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  • 06/01/13--05:00: Neighborhoods by the Numbers
  • Click the image above to see our full neighborhood chart.
    Click the image above to see our full neighborhood chart.

    Neighborhoods & Real Estate

    The Houston Association of Realtors provided our list of 150 neighborhoods. HAR divides the entire area into 160 separate neighborhoods; we trimmed 10 that were on the distant periphery of Houstonia. Our real estate data—including median home prices, percentage growth, and average days on the market—also came from HAR.  

    People

    Demographic data—including neighborhood population, population density, and percentage of non-white residents in each neighborhood—comes from the 2010 United States Census.  

    Schools

    The grades we’ve assigned to neighborhood schools reflect HAR’s ranking system. HAR uses a star system based on TAKS data (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills), with one star being the lowest rating and four stars being the highest. We’ve translated HAR’s star ranking into a traditional letter system—A, B, C, and D—in order to come up with each neighborhood’s grade for elementary, middle, and high schools. 

    Crime

    Crime data was provided directly to Houstonia by individual jurisdictions for 2012 or from the Texas Department of Public Safety for 2011, the latest year data was available. Within Houston city limits, the Houston Police Department provided crime data organized by police beat. To accurately assess local crime, we matched neighborhoods to police beats. Where neighborhoods overlap multiple beats, we have drawn the crime stats from the police beat with the largest geographic overlap. Violent crime is defined as murder, rape, and aggravated assault. Crime statistics for the city of Galveston are not broken down by neighborhood; in 2011 in the city, there were 214 violent crimes, 453 burglaries, and 141 auto thefts. 

    Lifestyle

    Walkability, bikeability and transit scores come from the website walkscore.com, which uses a 100-point rating system (higher is better). Scores reflect an average for each zip code. Other lifestyle data—including percentage of residents with bachelor’s and graduate degrees, percentage of never married men and women, and average commuting time, come from the 2010 U.S. Census.


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  • 06/01/13--05:00: 25 Hottest Neighborhoods
  • Let’s not pretend that living in America’s hottest real estate market is a burden; still, the volatility can be maddening. Where else can you find yourself first in line at an open house, only to discover that the place already has three offers from an invitation-only open house the previous day? No place, that’s where. In what other city do they issue 27,000 permits for single-family construction in a single year? No other city. And where else does an oil company’s mass relocation lead to property values changing overnight? (Okay, there’s Fairfax, Va., but we mean change in a good way.) The fact is, knowing what and where to buy has never been trickier in Houston, which is why we polled dozens of real estate professionals for their expert opinions on the matter. Et voilà, the Houstonia guide to the 20 hottest areas of town, along with 5 up-and-coming neighborhoods whose pre-hot days are clearly numbered.

    Up &
    Coming!

    Sharpstown

    Though to some Houstonians Sharpstown still conjures images of gangs and other urban thuggery, this neighborhood of mostly ’50s ranch homes is forging a quiet comeback. Yes, many of the crime-ridden apartment complexes that laid low the area in the 1980s remain, but on the back streets, single-family homes on good-sized lots are being refurbished and increasing in price. (Four- and five-bedroom golf-course ranchers on large, treed lots in Sharpstown Country Club Terrace now hover near $150,000.) Only a quick freeway zip away from the Galleria, downtown, and the Med Center, Sharpstown is perhaps Houston’s foremost haven for adventurous economical dining, thanks to its vast Chinatown along Bellaire Boulevard.

    Garden Oaks / Oak Forest

    Where Inner Loop cool landed after bounding over 610

    Residents of this patchwork of neighborhoods just north of 610 proudly and justifiably stake their claim as “honorary Inner-Loopers.” Heights chic, in the form of laid-back wine bars like Plonk, dive-y gastropubs like Petrol Station, and casually cool eateries like Shepherd Park Draught House, has successfully pole-vaulted over the North Loop.

    Garden Oaks, established in 1937, is the wealthier and more redeveloped area of the two: beginning in the 1990s, a new generation of families discovered its rambling ranch houses and two-story, plantation-style mini-mansions sitting on huge lots amid mature oak, pecan, and magnolia trees. Homes here run a bit over $170 per square foot.

    But Oak Forest next door, with an average price per square foot of almost $140, is no slouch. This ranch-house paradise, originally developed for returning World War II vets, is starting to resemble a baby Bellaire or West University, with some new homes cracking the $700,000 mark. Well-regarded Oak Forest Elementary is an added drawing card.

    Since 2000, both neighborhoods have attracted lots of creative types, many either priced or sized out of the Heights or Montrose after starting families. Fashion designer and former Montrosian Bronwyn Lauder is one such Oak Forest arrival. “Living here, I’m a much more chill parent and the kids have definitely benefitted,” she says. “The space to grow food is a plus too. As is having twice the house for a fraction of the cost.”

    Spring Branch

    Where residents enjoy superior schools and superior kimchi, both at bargain prices

    Up until the last decade or so, much of Spring Branch had a rural feel. It wasn’t uncommon to see pastures full of horses, relics of its past life as farmland tilled by generations of German immigrants (a past life still present at the 165-year-old St. Peter’s church on bustling Long Point Road).

    The roughly 30-square-mile expanse is a hodgepodge of housing, from wood-sided bungalows in the neighborhood’s blue-collar eastern edge, to ’60s-era ranch houses in Spring Branch West, to new, half-million-dollar homes along Moritz Drive in the heart of the area.

    It’s no coincidence that builders have moved in on Moritz. Debbie J. Callan, a realtor with Martha Turner Properties and area resident, says parents flock to certain pockets south of Long Point. The reason is simple: in subdivisions like Spring Valley and Hilshire Village, kids are zoned to coveted Memorial High School, where they get a south-of-the-Katy Freeway education at a relatively bargain price.

    Spring Valley homes that cost $120,000 in 1996 have at least tripled in price since then, and in Spring Branch as a whole, the median price for homes zoned to Memorial and the better feeder schools has risen from $353,000 to $412,000, with new constructions often topping $1 million.

    Meanwhile, the area’s become something of a foodie haven. Sure, Long Point might be gritty, but it offers some of the best interior Mexican and Korean fare in Texas.

    Montrose

    Where the bobos really are in paradise

    What $$$ will get you:

    1614 Driscoll

    Montrose

    This sleek, four-bedroom, 5,500-square-foot home, built in 2010, features a pool, spa, water wall, and putt-putt golf course, right in Montrose. Price: $1,740,000

    No Houston ’hood outside of the Heights inspires as much love and loyalty as Montrose, with its elegantly restored mansions, contemporary condos, and Craftsman bungalows; its walkable streets, nationally acclaimed bars and restaurants, and buzzed-about boutiques; and its history as Houston’s gritty street-culture hub. “Montrose is a lifestyle,” says area native Kevin McCarthy. “Many places try to imitate but nobody duplicates.”

    Montrose was born in 1911, a streetcar suburb for wealthy Houstonians, but just 50 years later it became the white-hot center of pretty much every alternative lifestyle Houston has known: beatniks, hippies, gays and lesbians, punks, slackers, and hipsters. The area became one of America’s LGBT hubs beginning in the early 1970s, although now, post-assimilation and post-gentrification, it’s estimated that less than 10 percent is gay. Still, the annual Pride Parade, a huge, family-friendly, summer-evening soiree, remains one of the neighborhood’s red-letter nights.

    Of course, the mainstreaming of Montrose has driven up property values. Bungalows and cheap apartment complexes are vanishing faster than bluebonnets in April, overtaken by pricey condos. Between 1994 and 2011, the neighborhood’s square-foot price catapulted from a shade over $75 to a sliver under $250—any house on the market here will likely see multiple offers. Many of the old guard are being priced out of the area.

    Yet threads of the bohemian lifestyle remain in Montrose’s tapestry, particularly in the park-like environs of the world-renowned Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel. There, on the thick St. Augustine grass under the live oaks, couples and friends spread blankets, throw Frisbees, and read, before heading out for a beer at West Alabama Ice House. It’s comforting to know that while not everyone can afford a home in this wonderful neighborhood, everyone can afford a Lone Star in the city’s collective backyard.

    {page break}

    Up &
    Coming!

    Springwoods Village

    This 2,000-acre community, currently under construction just south of the new ExxonMobil campus, will include a 150-acre nature preserve bordered by a flowing, kayak-friendly creek. “This is extremely unique for Harris County,” says Houston forester Bob Harper, who noted the tract is home to 100 different species of trees, including oak, magnolia, pine, and ash. “The nature preserve won’t be manicured to look natural. It will be natural and have the same variety of plants, trees, and animals that are there now.” Meanwhile, an urban slice of Springwoods Village will be organized into a series of walkable districts, including a mixed-use town center that sounds an awful lot like The Woodlands model just up the road. Of the 15,000 residents expected to begin moving into the community by the end of the year, planners say as many as 12,000 will likely work at the 385-acre ExxonMobil campus.

    Washington Corridor

    Where the road goes on forever and the party never ends

    What $$$ will get you:

    6038 Glen Cove St.

    Memorial Park

    This modern, 6,144-square foot home, near the edge of the Washington Corridor, has an infinity pool, outdoor patios, a workout room, and a sport court. Price: $3,895,000.

    Only a portion of the four-mile-wide section of the city known as the Washington Corridor is an oontz-oontz party zone. Outdoors-loving Houstonians appreciate the Corridor’s proximity to Memorial Park. Just east of the park, an enclave of contemporary mansions makes the area feel almost like an extension of River Oaks. And artists and musicians love the Gulf Coast Colonial / Greek Revival homes in the Old Sixth Ward, Houston’s oldest intact neighborhood at 160 years of age.

    But back to that party zone. Martha Turner, CEO and President of Martha Turner Properties, says Rice Military—the gentrifying neighborhood along the Corridor just east of Westcott Street, named after a World War I-era training camp that existed here—blows her mind. In recent years, hordes of upwardly mobile young professionals have descended here, and ramshackle old bungalows have given way to townhomes. “It’s a whole new area,” says Turner. Many of these residents enjoy Washington Avenue nightlife. “It’s a great area for young people and for couples,” Turner says. “They don’t mind the commotion and the lack of parking because they like to walk places and they want to be where the action is.”

    Corridor resident Jay Rascoe rides his bike to destinations along Washington as well as the nearby Heights, downtown, and Montrose. “Whether you want to get some groceries, a haircut, or a cold sixer,” he says, “there’s no need to hop in a car and get stuck in traffic.”

    Pearland

    Where suburban über-diversity meets a relatively quick commute

    What $$$ will get you:

    2924 Green Tee Dr.

    Pearland

    This 6,983-square-foot residence has six bedrooms. The property surrounds a pool and sits beside a golf course. Price: $895,000

    Not so many decades ago, Pearland was nothing but rice fields and a scattering of roughneck honky-tonks and not a pear orchard in sight (hurricanes and freezes had wiped them all out by 1916). But by offering solid schools, huge houses at budget prices, and a relatively short commute to downtown and the Medical Center, Pearland became a bona fide real estate miracle. Between 2000 and 2013, the city’s population increased from 37,000 to 104,000.

    Today’s Pearland is a mighty array of subdivisions and big box retail, quartered by Highway 288 and FM 518. East of 288, a rural feel lingers, while west Pearland is the essence of modern suburbia. Both are more diverse than their lily-white reputations suggest: 62 languages are spoken in the school district, and not every Pearlander is upper-middle-class or wealthy, contrary to opinion. “My kids go to school with a broad socio-economic cross-section,” says Kevin Murphy, an attorney who loves the fact that he lives 20 minutes from the city but can still keep chickens on his acre of land.

    Shadow Creek Ranch is the jewel in the crown of west Pearland. New homes start at less than $200,000 and range above $800,000 in this enormous development, where residents can frolic in 700 acres of green space and have access to four community recreation centers; jog, hike, or cycle 22 miles of paths; and shop at the adjacent town center.

    Like Sugar Land, Pearland is graduating from bedroom community to job center: Kelsey-Seybold’s 170,000 square-foot, 800-employee administrative office building, for one, will open there later this year.

    Westbury

    Wherein a few setbacks precede a dramatic comeback and motley parade

    A late-’50s creation of developer Ira Berne, Westbury came to a low ebb in the mid-’90s. Houston’s coolest-ever open-air mall, Westbury Square, was partially demolished. Area apartment complexes festered into free-fire zones. And Westbury High School had become unacceptable. Families moved out to Sugar Land if they could; only the old folks remained behind.

    This was despite the fact that the neighborhood was convenient to downtown, the Med Center, and the Galleria, and abundant with relatively bargain-priced mid-century modern and ranch homes. But things began to turn around in the early aughts, after gay and lesbian couples moved into the neighborhood and people started calling it “Little Montrose.”

    These days, everyone seems to love Westbury, despite the comparatively snug square footages, for its still-reasonable prices—the average three-bedroom rancher comes in at around $146,000, one of the best bargains around. Meanwhile, two of the neighborhood’s elementary schools, Kolter and Parker, are among the best in the city, completing Westbury’s trajectory as one of Houston’s most impressive comebacks.

    Enticed by the location, the list prices, and the schools, technical writer Jeremy Hart moved here with his family in 2008, and he’s been pleasantly surprised by the area’s quirky traditions, including a yearly rodeo trail ride campout, karaoke night at the gay-friendly Cozy Corner, and the twisted Deck the Halls of Burlinghall holiday parade, which features Santa cavorting with Disney characters, Darth Vader, art cars, Boy Scouts, and Falun Gong followers. “It’s easily the most surreal holiday parade you’ll ever see,” he says.

    {page break}

    Downtown

    In which a city realizes you can have the pedal sans the metal

    What $$$ will get you:

    914 Main St.

    Downtown

    This 2,412-square-foot, two-bedroom condo in the Commerce Tower, located near Main and Walker, comes with all the amenities. Price: $525,000

    Anthropologists hypothesize that our forebears mastered bipedal locomotion perhaps 4.2 million years ago, a prehistoric practice Houstonians promptly forgot when the car came along. And yet downtown, like some alienated tribe attempting to recreate the ceremonial dances of their long-dead forbears, a growing number of residents are attempting this ancient form of movement.

    That fact is not lost on Angie Bertinot of the Downtown Management District, who says that thanks to years of smart planning, residential downtown has at last reached critical mass with the arrival of parks, stadiums, and amenities like Phoenicia’s downtown market. Bertinot is further cheered by the numbers from this year’s Kinder Houston Area Survey, which once again found a strong preference among Houston-area residents for “walkable urbanism.” This year fully half of respondents indicated an interest in living in “an area with a mix of developments, including homes, shops, and restaurants” rather than “a single-family residential area.” 

    As of now, only about 3,500 people call downtown home, but Bertinot expects that number to double in five years, with the construction of large residential properties on Main Street, in the old Texaco building, and across from Minute Maid Park. Two new downtown hotels and a new building for the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts are also underway. Meanwhile, an enterprising group of Houston restaurateurs (including the folks behind Anvil, Grand Prize, Oxheart, and Barnaby’s) has turned its attention to the historic district surrounding Market Square Park, driving even more foot traffic to the area.

    “What makes downtown stand out from Montrose and even the Heights”—wait for it—“is that it’s really walkable,” Bertinot notes. “The downtown resident is someone who walks to the theater district, the park, Sundance Cinemas, and the Bayou, which has a huge recreational component. Those things are right in your backyard.” Anything else? “You can walk to work!”

    Up &
    Coming!

    Riverside

    Home to some of the city’s finest late Art Deco manses and mid-century mod showpieces set on tree-lined streets, Riverside Terrace seems poised, now more than ever, to enter the Inner Loop gentrification derby. After all, it’s convenient to everything the Inner Loop has to offer. It also offers a lot of bang for the buck: “It’s one of the last places inside the Loop where you can get an acre-or-more lot, and it won’t cost millions of dollars,” says Gerald Womack of Womack Development. Home to Houston’s Jewish elite in the 1930s, and prosperous African-Americans in the late ’50s, Riverside saw its fortunes decline in later decades. But since the early ’90s, it has been on a slow and steady rebound, and on the neighborhood’s backstreets, buyers are restoring old homes to their former glory, complete with the old hardwood floors, solid-wood doors, and crown molding.

    River Oaks

    Where two little words still command a cachet like none other

    Is River Oaks, a place where it can feel like lawnmowers outnumber actual residents, still Houston’s most prestigious neighborhood? Or is such a distinction still relevant when a successful young Indian doctor is just as likely to settle in upscale West U or polyglot Sugar Land than in the affluent Houston of yore, its mansions as frozen in time as its country-club ambience?

    These are the questions that bubble up as you navigate the neighborhood’s serene streets. Oh, and here’s another one. With prices skyrocketing and wealthy enclaves like The Woodlands beckoning, surely demand for this blue-blooded barony has dipped, right?

    An expert weighs in:

    “Buying a house in River Oaks is more expensive and harder than it’s ever been,” says Mary Hale McLean of Martha Turner Properties, who has lived in the same River Oaks home for 45 years. “Homes are going faster and inventory is lower than it was during the boom in the early ’80s.”

    Really?

    McLean says homes in the $1 to $4 million range are receiving multiple offers and selling within days of hitting the market. Prospective buyers will often make offers even before they tour a home, so desperate are they to land in the neighborhood. After all, if they lose the River Oaks cakewalk, where will they go?

    The answer, of course, is Southampton, Tanglewood, and West U, perhaps even the Galleria. But for those determined to be lucky—and when a neighborhood has just 1,600 homes, you’ve got to believe luck plays a part—River Oaks is still the ultimate address. And why not, given its beautiful streets, close proximity to downtown, the Galleria, the Medical Center, and some of the city’s best private and public schools?

    {page break}

    Bellaire

    Where small town meets big city

    What $$$ will get you:

    544 Chelsea

    Bellaire

    The price of admission gets you 7,686 square feet of Bellaire house, including five bedrooms, a media room, and a pool with outdoor kitchen. Price: $1,175,000

    Okay, so maybe it’s trite and a little bit of a stretch to use a sports metaphor here, but it’s so perfect we can’t resist. If the city of Bellaire were a player for the Houston Rockets, it wouldn’t be a ball-hungry scoring type who demands attention and plays with panache. (Think James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Montrose.)

    Bellaire would be … Chandler Parsons, a well-rounded glue guy with few great strengths but even fewer weaknesses, who is quietly, if arguably, the most complete player on the team.

    Bellaire, known for its City of Homes moniker and rebounding ability, is neither flashy nor exclusive, unlike its Inner Loop rivals, but its mix of location, price, schools, and recreation opportunities make us think it’s still underrated.

    “You’re in Houston—a giant city—but you’re living in Bellaire and you have this small-town feeling,” says longtime Bellaire resident and Martha Turner associate, Hedley Karpas. “The local pharmacist knows you. The store and restaurant owners know you. It’s a wonderful little community.”

    Thanks to its proximity to 610, the Medical Center, Galleria shopping and downtown, as well as some of the city’s best schools, it’s also an increasingly popular one. Rigid construction standards and 14 parks are big draws for families, and while Bellaire has never been a bargain destination, newly constructed homes often start at about $400,000. Sales lagged during the recession there as elsewhere, but with price points like that, small wonder that demand has now reached levels Karpas says he has never before seen in his 30-year real estate career.

    “If you look at what you can buy in Bellaire dollar-wise compared to comparable neighborhoods in the city, you’ll end up with $50,000 to $60,000 more value here,” he noted. “As soon as any decent property comes on the market it’s gone. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

    Up &
    Coming!

    East Downtown

    It was Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants who originally gave this area life and color, and when they relocated to southwest Houston in the ’90s, EaDo became a graveyard of abandoned supermarkets and restaurants. No longer. The neighborhood is now in the midst of a major makeover, attracting everything from sports bars like Little Woodrow’s to a multiplying supply of olive and russet-colored condos. Discovery Green is within walking distance, as is the Dynamos’ new home, BBVA Compass stadium. “With the Dynamo stadium we’re seeing a lot of growth in the residential sector,” says Paige Martin of Keller Williams. “They’ve got a wonderful hike-and-bike trail, and they’re really working to make the area east of downtown integrated into a larger downtown play area. In the near future we’re going to see entertainment, restaurants, all within walking and biking distance of downtown.”

    Cinco Ranch

    Where’s life’s a (manmade) beach

    If Cinco Ranch were a stick of furniture, it would be a La-Z-Boy—oversized, feather-pillow-soft, easy to fall asleep in. It’s hardly surprising then that splashed across the front of the neighborhood’s official brochure is a single phrase: “comfort zone.” Nothing stands out more about this master-planned community of 18,000 people southeast of Katy, the shining star of Newland Communities, than its devotion to ease and reassurance.

    What does comfort look like, you ask? Try this: pick a street—any street—in sprawling, 8,100-acre Cinco Ranch, and you can guarantee three things: the grass will look manicured, the streets quiet (sometimes unearthly so), and the homes inviting.

    Chances are, you’ll also be within walking distance of a park, a tennis court, a bike trail, a meandering waterway, or one of 10 recreation centers (including a beach club complete with a manmade beach), which gives this neighborhood an active, lived-in feel often lacking in other suburban hamlets.

    For retirees, there is Sunrise Senior Living Center, for kids, a children’s garden and top schools in the Katy school district. There is a golf course. There is La Centerra, a 34-acre town center with shopping and restaurants. Nine centers of worship are also sprinkled throughout the community, and that doesn’t include the yoga studios.

    Yes, friends, all this can be yours, but you must act now. Cinco Ranch was the No. 4 top-selling community in the United States last year, right behind The Woodlands. Maybe that’s because Cinco’s a relatively short commute to the energy corridor, making it popular with those in the industry. Maybe it’s the prices, which can go beyond the $1 million mark but start at the $180,000s, or maybe it’s the variety in housing stock, running the gamut from one-story patio homes to estates.

    Or maybe one shouldn’t waste time speculating and get over there before the place fills up completely.

    {page break}

    Memorial City

    In which the view changes from block to block, and so does the city. 

    Sometimes trekking around Houston can feel like peering through a microscope. Pick a new area, focus the view, and you’re likely to stumble upon another city altogether, probably one with its own brand of cuisine. Memorial City may be the best example of this phenomenon. The area is comprised of dozens of subdivisions and six different townships, each with its own government, police, fire department, and personality.

    Serving as the area anchor is CityCentre, something of a kid brother to the Galleria—an upscale, mixed-use development with office buildings, apartments, a hotel, and movie theaters. Rising in dramatic fashion across the street is the futuristic Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, whose campus already includes a hotel and a retail center.

    The gloss abruptly disappears a few blocks south of I-10, replaced by the Memorial West area; think Pleasantville on steroids. In Houston, there is arguably no neighborhood outside The Woodlands where it’s easier to get lost among endless blocks of manicured lots and large, single-family dwellings. It’s an area far from the city’s chaos, and one that’s also in transition. 

    “We’re seeing young couples with kids who used to own a townhome in the Washington Corridor flock to this area for the schools,” says Julianna Lind of John Daugherty Realtors. “They love the area because the homes are older and they’ve got the energy to pull up the carpet and remodel the home, making it hip.” Lind said older homes range from $300,000 to $500,000, while newer ones can top $1,000,000. 

    Throughout the area, for-sale signs and construction projects abound, with contemporary, Restoration Hardware-inspired revivals replacing vintage versions almost everywhere you look. This time around, the footprints are bigger, as are the price tags.

    Up &
    Coming!

    Brooke Smith

    It may not have quite the cachet of the Heights, its immediate neighbor to the west, but Brooke Smith is coming back, cottage by century-old, wood-framed cottage, street by shady street. Unlike so many Inner Loop areas, it’s as much a remodeler’s paradise as a teardown/rebuild ’hood. “The houses aren’t so big – they don’t cover the entire lot,” says Christian Busker, owner of Renovative Thinking, which specializes in the area. “You get a yard, some history and some architecture, and it’s close to I-45, 610, I-10, the new train line and downtown.” Always more blue-collar than the Heights, Brooke Smith offers picket-fence charm and front-porch-swing grace to empty nesters and small families. And prices are skyrocketing, going from $40 per square foot in 1994 to over $160 in 2011.

    Timbergrove / Lazybrook / Shady Acres

    Where, not far from the Heights, some find the courage to resist McMansionism

    These three post-war ranch-house neighborhoods tucked in the northwestern corner of the Inner Loop are enjoying their own scaled-down versions of booms in adjacent neighborhoods like the Heights, Garden Oaks, and the Washington Corridor.

    In part because of its proximity to Heights amenities, Shady Acres, a working-class neighborhood that predates Timbergrove and Lazybrook, is seeing the most teardowns. Whole streets of nondescript clapboard two-bedroom homes on cozy lots are giving way to row upon row of condos in the $350,000 to $400,000 range.

    Meanwhile, after years of graying, Timbergrove is seeing an influx of new families—some remodeling the two- and three-bedroom postwar ranchers, others tearing them down and rebuilding. In something of a departure, at least for Houston, many of the replacement homes are not gargantuan McMansions but homes that actually fit their lots.

    Timbergrove is an Inner Loop haven for nature lovers: a creek bisects the neighborhood, and West 11th Street Park offers 20 acres of relatively unspoiled Texas forest. Homes here range from about $250,000 to $500,000 for a new construction, while similar properties can be had for about 90 percent of that price in Lazybrook, Timbergrove’s slightly younger sister to the north.

    Most residents of these neighborhoods look to the Heights for nightlife and dining, although the area boasts a few excellent, low-key bars such as Shady Tavern, Big Star, and the wildly popular beer garden Cedar Creek, as well as some of the best barbecue and burgers in the city at Gatlin’s and Hubcap Grill, respectively.

    Cypress

    In which a sizzling neighborhood gets all hot for teacher

    Cypress-Fairbanks ISD was named the Best Large School District in all of Texas last year at the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards. “Schools are the main reason people look out here,” says Jim Mulholland, a broker with Mulholland Realty.

    In 2000, just under 350,000 people lived in the Cypress area’s ten zip codes. By 2010, 587,000 called the area home, in part because it offers more bang for the buck than comparable neighborhoods such as Katy.

    It’s no wonder that Cypress is pushing against its boundaries. To the west, the Bridgeland subdivision, currently in development, will one day comprise 11,000 acres. Since 2012, The Woodlands Corporation has had a hand in the project, hence the area’s buried utility lines and what will be 60 miles of interconnecting hike-and-bike trails. Also tennis courts, pools, and man-made lakes—not to mention a full-time social director, who is not to be confused with subdivision mascot “Bridgeland Bill,” a dancing duck in fishing attire.

    Now home to 5,000, Bridgeland is forecast to have 65,000 residents in four distinct “villages” by the end of the project’s 25-year build-out. Currently available three-bedroom homes start at $269,000, while mansions top $1,000,000.


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  • 07/01/13--04:00: Swamp Person
  • Image: Brian Taylor

    One spring afternoon in 2011, a reporter on assignment for Gus Allen, editor of the popular real estate blog Swamplot, was snapping pics of a gorgeous-but-doomed midcentury home in Memorial when a stranger approached.

    “You’re with Swamplot?” wondered the man. “Have you ever met Gus?” 

    “No,” replied the reporter, admitting that all her Swamplot dealings had been conducted via phone and email. “Have you?”

    “No,” he said, adding pointedly, “No one ever has.”

    The man was correct, for Gus Allen does not exist. He is, rather, a pseudonym employed by 49-year-old architect Larry Albert, a fact that only came to light in 2012, after Swamplot was the target of a lawsuit by a homeowners’ association (later withdrawn), and Albert countersued. The facts of Albert’s existence soon trickled out—that he’d arrived in Houston from Boston in 1993 to study architecture at Rice, that he’d stayed here ever since, working as an architect and teaching at Rice since 2001. In 2007, borrowing his pen name from one of Houston’s founding Allen brothers, Augustus, Albert launched Swamplot, which may have begun as a property-by-property chronicle of development projects and teardowns, but soon became something far more: a meditation on what kind of city we are, and what kind we want to be.   

    Today, Albert presides over a lively digital domain where those in-the-know about local development and real estate—and those who want to be—come together to hash over daily news from all corners of the city. Topics include everything from the latest wrinkle in the endless Ashby High Rise saga to which building site just got a demolition permit or applied to sell alcohol. The posts tend to be brief, the better to swiftly usher readers to the comments section, which is where the real action happens. Part of the fun is guessing who’s a real estate insider tipping his hand, and who’s a blowhard, crank, troll-in-training, etc. 

    One bona fide insider, reluctant to be outed as a Swamplot tipster, said of Albert: “He is almost always right, and when he’s not, he updates and corrects his information. And his absolute willingness to protect his sources gives him access to information available to few—if any—others.”

    Albert himself rarely editorializes or prescribes solutions; he leaves that to Swamplot’s commenters.  “What I’m most proud of is that it’s become a place that has a real sense of community, though not in the sense that it’s a group of like-minded people at all,” he said. “It seems to draw people from many different political viewpoints.”

    Take the Astrodome. Albert’s long been on record with his own proposal for the Dome, which would reconceive it as “an actual city. You would have a school, a Starbucks, a mall, everything. Think about it this way: where else could you buy an air-conditioned lot?” Now, however, he’s less interested in his own proposals than his readership’s. “There are almost as many ideas about what we should do with the Astrodome as there are readers of Swamplot. I don’t want to step on any of that,” he said, adding, “even if it does get torn down, it still fits in. That would be another very Houston thing to do.”


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  • 08/01/13--04:00: Hood Rats
  • It has come to The Drawl’s attention that the Bridgeland community in Cypress is home to not only a planned development, manmade lakes, dozens of miles of hike-and-bike trails, and—soon—several themed villages, but also Bridgeland Bill, the official mascot of the subdivision-in-progress. That’s right. It’s not enough for the Rockets to have Clutch or the Rice Owls Sammy or Bob’s to have Big Boy. Now the residents of Galena Park need their own Larry the Dancing Lead Sulfide. Think we’re kidding? Then you obviously haven’t been to a neighborhood pep rally in a while.

    Oak Forest’s Dacoma is an adorable raccoon single mother of three with an affinity for tract houses and townhomes of questionable aesthetic value. But don’t let those cute whiskers and bandit mask fool you. Like all mother racoons, Dacoma will defend her den to the death, here with the aid of a 20-gauge shotgun, thanks to a neighborhood initiative targeting the rising threat of driveway robberies from bobcats, coyotes, wolves and other creatures in white socks and flip-flops. To all who covet her IKEA futon with matching paper lantern, Dacoma has just one thing to say: Do you feel lucky, punk? 

    Like all koalas and most residents of The Woodlands, Conroe rarely leaves his home in the trees, especially now that there’s a ready supply of bamboo courtesy of the Pier 1 on I-45. Fiercely on guard against annexation, and something of a control freak, right down to his master-planned khaki shorts and Augusta-ready golf spikes, Conroe has a love-hate relationship with Big Petroleum, whose growing presence threatens his habitat even as it consistently raises property values. For now, however, he and his cubs are safe from the many unspecified dangers lurking beyond their wooded kingdom’s borders. Besides, if he wants the little ones to witness the terrors of the wild, he can just take them to BuzzFest when it comes to the Pavilion.

    He’s the same Alvin, but times have clearly changed for this mischievous critter. His days of chart-topping success in that high-pitched chipmunk trio now long behind him, Alvin is determined to be realistic about Alvin, which is to say a south Houston bedroom community struggling to remake its image even as its two claims to fame are the Nolan Ryan museum and endless episodes of Trick My What? on the CMT channel. Now living in an Airstream trailer and struggling to survive periodic rises in gang activity even as Alvin Jr. is arrested for vandalizing picnic tables at the skate park, he is a totem of transition, a chipmunk of change.

    As Montrose’s favorite curmudgeon never tires of reminding residents, old Driscoll the squirrel was gathering nuts there long before the hipsters and bobos moved in. Now firmly established in codgerhood and retired from his job in hospice care, he is often seen walking his pet chihuahuas in faded jean shorts and espadrilles, sending a clear signal to predators: attacking this gasbag means submitting to endless tales of the ’Trose’s glory days. Still, even Driscoll would have to admit that things have changed for the better. After all, he can now safely stroll the streets with his partner, the former mascot for Humble Oil—that little yellow flame in a “Happy Motoring” T-shirt—who now only answers to the name of his drag alter ego, Humbrella

    Sugar is a goose who long ago migrated (or was it emigrated?) from parts unknown to, yes, Sugar Land, seeking refuge, a McMansion, and low property taxes. Flash forward a few decades: she’s one of the smart set, oozing a glamour most fowl, which is to say Sugar thinks nothing of living next door to a Rockets guard or firing up the Mercedes for a trip to the Indian food market, her Jackie O sunglasses and colorful saris ever at the ready. Her husband has no idea what she is doing most days, of course, and while the town square is buzzing over a rumored affair with SWATSON (the giant green mosquito mascot of the minor-league Skeeters), you can bet that Sugar never kisses and tells.

    Oxford is a long-familiar sycamore tree in The Heights who, not unlike the neighborhood’s residents, is stately, unstable, and over 120 years old. Despite the constant threat of developers, hurricanes, droughts, and lawsuits from area sympathizers whose pro-environmentalism does not extend to trees whose pollen damages their Nissan Leaf’s paint job, Oxford has continued to grow, albeit sideways. As such, he is an important touchstone of endurance in The Heights, having survived two world wars, the neighborhood’s many vagaries, and numerous readings of “The Lorax” beneath his branches. 


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  • 09/03/13--04:00: Living the High Life
  • SkyHouse, a 336-unit luxury high-rise under construction in downtown Houston, is among a fleet of new residential skyscrapers transforming the Houston skyline.
    SkyHouse, a 336-unit luxury high-rise under construction in downtown Houston, is among a fleet of new residential skyscrapers transforming the Houston skyline. Photo courtesy Simon Property Group, LP

    For Laurann Zeitz, the decision to purchase a high-rise condo with her husband last year was an easy one. “I felt like I could skip town without having to worry about anything,” says Zeitz, who often travels in her capacity as owner of Claridge + King, a Houston-based women’s clothing line. “I’d compare it to living in a neighborhood, without all the responsibility of a home and a yard, but with a lot more security.”

    Not to mention a view, and a grand one at that. Zeitz’s 2,300-square-foot residence on the 30th floor of Building 14 in Greenway Plaza looks out on an increasingly crowded Houston skyline, one that seems to sprout a new high-rise residential building every few months.  

    The Bayou City has boasted high-rises for decades, of course, but something’s different now. A tipping point of sorts has been reached. More Houstonians than ever seem willing to give up what once seemed a birthright: the house in the suburbs, the lawn, etc. Why? Maybe it’s the shorter commuting time, maybe it’s the promise of an urban lifestyle. Or maybe it’s just that—as Tim Surratt, an agent at Greenwood King Properties puts it—“Houston is finally becoming a real city.”  

    Since 2000, according to the commercial real estate firm CBRE Group, more than 30 high-rise buildings have gone up in Houston. All told, 72 high-rises tower over the city, which adds up to about 8,300 units. And even with the increase in supply (hundreds more units are on the way), the median price for a high-rise condo jumped seven percent over the past year, according to Paige Martin, who runs HoustonProperties.com and is a broker for Keller Williams Realty. 

    In 2012, Martin says, 740 such units were sold. This year, 500 had already been sold by the end of July. Martin attributes this growth to improved credit markets, lower interest rates and, of course, all those new buildings sprouting up.

    “There are over 4,000 people relocating to Houston each month,” she says. “Houston high-rises offer an easier, maintenance-free lifestyle with amenities like pools, tennis courts, valet parking and close proximity to the city’s major job centers.”

    Rising 30 stories above the inner loop, 2727 Kirby’s pool deck includes an outdoor kitchen and a heated infinity pool with dramatic views of downtown.
    Rising 30 stories above the inner loop, 2727 Kirby’s pool deck includes an outdoor kitchen and a heated infinity pool with dramatic views of downtown. Photo courtesy John Daughtry, Realtors

    Most of the new buildings are located around either the Galleria or the Medical Center, with several in River Oaks, Memorial, and downtown. In the Galleria area alone several buildings are in development or under construction, including the 355-unit Hanover Post Oak, which broke ground earlier this year. It sits astride BLVD Place, a partially-completed mixed-use development at Post Oak and San Felipe that when finished (in 2014) will have high-end shopping, office space, and a Whole Foods Market. Well-known developer Randall Davis says he hopes to break ground this year on Astoria, another 28-story residential tower up the street, with 70 units starting at $1 million apiece. 

    Not far away, developer Giorgio Borlenghi plans to begin construction next year on the Belfiore on Post Oak, a 26-story luxury high-rise opening in 2016 that will house two 4,650-square-foot units on each floor. Marketed toward empty-nesters, the building will also feature its own dog park, private garden, and pool complete with cabanas. 

    Luxury high-rises are not the exclusive domain of the super rich. At 1625 Main between Bell and Leeland, construction is underway for SkyHouse, a 24-story luxury apartment complex rising upward in the heart of the central business district. Developers are hoping to lure young professionals to the building’s 336 units with floor-to-ceiling glass, communal areas, high-speed wiring and rents  starting around $1,600 per month.  

     “It’s not what we might think of when we think of Houston, but things are changing,” says Surratt, who specializes in high-rise properties. Contributing to that change is an influx of residents from cities like New York, Los Angeles, and London, where high-rise living is commonplace, but longtime Houstonians are entering the market too. “A lot of our local homeowners are selling their homes because they want to move to a place where they can be close to shopping, dining, and culture,” says developer Davis. 

    And high-rise living really is way less work. “It’s just lock and leave,” says Rosie Meyers, a broker with John Daugherty Realtors who specializes in high-rise properties. “There’s no maintenance. No yard. Factor in the amenities, and it’s an easy lifestyle.” Adds Davis: “It can be a lot more comfortable than living in a house and dealing with all the issues that come with owning a home.”

    At the entrance of 2727 Kirby, residents are met by 24-hour valet service, a doorman, and a Dale Chihuly chandelier.
    At the entrance of 2727 Kirby, residents are met by 24-hour valet service, a doorman, and a Dale Chihuly chandelier. Photo courtesy John Daughtry, Realtors

    While many of the new buildings emphasize luxury, middle class buyers are not completely priced out. “You start off at around $200,000 for a one-bedroom at some of the nicer buildings and then go up to $4 million or $5 million, which is probably a penthouse,” says Meyers. “At 2727, you probably can’t walk in the door for less than $1 million-plus.”

    By 2727, Meyers means 2727 Kirby, which opened in 2009, and where life resembles nothing so much as the set of the movie Gattaca.  The 30-story tower features valet parking and a Chihuly chandelier in the lobby, manned by polite men in suits. The homes have spacious rooms with 12-foot ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and dramatic views of the cityscape. There are huge walk-in closets, fireplaces, kitchens with  slab stone countertops and gas ranges, and pricey European appliances. 

    “Before, most units had all electric kitchens,” says Surratt. “Now we’re seeing big commercial gas ranges in these open-air kitchens that give residents the luxurious feeling they’d get from a big home in the suburbs.”

    2727 also features an entertainment area called the Sunset Lounge, a screening room, a temperature-controlled wine cellar, fitness center, and, on the seventh floor, a heated infinity pool overlooking downtown, situated beside a five-cup putting green and another outdoor kitchen. Oh, and there’s a private spa with massage and steam rooms. 

    As Zeitz says of her home, “You get a full-service building, great neighbors, and a feeling of complete security at all times. The only downside is when you get to the bottom of the elevator and realize you’ve left something upstairs.” 


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    AIA Houston 2013 Home Tour
    Oct 26 & 27 12–6
    $10 single house ticket; $25 2-day pass ($20 for cyclists)
    713-520-0155
    aiahouston.org

    For their annual home tour, the American Institute of Architects Houston selected seven new architect-designed homes. The tour is open to the public (for a price) and typically attracts around 2,000 people. Tickets can be purchased at any of the homes. Click on the slideshow at the bottom of the page to see images of the buildings. 

    1102 River Bend Drive, Houston, TX 77063
    5,500 square feet
    m+a architecture studio

    918 West 43rd Street, Houston, TX 77018
    3,100 square feet
    studioMET

    1648 Columbia Street, Houston, TX 77008
    3,500 square feet
    2scale Architects

    1912 Bonner Street, Houston, TX 77007
    3,100 square feet
    studioMET

    4412 Mount Vernon Street, Houston, TX 77006
    2400 square feet
    Collaborative Design Works  

    2331 Dryden Road, Houston, TX 77030
    3,410 square feet
    Collaborative Design Works

    4135 Tartan Lane, Houston, TX 77025
    3,614 square feet
    Tran Architects 

     


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    Essentially contending it remains the hive of scum and villainy that neighbors (and police) have long reported it to be, the State of Texas and Harris County attorney Vince Ryan have sued the real property known as 1901 Richmond (formerly one of several Skylane complexes in the city) and its owner, Fat Property LLC. Ryan and assistant county attorney Celena Vinson contend that multiple aggravated assaults and drug offenses have occured on the premises between August of last year and this month, a time period that also saw police summoned to the property about 100 times. According to the suit, all that nefarious devilry constitutes a common nuisance, one the complex's owners knew about and have done too little to abate.

    The state seeks an injunction forcing the complex to post a bond of between $5,000 and $10,000, clean up the crime or forfeit the bond and shut down for a year.

    "It kinda calmed down there a couple of summers ago, but this past year it was bad," says Kurt Brennan of Sound Exchange, the venerable record shop catty-corner from the complex. "It was like an episode of Cops outside our window every day. There would be like four cops surrounding some guy on the ground, gesticulating wildly, telling some elaborate story. It was pretty entertaining really."

    According to DPS records, no fewer than four registered sex offenders live in the complex's 40-odd units, which seems a little lower than that total was in its super-sketchy Skylane heyday. 

    Apprised of the newly-filed suit by Houstonia, Fat Property head Cody Lutsch said that the complex is now about 1000 times better than it was before he bought it two years ago. "I have no idea why they would be filing a lawsuit," he added. "Obviously I will defend it, and I have no reason to think I would lose."

    Lutsch has been snapping up and sprucing up downmarket Montrose and Midtown apartment complexes in recent years and even won a Swampie from Swamplot.com for his 2012 turnaround of a formerly decrepit Midtown complex on Holman Street.  

    Image: Greg Wood

    There were high hopes Lutsch could do something similar with this complex, which was also once amusingly known as "the Houston Medical Apartments," but to hear the state tell it, cleaning up the Richmond Skylane has proven to be a Sisyphean task, even for somebody with Lutsch's money and credentials.

    We once spent a memorable evening there during the Great Hurricane Rita scare of '05. The night the storm scraped past to the east, and the city was all-but-empty and in a state of near-anarchy for those who remained behind, an old guy had wheeled a cooler full of beer and a 1980s vintage hi-fi stereo from his unit to the curb. There he blasted 50 Cent, the Temptations and Marvin Gaye to his companions—a couple of downward-spiraling strippers—and passersby alike. 

    "Our manager left and we're poor folks," said one of the ladies. "We just don't know how to act," she smiled. "Yeah," I replied, hoisting a Lone Star tall-boy. "When the Man evacuates, you must celebrate."

    Fast forward to today, and the new phrase is: "When the state litigates, you must abate."


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    Image: HAR.com

    Five years back I used to spend a fair bit of time in Bacliff, that two-fisted, hard-drinking, meth-blighted, gang-ridden Galveston County village by the bay.

    Some locals, including many of the members of the 4th Street Players, the town's Caucasian set of would-be Bloods gangsters, rejoiced in calling the place "the Wicked Sticks," and it was not hard to see why. Bacliff makes neighboring San Leon seem like Malibu by comparison, and Grand Avenue—Bacliff's main drag—was then (and likely still is) lined with a procession of brown-lettuce supermarkets, illegal gambling dens, hot-sheet motels, massage parlors, cut-rate liquor stores, and dive bars.

    Most infamous in that last category was Jackie's, to this day the only tavern from which I had to depart walking backwards. A father and son both affiliated with the Brown Assassins, the 4th Street Players's Hispanic rivals from the other side of Grand Avenue, did not like the tenor of my questions about the local gang situation, nor did the father appreciate my companion's rejection of his crudely-stated romantic overtures. In the end even the barmaid was jeering at us and egging on the gangsters; hence our leaving in reverse. 

    Anyway...

    This building always stuck out to me, even amid all that backwoods vice.  I mean, could that rambling, pink, yellow, mauve and robin's egg blue palace be anything other than a bordello? On a ride-around tour of the town with a local cop, I asked as much, and the cop just chuckled and shook his head but declined to elaborate. Another local source gave a similarly reticent response. Neither acknowledged that there was anything out of the ordinary about this place. I don't know, maybe it's just me. 

    But now the gaudy Wicked Sticks manse is currently on the market. For $250,000 Bacliff's weirdest structure can be yours. Though it's just blocks from the bayfront, the place was built in 1910 and has survived every hurricane to rip through the town since. There's a total of six bedrooms, a three-car garage, and four more covered parking spaces out back. There's a carriage house with a studio apartment and eat-in kitchen. And there are trees: big ol' handsome oaks.

    Image: HAR.com

    Location, location, location...You don't have to worry about Jackie's Bar anymore—it closed a few years back—but Katie's Bar (housed in what used to be Bacliff's post office) is still there and has always been a much nicer and safer place. Noah's Ark oyster bar is a hop-skip-and-jump away, and you would be right across the street from the town antique store.

    Which, in true Bacliff spirit, is called Junk And Disorderly.  


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    Today, if you call the number that formerly belonged to Martha Turner Properties (MTP), you may receive an unexpected greeting: “Hello, Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty!” That’s right—Houston’s most successful independent real estate brokerage announced this morning that it had been acquired by Sotheby’s. Although best known as an auction house, Sotheby’s has operated a real estate service since 1976, and maintains offices in many of the toniest enclaves in the country, including Beverly Hills, Greenwich, CT, Palm Beach, and now—with this acquisition—Houston.

    With over 200 sales associates spread across six offices, MTP is one of Houston’s largest and most profitable brokers. Thanks to its ubiquitous yard signs and memorable advertising (which claim that the realtor sells homes ranging from $20,000 to $20 million), the company enjoys high visibility. In 2013, MTP sold over $2 billion worth of property, the best year in the company’s 32-year history, according to Turner. REAL Trends, the real estate analysis firm, recently ranked MTP  as No. 8 in the nation based on closed sales volume per agent, with each agent bringing in an average of $7 million.

    MTP and Sotheby’s had been in negotiations for a little over a month before announcing the deal this morning. Turner said that it was a natural fit because the two companies’ cultures are so similar. “We have two fine companies that knew it would be a win-win situation,” she said. “The fact that they want a local company to run this says a lot.” Turner will be co-president, with her business partner Tom Anderson, of the newly christened (and somewhat unwieldy) Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty.

    When asked what advantages the acquisition would bring, Anderson said that Sotheby’s, as an international real estate company, would help promote Houston properties to people around the world. You can access the Sotheby’s website in 15 different languages, including Mandarin, Russian, Vietnamese, and French; by the end of the week, the same will be true of the MTP website. “You reach plateaus in your career,” Anderson said. “I’ve been in this business 40 years, and I’ve seen growth and plateau, growth and plateau. This acquisition will take us to the next level.”

    As for Turner, she said she looks forward to stepping back from the day-to-day management of the company to focus on what she loves best—going on home visits with her agents, and delivering invited lectures. She hastens to add that she’s not retiring. 

    “This [acquisition] means everything in the world, because it allows me to do what my dream is, which is to work as long as I want to,” Turner said. “I told Sotheby’s that I hope when I’m 90 I’ll still be in the office.”

    The latest in Houston events, arts, and culture, delivered straight to your inbox every week. (See an example!) 

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    Is Houston a wonderful city to live in?

    What, you’re asking us? Of course it is. That’s not the question. The question is, where within this vast expanse of wonderfulness should you live? No, wait, that’s not it either. 

    Where should you live now? That’s the question. In a town where red-hot neighborhoods can powder and die without warning, and long-dormant enclaves spring to life with head-spinning suddenness, advice on real estate is ever crucial and ever suspect. If you really want to know the neighborhoods of the moment you’ll need to visit with countless residents and agents in dozens of locales, and pore over reams of data on everything from school performance to crime. Or just let us do it for you.

    Family-Oriented

    West University

    West University Place: the city-within-a-city that inspires pride & devotion from its residents.
    Image: Jill Hunter
    West University Place: the city-within-a-city that inspires pride & devotion from its residents.

    It may feel like a small town, but don’t be fooled: West University Place is nothing less than an upscale city within a city. Consider its Little League, one of the nation’s largest. There’s an all-American, down-home quality to the ballpark, certainly, right down to the concession stand, which offers hot dogs, Cracker Jacks and the like. But it also sells Collina’s pizza, Thai spring rolls, and Skeeter’s fajitas. That’s West U in a nutshell: family-oriented and old-fashioned, but marked by a taste for the finer things in life.

    Video: Newsfix

    Why (and how) did we choose our top 25 neighborhoods?

    Why (and how) did we choose our top 25 neighborhoods? We go behind the scenes with our partners at Newsfix.

    Is there any neighborhood that elicits as much fanatical devotion as West University Place and sister enclave city Southside Place? Each equipped with their own courts and police force and lavishly appointed pools, ball fields, sports leagues, and parks, West U and Southside offer unparalleled opportunities for family frolic. 

    Zoning, which West U has and Houston lacks, is another draw, especially for well-heeled transplants, says Judy Thompson, an exclusive buyers’ agent for West U Real Estate LLC. “They move to Houston, and they aren’t accustomed to the way it looks,” she says. “They are looking for the single-family-home–type neighborhood West U brings.” 

    Another thing they’re attached to: the location. While adjacent to the shopping, dining, and partying options in Rice Village, West U types are also a hop-and-skip from the Galleria, the Med Center, Montrose, and downtown. People love the schools: West University Elementary was touted the fifth-best in the city by Children at Risk in 2012, and Lamar High School has an International Baccalaureate program. At present, homes on the market start at $725K for a smallish–by–West U–standards original house on busy Buffalo Speedway and average around $1.5 million for newer homes on less-traveled streets. 

    Not far away, the Museum District, Old Braeswood, and Southampton offer a slightly more historic, urban spin on the West U experience, while Braeswood Place is rapidly catching up to its Bellaire Blvd. neighbor in upscale homes, if not parks and pools.

    The Weekend Worshipper

    Beachtown

    At first blush, everything about Beachtown flies in the face of conventional thinking. There’s the architecture, for starters—replicas straight out of Galveston’s Gilded Age—and the emphasis on pedestrianism and sustainability, both of which, while wonderful things, aren’t usually high on the list of beach house needs. Then there’s the location, smack-dab on the sand, on a narrow spit at Galveston Island’s extreme eastern edge. Um, would people really want to buy million-dollar homes there? 

    Apparently they would. Those who doubted Beachtown developer Tofigh Shirazi and his Seaside, Florida–inspired New Urbanist development would work here are eating their words: after breaking ground in 2005, the first 160-home phase of the planned 260-acre, billion-dollar development quickly sold out. What’s left? As of now, you can buy a condo for $725K or choose between two beach palaces: one for $1.4 million and another for well over double that.

    Galveston realtor Kelly Kelley says that most Beachtowners are Fortune 500 execs purchasing second homes, drawn to the development’s ambience, as well as other Galveston attractions, such as the Strand and the piers, which Beachtown is clearly emulating. There’s a little town center—home to a cafe, community pool, ice cream shop, and bike rental business, all with lofts above—and it’s thriving. “They also like it that the beach is accreting there and not eroding,” Kelley says. (This is true nowhere else on the island, according to Galveston-based NOAA scientist Kristopher Benson.)

    And Shirazi’s insistence on building well beyond FEMA requirements paid off when Beachtown’s homes—with primary living areas at least 14 feet off the ground, able to withstand 150 mph winds—stood high and dry after Hurricane Ike in 2008, which destroyed much of the rest of the island. 

    The Single Scenester

    Midtown

    Drawn by its bars, restaurants, and walkability, Midtown is booming.
    Image: Jill Hunter
    Drawn by its bars, restaurants, and walkability, Midtown is booming.

    Midtown is touted as Houston’s walkable urban core, but at certain times it’s better known for its residents stumbling from bar to abode. And those residents love this bustling neighborhood that never really sleeps: even though real estate agents report more middle-aged homebuyers are moving to Midtown to join the young professional set, both groups are drawn by the same bars, restaurants, dog parks, retail, green space, and people-watching—both day and night.

    All this mingling is expected to intensify as the neighborhood increases in density, says Matt Thibodeaux, executive director of the Midtown Redevelopment Authority, especially when the Superblock—a six-acre, mixed-use development sandwiched between Travis and Main streets that will contain 8,500 square feet of retail space and a three-acre public park—is finally completed over the next couple of years. In the same timeframe, he estimates that the neighborhood will see another 1,000 apartments filled. 

    “The last five years have brought a lot of changes to Midtown,” says Thibodeaux, noting that Midtown Park, at Gray and Bagby, is getting a new performance stage and dog park. “And of course, we’re still in the heart of Houston with easy access to downtown, the Museum District, Montrose, and every big roadway.” So how much is a new townhome going to cost you? On the east side of Midtown, they start off in the mid-$200s and increase as you move west, before topping off around $700,000 in Midtown proper. “They’re coming for the walkability and the 100-year-old oak trees,” says midtown expert Heather Hatfield of John Daugherty Realtors. “To get those trees in other neighborhoods you’d have to spend millions of dollars, but not here.”

    The International
    and Neighborly

    Telfair

    More so than the other suburbs, Sugar Land is a mini-Houston. Not only does it have its own baseball team in the Skeeters (admittedly minor league), it’s incredibly cosmopolitan. Stephen Klineberg, co-director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, recently speculated that Fort Bend County is likely the most diverse in the world. Peruse a list of the 10 most-Yelped restaurants in Sugar Land and you’ll find Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Afghan, and Italian eateries, along with steakhouses from North and South America. 

    Sugar Land also has its own campus of the University of Houston, and its own branch of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, housed in a Greek Revival edifice once known as “Two Camp,” a segregated dormitory of Sugar Land’s defunct Central Prison. In 2005, the prison grounds—where convicts chopped cotton and cut cane for many decades—were converted to a subdivision called Telfair, possibly the most diverse neighborhood in that most diverse of counties. Homes there start in the low $300s although some crack the $2 million mark.

    Yogi Goyal, the host of KPFT’s GenerAsian Radio, has lived in Telfair for several years and loves Sugar Land’s great schools and 70 acres of lakes (open to canoes and kayaks), as well as taking his daughter to Telfair’s two pools, one with a splash pad and a waterslide. Bike trails streak the area, and Goyal loves the easy access to Highway 59. Perhaps as soon as two years from now, his family will have access to something else, too: Telfair’s latest and greatest amenity, a 6,500-seat concert venue, slated to begin construction this year. From the renderings, it promises to look a lot like Jones Hall.   

    The Retro-Active

    Glenbrook Valley

    Glenbrook Valley has retained a <em>Mad Men</em>-era feel along with its many original mid-century homes.
    Image: Jill Hunter
    Glenbrook Valley has retained a Mad Men-era feel along with its many original mid-century homes.

    In the 1950s, when its homes were built, this neighborhood off the Gulf Freeway just south of Sims Bayou was considered so stylishly mod it was called “Little River Oaks.” Even now there’s a Tomorrowland quality to Glenbrook Valley, and not only because the noise of jets from nearby Hobby Airport adds to an overall Jetsons effect. Last year, Glenbrook Valley was named one of the nation’s 10 Best Old-House Neighborhoods by no less an authority than This Old House. It was the only neighborhood in Texas to make the cut, with the magazine noting: “The word swanky comes to mind when you survey the daring roof lines and sweeping lawns of Glenbrook Valley, a neighborhood that would have tempted Mad Men’s Don Draper had he landed a Big Oil account.”

    The neighborhood’s impeccably preserved mid-century–modern houses (thanks, deed restrictions!) have been remarkably affordable over the past few years, and while the secret is now out, the market has yet to reflect it: median home prices have remained around $100,000. Recently, a low-slung ranch with custom landscaping, original mod hardware in the kitchen, updated appliances throughout, beautifully refurbished hardwood floors, and chic vintage tile in the bathrooms was offered at a vintage price: $105,000. A home featured in the original Glenbrook Valley ads was also recently on sale for just over twice that price, complete with flagstone walls, wood paneling, Ming Green tile in the bathrooms, and a majorly mod fireplace anchoring one end of a sprawling den that was clearly designed for Mad Men–style mingling and entertaining.

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    The Night Owl

    Downtown

    Downtown Houston is booming for the first time in years.
    Image: Jill Hunter
    Downtown Houston is booming for the first time in years.

    Even longtime real estate expert Terry Stanfield of Heritage Texas Properties —who’s lived and worked downtown for 14 years and long knew it was going to grow—is surprised by the area’s recent metamorphosis over the past few years. “What I see on nights and weekends amazes me,” he says. “There are pedestrians all over Market Square coming and going from restaurants, bars, and work. It’s a destination for all age groups for the first time in years.”

    Some of those pedestrians are new residents. “Discovery Green and Market Square Park continue to be urban destinations,” says Angie Bertinot of the Downtown District, noting that the city’s goal is to have 20,000 residents downtown by 2025. There are currently 1,210 housing units under construction downtown, with another 1,952 planned. Those underway include SkyHouse, a 24-story apartment complex at 1625 Main Street expected to open shortly; Block 334, a mid-rise right across the street, arriving in the spring of next year; and 500 Crawford, a seven-story complex next to Minute Maid Park slated for summer 2015.

    Meanwhile, downtown’s Historic District had 10 new restaurant and bar openings in 2013 alone, many of them along the 300 block of Main St., which has taken a turn for the trendy with the arrival of Goro & Gun, Little Dipper, The Pastry War, Clutch City Squire, and Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar. 

    As for Stanfield, he’s also been impressed by the diversity of the new downtown. “The demographics are quite varied,” he says. “Of the five I’ve put under contract in the last week, I had an older professor, a second-home buyer, a young professional, and a pair of empty-nesters looking for a neighborhood to play in on the weekends.”

    The Boomtown Cat

    Baytown

    When you think of neighborhoods on the rise, Baytown probably doesn’t come to mind. But thanks to the opening of new Chevron and Exxon plants in recent years, there’s been much new housing activity in this city 26 miles east of Houston, which is to say that an oil boom is begetting a real estate one. “A lot of people are moving up and buying larger homes, and we’re expecting an explosion of growth as more jobs open up,” says Sherril Bates of Bates-Brinkley Realty. “You can get into a home for as little as $150,000, and from there the prices go up past $1 million, especially if you’re on the water.”

    What you get for the $$$

    2912 University Blvd.
    West University

    This brand-new home is massive—5,487 square feet, on a 7,500-square-foot lot—and comes packed with all the amenities. MLS# 6513945

    $1,885,000

    Courtesy of John Daugherty, Realtors

    In addition to the area’s affordable real estate and plentiful jobs, prospective Baytowners are lured by its small-town ambiance, solid Goose Creek ISD schools, and access to over 1,000 acres of parkland. The lifestyle is quiet but the community active and tightly knit, Bates says, adding that the town has raised more money for the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life” than any other community in Texas for 12 years running. Furthermore: “We’re right in the middle of everything. We’re close to Houston and all its cultural offerings, we’ve got Kemah on the other side and Lake Charles right down the road from us. We’ve also got Galveston and Trinity Bay for great fishing and recreation right nearby.” 

    The Naturalist

    Bridgeland

    A few decades from now, Houstonians could very well be talking about Bridgeland and The Woodlands in the same breath—after all, both master-planned communities are run by the Howard Hughes Corporation, both emphasize living in harmony with nature, and both have ample green space for their residents. In fact, no home in this Cypress development just off Highway 290 is more than a quarter-mile away from a park, and all residents have access to recreational equipment like canoes and kayaks to use on the community’s many lakes. The neighborhood, whose median home price is $283,000, even hosts a well-attended annual Nature Fest and the Bridgeland Triathlon, the latter sanctioned by the sport’s national governing body. 

    Eventually, the development will house an estimated 65,000 people in 20,000 homes on its 11,000 acres, with future plans that include an 900-acre Town Center at the future intersection of the Grand Parkway and Central Creek Corridor (both currently under construction) and a variety of homes at many different price levels. For now, Bridgeland kids are zoned to Cy-Fair ISD schools, but down the road parents will be able to choose their children’s school district—including Katy ISD and Waller ISD—depending on where they purchase a home in the vast community, which sprawls across the three school districts. 

    The Location, Location,
    Location Lover

    Bellaire

    Median home values have more than doubled over the last decade or so in Bellaire—from $234,000 in 2000 to just over $620,000 in 2013—and they show no signs of slowing down. “When it comes to Bellaire, it’s location, location, location,” says Jared Lofton of Bellaire-based Lofton Realty. “Everybody wants easy access to downtown, and in Bellaire you have that, as well as access to the Galleria, West U, and the Medical Center. It’s one of the best bangs for your buck in Houston.”

    What you get for the $$$

    4807 Pine St.
    Bellaire

    This four-bedroom home in the heart of town features an open-concept living area as well as a grotto-style pool and spa. MLS# 52259599

    $1,398,000

    Courtesy of John Daugherty, Realtors

    There’s been a wave of new development here as new builders move in and residents tear down existing homes, buy bigger and better ones, or cash out altogether, riding the Bellaire boom straight into West U. Those who stay will benefit from award-winning public schools, high-quality city services, lush parkland, and an unlimited variety of home styles to choose from. Older properties start at just under $200,000, and newer construction starts in the mid-$400s and soars past the million dollar mark. “Driving around Bellaire you’ll notice that there’s a bleed over from West U these days,” says Lofton. 

    The Savvy Commuter

    Pearland

    In many ways, Pearland offers the best of all possible worlds in bustling Brazoria County. It’s equally welcome to collars both white and blue, surrounds its tolerant populace with a small-town vibe, and offers easy access to both Houston and the coast (think of the time they save driving to the beach!).

    Given that, it’s not surprising that Pearland is the second-fastest–growing city in Texas, as well as the 15th-fastest–growing in the country. The city is actively encouraging that growth with developments such as Pearland Town Center and Shadow Creek Ranch Town Center—and there’s a burgeoning restaurant scene too, with spots such as Killen’s BBQ, Killen’s Steakhouse, and King’s Biergarten drawing crowds daily. Commuting into downtown or the Medical Center is a breeze on Highway 288, and Hobby Airport is only a short drive away, as are NASA and other major employers.

    There are excellent schools to be had too—Pearland ISD has been rated exemplary by the Texas Education Agency, 5-A Pearland High School boasts one of the state’s best football teams (the recent state championship game between Pearland and Allen High School at AT&T Stadium in Dallas set a record as the most attended high school football game in Texas history as 54,347 fans turned out to support their teams)—and yet the property taxes are low. The mortgages are too. Whether it’s a beautiful mid-century rancher with an updated kitchen and sparkling new pool for $165K, or a $750K sprawler overlooking the golf course in Green Tee Terrace, in Pearland, there’s something for everybody.

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    The Cultured Suburbanite

    Champion Forest

    Champion Forest provides a traditional stability, even as commercial development booms around it.
    Image: Jill Hunter
    Champion Forest provides a traditional stability, even as commercial development booms around it.

    Remember Ronald Reagan? Champion Forest does. This stately suburb sprang to life in the early ’80s, and the neighborhood is filled with pristine housing stock from the oil boom days, which is to say two-story brick monuments to the nuclear family and a booming economy. Champion Forest’s home prices have never declined during its nearly 40 years—current median price: $230,000—and the pine trees have grown thick around them, even as the nearby Hwy 249 and FM 1960 areas have experienced massive commercial development. 

    In other words, there’s a lot more to champion these days, from the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts (a joint venture with the MFAH) and the Barbara Bush Library, to an Alamo Drafthouse outpost running indie movies and the 180-acre Meyer Park. And along Veterans Memorial, just a short drive away, you’ll find one of the richest ethnic dining corridors outside Chinatown. The area also lies only a short distance from Bush Intercontinental Airport and Greenspoint, both just down the Beltway. Kids have plenty of culture and recreation at their fingertips, too: the highly regarded Klein High School boasts state champions in everything from chess and orchestra to tennis and soccer.

    The Backyardigan

    Rustling Pines

    Winding through the wooded streets of Rustling Pines, it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of a busy city—and only a few blocks away from Beltway 8. This highly desirable neighborhood, which straddles Memorial and the Energy Corridor, is bordered on one side by the Edith Moore Nature Sanctuary and, on another, Terry Hershey Park, where both hiking trails and Buffalo Bayou run along many residents’ backyards.

    In addition to its prime location just across from CityCentre, with easy freeway access, Rustling Pines boasts some of the best schools in the city: Rummel Creek Elementary, Spring Forest Middle School, and Stratford High School. And tucked into the back of the neighborhood are a luxurious swimming pool and tennis courts, both set so far in the trees, your kids will think they’re at Camp Champions.

    With amenities like that, Rustling Pines—with its median home price of $535,000—is far from a bargain anymore. Those sprawling 1960s-era houses on gracious lots are now going for 40 percent more than they did 10 years ago, and competition for them can be fierce. It doesn’t help matters that kids who grow up in Rustling Pines often want to return once they have families of their own, their memories of childhoods spent swinging across bayous and adventuring through the woods being too strong to resist. 

    The Coupon Clipper

    Katy Creek Ranch

    There was a time in the not so distant past when Katy was, as a whole, considered a bargain. That time, according to longtime Katy resident and local real estate agent Cherin Cox, has come and gone. “We’re over $100 per square foot in most Katy subdivisions,” she says. “The demand is growing because of the high-quality schools and the proximity to the Energy Corridor, hospitals, and emerging businesses like the new Geico headquarters.”

    What you get for the $$$

    201 Westmoreland St.
    Montrose

    The gorgeous 1905 Waldo Mansion, where part of Terms of Endearment was shot, has a wraparound front porch, original woodwork, 15-foot ceilings, even a goldfish pond. MLS# 44040594

    $3,500,000

    Courtesy of John Daugherty, Realtors

    Thankfully, there are still a few deals to be had in this rapidly growing metropolis west of Houston. At Katy Creek Ranch, the latest development from Legend Homes, prices start in the $190s. Located within Cinco Ranch, KCR offers residents a clubhouse and a community pool, as well as nearby shopping and a newish Whole Foods, and all just a stone’s throw from Westpark Tollway and I-10. 

    Some residents say that the neighborhood offers many of the benefits of splashier Cinco Ranch at a fraction of the price. Homes are of the standard affordable-new-construction variety—plain brick, two-car garage, white sidewalks, and few trees—but residents who settle here do so for the lifestyle more than the look. “It’s great for entry-level homebuyers or relocated, younger families who are looking for great schools and affordability,” Cox says. “In surrounding subdivisions the entry-level price point goes up dramatically, to between $300,000 and $400,000.”

    The Lite Socialite

    Afton Oaks

    Like Braeswood Place on the other side of West U, with which it shares a Truman-era feel, Afton Oaks has been mansionizing madly in recent years. “Talk about gangbusters,” says Martha Turner/Sotheby’s realtor Kiki Wilson. “The prices in Afton right now are really impressive.”

    Twelve years ago, $250,000 bought you a seat at Afton’s bounteous table in the form of an original 1950s rancher in need of a little TLC. Today, $450,000 is the minimum for one of those same homes, even one facing busy Richmond Ave. Many of the original ranch houses have been scrapped, replaced by vast mansions covering most of the 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot lots. New constructions (mainly two- and three-story French- and/or Italian-inspired villas) and even some of the remodeled ranchers are now commanding anywhere from $1 to $2.5 million.

    It’s easy to see why. Perhaps no area in central Houston is as well situated to as many high-end amenities, schools, and employment centers as Afton Oaks, whose oaks are just southwest of River Oaks. If you work in the Galleria area or Greenway, you’re minutes from your desk; downtown and the Med Center aren’t much farther. Residents can walk the majestic tree-lined backstreets to dozens of luxe boutiques in Highland Village, yet nearby there’s also a Costco, as well as Central Market, an Edwards movie theater, and more.

    River Oaks may get all the pub, but Afton offers fun at a fraction of the price, albeit a fraction of a River Oaks price. “It’s a really good place to get a nice new house on a good-sized lot for under $2 million,” Wilson says. “And it’s very family-oriented, too.”  

    The Sentimental Journeyer

    Creekside Park

    The Woodlands, with a population the size of Waco—not to mention nearly 2,000 businesses employing another 51,000 people—has in some ways outgrown its small-town label. Nevertheless, small-town charm survives in spots.

    Take Creekside Park, the town’s newest development. Homebuyers, including an expected influx of relocated Exxon employees, will find walkable streets, plentiful parks (including connections to The Woodlands’s trail system and proximity to its nature preserve), and the potential, at least, for everybody to know your name: the front porches on theneighborhood’sCraftsman-style homes—which range in price from the high $200s to more than $900,000—encourage socializing. 

    As well, the houses are all within walking distance of the neighborhood’s centerpiece: Creekside Village Green, a communal, tree-lined green space scheduled for completion this fall, which will offer water features such as splash pads for the kids and a 4,500-square-foot, glass-walled restaurant. The Green will be the hub of Village Center, which will include retail and office space, restaurants, and townhomes in the $270,000s, with a large H-E-B and a Walgreens anchoring the development, all of which promise to give this small town some big city amenities. 

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    The Dockside Devotee

    Seabrook

    Seabrook is the moment’s best choice for saltwater living in a Houston area code.
    Image: Jill Hunter
    Seabrook is the moment’s best choice for saltwater living in a Houston area code.

    Quaint and off the beaten path, with shrimp boats, a historic waterfront, and cute B&Bs, Seabrook—less touristy than Kemah but more polished than San Leon or Bacliff—stands as this moment’s best choice for saltwater living in a Houston area code. “It’s small but not too small, and because we are on the right side of the lake, it’s an easy commute to Houston,” says Joyce Adamiak, an area resident and real estate broker with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene. “It’s pretty private and tucked away, and a lot of people like that.”

    Adamiak says Seabrook offers a full range of houses for almost any income level—from tract homes starting in the $200s to opulent waterfront palaces going for more than $2 million. Storms are always a concern given the proximity to the Gulf, although Adamiak reports that only one section of Seabrook was destroyed by Ike, and that those homes were replaced by more upscale models hewing closer to FEMA standards. For property values, Ike was a boon to Seabrook: sales are booming as never before. But thanks to its far-flung location, the sleepy town isn’t going as gangbusters as, say, Pearland. Nope, it’s taking things slow and steady. “And a lot of people find that really appealing,” says Adamiak. 

    The DIYer

    Pecan Park/Simms Woods

    Okay, so you want to live in a cute, East End bungalow but can’t afford a $500,000 home. Where do you go? Not Eastwood or Idylwood. They’ve both hit their saturation points. No, you keep walking, to two up-and-coming neighborhoods just down the street.

    What you get for the $$$

    5438 Candlewood Dr.
    Tanglewood

    This brand-new, 9,717-square-foot French country home will feature a stone façade, slate roof, and amenity-packed interior. MLS# 46692434

    $5,195,000

    Courtesy of John Daugherty, Realtors

    In Pecan Park, you’ll need a vision, some elbow grease, and considerable sweat equity, but not much money. There, a 1940s-era charmer between Griggs Road and Loop 610 can be had—believe it or not—for around $60,000 in Pecan Park. But hurry, prices are on the rise, having increased 60 percent over the last two decades. That’s because although the area has been depressed in past years, crime—once high—is on the steady decline, and schools such as Seguin Elementary and Cornelius Elementary are drawing in families thanks to their TEA “exemplary” ratings.

    Looking for a neighborhood that’s slightly more developed? Simms Woods is just on the other side of Forest Park Cemetery, making it that much closer to downtown—though the homes are a bit more expensive. You’ll get what you pay for, however, as the mid-century real estate in this sleepy neighborhood is—by and large—perfectly preserved (and a bit larger to boot). A three-bedroom brick abode on a tidy corner lot with plenty of modern updates recently went for $260,000. Bonus: in the evenings, Simms Woods comes alive as its residents take nightly strolls and catch up in each others’ front yards. You can’t put a price on that kind of community.

    The Close-In Connoisseur

    Northside Village

    With gentrification now having leapt beyond the Heights and into Lindale Park and Brooke Smith, the next play for urban pioneers is Northside Village, a newish name for what used to be called the Near North Side. Bounded by I-45 on the west, Highway 59 on the east, Cavalcade on the north, and Buffalo Bayou on the south, Northside Village is home to one of Houston’s strongest and deepest barrio cultures. Outstanding taquerias abound along streets like Fulton and Irvington, and the area also birthed the Fiesta supermarket chain. Thanks to the taquerias and shaded, walkable streets, some locals call the area “Tampico Heights.”

    A mere stone’s throw from downtown, Northside Village linked up to Houston’s light rail system at the end of last year, and if what happened in Midtown after the trains came is any predictor, the area is set to boom. “The rail is a big deal,” says Penny Smith Jones, a consultant and former in-house copywriter for Martha Turner/Sotheby’s. “The kind of folks who will buy into that neighborhood will use the rail.” And the housing stock is not dissimilar from the bungalows in the Heights. “You are right next to UH-Downtown…. Lots of interesting things are going on up there.”

    To be sure, Northside Village still has its issues, from crime to a shortage of retail, but the area’s downtown-convenient location means that residents can take advantage of the revival in progress there. And to the valiant go the spoils: two- and three-bedroom houses minutes from the heart of Houston for under $200,000.

    The New Bohemian

    Cherryhurst

    Living in Cherryhurst means being able to walk the best Montrose has to offer.
    Image: Jill Hunter
    Living in Cherryhurst means being able to walk the best Montrose has to offer.

    Is there a neighborhood that’s the essence of Montrose? We think so—and we think it’s Cherryhurst. Anchored by its eponymous park offering everything from lighted tennis courts to Tiny Tots programs in its community center, tree-shaded Cherryhurst is a mishmash of quirky ’30s bungalows, ’80s-era condos, and imposing, ivy-covered ’40s English Revival homes that somehow works. 

    Living here means being able to walk to the best Montrose has to offer, whether it’s dinner at Hugo’s or drinks at Anvil, pastries at La Guadalupana Bakery or antiquing along Westheimer, coffee at Agora or boutique shopping at Space. It also means enjoying the outsized personalities of your neighbors, who are doing everything from growing grapes to raising hens. The aesthetic here can be eccentric, too, by which we mean the Craftsman bungalow painted a vivid lime green with aqua trim, or a tiny charmer festooned with giant dog bones as lawn art, or the house with a cupcake truck perpetually parked outside. And come December, there’s one of the best and brightest Christmas light displays in town at the corner of Yupon and Missouri.

    That it works so hard to maintain the character that much of the rest of Montrose has lost is no small part of Cherryhurst’s appeal. Prices have increased over 40 percent in the last decade, but the median of $315,000 is hardly astronomical, especially given the prime location.

    The Smart Shopper

    Meyerland

    Like the supermarket branded pain reliever that appears suspiciously similar to the Advil that’s adjacent to it, Meyerland manages to be a few bucks cheaper while still getting the job done. This southwest Houston neighborhood offers all of the geographic and cultural benefits of neighboring Bellaire at a fraction of the cost. “People are finding that they can have a bigger home with a bigger yard in Meyerland than they can in Bellaire,” says Jan Pappert of John Daugherty Realtors, who specializes in both areas. “It’s pretty safe to say that the land value out here is great.”

    Less expensive homes and bigger lots, Pappert adds, have led to an influx of construction as new homebuyers tear down the neighborhood’s original 1960s dwellings and start fresh. The housing stock is varied—including everything from mid-century-modern ranch-style homes to contemporary double-deckers—and the prices are, too, ranging from the mid-$300s beyond $1 million. 

    The neighborhood’s a big draw for its proximity to Loop 610—which makes for quick commutes to the Uptown area, the Medical Center, Rice, the University of Houston, and downtown—as well as families looking for great schools (most of Meyerland is zoned to Bellaire High School). “We’re seeing that people are seeking Meyerland because of Meyerland,” says Pappert. “They’re basing that choice on what they can get in a home and a neighborhood for a lot less money.”

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    The Urban Pioneer

    Riverside Terrace

    Riverside Terrace, once the Jewish and then the African-American River Oaks, is filled with historic homes.
    Image: Jill Hunter
    Riverside Terrace, once the Jewish and then the African-American River Oaks, is filled with historic homes.

    Want to buy a River Oaks–style home with River Oaks–style history but without the River Oaks price tag—or a River Oaks location? Riverside Terrace traces its roots to the 1930s, when it was settled by Houston’s most prominent Jewish families: the Weingartens, the Fingers, the McGregors. They and others called the naturally hilly enclave home and built stunning mansions overlooking Brays Bayou. In the early 1960s, part of the neighborhood was torn up to make way for Highway 288 while desegregation brought a demographic shift to the area, which became home to prominent and affluent African Americans.

    Today, Riverside Terrace—which sits just on the other side of 288 from Hermann Park, the Museum District, and the Medical Center—contains large homes in various stages of repair and disrepair. A completely updated, “meticulously maintained” 75-year-old mansion on a sunny two-and-a-half acres was recently selling for $2.6 million. Meanwhile, a dignified 1940s manor overlooking the bayou was on the market for $650,000, waiting for an urban pioneer to take a chance and refurbish its original oak floors, fireplace, circular staircase, garage apartment, and other period amenities.

    Crime can still be an issue in the area, which has kept home prices down, but Riverside Terrace will only continue to improve as more people move back into the scenic neighborhood and make contributions of their own to this storied burg. 

    The Empty Nester

    Oakhurst

    Among the last few villages left to be completed in Kingwood is Oakhurst—and it’s already brimming with brand-new patio homes perfect for empty nesters who want to get away from the city while maintaining close contact with the kids. Downtown Houston is a short commute away on Hwy 59 (which is rarely congested, unlike I-45); Intercontinental Airport is only 15 minutes away. Even closer: Lake Houston, the thriving Kings Harbor waterside district with wine bars and steakhouses overlooking the lake, and plenty of recreational activities.

    Kingwood, like its master-planned counterpart The Woodlands, has managed to maintain a balance between nature and development, boasting over 75 miles of greenbelt, and hike-and-bike trails that wind through pine forests, connecting the community’s many parks, shopping centers, and even Lake Houston. Homes in various Oakhurst subdivisions range from $160,000 patio houses to mini-mansions in the $800,000 range overlooking the challenging 18-hole Oakhurst golf course.

    The Active Urbanist

    Tanglewood

    According to most accounts, this neighborhood and its sprawling one-story homes didn’t take off until after a big storm hit Houston in the early 1950s, flooding much of the rest of the city but leaving Tanglewood high and dry. John Daugherty, as in John Daugherty Realtors, remembers the area’s ascent differently, however. “When I was a young boy in the mid-to-late ’50s,” he says, “the newspaper came out with a story saying that if you lived in a two-story house, going up and down … stairs could give you a heart attack.”

    What you get for the $$$

    5051 Cedar Creek Dr.
    Tanglewood

    This five-bedroom Mediterranean features hardwoods, a paneled study, a large dining room with a wine vault, and a fountain on the patio. MLS# 57751458

    $2,100,000

    Courtesy of John Daugherty, Realtors

    A chill went through many a River Oaks mansion. Some homeowners, Daugherty’s parents among them, planted “For Sale” signs in the yards of their two-story homes and relocated to new, air-conditioned, flood-resistant, allegedly-heart-healthy Tanglewood a few miles away. In 1957, the elite Kinkaid School moved to nearby Piney Point Village, the Houston Country Club moved to Tanglewood proper, et voilá: all the comforts of River Oaks and none of the lifespan-shortening stairs. 

    It was a bald prairie at founding, but each resident was given two oaks at move-in, and the Tanglewood Corporation planted three more on every street corner. Today there are 5,000 trees in the neighborhood, and Tanglewood Blvd. has one of the city’s most glorious canopies shading its wildly popular jogging trail. “It’s a big exercise community,” says Martha Turner/Sotheby’s realtor Kiki Wilson of the neighborhood’s still health-conscious residents. “You always see people running up and down Tanglewood Blvd., and there’s a big community aspect to that.” A recent search brought up homes in the $3 to $6 million range.

    New ideas in the field of architecture—not to mention the field of cardiology—put Tanglewood out of fashion for a while, and many of the rambling ranches were supplanted by English-style manor homes and stucco Mediterranean mini-palazzi. The good news? The lots are large enough to accommodate such gargantuan ambitions. “What’s so nice about Tanglewood is … the new houses look proportionally correct,” says Daugherty. “And you are right next to the Galleria. You can’t improve on the location.”

    The Inner Gardener

    Timbergrove

    Timbergrove’s classic ranch houses appeal to young families and empty-nesters alike.
    Image: Jill Hunter
    Timbergrove’s classic ranch houses appeal to young families and empty-nesters alike.

    The Inner Loop’s northwest corner has retained much of its original post-war character even as it has played a part in Houston’s latest real estate boom. “A lot of people who grew up in this town still really relate to a one-story ranch-style house in a great location,” says Mike Tersigne of John Daugherty Realtors, a Timbergrove resident who lives in a 1950s home built by the subdivision’s founder. “These homes appeal to a wide cross-section of people, from young couples to retirees.” That may explain why the area is seeing more remodels than teardowns, Tersigne says, as current residents look to save money through reconfiguring old floor plans instead of starting from scratch. Tersigne expects this to change as property values rise, wealthier homebuyers move in, and large, 1960s-era lots like the ones in Timbergrove—perfect for building big new homes—become increasingly rare in town.

    With many original buyers hanging onto their homes for decades, the area has flown under the radar until recently. But real estate experts like Tersigne expect its popularity to grow, courtesy its proximity to the Heights, Uptown, and downtown. In coming years expect more commercial development in the area around 18th St., just north of Timbergrove, as well as more young families, who are coming despite the challenge presented by area schools, which have a mixed reputation. Homes start in the mid-200s and top off around $1 million, with an average selling price between $300,000 to $550,000. 

    There’s something else about Timbergrove non-residents always seem to overlook: the timber and the groves. “We talk about growth in this part of Houston, but we fail to mention how green the entire area is,” says Tersigne. “We have multiple parks, bike trails, and access to the bayou, where you’ll always find people enjoying the outdoors.”

    The Value Villager

    Brykerwoods

    As Spring Branchresidents will happily inform you, German immigrant Karl Kolbe came to town and built a log cabin here near Buffalo Bayou in 1830, six years ahead of the Allen Brothers. But that’s just one source of local pride in Brykerwoods, directly east of Hilshire Village on the north side of the Katy Freeway. “It’s quite a desirable part of the city,” says Kevin Vader, owner of Texas Top Realty. “You get all that suburbia would offer you—a large home, a decent-sized yard, and good schools—but you’re within a short commute to job centers around the city and really in the middle of everything.”

    As Vader points out, those Spring Branch ISD schools—students are zoned to Hunter Creek Elementary School, Spring Branch Middle School, and Memorial High School—allow many residents to invest in their homes what they might otherwise have to spend on private education. Indeed, there’s a large number of remodels and teardowns among the housing stock, which dates to the 1950s and ’60s but is now a solid mix of old, new, and in-between. And those homes don’t come cheap. “You’re looking at a starting price of $400,000 to $500,000, and it escalates quickly,” Vader says, adding that sales top off just past $1 million. 

    Not surprisingly, the neighborhood is full of families, and there’s a real sense of community, with special events throughout the year including Easter egg hunts, an ice cream social, and a pumpkin-carving contest all popular among residents. If you want in on the fun, it’s best to move fast. “Houses don’t come on the market that often,” says Vader. “It’s a popular place, and once people buy they tend to stay, because there’s no reason to leave.”


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    [Editors’ Note: The print edition of the April 2014 Houstonia includes an extensive fold-out chart on page 48 comparing data on 150 of the city’s neighborhoods. Because of an editing error, incorrect data was given for four of the chart’s columns. The correct values for those—Median Home Price, % Growth from 2009-2013, % Growth from 2012-2013, and Average Days on the Market—appears with the rest of the chart data below. We apologize for the error.]

    Neighborhoods & Real Estate

    The Houston Association of Realtors provided our list of 150 neighborhoods. HAR divides the entire area into 160 separate neighborhoods; we trimmed 10 that were on the distant periphery of Houstonia. Our real estate data—including median home prices, percentage growth, and average days on the market—also came from HAR. Percentage of owner-occupied homes and percentage of home mortgages that are fully paid off comes from the 2010 United States Census.

    People

    Demographic data—including neighborhood population, median income, and percentage of residents below the poverty line in each neighborhood—comes from the 2010 U.S. Census and the 2012 American Community Survey. 

    Schools

    The grades we’ve assigned to neighborhood schools reflect HAR’s ranking system. HAR uses a star system based on TAKS data (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills), with one star being the lowest rating and four stars being the highest. We’ve translated HAR’s star ranking into a traditional letter system—A, B, C, and D—in order to come up with each neighborhood’s grade for elementary, middle, and high schools in each ZIP code. 

    Crime

    Crime data was provided directly to Houstonia by individual jurisdictions for 2013 (when available) or from the Texas Department of Public Safety for 2012, the latest year data was available. Within Houston city limits, the Houston Police Department provided crime data organized by police beat. To accurately assess local crime, we matched neighborhoods to police beats. Where neighborhoods overlap multiple beats, we have drawn the crime stats from the police beat with the largest geographic overlap. An “N/A” indicates data that was not provided or not available for that neighborhood.

    Lifestyle

    Walkability scores come from the website walkscore.com, which uses a 100-point rating system (higher is better). Scores reflect an average for each ZIP code. Other lifestyle data—including percentage of residents with bachelor’s degrees and percentage using public transportation—come from the 2010 U.S. Census. The number of supermarkets and number of parks per ZIP code was compiled by Houstonia staff using Google Maps and the Houston Public Library system.

    Neighborhood Name 2013 Median Home Price % Growth 2009-2013 % Growth 2012-2013 Average Days on Market in 2013 % Owner Occupied % Fully Paid Off ZIP Code Population Median Income % Non-White % Non-Family Households % Below Poverty Line % of Population Under 16 % Enrolled in Private School Grade for Elementary Schools Grade for Middle Schools Grade for High Schools No. of Burglaries per Year No. of Car Thefts per Year Walkability Score % Using Public Transport % with Bachelor's Degree # of Supermarkets # of Libraries # of Parks
    1960/Cypress $144,000 5.88% 11.63% 38.4 49% 23% 77065 35,326 $56,110 37% 38% 11.2% 27% 10% A- N/A N/A 615 338 32 2% 88% 2 0 2
    Aldine Area $90,000 1.12% 20.00% 51.2 59% 44% 77039 27,562 $39,483 28% 18% 30.5% 32% 3% A B B 265 231 34 2% 50% 3 1 6
    Alief $110,000 15.18% 23.87% 49.5 46% 31% 77072 53,526 $35,763 67% 24% 24.9% 28% 4% B+ B- C+ 699 198 51 4% 68% 3 1 4
    Alvin North $170,000 13.33% 9.68% 71.6 71% 45% 77511 46,627 $53,097 12% 24% 17.1% 28% 9% B+ B C+ 149 24 9 0% 78% 3 1 7
    Alvin South $126,000 4.78% 11.62% 73.9 71% 45% 77511 46,627 $53,097 12% 24% 17.1% 28% 9% B+ B C+ 149 24 9 0% 78% 3 1 7
    Angelina County $57,046 14.09% -29.53% 66.8 65% 52% 75901 29,036 $41,638 23% 29% 21.7% 27% 9% B+ C+ C+ 262 33 2 0% 74% 3 1 2
    Atascocita North $142,500 -1.59% 1.84% 52.2 82% 17% 77346 53,578 $87,508 24% 18% 4.9% 31% 13% B+ C+ C+ 49 29 52 1% 95% 2 1 0
    Atascocita South $165,000 11.49% 13.79% 47.2 67% 22% 77396 43,317 $58,775 49% 25% 13.5% 31% 8% B+ N/A N/A 880 569 15 2% 79% 0 0 1
    Bacliff/San Leon $133,448 20.01% 52.51% 99.1 66% 44% 77518 8,673 $41,740 8% 33% 22.5% 29% 3% B+ N/A N/A n/a n/a 40 1% 78% 0   0
    Bayou Vista $183,500 7.37% 10.96% 103.2 67% 51% 77563 9,103 $50,383 29% 31% 16.9% 25% 13% C C+ F 11 3 8 0% 86% 0   1
    Baytown/Chambers County $135,000 3.85% 9.85% 84.4 66% 33% 77521 49,507 $57,352 33% 24% 16.9% 29% 8% B+ C+ C+ 939 307 3 1% 82% 3   5
    Baytown/Harris County $114,900 9.43% 10.03% 72.7 63% 49% 77520 36,489 $44,181 35% 30% 21.8% 30% 5% B- B- B- 939 307 35 1% 69% 1   9
    Bear Creek $120,000 14.29% 20.00% 39.5 79% 12% 77449 94,382 $65,445 34% 17% 11.5% 33% 10% A- B- C+ 183 52 18 1% 83% 2 0 5
    Bellaire $799,000 17.50% 11.13% 48.6 85% 33% 77401 17,491 $147,660 21% 26% 2.8% 28% 49% A+ A+ C+ 56 15 55 0% 98% 2 2 7
    Braeswood Place $616,750 12.14% 20.93% 35.7 47% 36% 77025 26,137 $64,202 35% 45% 11.1% 23% 26% B+ B+ N/A 253 134 57 6% 93% 3 1 3
    Brays Oaks $157,500 21.20% 12.58% 42.8 47% 25% 77031 15,762 $41,769 47% 32% 23.2% 27% 10% B+ B+ N/A 762 370 34 4% 70% 2 0 1
    Briargrove $694,000 27.34% 15.36% 42.1 33% 39% 77057 39,208 $54,614 29% 59% 21.5% 18% 26% B+ N/A C+ 335 251 57 5% 84% 5 1 2
    Briargrove Park/Walnut Bend $339,750 23.55% 4.54% 33.0 30% 40% 77042 36,385 $46,885 51% 53% 14.0% 20% 17% B- B+ N/A 155 43 78 4% 89% 3 2 1
    Briarmeadow/Tanglewilde $235,000 19.59% 23.68% 27.6 26% 34% 77063 34,299 $50,460 40% 56% 18.4% 18% 20% B A N/A 425 200 69 6% 87% 1 0 4
    Brookshire $194,047 161.52% 55.24% 92.0 62% 41% 77423 9,483 $36,495 25% 19% 23.5% 32% 13% C+ C+ C+ 34 9 0 0% 73% 1 1 0
    Chambers County East $132,500 5.16% -3.60% 106.0 84% 58% 77514 4,942 $51,105 20% 32% 10.5% 19% 8% C+ B+ C+ 191 49 0 0% 79% 0   2
    Chambers County West $219,900 15.74% 8.33% 80.5 86% 26% 77523 17,031 $85,839 17% 14% 7.0% 33% 8% B+ A B+ 191 49 8 0% 90% 0   3
    Champions Area $185,000 8.82% 6.94% 54.9 65% 38% 77069 16,541 $66,856 22% 42% 9.1% 16% 24% B+ N/A N/A 120 129 25 3% 96% 1 0 1
    Charnwood/Briarbend $575,000 26.39% 9.00% 41.7 26% 34% 77063 34,299 $50,460 40% 56% 18.4% 18% 20% B A N/A 335 251 69 6% 87% 1 0 4
    Clear Lake Area $185,000 2.83% 5.71% 47.6 84% 35% 77062 25,152 $88,897 28% 24% 5.4% 24% 20% A- B+ N/A 1320 1023 32 2% 93% 3 1 1
    Cleveland Area $81,875 16.13% 25.00% 97.4 74% 57% 77327 20,160 $41,996 19% 27% 21.7% 28% 5% B- C+ C 114 50 8 0% 76% 2 2 2
    Coldspring/South San Jacinto County $88,000 60.00% 39.79% 109.9 87% 58% 77331 6,824 $36,875 25% 31% 15.9% 22% 7% C+ F C+ 274 89 8 1% 85% 1 1 3
    Conroe Northeast $122,550 17.84% 30.37% 66.7 49% 43% 77301 30,769 $34,486 18% 29% 31.6% 31% 7% B+ C+ C+ 452 116 11 1% 61% 1 2 4
    Conroe Southeast $145,000 23.47% 11.97% 53.5 49% 43% 77301 30,769 $34,486 18% 29% 31.6% 31% 7% B+ C+ C+ 452 116 11 1% 61% 1 2 4
    Conroe Southwest $280,000 14.29% 12.66% 60.8 57% 38% 77304 21,341 $56,291 13% 38% 10.6% 22% 22% A- B C+ 452 116 29 0% 87% 4 0 3
    Copperfield Area $170,000 7.59% 11.48% 41.3 73% 16% 77095 64,457 $89,752 35% 26% 5.2% 29% 12% A- B B n/a n/a 28 2% 94% 2 0 0
    Cottage Grove $318,950 22.67% 10.75% 50.8 50% 28% 77007 30,853 $90,860 21% 61% 9.4% 12% 25% A N/A B+ 221 86 66 2% 89% 1 0 20
    Crosby Area $134,000 7.29% 7.29% 71.8 78% 38% 77532 24,270 $64,317 29% 19% 10.1% 28% 10% C+ C+ F 2 0 11 0% 87% 2   3
    Crystal Beach $240,000 41.18% 0.42% 198.3 81% 69% 77650 1,696 $66,250 12% 36% 26.7% 12% 0% N/A N/A N/A 77 39 0 0% 64% 0   1
    Cypress North $190,826 9.13% 4.85% 49.9 83% 21% 77429 72,264 $96,759 20% 18% 3.5% 32% 10% A B+ B+ 84 19 17 2% 94% 4 1 6
    Cypress South $225,000 36.78% 6.64% 62.0 85% 13% 77433 50,539 $92,142 34% 15% 5.4% 36% 9% A B B 84 19 9 1% 92% 2 1 4
    Dayton $110,975 12.32% 0.89% 86.8 81% 41% 77535 31,884 $55,863 18% 24% 14.3% 23% 8% B- C+ C+ 45 12 11 0% 75% 1   3
    Deer Park $136,500 1.33% 5.08% 46.8 81% 30% 77536 30,588 $76,482 10% 17% 7.0% 27% 7% A- B B+ 117 37 31 0% 87% 2   2
    Denver Harbor $45,000 0.00% -5.26% 84.5 52% 54% 77020 27,427 $28,217 39% 29% 35.0% 30% 3% B C+ F 191 140 49 4% 49% 1 2 11
    Dickinson $129,500 0.39% 16.72% 83.1 72% 32% 77539 38,505 $64,927 21% 27% 12.8% 27% 9% A- B C+ 131 39 9 1% 82% 2   3
    East End-Galveston $150,500 43.33% 15.77% 97.2 40% 54% 77550 23,043 $30,538 37% 52% 30.5% 20% 8% C+ B- F 517 160 8 3% 78% 0   0
    Eldridge North $174,900 2.88% -18.56% 34.4 80% 29% 77041 35,272 $70,413 45% 21% 12.9% 30% 15% A- N/A C+ 58 36 37 2% 80% 0 0 2
    Energy Corridor $279,500 12.02% 11.80% 28.3 38% 33% 77077 52,151 $52,151 45% 42% 11.2% 23% 25% A- C+ C+ 163 68 49 2% 95% 5 1 1
    Fall Creek Area $290,000 12.19% 15.18% 74.4 67% 22% 77396 42,873 $58,775 49% 25% 13.5% 31% 8% B+ N/A N/A 184 151 15 2% 79% 0 0 1
    Five Corners $100,000 19.05% 19.05% 63.7 69% 40% 77045 31,255 $37,276 60% 23% 28.2% 32% 7% B+ C+ C+ 620 402 14 4% 71% 1 1 6
    Ford Bend Southeast $205,818 14.80% 14.34% 55.9 74% 28% 77469 35,321 $64,101 32% 20% 12.6% 27% 13% A- B+ C+ 1672 274 0 1% 96% 2 1 4
    Fort Bend County North/Richmond $254,100 15.59% -20.22% 76.5 74% 28% 77469 32,835 $64,101 32% 20% 12.6% 27% 13% A- B+ C+ 1672 274 0 1% 96% 2 1 4
    Friendswood $188,000 12.07% 6.52% 60.0 81% 24% 77546 47,725 $101,266 18% 21% 4.3% 27% 13% A+ A- A n/a n/a 29 1% 95% 2   5
    Fulshear/South Brookshire/Simonton $367,695 8.35% 8.62% 65.9 91% 24% 77441 4,995 $114,167 18% 11% 6.1% 27% 21% C+ N/A N/A 34 9 8 0% 96% 0 1 1
    Galleria $570,000 17.53% 18.22% 52.4 45% 47% 77056 18,673 $90,348 22% 58% 5.1% 9% 34% A+ B+ N/A 122 138 71 3% 98% 2 0 2
    Garden Oaks $359,000 31.02% 22.63% 31.8 68% 38% 77018 25,563 $59,510 19% 39% 17.2% 21% 25% B+ C+ C- 218 44 57 3% 84% 0 1 8
    Greenway Plaza $455,000 -4.49% -23.53% 49.8 35% 72% 77046 1,196 $85,943 10% 77% 3.5% 3% 16% N/A N/A N/A 204 103 80 1% 100% 0 0 0
    Gulfton $135,000 25.00% -26.03% 57.3 5% 48% 77081 47,860 $27,789 43% 41% 36.1% 29% 7% B- A- A 415 278 57 10% 56% 2 0 1
    Heights/Greater Heights $374,900 29.32% 17.16% 35.6 54% 33% 77008 30,482 $65,457 16% 53% 10.4% 15% 22% B B+ C+ 422 212 57 3% 87% 4 2 9
    Hempstead $127,500 13.38% 53.61% 119.4 69% 48% 77445 11,977 $44,594 38% 29% 17.3% 25% 19% B+ F C 48 11 8 0% 80% 1 1 0
    Highland Village/Midlane $752,500 28.85% 16.67% 48.4 35% 37% 77027 14,331 $81,202 16% 64% 5.9% 9% 42% N/A N/A N/A 204 103 68 2% 97% 2 1 1
    Hitchcock $106,500 42.00% 61.36% 78.5 81% 30% 77536 9,103 $76,482 10% 17% 7.0% 27% 7% A- B B+ 71 11 31 0% 87% 2   2
    Hobby Area $84,950 0.59% 13.27% 58.6 36% 42% 77061 24,457 $31,854 39% 37% 29.2% 28% 7% B C+ C+ 364 131 20 6% 62% 1 0 3
    Hockley $119,795 32.37% 2.49% 66.7 83% 33% 77447 11,872 $65,263 14% 19% 12.8% 31% 9% A N/A N/A n/a n/a 0 0% 83% 0 0 3
    Huffman Area $181,750 28.45% 27.77% 67.1 80% 39% 77336 12,471 $63,347 6% 26% 9.8% 29% 15% B+ C+ C+ 35 8 3 2% 88% 0 0 1
    Humble Area East $133,415 17.03% 13.07% 59.8 58% 23% 77338 33,971 $48,673 50% 32% 14.9% 29% 15% B+ B- C+ 135 104 40 1% 81% 2 3 2
    Humble Area South $76,000 23.58% 33.10% 43.6 58% 23% 77338 33,971 $48,673 50% 32% 14.9% 29% 15% B+ B- C+ 135 104 40 1% 81% 2 3 2
    Humble Area West $97,500 4.97% 19.07% 60.6 58% 23% 77338 33,971 $48,673 50% 32% 14.9% 29% 15% B+ B- C+ 135 104 40 1% 81% 2 3 2
    Jersey Village $184,000 12.40% 7.67% 39.3 56% 29% 77040 45,081 $53,332 38% 30% 14.4% 26% 12% A- C+ C+ 58 36 14 2% 82% 0 1 1
    Katy-North $135,650 11.23% 13.63% 39.4 79% 12% 77449 94,382 $65,445 34% 17% 11.5% 33% 10% A- B- C+ 183 52 18 1% 83% 2 0 5
    Katy-Old Towne $221,500 57.65% 40.86% 52.7 79% 25% 77493 23,104 $77,272 22% 19% 11.4% 30% 12% B+ B+ C+ 67 35 2 2% 87% 1 1 5
    Katy-Southeaast $245,000 17.79% 12.90% 24.5 74% 25% 77450 71,889 $99,575 23% 19% 5.9% 30% 11% A A- B+ 388 91 38 4% 95% 4 1 5
    Katy-Southwest $304,750 14.33% 8.46% 51.9 87% 16% 77494 61,600 $123,782 25% 13% 2.4% 35% 14% A+ A- B 67 35 8 3% 97% 4 1 7
    Kingwood East $250,000 12.11% 7.76% 43.6 83% 23% 77345 26,122 $124,055 11% 16% 2.6% 28% 12% A+ A+ N/A 62 26 22 5% 98% 2 0 1
    Kingwood NW/Oakhurst $249,114 19.19% 9.26% 92.1 67% 29% 77339 37,512 $71,759 13% 32% 7.9% 23% 12% A B B+ 64 24 25 3% 95% 3 1 1
    Kingwood South $190,000 5.56% 6.03% 57.5 58% 23% 77338 33,971 $48,673 50% 32% 14.9% 29% 15% B+ B- C+ 49 29 40 1% 81% 2 3 2
    Kingwood West $155,000 6.90% 9.93% 47.4 67% 29% 77339 37,512 $71,759 13% 32% 7.9% 23% 12% A B B+ 64 24 25 3% 95% 3 1 1
    Knollwood/Woodside Area $374,950 19.03% 19.03% 38.7 47% 36% 77025 26,137 $64,202 35% 45% 11.1% 23% 26% B+ B+ N/A 253 134 57 6% 93% 3 1 3
    La Marque $65,299 -23.18% 8.83% 84.2 74% 40% 77568 14,308 $44,428 45% 34% 20.4% 26% 3% B+ C+ F 188 42 25 0% 83% 0   5
    La Porte/Shoreacres $127,000 3.29% 16.51% 50.5 77% 35% 77571 35,666 $66,983 20% 23% 10.7% 26% 9% B+ B C+ 127 38 22 0% 85% 2   4
    Lake Conroe Area $197,700 11.38% 7.15% 76.5 88% 34% 77356 24,498 $79,333 7% 23% 6.7% 22% 12% A B+ B+ 452 116 15 0% 94% 1 1 3
    Lake Livingston Area $113,500 10.73% 13.50% 141.5 80% 59% 77351 32,517 $40,161 16% 30% 15.9% 20% 10% B- C+ C+ 47 15 8 0% 78% 3 2 1
    League City $190,000 2.15% 3.40% 57.4 77% 20% 77573 71,580 $92,080 18% 27% 5.0% 28% 11% A- B+ B- 299 69 32 1% 95% 3   4
    Liberty $87,483 -13.38% -12.52% 157.2 79% 57% 77575 15,949 $46,939 28% 29% 14.4% 26% 7% C+ F C+ 297 101 18 0% 75% 1   2
    Magnolia/1488 East $250,000 13.90% 3.31% 61.4 85% 29% 77354 30,215 $72,466 13% 16% 12.0% 31% 14% B+ B+ C+ 0 16 3 1% 87% 2 1 2
    Magnolia/1488 West $200,000 24.03% 10.38% 73.7 82% 26% 77355 24,010 $66,385 6% 21% 11.7% 28% 14% B C+ C+ 0 16 0 0% 89% 1 0 4
    Medical Center Area $291,000 26.52% 30.31% 42.2 42% 45% 77030 10,258 $67,790 35% 54% 12.5% 17% 40% A+ N/A N/A 129 66 42 9% 98% 1 5 3
    Medical Center South $83,000 3.88% 22.06% 60.4 40% 71% 77051 15,085 $23,481 96% 39% 33.2% 26% 4% B- F F 481 182 20 9% 78% 1 1 4
    Memorial Close In $1,135,000 -17.83% -16.30% 107.2 72% 43% 77024 34,775 $108,068 16% 32% 3.2% 24% 29% A+ B+ B+ 29 43 34 1% 97% 3 2 2
    Memorial Park $1,350,000 38.46% 37.40% 84.3 50% 28% 77007 30,853 $90,860 21% 61% 9.4% 12% 25% A N/A B+ 221 86 66 2% 89% 1 0 20
    Memorial Villages $1,200,000 17.07% 8.18% 59.1 72% 43% 77024 34,775 $108,068 16% 32% 3.2% 24% 29% A+ B+ B+ 16 3 34 1% 97% 3 2 2
    Memorial West $600,000 43.54% 16.50% 27.3 64% 41% 77079 31,280 $94,924 19% 31% 5.6% 26% 20% A- C+ C+ 144 123 69 2% 96% 3 1 3
    Meyerland Area $370,000 15.99% 19.35% 22.3 54% 43% 77096 32,628 $65,011 34% 37% 13.9% 24% 27% B+ B N/A 192 63 38 4% 91% 5 2 6
    Midtown-Galveston $112,000 57.75% 15.40% 105.3 40% 54% 77550 23,043 $30,538 37% 52% 30.5% 20% 8% C+ B- F 517 160 8 3% 78% 0   0
    Midtown-Houston $332,750 32.50% 15.76% 65.1 32% 39% 77004 32,692 $39,804 68% 59% 27.9% 14% 18% B- C+ B- 287 218 68 12% 83% 1 9 10
    Mission Bend Area $122,000 12.70% 13.49% 42.7 72% 19% 77083 70,837 $54,639 70% 17% 14.9% 30% 6% B B- B+ 388 91 35 2% 77% 4 0 1
    Missouri City Area $150,000 20.00% 16.01% 50.7 89% 20% 77459 56,274 $102,267 54% 17% 4.5% 29% 17% A- C+ B- 219 47 9 2% 96% 4 1 3
    Montrose $498,841 36.40% 19.63% 45.3 37% 23% 77006 19,664 $63,360 18% 73% 13.6% 8% 30% C+ N/A A+ 171 108 72 4% 95% 1 3 5
    Near West End-Galveston $184,900 122.77% 19.68% 84.3 65% 45% 77554 8,863 $69,583 8% 40% 9.6% 14% 13% B+ N/A N/A 517 160 0 1% 94% 0   3
    North Channel $94,384 1.54% 15.10% 63.2 55% 44% 77015 53,621 $45,912 40% 24% 20.6% 32% 5% A- B+ N/A 167 99 49 1% 65% 6 0 8
    Northeast Houston $57,000 18.75% 26.67% 59.3 69% 63% 77028 16,808 $31,509 78% 33% 24.0% 25% 3% B- C+ F 424 160 23 9% 65% 1 1 10
    Northside $58,500 17.00% 17.00% 77.1 61% 60% 77093 46,929 $31,550 34% 20% 32.7% 33% 3% B B N/A 736 394 43 4% 45% 5 0 10
    Northwest Houston $99,950 10.44% 17.59% 57.7 64% 37% 77088 49,660 $41,067 64% 24% 22.2% 31% 5% B B- B 1879 1098 29 3% 70% 2 1 4
    Oak Forest East Area $304,500 58.18% 24.29% 34.5 68% 38% 77018 25,563 $59,510 19% 39% 17.2% 21% 25% B+ C+ C- 399 296 57 3% 84% 0 1 8
    Oak Forest West Area $172,500 14.43% 16.16% 26.8 40% 43% 77092 33,745 $35,555 35% 38% 28.3% 28% 5% B B+ C+ 399 296 57 4% 66% 3 1 9
    Omega Bay $253,000 12.95% 12.49% 176.0 67% 51% 77563 9,103 $50,383 29% 31% 16.9% 25% 13% C C+ F 11 3 8 0% 86% 0   1
    Pasadena $102,300 1.79% 8.83% 64.3 41% 49% 77506 35,977 $30,590 32% 25% 33.3% 35% 2% B+ C+ C+ 999 524 23 1% 52% 3 1 7
    Pearland $193,000 5.90% 6.01% 51.3 76% 30% 77581 42,383 $83,249 19% 25% 5.6% 27% 13% A A- B 279 83 26 0% 90% 4   5
    Plantersville Area $138,000 2.60% 36.63% 99.7 88% 54% 77363 3,269 $47,917 18% 32% 20.2% 27% 13% N/A N/A N/A 0 16 0 0% 82% 0 0 0
    Porter/New Caney East $123,250 31.12% 46.38% 74.4 79% 55% 77358 19,987 $54,375 13% 34% 12.8% 21% 13% B+ C+ C+ 2 1 3 1% 88% 0 1 1
    Porter/New Caney West $155,998 9.86% 11.71% 76.6 72% 36% 77365 25,769 $53,956 15% 23% 17.8% 30% 9% A- B+ C+ 2 1 6 0% 78% 1 1 1
    Rice Military/Washington Corridor $414,950 18.74% 10.81% 44.7 50% 28% 77007 30,853 $90,860 21% 61% 9.4% 12% 25% A N/A B+ 221 86 66 2% 89% 1 0 20
    Rice/Museum District $669,500 8.16% 9.31% 59.3 74% 31% 77005 25,528 $153,041 16% 32% 2.7% 24% 60% A+ N/A N/A 117 59 62 1% 98% 3 2 3
    River Oaks Area $1,482,200 26.96% 1.69% 62.5 51% 31% 77019 18,944 $87,582 19% 56% 8.9% 15% 49% A C+ A+ 28 13 78 3% 95% 2 1 16
    Rivercrest $3,740,000 38.52% 72.95% 213.0 30% 40% 77042 36,385 $46,885 51% 53% 14.0% 20% 17% B- B+ N/A 155 43 78 4% 89% 3 2 1
    Riverside Terrace $238,500 88.35% 22.43% 75.4 32% 39% 77004 32,692 $39,804 68% 59% 27.9% 14% 18% B- C+ B- 461 189 68 12% 83% 1 9 10
    Royden Oaks/Afton Oaks $697,500 29.17% 37.24% 62.0 35% 37% 77027 14,331 $81,202 16% 64% 5.9% 9% 42% N/A N/A N/A 204 103 68 2% 97% 2 1 1
    Santa Fe $139,284 -0.44% 3.17% 77.3 84% 45% 77510 13,731 $58,326 6% 24% 9.4% 23% 8% B+ C+ N/A 84 11 2 0% 88% 1 1 0
    Sharpstown Area $133,000 12.00% 18.75% 37.1 21% 52% 77036 71,962 $28,175 45% 36% 35.4% 30% 4% B B+ N/A 430 166 62 7% 57% 5 1 4
    Shepherd Park Plaza Area $349,125 50.94% 26.95% 38.3 68% 38% 77018 25,563 $59,510 19% 39% 17.2% 21% 25% B+ C+ C- 218 44 57 3% 84% 0 1 8
    Sienna Area $285,000 10.47% 10.04% 63.9 89% 20% 77459 56,274 $102,267 54% 17% 4.5% 29% 17% A- C+ B- n/a n/a 9 2% 96% 4 1 3
    South Houston $64,500 -10.42% -1.30% 57.4 62% 48% 77587 16,568 $36,420 28% 22% 27.2% 32% 4% A C+ C+ 222 138 42 1% 56% 3   3
    Southbelt/Ellington $125,800 3.75% 12.83% 52.0 52% 33% 77034 33,678 $44,519 38% 30% 21.5% 32% 9% B+ C+ N/A 393 335 12 2% 69% 3 0 3
    Spring Branch $218,000 38.24% 24.57% 38.0 45% 40% 77055 41,898 $43,470 21% 33% 27.8% 31% 10% B- B+ N/A 1132 726 63 3% 65% 7 2 3
    Spring East $114,000 13.43% 28.81% 47.7 76% 20% 77373 54,609 $69,604 35% 21% 9.2% 30% 8% B+ C+ C+ 84 21 22 2% 88% 1 1 7
    Spring Northeast $182,867 14.29% 10.83% 49.7 80% 14% 77386 36,407 $83,466 18% 20% 7.0% 31% 13% A- B+ N/A 16 5 6 2% 92% 1 0 2
    Spring/Klein $173,321 17.91% 10.04% 46.2 87% 21% 77388 40,384 $81,650 21% 18% 3.6% 29% 14% A B+ B+ 84 19 23 3% 92% 3 0 2
    Spring/Klein/Tomball $172,000 17.81% 13.16% 48.2 65% 23% 77375 39,264 $61,463 21% 28% 11.3% 33% 10% A- B C+ 84 21 3 1% 90% 2 2 0
    Stafford Area $116,000 16.00% 19.59% 48.9 46% 29% 77477 35,897 $55,869 49% 29% 13.2% 26% 11% A- C+ C+ 135 70 46 2% 82% 2 1 2
    Sugar Land East $261,500 16.48% 16.87% 39.4 80% 32% 77478 24,739 $95,805 45% 18% 6.8% 20% 17% A- C+ B+ 389 35 38 2% 93% 2 1 1
    Sugar Land North $175,450 11.40% 18.55% 44.1 75% 23% 77498 49,906 $77,523 54% 14% 10.1% 29% 14% B+ B+ B+ 389 35 17 1% 87% 0 0 4
    Sugar Land South $377,000 24.63% 10.78% 38.8 85% 21% 77479 74,514 $125,219 49% 10% 3.4% 29% 19% A+ A A+ 389 35 12 2% 94% 4 2 1
    Sugar Land West $281,000 16.67% 13.31% 41.7 85% 13% 77407 28,595 $82,117 60% 17% 6.7% 30% 16% A- B+ C+ 389 35 15 1% 90% 1 0 1
    Summerwood/Lakeshore $233,450 11.17% 6.78% 66.8 84% 22% 77044 30,949 $66,186 41% 17% 16.0% 35% 9% B C+ B 35 8 8 1% 79% 1 0 5
    Tanglewood Area $1,268,880 19.71% 10.72% 83.1 45% 47% 77056 18,673 $90,348 22% 58% 5.1% 9% 34% A+ B+ N/A 122 138 71 3% 98% 2 0 2
    Texas City $76,950 -9.47% 19.58% 87.3 59% 46% 77590 30,374 $45,565 21% 28% 19.0% 28% 8% N/A N/A N/A 355 67 52 0% 80% 2   9
    The Woodlands $322,750 22.41% 11.29% 35.8 45% 32% 77380 23,136 $66,219 18% 42% 9.4% 22% 17% A+ A N/A 220 32 48 2% 92% 3 1 9
    Tiki Island $396,250 13.86% 23.06% 199.9 65% 45% 77554 8,863 $69,583 8% 40% 9.6% 14% 13% B+ N/A N/A 0 0 0 1% 94% 0   3
    Timbergrove/Lazybrook $350,000 30.11% 21.34% 16.8 54% 33% 77008 30,482 $65,457 16% 53% 10.4% 15% 22% B B+ C+ 181 124 57 3% 87% 4 2 9
    Tomball $175,490 17.13% 18.98% 69.2 65% 23% 77375 39,351 $61,463 21% 28% 11.3% 33% 10% A- B C+ 84 21 3 1% 90% 2 2 0
    Treasure Island-Galveston $240,250 33.47% 35.73% 121.8 65% 57% 77541 17,412 $41,289 20% 31% 21.6% 26% 2% B C+ C+ 517 160 0 1% 76% 0   4
    Trinity Area $62,500 -71.59% -74.75% 151.7 86% 64% 75862 10,091 $39,134 9% 34% 13.4% 17% 3% F C F 71 10 0 0% 81% 1 1 1
    Tyler County $78,500 60.20% -2.79% 129.6 75% 65% 75979 11,423 $35,190 20% 35% 21.4% 17% 7% C+ C+ C+ 130 19 29 1% 77% 1 1 3
    University Area $77,500 11.11% 42.27% 56.1 43% 53% 77021 26,042 $32,096 84% 44% 31.2% 23% 10% B C+ A+ 360 144 57 13% 76% 1 1 10
    Upper Kirby $753,000 91.55% 31.87% 35.0 28% 30% 77098 13,076 $78,652 12% 69% 10.5% 11% 29% B+ B+ B+ 171 108 82 7% 96% 4 0 2
    Waller $145,000 39.42% 12.45% 89.5 72% 41% 77484 11,068 $60,998 17% 24% 9.5% 27% 19% B+ B C+ 98 9 25 0% 82% 0 1 1
    Washington East/Sabine $328,825 29.97% 19.62% 53.9 50% 28% 77007 30,853 $90,860 21% 61% 9.4% 12% 25% A N/A B+ 58 41 66 2% 89% 1 0 20
    Webster $155,000 8.01% 1.97% 84.7 20% 34% 77598 23,059 $44,884 30% 49% 14.5% 25% 13% B N/A C+ 77 39 45 1% 87% 1   1
    West End-Galveston $275,200 19.65% 12.10% 102.3 65% 45% 77554 8,863 $69,583 8% 40% 9.6% 14% 13% B+ N/A N/A 517 160 0 1% 94% 0   3
    West University/Southside Area $950,250 25.20% 19.15% 40.3 74% 31% 77005 25,528 $153,041 16% 32% 2.7% 24% 60% A+ N/A N/A 117 59 62 1% 98% 3 2 3
    Westchase Area $655,000 11.97% 11.02% 82.0 30% 40% 77042 36,385 $46,885 51% 53% 14.0% 20% 17% B- B+ N/A 303 164 78 4% 89% 3 2 1
    Willis/New Waverly $92,000 11.85% 10.84% 57.6 75% 39% 77378 14,685 $47,029 24% 26% 21.9% 28% 10% B+ C+ C+ 53 6 0 0% 67% 1   0
    Willow Meadows Area $258,500 27.06% 20.23% 35.3 44% 37% 77035 35,896 $36,151 54% 38% 26.9% 28% 8% C+ N/A C+ 253 134 46 8% 73% 3 1 4
    Willowbrook $118,500 4.64% 10.75% 39.9 64% 26% 77064 45,847 $64,945 37% 29% 10.2% 27% 9% B+ C+ C+ 120 129 12 1% 85% 2 0 2

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    Where's the best place to live in Houston? That's a question only you can answer—but we're here to help. The best place to live for you depends on a variety of factors: everything from housing prices to school districts, from architectural styles to aesthetics, from walkability to commuting times are important, so we've rounded up all of the major stats for 150 Houston neighborhoods, and we made a few recommendations of our own along the way. In the NewsFix video below, you'll find out a little more behind the reasons we chose the 25 neighborhoods we did—and which are our personal favorites. 


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  • 04/30/14--08:50: Good Brick Awards Go Live
  • For 35 years, Preservation Houston has awarded annual Good Brick awards to honor excellence in the restoration and conservation of historic buildings. This weekend's honorees are opening eight of these award-winning structures to the public in the first-ever Good Brick Tour Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

    1810 Summer Street: First Ward redo gets a Gold Brick and is open for viewing this weekend.

    “We received such a positive response when we held our first designer show house last year, that we wanted to build on that success and expand to a tour format,” said Preservation Houston president Jane-Page Crump. “We’re opening a variety of buildings so that people can see the full range of preservation activities in Houston.”

    These include everything from an 80-year-old log cabin in the Memorial area, to an Art Deco commercial building near downtown, to a sympathetically expanded Heights Victorian home. Docents will be on hand at each location of the self-guided tour to share the histories of the structures and the stories behind their rebirths.

    Advance tickets are available at this link through Thursday for $25. Tickets will also be available at selected tour locations on the days of the event for $30. A $50 patron's ticket will get you in to a kick-off party Friday night at the Good Brick–winning NuSmile Building at 3315 W. 12th Street.

    To see a full list of winners and the buildings on this year's tour, visit the 2014 Good Brick Tour web page

    Cook Paint & Varnish Company Building, 2500 Summer Street: another Good Brick winner in the First Ward.



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    Looking to enjoy the Washington Avenue lifestyle but can't pay $2000 a month to rent that brand-new swankienda? We've got you covered. 

    For a mere $750 a month, all this can be yours...

    1602 Knox Street offers almost 450 square feet of living space within its peeling clapboard walls.

    The kitchen features a granite countertop:


    You can also wedge a table in there, so long as it's "very small."


    Entranced yet? No? On to the bathroom, where the steamy luxury of a clawfoot tub awaits.


    The living room will hold both a couch and some chairs! That's what it says on the Internet!

     

    Still not sold? How's a pedestal sink grab ya?

    (Please ignore the water heater.) 

    And check out the curb appeal!

    All this, plus close proximity to some of the busiest train tracks on the west side of town, can be yours for a mere $750 a month! Act now!


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  • 05/08/14--09:33: Au Revoir, Josephine
  • Late last month, Tricon Homes purchased the Josephine apartments. Today, tenants' (and preservationists') worst fears were confirmed when the new owners handed out 60-day eviction notices.

     

    Image: Ramon Medina

    Built in 1939, the Josephine (1744-1748 Bolsover) is featured on the Houston Deco website. It was designed by La Marque architect F. Perry Johnston, who also designed the partially-Frank Lloyd Wright inspired Jackson County Courthouse. It has been home to countless Rice students over the generations, and a few years back, it was the birthplace of James Glassman's Houstorian blog. And now it is going the way of all bricks and mortar in this the most relentlessly anti-historic of cities.

    New owners Tricon have not announced plans for the site, but if the past is any indication, they will build something like this.

    Image: Tricon Homes

    Or maybe this.

    Soon-to-be-former Josephine resident Ramon Medina, who could not be reached for further comment, had this to say earlier today on his Facebook page: 

    "Hats off Houston, soon you will be overrun with all the overpriced luxury apartments and townhouses you deserve."


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    This morning eagle-eyed local attorney Steven Grubbs sent me a link to a house for sale at 2206 Eclipse St., near the corner of Pinemont and T.C. Jester, right outside of Oak Forest and Candle Light Place and not all the way up in Acres Homes.

    So yeah, it's kind of in no man's land, neighborhood nomenclature-wise, which is borne out by the fact that its HAR.com listing assigns it to no subdivision. Grubbs pointed out that it does have a legal designation though, and that is Tract 22, Block 18, Deroloc, which is "colored" spelled backward.

    It's easy to assume that racism lurks behind the designation, that whites in then-Dixified Houston gave the area this name as a sort of smirking in-joke. Digging in to the history books tells a different story.

    In 1899, backward spelling was something of a citywide mania. Modeled on Mardi Gras, Houston's biggest annual citywde celebration launched that year and was called Notsuoh, and it was presided over by King Nottoc, a deity whose approval had to be maintained to keep the Magnolia City's economy humming. Though they picked almost all of it and loaded almost all of the bales on to the ships at Allen's Landing, African Americans were barred from participating in Notsuoh, so in 1901, black civic leaders launced a festival of their own.

    Its name: DeRoLoc. It's disturbing to note that the master of DeRoLoc was known as King La-Yol-E-Civ-Res.   

    The other Notsuoh is gone now too, replaced in full by Dean's.

    In 1913 the DeRoLoc Theatre opened at 609 San Felipe (now West Dallas) in Freedmen's Town. By 1919 the theatre had changed its name to the American and both Notsuoh and DeRoLoc had been shut down, casualties to World War I and/or moralizing editorialists scandalized by the drunken shenanigans. 

    The name Deroloc lived on in Mexia, Texas, where in 1919 it was the headquarters of Deroloc Oil, described in Robert Dannin's Black Pilgrimage to Islam as "a legendary group of African Americans who pioneered drilling in East Texas...the men of Deroloc possessed exceptional knowledge of the local terrain and knew almost instinctively where to look for oil. They had memorized almost every inch of soil and landmark where they played as boys. Participating in the exciting oil boom was the realization of a world beyond the cotton fields. These black oil men were a new breed, full of promise, serious and poised, stylishly dressed and urbane."  

    If that's the source of the name, what could have been prouder or more glamorous for its time?


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    In a crowded housing market, Bridgeland, a rapidly growing community in Cypress, turns to lions, lemurs, and yaks to get attention.
    In a crowded housing market, Bridgeland, a rapidly growing community in Cypress, turns to lions, lemurs, and yaks to get attention.

    For several months, Beth Simmons, a cheerful, 28-year-old, stay-at-home mother of two, and her husband, an executive chef, had been in the market for a new home. To be clear, they were not exactly unhappy with their present one near Bear Creek, surrounded as it is by dozens of artfully crafted communities boasting access to winding water features, high-quality schools, and dense, kid-friendly greenbelts. But Bridgeland, a rapidly growing community on 11,400 acres in Cypress, seemed to offer Simmons something more, something extra: the chance to mount a camel.

    Of course, it’s always possible that the Simmonses and the roughly 10,000 other potential homebuyers were seduced by the manmade lakes and walk-in closets and open-air kitchens of Bridgeland. But the betting money was on the camels, who had been pressed into service by the organizers of the seventh annual Nature Fest in April, which brought homebuyers face-to-face with kangaroos, yaks, lemurs, and lions—as well as agents from local chapters of Re/Max and Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene. 

    Attendees were also lured, apparently, by the promise of food trucks, laser tag, kayaking, armadillo racing, a domesticated wolf on a leash (which may or may not have been a preternaturally large collie), and the chance to break the Guinness World Record for a simultaneous birdcall. Indeed, midway through the afternoon, when 994 people did their best impression of a northern cardinal, they shattered the old mark. (It had stood since 2011, when a crowd of 801 people mimicked the nighttime call of a barred owl at the Midwest Birding Symposium.)

    “It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Simmons, who checked in after her family had consumed a funnel cake and hand-fed a slimy-tongued camel, hopefully in that exact order. “We saw a camel, lemurs, a few monkeys, and we loved it.” More to the point: “I could see us buying a home here in the next year.”

    The kids were on board too, she told us later. “They didn’t stop talking about Nature Fest for days. It blew my mind.”

    According to the Houston Association of Realtors, there are close to 90 master-planned communities across the Houston area, each with its own unique amount of housing stock, and all bent on maximizing profits from the nation’s biggest housing boom. Last year, 34,500 single-family building permits were issued in Houston, almost as many as in the entire state of California, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Given the sheer number of new houses out there, potential homebuyers often don’t know where to start—hence attention-getting stunts like Nature Fest.  

    “We looked at these large public events as a way to make Bridgeland a destination, especially for Cypress,” said Lona Ship, the community’s marketing manager, who helped start Nature Fest about two years after the neighborhood’s founding in 2006 as a way to highlight its outdoorsy elements: the hiking trails, green space, farmers market, waterways and lakes that are home to migratory birds, and on and on. Organizers settled on animals as a way to brand Bridgeland a destination for nature-loving homebuyers, and the stratagem worked, even if the animals are mostly non-natives, like lemurs from the jungles of Madagascar.  “When we’re interacting with potential buyers, a lot of them will tell us that they went to Nature Fest and had an amazing experience,” said Ship, “and that’s when we know we’re doing the right thing.” 

    (Whether it’s right for the animals is, we later learned, a question. Most of them came from Staples Safari Zoo in Washington state, including a capuchin named Wilson, a chirping, juice box–swilling monkey who starred alongside Eddie Murphy in the 1998 version of Dr. Dolittle and, not content to rest on his laurels, made headlines mere days after the Bridgeland event, when he slapped KHOU host Deborah Duncan for taunting him with a grape on a Great Day Houston segment that went viral. But fruit withholding may be the least of the capuchin’s problems. Last November, the zoo’s owner, Brian Staples, was hit with a federal complaint alleging that, among other things, he failed to meet the minimal standards of care for his primates.)

    For now, Bridgeland’s Nature Fest is the biggest event of its kind, but its successes haven’t gone unnoticed. Nearby Towne Lake, a master-planned community which residents traverse by boat, hosts a springtime Lake-A-Palooza featuring leaping dock dogs, a fishing tournament, boat tours, and waterskiing demonstrations by the Aggie Ski Team. At Cross Creek Ranch, just west of Katy, homebuyers are invited to the Fest of Tails each April, a day-long event showcasing giant kites, Frisbee-catching dogs, and a canine talent show. And last October, Riverstone, a 3,700-acre development in Fort Bend County, unveiled a, well, scented homes tour. 

    “Not only will visitors be inspired by the trendsetting décor, but they will be treated to a relaxing aromatherapy experience, with fragrances complementing a room’s theme, such as a lemongrass master suite,” explained marketing director Christen Johnson in a press release that, admittedly, offered no explanation of the connection between scented rooms and the decision to buy a Mediterranean garden home. 

    Not that anyone needed to, according to Jacqueline Kacen, a professor of marketing at the University of Houston’s C.T. Bauer College of Business. In a sprawling metropolis like ours, she said, in which prospective buyers can visit only so many houses, making an impression is both difficult and necessary. Thus, an electric diffuser that releases cranberry pomegranate into dining rooms, citrus into kitchens, and ginger spice into theater rooms. “There’s research that shows that scent can have a very powerful influence on people, so it makes perfect sense for companies to use this for commercial purposes.” In other words, scents make sense make cents.

    “I would never go so far to say that an exotic tiger or the scent of vanilla bean would be enough to make someone buy a house,” Kacen told us. “Homebuyers are rational people, who look at bedrooms, schools, and square-footage. That said, with all else being equal, something small that produces a good feeling could tip the scale.”


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  • 05/08/14--09:33: Au Revoir, Josephine
  • Late last month, Tricon Homes purchased the Josephine apartments. Today, tenants' (and preservationists') worst fears were confirmed when the new owners handed out 60-day eviction notices.

     

    Image: Ramon Medina

    Built in 1939, the Josephine (1744-1748 Bolsover) is featured on the Houston Deco website. It was designed by La Marque architect F. Perry Johnston, who also designed the partially-Frank Lloyd Wright inspired Jackson County Courthouse. It has been home to countless Rice students over the generations, and a few years back, it was the birthplace of James Glassman's Houstorian blog. And now it is going the way of all bricks and mortar in this the most relentlessly anti-historic of cities.

    New owners Tricon have not announced plans for the site, but if the past is any indication, they will build something like this.

    Image: Tricon Homes

    Or maybe this.

    Soon-to-be-former Josephine resident Ramon Medina, who could not be reached for further comment, had this to say earlier today on his Facebook page: 

    "Hats off Houston, soon you will be overrun with all the overpriced luxury apartments and townhouses you deserve."


    0 0

    This morning eagle-eyed local attorney Steven Grubbs sent me a link to a house for sale at 2206 Eclipse St., near the corner of Pinemont and T.C. Jester, right outside of Oak Forest and Candle Light Place and not all the way up in Acres Homes.

    So yeah, it's kind of in no man's land, neighborhood nomenclature-wise, which is borne out by the fact that its HAR.com listing assigns it to no subdivision. Grubbs pointed out that it does have a legal designation though, and that is Tract 22, Block 18, Deroloc, which is "colored" spelled backward.

    It's easy to assume that racism lurks behind the designation, that whites in then-Dixified Houston gave the area this name as a sort of smirking in-joke. Digging in to the history books tells a different story.

    In 1899, backward spelling was something of a citywide mania. Modeled on Mardi Gras, Houston's biggest annual citywde celebration launched that year and was called Notsuoh, and it was presided over by King Nottoc, a deity whose approval had to be maintained to keep the Magnolia City's economy humming. Though they picked almost all of it and loaded almost all of the bales on to the ships at Allen's Landing, African Americans were barred from participating in Notsuoh, so in 1901, black civic leaders launced a festival of their own.

    Its name: DeRoLoc. It's disturbing to note that the master of DeRoLoc was known as King La-Yol-E-Civ-Res.   

    The other Notsuoh is gone now too, replaced in full by Dean's.

    In 1913 the DeRoLoc Theatre opened at 609 San Felipe (now West Dallas) in Freedmen's Town. By 1919 the theatre had changed its name to the American and both Notsuoh and DeRoLoc had been shut down, casualties to World War I and/or moralizing editorialists scandalized by the drunken shenanigans. 

    The name Deroloc lived on in Mexia, Texas, where in 1919 it was the headquarters of Deroloc Oil, described in Robert Dannin's Black Pilgrimage to Islam as "a legendary group of African Americans who pioneered drilling in East Texas...the men of Deroloc possessed exceptional knowledge of the local terrain and knew almost instinctively where to look for oil. They had memorized almost every inch of soil and landmark where they played as boys. Participating in the exciting oil boom was the realization of a world beyond the cotton fields. These black oil men were a new breed, full of promise, serious and poised, stylishly dressed and urbane."  

    If that's the source of the name, what could have been prouder or more glamorous for its time?


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