5 Reasons It Might Be Time to Move Out of the Heights

Categories: Surreal Estate

blue-heights-sign.jpg
Photo by Jeff Balke
Time to go?
I am a big fan of the Houston Heights. I lived there for the better part of 15 years and spent countless summer days at my grandparents' house just about 8 blocks east of there. It has so many things that make it a desirable place to live, from the big old oak trees to the quaint shops to the location so close to town. It's a far different place from when I bought there back in 1996.

At that time, there was still regular gunfire nearby. I saw a car chase right on my block complete with one car blowing out the back window of the other with a shotgun in a drug deal gone bad. About 2 a.m. one New Year's Eve, I heard the familiar sound of a machine gun -- yes, fully auto and everything -- being fired off just down the street. Of course, my house cost about one-third what it would cost now -- when I sold in 2009, I got substantially more than double what I paid -- and my guess is that the OK Corral-style shootouts are mostly a thing of the past.

Still, over the years, the growth and the popularity of the charming neighborhood has begun to take its toll. The gentrification has begun in earnest and doesn't appear to be beaten back in quite the same way it has been in the Montrose. But, the Heights has never had the level of commercial and retail development as Westheimer, so this is happening more to the homes and streets themselves, which is why, if you live there, I think it might be time to consider a move.

5. Crazy Development

Beyond the strip centers that are ever so slowly making their way into the area, the biggest threat is from homebuilders, who have taken -- like they do in so many places -- to buying up a single lot and cramming four town homes onto it just feet apart from one another. Where lovely, wood-frame, pier-and-beam bungalows used to stand, there are now brick squares three stories high. Tress are cut down for more land space and if they don't build town homes, they put in homes so skinny you could touch both walls with your arms outstretched so two could fit in a space designed for one. It's much like what began in West University years ago, but with more reckless abandon.

4. The Death of the Front Porch Living

I'm not just talking about the fact that so many of the aforementioned new home developments put as their front door to the street a garage door instead of an actual front porch, I'm also talking about the slow demise of friendly neighbors right on your block. One of the really wonderful features of a porch is how it draws people out into the front yard. Houstonians are naturally friendly, so being there and seeing others lends itself to getting to know one another. As this style of home begins to disappear, so does this type of lifestyle so intrinsic to life in this historic hood.

3. The Events That Overrun the Neighborhood

Years ago, I rented a space in an antique shop on 19th Street. At the time, there was very little in the way of marketing done to interest people in shopping at the shops that lined the street. Restaurants came and went -- I still miss the fantastic croissant breakfast sandwich I got at Khaldi Cafe before it was shuttered and became Shade -- but most of the shops remained relatively the same. Only, very few young people knew they were there. The merchants got together and started the idea of a holiday event to coincide with the holiday Home Tour. Soon, there were other events like White Linen Nights, which have completely inundated the entire area with drunk visitors. It might sound more sophisticated that the Westheimer Arts Festival, but the results have become unfortunately similar, which is why the Arts Fest was kicked out of the Montrose.

2. Chains Slowly Creeping In

For years, Starbuck's tried to get a spot near 19th Street but was rebuffed. Now, a Starbuck's sits conveniently across the street from a giant Walmart and next to Jimmy John's, Chipotle, the Corner Bakery and other chain establishments just across the freeway from Heights Boulevard. Slowly but surely, chain restaurants and stores are replacing independents. Fortunately, there are still some outstanding local eateries and shops throughout, but the new, widespread development should be a concern to residents.

1. The Cost

Not only does it cost well into the three hundred thousand dollar range for a 1100-square-foot bungalow, but the escalating real estate market is driving the diversity right out of the neighborhood. For years, remodeled homes sat next to small, old rent houses. Now, an empty lot costs more than $200k. Just the dirt. I'm glad the housing market has grown so dramatically in Houston. It certainly benefitted me. But, the explosion in the Heights has gotten out of hand and with all the money in property, it's no wonder developers are moving in and destroying the character of the neighborhood. Frankly, if I owned a house that I bought there even 10 years ago, I'd cash out now while the values are this high.


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35 comments
heightsguy
heightsguy

I've been in the Heights since '77.  The number one reason to move out is the shortsightedness of community leaders, who pressured METRO to keep MetroRail out of the Heights!

Jason McDaniel
Jason McDaniel

you guys need a map... all that walmart and starbucks crap is on Yale... and not in the heights at all...

TFive0
TFive0

Funny how most are quick to blame builders for, ahem, building. The land owner has control. Progress is a great thing. Townhomes are not a bad thing. Development is not a bad thing. Downtrodden neighborhoods, however, are a bad thing. Hard to keep it quaint in that location. Thank your lucky stars developers decided to triple your property values and reduce your crime. 

TexasForever
TexasForever

Really, the OK Coral gunfights are a thing of the past?

I wonder how much of the " diversity" you really participant in?

Do you know your neighbors of color?

Do you speak to your neighbors that may speak a different language of yours?

Do your children attend your nearby HISD public school or do you send them to a private school farther away from your overpriced " bungalow"?

Do you shop at the Fiesta on Shepherd or so you shop instead at Central Market, Whole Foods or Kroger?

How many gang members have you met and mentored away from crime?

Kyle Moody
Kyle Moody

You could've seen this coming 10years ago....

Daniella Montemayor
Daniella Montemayor

You are insane if the East End will gentrify ... About a year ago we were looking in that area ... I fell in love with a all brick bungalow ... Problem is that place is littered with multiplexes and they're not leaving anytime soon ... Plus that nice big bayou right near your home just waiting to flush you out. No thanks ... I'll stay in the Heights.

Sandra Williams
Sandra Williams

This article is exactly what I've been saying lately as a resident of the Heights. I miss the Heights.

Brazos
Brazos

Everything you said. Yes.

greg-n-houston
greg-n-houston

I'm a longtime Heights resident, and it really never has been all that ethnically diverse. I agree we're becoming more socio-economically homogeneous, but, ethnically and racially, this neighborhood is more colorful than ever. I miss most the artists...

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Yes, leave the Heights. Come to Lindale, I have a house I'll sell you...

Noelle A. Perry
Noelle A. Perry

it really, really bothers me when people call it "the montrose". it's probably correct, but it bothers me. also, HP, hire an editor. if you have one, hire a better one. "tress" are cut down for more space? and run-ons and awkward sentences errywhere. [note that my comments are about the syntax of the article, because there's really no substance to speak of.]

Eric Walls
Eric Walls

Nobody likes you anymore, Houston Press. This story makes it even worse.

jbprincess1
jbprincess1

Jeff: Please do some fact checking (and proofing before) publishing! 

5. Not every bungalow is lovely or worth saving. 

4. People still enjoy their porches. 

3. The Westheimer Colony Art Festival (it was never called the Westheimer Arts Festival) decided to distance itself from the growing street festival and moved from the area. It was NOT kicked out of Montrose, as you state. Because of the new venue, both the producing entity and ensuing festival changed their names respectively. Since 1995, the Westheimer Colony Association dropped the 'Westheimer' name because the festival was no longer a Neartown tradition, and the name Art Colony Association took its place. To follow the name change of the producing company, the 'Westheimer' name was also dropped from the official title and the current name, used since March 1997, is Bayou City Art Festival.

2. Starbuck's NEVER tried to get a spot near 19th Street. The builder of the property where Beck's Prime is located has been the claim for years that Starbuck's was going to move in that spot, but this is not true. Starbuck's never thought the Heights was a good location for one of their stores.

1. See #5 above.

Jesse Berrospe
Jesse Berrospe

East End is the last stand, 3 ward and 4 ward are going fast , but it seens as though change will happen and when it does I hope East East becomes more like Montrose than the Heights

HRMS3M
HRMS3M

What the???  I think this guy is saying that he needs to find another crime infesting craphole because the Heights is getting to be too nice???  Plus, there are numerous factual errors in this post:

5.  Most of the Heights is protected by minimum lot size (5000 sq feet), the historic ordinance (must get approval from City that new construction meets character of historic architecture) and/or deed restricted (Norhill).  Yes, Shady Acres, Cottage Grove and some parts of Sunset Heights are seeing lots of townhome development.  But the vast majority inside the traditional original Heights neighborhood boundaries are not.

4.  This may be true in the townhome areas, but front porch living is very much alive and well in the Heights.  In fact, I will sadly admit to pretending to be on my cell phone when I get home from time to time to avoid one particularly long winded neighbor who is always hanging out on his front porch in the evening looking for a stop and chat.

3.  Both White Linen Nights and Lights in the Heights have been significantly dialed down in recent years to deal with the overly boozy party atmosphere.  The burdens they impose on the neighborhood are largely outweighed by the benefit of being able to walk from your house to these events. 

2.  Chains are not replacing independents.  Period.  Independents are growing at an unprecedented rate in the Heights.  Boomtown Coffee, Heights General Store, Kraftsmen, Table 19, Jus Mac, Boom Boom Room, Down House, Sale Sucre, Good Dog, Happy Fatz, Premium Draught, Angela's Oven, City Oven, Lola, Wichcraft, and a long list of soon to open (Fat Cat, Coltivare, Boulevard Coffee, Hunky Dory/Foreign Correspondence, and a brick and motor Mam's House of Ice Snowballs). 

1.  Believe it or not, the Heights is still relatively one of the more affordable neighborhoods in Houston for single family homes.  It does take upper 300s to get into the neighborhood, but many areas inside the loop now take at least 800k to get a single family house with many being 1 mil+.  And there is still plenty of diversity left in the neighborhood despite the fast pace of gentrification.  On my block, there are several homes occupied by 25+ year residents who come from all walks of life and are not going anywhere any time soon. 

The OSD
The OSD

Chains slowly creeping in?  I am not a fan of Walmart, but do you actually know what you are talking about?  The Walmart is not in The Heights.  The piece of property which was platted in 2010 (the Walmart is on the west portion of that plat) includes about 45,000 square feet out of Block 325.  The rest of the 693,249 square feet (almost 16 acres) has never been part of the Heights!  Do you remember what was on this property before that?  It was commercial/industrial property as far back as the 1940's! The portion of Block 324, where some of the other businesses mentioned are situated, has not been residential for at least the last 60 years.  Of the 333 Blocks, in the Heights, only 12 of them lie south of I-10.  WhiskeyR is correct.  Most people don't think of that area as The Heights any way.

Optimo Ram
Optimo Ram

I thought the heights was full of hipsters when i moved back, but its all oil money trust fund people, at least around me. They never wave, no ones friendly, I love the Heights because of its rich history and beautiful OLD homes. But its quickly becoming way to expensive to appreciate what is quickly disappearing for me.

WhiskeyR
WhiskeyR

Chipotle, Starbucks and Jimmy John's didn't replace any independent local eateries or shops. They replaced Dirt Bar. Not a big loss. For this 13 year Heights resident, it doesn't matter to me what happens on the other side of I-10 as it is only technically the Heights.

Matthew Noon Aya
Matthew Noon Aya

Optimo Ram this seems like it was written by one of those yuppies. is the heights the same as it was in 82 or 94? No! but it has a history that new homer buyer there aren't respecting. They style of home thats being built there is also built to attract the soft, easy going, "can you turn that down please" type of person. I still rep the height hard but its funny cause people look at me confused, especially young people who have no idea what heights history is. They wonder if I'm from the old heights or am i a transplant thats changing the height. The height was houston FIRST neighborhood. Settled on the cites highest land it goes way beyond 1996.

Francisco Muñiz-Belmares
Francisco Muñiz-Belmares

There is a sense of irony to all of this. No worries though. The East End is there for you now! You've already got EaDo. Go gentrify that place up some more. Up until the point that you yourselves get pushed out by higher classes. Just the natural order.

Jason Barron
Jason Barron

I lived in the heights for 19yrs, way before those yuppies and developers came in. Heights is prime location since its centrally located to everything, but property taxes are through the roof, developers are tearing down the bungalow homes that the heights were known for and building these three story town homes with no yards or privacy. They are built so close together you can shake your neighbors hand when pissing. I blame the damn yuppies and developers.

Xavier Balderas
Xavier Balderas

Really not to convincing reasons. Seems like someone just needed a story to share.

Optimo Ram
Optimo Ram

so true!! The yuppies have taken it over, im moving to eastwood!

mern721
mern721

It is a shame we're losing the bungalows as the Heights will cease being the Heights pretty soon! If the contractors would just keep to one lot, one house and in a style in keeping with the neighborhood, it wouldn't be so bad! Builders would still make money, just not a killing....and we would still have the wonderful trees!

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Douche bag density; although the Heights is reasonably expansive there are still large pockets of the Northern Heights which are largely unchanged. Everyone from the burbs now thinks the Heights is "where it's at in Houston". Thankfully there aren't nearly as many 3+ story stucco monstrosities as there are in my neighborhood in northern Montrose; I truly hate those. 

bedmondson1
bedmondson1

Wow.... So less machine gun fire and Starbucks on the other side of freeways are ruining the neighborhood? White Linen Night and 19th was ruined by being popular? because it is only cool if "Only, very few young people knew they were there"? 


This is one of the most pretentious things I have read in a long time. .

Puller58
Puller58

Gentrification hits the Heights.  Houston's lack of zoning for years has been either blamed or celebrated for the current state of affairs.  Economics trumps zoning.

kneegrow
kneegrow

"3.  Both White Linen Nights and Lights in the Heights have been significantly dialed down in recent years to deal with the overly boozy party atmosphere. "

Horsefeathers!  Trust me, I live in the epicenter of LITH

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

@gossamersixteen try expressing these views on Swamplot, the "high density with first floor retail" will come for you in the night with torches...


I am just happy that my little inner loop neighborhood has kept multi townhomes out, just new single family homes going in, larger, but still just one family...

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Of course I'm active there too, just look for "cm"..

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