5 Great Neighborhoods in Houston
West University Place
West U., as residents call it, is a small town within a big city. West University Place has its own city government, police and -- unlike surrounding Houston -- zoning. This upper-middle-class neighborhood is desirably located: inside the loop, about 15 minutes from downtown, blocks from prestigious Rice University and a mile from the nation’s largest medical center. It’s also near Hermann Park and Houston’s Museum District. No wonder that for more than two decades, West U. has been a prime choice for upwardly mobile white-collar and professional families with kids. But there are still seniors here who loved West U. too much to move on when their kids left.
Most of the original, mid-20th-century homes in the area have been knocked down and replaced with mini-mansions. Fewer than half the original homes remain. If you can find one and restore it, it’s a bargain.
Also: Bellaire, a separate city directly west of West U., is less upscale, more varied and commercial, but still very popular. Bellaire is getting more upscale and more expensive. Its small, middle-class houses are being knocked down and replaced with larger custom homes.
Tiny, 10-block Southside Place is another city within West U. Most of Houston’s inner loop to the south, west and southwest of town are considered desirable middle and upper-middle-class neighborhoods. Of particular interest are areas west of Rice University and the Texas Medical Center and between Main Street and the Southwest Freeway (US 59).
The neighbors: Professionals and their families, single professionals who are on their way up. Browse University Place Real Estate
If you want to be near downtown but can’t afford Montrose or the Heights, check out Eastwood, where houses cost 50 percent less than comparable ones in other nearby neighborhoods.
Eastwood dates to the early 20th century and is on Houston’s more industrial East End. But Eastwood is a neighborhood on the cusp, with its various bungalow, Craftsman, Arts & Crafts, Foursquare and Mission architectural styles attracting young urban professionals. It’s just three miles from downtown’s skyscrapers and Theater District -- a 15-minute drive from almost anything an urbanite would want.
Here’s a major upcoming event: A new line of Houston’s Metro Rail connecting Eastwood to downtown will be complete in 2012.
The neighbors: Young professionals who want an urban lifestyle without gentrified prices
Bigger is not always better. Houston’s popular southwest side has many desirable smaller neighborhoods that are just outside the loop (the inner city-circling Loop 610 Freeway). Most were built from the 1940s to the 1970s, for modestly upper-middle-class families, and many have been well maintained. One of these is Linkwood, a 146-lot development of eight oak-shaded blocks that is one of the smallest neighborhoods in Houston.
Linkwood has small, one-story brick homes, built mainly in the mid- to late-1950s on large lots. The neighborhood is just 10 non-freeway minutes from the giant Texas Medical Center and 30 minutes from downtown, but you can still buy one of the original homes for a reasonable $300,000 to $400,000.
Unlike some area neighborhoods, Linkwood has not been taken over by the McMansions that often overwhelm mid-age areas with oversized lots. When Linkwood’s civic club finally allowed two-stories, about 15 years ago, it retained restrictions to keep them from overwhelming older homes.
With only two streets that lead out of the subdivision, it has a cozy feel. There’s also a strong sense of neighborhood; most residents know their neighbors. There’s a wine club, a ladies' club (struggling a bit as most of the women are now working) and a newsletter. The neighborhood even flies its own civic club flag, along with U.S. and Texas flags, from poles along the bayou at the corner of Stella Link and South Braeswood Boulevard.
The neighbors: Young professionals, empty nesters.
Hunters Creek Village
Hunters Creek Village is one of six townships west of Houston known collectively as Memorial Villages. Hunters Creek was incorporated in 1954 and is a tiny bastion of wealth in Harris County. It’s the fifth-wealthiest district in all of Texas, which is saying something. Hunters Creek has a half-acre minimum lot size, and homes range in price from $100,000 to several million dollars. It’s a district of lakes, country clubs and big houses, a haven for corporate executives and their families from the unzoned hustle of Houston. Part of the reason property values are so high here is that Hunters Creek and the other villages operate their own highly regarded school system, the Spring Branch Independent School District.
The neighbors: Married, upper-middle class professionals and their families, wealthy empty nesters.
This master-planned community 27 miles north of Houston is a city within itself: there are upscale malls, large business parks, corporate campuses, an outdoor music pavilion, hotels, a convention center, a hospital and residential neighborhoods.
The Woodlands was carved out of a heavily wooded area in 1974 near the then-sleepy little town of Spring, Texas. Houston has since swallowed the surrounding area, but The Woodlands has kept its rural character thanks to its 6,000 acres of protected green space. There are 200 miles of walking and bike paths and 125 large and small parks. The commercial districts are separate from the residential areas and there are lots of trees.
The neighbors: Married middle-class professionals and their families