History of The Heights in Houston

One of the hottest areas in Central Houston for new construction and renovation, the Houston Heights is a fairly compact area, at least by its legal definition. Founded in 1891 as a separate city connected to Downtown Houston by streetcar, the Houston Heights proper stretches just a few blocks east and west of Heights Boulevard, with I-10 West and 20th Street as its southern and northern boundaries.

As newcomers continue to flood into the area, and as builders work feverishly to find houses and lots to accommodate them, “The Heights” has come to refer to an ever-expanding envelope of neighborhoods located north and west of Downtown, and the redevelopment fervor is also spreading outside the 610 Loop. Following its glory days in the late Victorian era and the first half of the 20th century, The Heights declined as automobiles and highways made it popular to escape to new suburbs like Spring Branch, now going through a decay-and-rebirth cycle of its own. From Victorian mansions to modestcottages, many original homes were demolished in the 1950s and 1960s as commercial interests invaded the area. Many other once-glorious homes were subdivided into apartments.

But as early as the late 1970s, Houstonians began to rediscover The Heights and a nascent renovation trend got a foothold. As early as the 1990s, some builders began creating new homes that were hard to distinguish from the old Victorians. The renovation pioneers battled crime and a severe lack of restaurants and retail, but they were rewarded with affordable prices and seemingly unlimited opportunity. Today, the pace of new construction and redevelopment all over The Heights is fast and furious, and property values have soared. It is not uncommon to find homes over the $1 million mark, and modest bungalows can fetch more than half a million.  As affluent residents have poured in, grocery stores, retailers and restaurateurs have followed. Today, the Heights is home to some of the hottest restaurants in Houston, and the cultural scene is also thriving with many art galleries and artist studios in the area. Parts of the Heights area, including much of the Houston Heights and surrounding neighborhoods including Norhill and the Woodland Heights, have been declared as protected historic districts, curtailing demolition and restricting renovations of historic homes. Builders remain very active in these neighborhoods, where single-family detached homes are the predominant style.

Development of The Heights Area

Construction activity in the Greater Heights area has spread all the way west to Ella Boulevard, encompassing N. Shepherd Dr. and Durham (Shepherd’s southbound counterpart), and neighborhoods such as Shady Acres, Sunset Heights and Independence Heights. In these areas, newly constructed townhomes and row houses offer a much more affordable entry price than in the historic districts.

A number of vintage 1950, ‘60s and ‘70s neighborhoods located just north of the 610 Loop are increasingly being transformed with new construction, including Oak Forest, Shepherd Forest and Candlelight Forest. Neighborhoods such as Timbergrove and Garden Oaks that have long been tight and well-preserved pockets in the area are also seeing new construction. Though still in its earliest stages at this point, construction and renovation activity has also spread out to hug the 610 Loop and I-45 North, which have traditionally formed the northern and eastern boundaries of the “Greater Heights.”

North Main Street is a main artery in Northside Village, where turn-of-the-century homes in working-class neighborhoods are being renovated or replaced with new construction. An increasing number of newcomers are rediscovering Lindale Park, located just inside the 610 Loop.