explain how developers, home owners and businesses could be affected by the new data, which is used to determine floodplain regulations, map flood zones and design food control projects.

The data, which is preliminary and subject to change, is expected to be finalized and published in May. It will be the first statewide update to NOAA's rainfall estimates in 50 years.

Nov 22, 2017

A world where a self-driving car is a common mode of transportation is not that far away. Such a scenario has implications for real estate development. Take office buildings, which in Houston are required to have 2 1/2 parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of space. Will today's newest buildings be obsolete by 2040 when fewer people drive to work – or at least park there? Hal Sharp, a principal with the Houston office of Gensler, joins Nancy and Allyn to talk about how buildings can be developed to accommodate cars today and people in those spaces a couple decades from now. 

Nov 15, 2017

Two decades from now, downtown Houston could be a be a thriving neighborhood where the streets teem with life seven days a week. In this future world, start-ups in modern offices would create the latest technological advances in the fields of energy and health care. Streets would be filled with driverless cars and a 5-mile pedestrian and bike loop would connect downtown with surrounding neighborhoods. Central Houston’s Bob Eury recently presented this ambitious proposal to a group of downtown stakeholders. He joins Nancy and Allyn to talk in more detail about the plan and why it could work.

Nov 7, 2017

A pair of developers from Montreal join Nancy and Allyn to talk urban housing trends from around the world and their newest Houston project: an upscale development in Midtown with 14 pint-sized condominiums.

Oct 27, 2017

Before the storm hit, Amber and Lenny Ambrose packed up their two young kids and small dog and drove to Amber's parent's house in Nederland, outside of Beaumont. The Ambrose's house in Candlelight Forest flooded during the Tax Day storm in 2016, and they didn't want a repeat of what happened then when they woke up the morning after the storm to soggy floors and confused kiddos. They made some important preparations and left town. Their flood insurance policy renewed Aug. 27, the night Harvey flooded their house. It was a good thing they didn't let their policy lapse, even though they could have. They were told in 2015 they were no longer required to carry it. Amber tells their story in the final episode of this Harvey series.

Oct 19, 2017

From episode 23, Nancy and Erin talk to Chronicle journalists Mike Morris (City Hall) and Mihir Zaveri (Harris County) about their reporting on floods and development after two major flooding events two years in a row. 

Oct 13, 2017

Residents of Canyon Gate say they were never told about the warning that said their neighborhood could be subject to severe flooding because it was built in a so-called flood pool behind Barker Reservoir. Investors who bought millions in bonds that financed the subdivision weren't told either. Houston Chronicle's James Drew talks to Nancy about his investigation into Canyon Gate and what was and wasn't disclosed.

Oct 6, 2017

Brandon Polson recounts his journey from helping his neighbors escape their flood-ravaged apartment complex to spending an evening with one of the biggest celebrities on the planet.

Oct 3, 2017

As Harvey's flood waters continued to rise in Braes Heights, Scott Davis, his wife and their two young daughters fled to a neighbor's place – a brand new house built five feet above grade. As Davis sees it, the safest place to ride out the hurricane was in a new house. As a home building consultant, he also addresses past Houston floods, how the market responded and how development may change in the future.

Sep 27, 2017

Before Hurricane Harvey's flood waters could even recede, the national media was reporting on Houston's lack of zoning and how it played a role in the floods.

Local law professor, land use expert and repeat Looped In guest Matt Festa explains how that's a distorted argument and cites a report he recently co-authored on land use in Houston, the "Unzoned City."

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