Comment of the Day: Getting Ahead of the Game in the Third Ward

COMMENT OF THE DAY: GETTING AHEAD OF THE GAME IN THE THIRD WARD “The developers are usually the 3rd or 4th step in gentrification. My understanding is that it goes like this: First are usually the lower income artistic types who give the area a ‘vibe.’ Then come slightly higher income artistic types who find fixer-uppers and start increasing property values. Then come the affluent who scrape the lots to build their own houses. Finally, the developers come in to build on any remaining semi-large contiguous lots. I don’t spend much time in this part of town, but I’m not aware of much of steps 1 or 2 happening there yet (but am open to being corrected). This feels more like developers trying to sell the area as being gentrified, make a quick profit (nothing wrong with that), and then leave the purchasers stuck with condos that will be underwater for the next 10 to 15 years. So if it is gentrification, I would call it ‘Astroturf Gentrification’ — from a distance, it might look like the real, but up close, its really pretty fake and inferior to the real thing.” [Walt, commenting on New Townhomes for a New(ish) Blodgett St. in the Third Ward] Illustration: Lulu

18 Comment

  • And by “slightly higher income artistic types” you mean “the gays.” ;-)

  • Not completely true. The reason people move to these areas is economic, not aesthetic.

    I’ve lived here for 4 years and have yet to meet a single “artist.” Also, I’m not “artistic” at all…I’m a square middle-aged white guy working for an oil company.

    But I bought here because I didn’t want to live in suburbia, and I couldn’t afford anything else inside the loop. At the time I was shopping, a 600 sq ft falling-down house with a ditch for a front yard would run you $400k in the Heights. A recently built townhome ran >$300k anywhere else, and had no yard. The lowest priced house I could find around Lower Kirby was $750k.

    Back then, I had a stable middle class income, and could afford nothing over $200k. So I bought here. And what I got was a 2,300 sq ft brick home with a detached garage and a sizeable front and back yard, in a stable neighborhood, for $180k. I have been slowly updating the house by putting my extra money back into it to increase its value and to appeal to my personal tastes.

    Every time a house sells here, it goes to someone with a similar story – they love living in the urban core, but on their middle class incomes, they can’t afford to live anywhere else nearby.

    Luckily, I’ve been able to advance my career (and income) and would now be able to afford something in a nicer area, but now that I’ve lived here, I like the hood and have no plans to leave. If anything, I plan on buying a tear down and building something newer and more custom to my needs (guess I would kind of fit your “affluent” house-scraper stereotype at that point).

  • “First are usually the lower income artistic types who give the area a ‘vibe.’”

    You clearly have no idea of the history of 3rd Ward.

  • Project Row Houses takes care of step one. Step two are the pioneering gays that choose the Third Ward over Meyerland (gays) or the Heights (lesbians) when Montrose started clearing out over a decade ago. Step three are folks like superdave who likely wouldn’t have purchased over there in 1989 but were willing to because 1 & 2 had taken place. However, there’s a step 3a at work here too; the black middle class slowly returning after trying out Missouri City, Pearland, Atascocita, etc… and not liking the lack of culture. The developers are slow to the game considering the excellent location and proximity to UH and TSU which are helping stabilize the Eastern front while the greater gentrification crosses 288 from the West.

  • We too moved to a section of the third ward called Museum Park because we wanted the accessibility of the inner loop, but couldn’t yet afford to live in West U, and couldn’t stomach the prices for town homes in Montrose. The bonus for us is that we live in walking distance to some of Houston’s most invaluable cultural institutions. The art is here, or close, it’s just not (as much) emerging art. However, there are artists and arts professionals who live in our neighborhood, and who are advancing the range of cultural richness– gallery Jatad is a great example.
    Everyone knocks town homes, but the same people who complain about them generally see their property value increase because of them, and because of the people who move into and care for them. Having a balance of town homes and single family homes is certainly something to strive for– moving forward without destroying history.

  • I live in Riverside/Third Ward. I’m a painter. My upstairs neighbor is a painter and kind of a well-known musician in Houston. A block away lives another musician that was often played on KTRU. A block from me in the opposite direction there is a house where my friend and some other female artists live. On Oakdale there’s the house-turned-artspace Alabama Song that frequently has shows and lectures. Most of us lived in Montrose and other areas before and moved here because it’s less expensive and the spaces are larger. My studio now is pretty awesome. Many of our friends are looking into the area as well for similar reasons, as well as Eastwood.

  • There are definitely artists living in the Third Ward and visible artistic institutions like Project Row Houses. But I don’t know if there are enough to make much a visible difference. I would say that the 2nd Ward is much further along that path.

  • I don’t consider Museum Park part of the 3rd ward even though they share a zip code. I would consider it part of the “museum district”.

  • I would agree with the comment if it had been made ten years ago. It used to be that townhomes inside the loop were a big risk because there was so much land available for more townhomes. Townhomes did not hold any value because there were always plenty of new ones that were affordable. That has really changed. Areas that were previously just about as adventurous as the 3rd Ward are starting to fill in and see some appreciation as well as rising prices for new construction. Cottage Grove, Shady Acres, and the West Side are filling in quickly and getting expensive. And none of the above followed the artists first model, although 1st Ward is. The real issue is whether the innerloop in Houston finally have enough momentum to make it through the inevitable boom and bust cycles of the oil industry. The townhome developments could be the next slums if there is a significant bust in the next decade or two. Without updating and care, townhomes can fall apart in a hurry.

  • I agree with the Comment, this dues seem the way things develop in The Loop in Houston. It’s true a lot of the people who used to buy and rent in Montrose are now in 3rd Ward, particularly Riverside Terrace. At this rate the Pride Parade may start going down McGreger;)

  • imo, the way things develop inside the loop are based on safety. Our crime is so bad in houston that if people don’t feel safe they are not going to live/visit the area at any price. Apparently this area near UH has been cleaned up. I havent been to that area in years, last time I was there it was far from what I would call safe.

  • It’s spelled MacGregor!

  • Probably just a bunch of people front running the light rail.

  • @ JM
    I grew up in 3rd ward, in the area now called the Museum District. It is and always was 3rd ward, just gentrifying faster than east of 288, and renamed by the new residents buying the new townhouses. When we arrived in 1968, we were one of the few white families moving into an area going down the slippery slope to ghetto hood. I used to stretch the truth and call it Montrose in the 70’s as a teenager to avoid the stigma of living in 3rd ward. Very soon, it will be a totally new area, bearing no resemblance to its’ past as the new construction fills every block West of 288. BTW, I was never afraid of living there and in the 90’s did a 2 year stint back in the hood before moving on to Montrose proper, and now to the Heights.

  • The light rail lines will make up-and-coming areas more stable. The value of transportation access should not be underestimated. While some argue that buses can do the same job as light rail–for significantly less cost–when is the last time you heard of any developer or homeowner around Houston deciding to build because a new city bus line was planned? The rails and station locations are guaranteed to be in the same place for decades to come. Good economic decisions can be made when the future desirability is reliable. While not everyone may want to live near light rail mass transit, there is a significant upper and middle class population that does desire transportation access–and that population will never go away. The Great Inversion will continue as the city can provide to the populace what the suburbs cannot afford to. The 3rd Ward, East End, and Northside neighborhoods may never be West U, but will also never be shunned again by the middle class once the light rail begins to run.

  • We’re buying as much as we can right now in 3rd ward. It’s too close to everything else not to be the next ‘in’ place to live and play.
    Plus you can rent 1-2 bed apts for $500-$600 when that same apt, just a few miles west in Montrose would be $900-$1100.
    IMO the people that made Montrose what it is are being priced out, and they’ll be going East to 3rd ward. We’re making some big bets that this is the case.

  • @Thomas

    You bring up a good point about the inflexibility of rail being a positive for those investing around it. Though I wonder if this couldn’t be replicated with BRT in a way that still saves money overall. If you have the cash needed to build a mile of rail, you could pre-fund operation of BRT on that mile for quite some time. If the BRT stops running on that route, the money gets diverted to a non-transportation service. If the line works, we get the savings of BRT. If it fails, we’re no worse off than with rail, and another service like police or fire benefits. People along the rail can feel confident that Metro won’t arbitrarily kill the line, since that would make their money disappear.