Oak Forest: New West U or Mini Bellaire?

OAK FOREST: NEW WEST U OR MINI BELLAIRE? The Chronicle is out with its annual survey of area home prices. Sadly, this year’s online version doesn’t allow easy cost-per-square-foot comparisons, leaving Houstonians who like to build and buy their residences in bulk without much to oooh and aah over. Consolation: The accompanying neighborhood profiles include a peek at the controversy that’s apparently been raging through Oak Forest: “‘I call it the new West University,’ said Jason Light, owner of the Light Group, a local real estate firm active in the Inner Loop area. . . . Marlene Casares and her husband, Jalin Casares, looked all over town before settling on Oak Forest, she said. A year ago they bought a new 4,300-square-foot home. . . . ‘It’s like a little mini Bellaire, but with better prices,’ she said.” [Houston Chronicle]

28 Comment

  • I moved to Oak Forest 3 years ago fleeing the douchery of washington ave. I have met more of my neighbors here then I ever had in the 007. I actually commented to my friend/neighbor the other day how much of a small town Oak Forest feels like. There are a few good resturants/bars that truly cater to the neighborhood locals. We have a decent (on a good day) Kroger and are close enough to the Target on 290 to run over there quickly. I LOVE it here, please dont tell anyone!

  • With that said, I dont think the area is like West U or Bellaire. Most of the folks building the new homes are sticking to a more traditional style that fits in with the area. I said MOST (im talking to you white stucco contemporary on Gardenia).

  • My parents first home in Houston, 1954, was in Oak Forest. It stayed within the family until the death of my Uncle about 5 years ago, when my cousin sold it. The neighborhood went through a rough patch in the 70s with teen heroin addiction, but seems to have rebounded nicely.

  • I’m with Margo. Shhhh…. every week, almost without fail, Daily Demo has a 77018 listing. The stucco tuscanosities just keep coming.

  • Right and the mostly architecturally devoid 1950’s numbers which were the tract homes of their day are soooooo much better? Gotta love those metal carports jutting out into the lawn since the garage was coverted into a “rumpus room” some years back.

  • Oak Forest is JUST like West U, except for the fact that:
    1. It’s not next door to Rice University or the Rice Village;
    2. It’s not practically next door to the Texas Medical Center and all of its high paying jobs;
    3. It’s not a hop skip and a jump from other major employment centers like downtown and Greenway Plaza;
    4. It’s not it’s own incorporated city with it’s own police force that will show up your front door in two minutes or less to investigate that suspicious noise your hear outside that is most likely either a cat or a raccoon;
    5. It’s not surrounded by other neighborhoods like Bellaire, Southampton and River Oaks that are widely considered among Houston’s finest; and
    6: It’s not zoned to Lamar High School which is one of Houston’s best placed to get a good education.

    Other than that, it’s just like West U.

  • Nearly all of the teardowns are in the older sections comprised of 2/1 or 3/1 ranches with wood siding–and zoned to Oak Forest Elementary. A contractor I know said that Oak Forest Elem. is a factor for many people buying in the area.

    The “newer” sections with brick-veneer homes are basically unravaged, and homes without extensive remodeling can be had for the very low 200’s

  • What Bernard said.

    …and Bellaire has Bellaire H.S.

    What a laughable comparison.
    Shoot for Spring Valley first.

  • Is there a neighborhood in Houston containing even one non-stucco structure over five years old that Bernard doesn’t hate?

  • Bernard’s #5 – Bellaire surrounded by River Oaks?

    Either Get a map or get a rope.

  • Uhm… he said West U???

  • IIt is interesting that the Chronicle has relied on the comment of a broker that is, “active in the Inner Loop,” whose office is in the Antoine area, Oak Forest is not in the Inner Loop and all 2 of their featured listings are in Spring and Pearland. The Chronicle has ALWAYS done a miserable job of profiling neighborhoods, granted Houston is very difficult to pin down in regard to neighborhoods. People in Houston liike to latch onto neighborhoods that may be in vogue, ie. Inner Loop is commonly refered to as anything from Downtown to the Galleria…?

  • I think you guys are missing the point of the article, particularly Bernard. The article did not say that Oak Forest is JUST like West U. It said that Oak Forest is the new West U. I interpret that to mean that Oak Forest is an up and coming neighborhood where home prices are rising to the point where older homes are being razed in favor of larger new construction. Much like what happened in West U and Bellaire about twenty years ago. I used to live in Bellaire just west of the tracks in a little 2/1. At that time all the houses were just like the ones in Oak Forest, if slightly smaller, on smaller lots, and more poorly constructed. Now those houses are gone. The same thing is happening now in Oak Forest. I think frankly that the Bellaire comparison is more accurate, but still, I don’t think anyone would mistake Oak Forest for West U or Bellaire. Twenty years from now their will probably be articles in the Chronicle announcing the new Oak Forest.

  • Oak Forest is also desirable for the small bungalows, as untrendy as they may be to some eyes. Believe it or not, some young couples don’t want children yet (if at all) and prefer to renovate as time and budget allow and some parents prefer to concentrate on silly things like feeding, clothing and providing their children with a good education in a safe neighborhood school to blinging out their house. There are also a great many original owners on fixed incomes, although the area loses some every day, who can still afford to stay in their homes with caring friends and neighbors nearby due to relatively low property taxes since the land is not priced anywhere near West U or Bellaire levels. Be patient, haters – eventually all the older homes will have outlived their use and appeal and be replaced with younger grander models, just as all of us will be.

  • Oak Forest is JUST like West U, except for the fact that:

    1. You can’t find bedazzled denim jackets sporting the name of the local Little League team.
    2. It’s bars are non-smoking.
    3. Not all of its original residents have been run off.
    4. It has neighborhood owned restaurants, many of which predate the term “chef-driven restaurant.”
    5. It’s houses don’t look like those in Cinco Ranch.
    6. It’s closer to a better Farmer’s Market.
    7. It’s not zoned to Lamar High School which, last time I checked, just got rid of its library.

  • Oak Forest Elementary School has an excellent reputation. I like that area (Garden Oaks included) it is so quiet and you can get a pretty big lot for not much money.

  • Thank you, DavidW and Cap’n McBarnacle.

    Margo, the white stucco contemporary (by Urban Craft) is on Cheshire. I’m in love with it. I live a block away and its the first house I’ve ever stalked :) I was driving past it almost everyday to watch the progress. Seems mostly finished now. I think those clean linear lines fit in to the neighborhood much better than the awful faux Tuscans and faux Victorians.

    And, speaking of OF being the “next” West U, according to their website, Urban Craft are predominantly builders in Southampton, West U, etc etc…so maybe theres something to that.

    Is there another contemporary house being built on Gardenia? Bwahahahha

  • A quick glance at a map will show why Oak Forest will NEVER be the next West U. (or Bellaire).

    It will be a better Oak Forest, however.

    Also, there are probably 5-6 “next W-Us” vying with Oak Forest. As I said, go head-to-head with Spring Valley, first.

    I refer you to Bernard’s reasoned post.

    Location, location, location.

    In other rational news, Meyerland is on the fast track to become the next River Oaks! Bear Creek is the next Meyerland!Ayrshire is the next Piney Point! Bacliff is the new Bay Oaks!

    …and realtors are a good source for such useful info!

  • Go Cap’n McB-
    “bedazzled denim jackets sporting the name of the local Little League team” !!!
    West U is the next Kingwood!

  • Jro – I actually like the one you are talking about on Cheshire, even though it doesnt really fit in with the area. There is one on Gardenia that is hideous. Somewhere in the 2000 block. In between Roslyn and Glebe.

  • Thanks for the tip, Margo, I will check out the one on Gardenia.

    The one on Cheshire looks really expensive, much higher-end than anything around there. As much as I like Oak Forest, I am a little surprised someone would invest that kind of money in that neighborhood. You’re not supposed to have the most expensive house on the block, right?

    At any rate, I think the house on Cheshire is gorgeous.

  • We moved into OF in 2005 into a little 2/1, and recently sold and moved just north of 43rd to a bigger 3/2 (kids). We love the area, but can’t believe how much it’s changed in 6 short years.

    On the upside though, we made a killing when we sold. Keeping our fingers crossed for this next one.

    A great neighborhood with lots of young professionals with younger kids, large lots, and your neighbors actually know you (and come to your door just to chat). I think we’ll remain in the area as long as we live in Houston.

  • We live in OF and LOVE it! We recently bought the “tear down” across the street and just renovated it. All our neighbors, who we know well and frequently come by to chat or bring us cake ;) are so happy we’ve helped to keep the huge houses at bay a little longer.

    There is a need for the smaller homes – young people without children move into them from apartments and they are truly first time homes. When they grow out of them, they sell to the next group of young people. Empty nesters buy them because there is less to keep up with and the taxes are lower. We’re finally getting the amenities to support and improve the area. A few new restaurants have opened up recently and the library will reopen the 18th. Its close to almost everything. I work in the Galleria area and my commute is about 20 minutes – totally reasonable.

    I personally don’t like most of the big new houses being built, but that’s a matter of personal taste. That being said, I think it would be a shame for too many of the mid-century homes to go away, but really some of them are too far gone to be saved. They’re aren’t a lot of innovative designs, but they hold a kitschy charm that is appealing to many. Oak Forest really has a small town feel and I think that would go away if there were row upon row of huge houses with few street facing windows or usable front porches. I think that’s the problem that a lot of people have with the new construction but it doesn’t get verbalized often. A neighborhood thrives if its residents are connected, but how do you connect with someone whose front door is just for show?

  • Are there very many Mid-Century Modern houses in the Oak Forest area or are all of them tract housing along the lines of most of the old Bellaire houses? If you live there and know of anyone who remembers architects’ names then get in touch with Houston Mod if you’d like to help document this area’s moderns. We need more Houston Mod members/contacts on the NW side.

  • I’m not an architect or MCM architecture expert, but to me OF is mostly 50s tract houses. As most people know, OF was Frank Sharp’s (as in Sharpstown) first development in Houston, so I think that would be the definition of a tract house. I call the OF style “50’s country”–there is/was a lot of knotty pine paneling. In OF “proper”, I have not found any of the features that I love and associate with MCM architecture, such as flat roofs, long horizontal lines, walls of glass (sigh). But, there are a few that do have some vaguely 50s modern details, and a few that even remind me of the 50s Hawaii-rama craze (?something about the roof lines). When I was looking to buy my first house there in 2003 I had a great tour of 50s colored tile bathrooms–turquoise, orange, pink and black, green and yellow :) I never thought I’d be in this house more than 5 years, but I love my gigantic backyard, trees, great octagenarian neighbors on both sides of me who bought their houses new in ’53, how quiet and safe it is–I have no problem jogging there at night or early in the morning…I don’t think I’d feel as safe in many other close-in neighborhoods, including Meyerland, or even West U.

    There are definately a few good MCM houses off of Bethlehem, in the nearby Candelight neighborhood.

  • Oh forgot, the newly refurbished OF library is totally MCM! Whoever that architect was did a great job.

  • I grew up in Oak Forest (50’s and 60’s) and I agree that it still feels like a small town to me. My parents first house where I was born, was in fact almost directly across from the previously mentioned white stucco modern on Cheshire. I think that may be the closest thing to mid-century modern, since all of the original construction was mostly 2/1 ranch style. One correction to Jason Smith, I believe Frank Sharp developed much of the area east and west of Ella between 34th and 43rd, but the area north of 43rd was largely developed by the same people that developed Garden Oaks. It was and still is a great area with many fond memories for me.

  • “One correction to Jason Smith, I believe Frank Sharp developed much of the area east and west of Ella between 34th and 43rd, but the area north of 43rd was largely developed by the same people that developed Garden Oaks.”

    That was my claim, not Jason Smith’s…the correction is duly noted :-D