Welcome to Bizarro Heights. What Are You Drinking?

WELCOME TO BIZARRO HEIGHTS. WHAT ARE YOU DRINKING? Waving a highly abbreviated feature-comparison table, blogger tshu declares the new Washington Ave. is really “Bizarro Heights.” When will the custom neighborhood street signs go up? “For better or worse, Washington Avenue now provides all the elements that the Heights traditionally could not: trendy bars, restaurants, and large apartment complexes. . . . The explosive growth along Washington can be partly attributed to the support from the neighboring Heights area.” [Feed the Heights]

33 Comment

  • This comment has a point. Think of how many of the establishments along Washington would have been located along Studewood, 18th, 19th, and 20th streets.

    Now citizens of the heights have the ability to still enjoy many of these places but not directly in there neighborhood.

  • That is the point we Heights residents have said all along kjb. We have plenty within proximity so there is no need to change the Height proper to accommodate.

  • i think it’s too bad for residents of the heights. now they have to get it their cars and drive five to ten minutes so taht they can eat a non-taquaria meal or go out at night. most people enjoy the urban feel and experience, but for some reason, heights residents all wish they lived out deep in the suburbs.

  • Washington Ave. is a very nice bike ride away from the Heights, thank you very much.

  • Yeah, and in case you haven’t been in the Heights lately, we actually have a good number of non-taqueria meals and have plenty of options for evening activites. I enjoy what Washington Ave is becoming, and I enjoy the variety it offers, but it definitely does not mesh with the image of the Heights. And I HATE suburbia.

  • Perfect. Heights folks can come to our area, get hammered, puke and pee in our yards and wobble home to their dry section of town.

    As I’m slowly getting over a dear friend being murdered Monday, I’m feeling more snarky. So, I’m half kidding and becoming resigned to the fact our area is turning into the 2009/2010 party zone. Someday it will go away to EaDo, maybe.

  • Jeff,

    Then why are you living in the Heights. That is suburbia. At least that’s why the Heights exist. It was a suburban bedroom community started by developers led by Oscar Martin Carter and D. D. Cooley (same as in the deli on 19th street). The sections of the Heights were a master planned community that clear cut existing pine forests and filled in natural streams to create a contiguous grid of streets (environmental destruction like what is claimed for new residential development). It was built using large lots (for the time) that was claimed to waste space.

    If you hate developer built suburbs, you have to be consistent and not like the Heights. It goes against many of the principles of inner city living.

    The Heights give the benefit of a quiet suburban neighborhood for a higher price of living closer…

  • Brad, I am so so sorry to hear about your friend. It is much too soon to even expect to be over it, so snark away.

  • EMME, thanks. The entire ad community is in shock at the senseless murder of this wonderful man. It keeps things in perspective. Sorry for the bandwidth abuse, Gus.

  • My condolences about your friend Brad. We never know when our time is up.

  • BTW….. I’ll be enjoying walking to and from all of the new establishments going up on Washington.

  • CK, thanks… walk on over! :-)

  • See [defacto] zoning works!

    You can’t compare the Heights with the west and northern suburbs. True they are both planned subrurbs but so but that’s about it. They don’t come anywhere near the diversity in residents, structures, incomes, lifestyles, or ethnicity. It’s the homogeneousness that many dislike about suburbia. Not their planned origins.
    Is homogeneousness even a word?

  • kjb: Yes, the Heights was the first “suburb” in Houston, which is why it has historical value. Kingwood and Sugar Land do not. Whole different deal.

  • DMc:

    The word you were going for is “homogeneity.” :)

  • It’s true that the Heights is an early incarnation of developer built suburbs but it is very different than the new stuff, mainly because developers appeared to be smarter about what the fundamentals of good development were then.

    It has a consistent street grid and houses were built in a consistent style, but with a lot more flexibility in details that you’ll find in new suburbs. So the housing stock has interesting variation, which you don’t find in new suburbs to the same extent. It wasn’t built around cul de sacs, so traffic can flow through it without backing up too badly. And commercial and residential properies are mixed to keep amenities close to home (I can walk to buy groceries, a coffee shop, the bank, dry cleaners, shops, etc., as can most Heights residents).

    “Bizarro Heights” is easily walkable from a lot of the Heights. People tend not to walk because this is Houston, and people walk from my street to the CVS two blocks away too.

    Developers could take a lesson from the heights in how to build a new neighborhood that is appealing right away, convenient, and will hold its value.

  • Regarding the “OMG Heights people will come to my neighborhood to puke” … well… that’s the problem with having one use take over any neighborhood. The Heights does have restaurants bars, etc. They don’t dominate anywhere, though, because when they do, you wind up with… well, what you see on Washington, where one particular use starts to overhwhelm and degrade all other uses. Keeping an eye on this to keep the mix of businesses and uses healthy is just being a smart neighborhood resident.

  • The fickleness of the club scene crowd is laughable.

    In my adult life in Houston I can recall the hip, with-it place to go being on/in:
    * Richmond Strip (several incarnations)
    * Lower Westheimer (cruising in cars, anyone?)
    * Shepherd Plaza
    * Downtown
    * Midtown (formerly known as “that area south of downtown with all the junkyards and scary dogs behind fences”)
    * West End / Washington Ave. (formerly known as “the barrio”)

    I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but each of the older centers of hipness was at one time a hopping place with limos, celebrities, and velvet rope, and is now somewhere along the spiral down towards its ultimate end of a shell of aging tired mostly empty storefronts.

    Never fear, you residents of four-story canyonland, Wash Ave will quieten down once the twentysomethings find a new trendy scene. Maybe it will be the recently christened EaDo, as another poster proposed.

  • KJB- Yeah, I know all about the history of the Heights. Just because it is a neighborhood of homes with yards does not classify that as ‘suburbia’. Thats a very narrow definition imo. While it may have been built that way in 1891, the influences surrounding it over the past century+ have changed it into something that can’t be any more opposite of a modern suburb. It has managed to maintain a distinct identity that is far different from any other neighborhood in Houston and yes it does manage to hold on to some of the benefits that one associates with a suburban lifestyle (good schools, parks) but for every common denominator you can find equating the Heights to a suburban enclave, I can find a dozen that are complete opposites. Notice the passionate comments people make when discussing the Heights. The neighborhood breeds loyalty like no other. I never hear anyone defending Kingwood or Katy as being the epitome of life in Houston.

  • Jeff,

    The suburban Heights has also nearly 100 years of history behind it. So it had time to develop into what it is is today. I think people east of downtown would say the same for there neighborhood which has lots of rich history and very diverse mix of residents.

    What’s so strange is I can find the same diversity of the heights in many far flung suburbs. Actually, I can find more diversity in many far flung suburbs compared to the Heights. I’m not trying to discredit the Heights. I live a stones through away in Cottage Grove. I very much love the Heights, but I’m not going put it in a level it isn’t. The one thing I can say about the Heights that doesn’t existing in a lot of modern suburbs is the many residents are more active in maintaining the quality of life in the suburb.

    Also, the developers then weren’t much different than today. The were in it for a profit and quickly putting up spec homes. Those cottage and bungalows were pre-package homes built very quickly for time period. They were also low cost which allowed the burgeoning middle class to flee the city and move out to the waht they called it at the time – suburbs. The didn’t operate from a carefully planned model any better than today’s developers. The chosen street grid and use of alleys in some areas was a prevailing development pattern developed by planners at the time throughout the country. Planners later called it obsolete by the time the late 40s came around because home owners wanted much different characteristics in suburban life. Of course, planners have been at the forefront of always being wrong about pushing new things on society.

  • My house was bought from and packaged by Sears. It didn’t have a bathroom but it did have a mudroom that has since been turned into a bathroom. When I took down the ugly aluminum siding that someone had put over an even uglier fake brick designed asphalt and discovered the original 1910 wood siding in near perfect condition, well let’s just say it was better than all Christmases put together. When I removed the siding I discovered a two beautiful dormer windows, a front door transom along with a large vent for the attic fan that had been sided over (what were they thinking?). When I demo’d the dropped ceiling in the kitchen and took the ceiling back up to its original 9.5 feet, I discovered the original shiplap stamped through time with the design of the wallpaper that had once been its own. I can’t tell you how many treasures I have discovered in my beautiful old home. The stories hidden inside. My beautiful home with a lot of strength and a lot of heart.

  • EMME,

    And you are far from unique in that regards. Many of the old bungalows and cottages are quite salvageable.

    Who would have though a spec house from 1910 would be considered historic? At the time it was just a pre-packaged house. Now it’s a treasure….

  • I have found several new contemporary houses that I love in the Heights as well. They tastefully incorporate some of the old into their style. There are 2 on 8th St just west of Studewood. They even have my much hated first floor garage, but the first floor is more than just a garage. One of them even has a screened in porch on the second floor, but I like it. ANother one is in the 900 block of E. 25th. The same people built it that built Karen Derr’s house on Columbia and 5th(?). These are beautiful homes that while they are contemporary in nature, they show some great style that manages to fit in (not blend in) to the Heights.

  • Arguing about what is a suburb in this city is ridiculous. Houston is one giant suburb masked as a city. If you claim Heights is a suburb, so are Montrose, River Oaks, and Bellaire. As a Heights resident, I think those near Washington Ave can keep their “hip” bar scene. Like others, I can visit, but can go home when I can’t find parking or don’t like the crowd. I like my tree-filled neighborhood in the city where I know all of my neighbors within a 2 house radius by name. Find that in another neighborhood….

  • There is a myth about people in the far out suburbs not knowing there neighbors. I say it’s a myth because all depends on if you are the kind of person to want to get to know your neighbors.

    Most of my co-workers live out in the northwest side of town past the Beltway. Most of them know several of there neighbors and regular converse with them. The community atmosphere of a neighborhood is determined by the people that live in it and not by how the streets are laid out.

    There people that live in all neighborhoods that aren’t sociable and don’t interact. There are many people in the Heights that don’t interact with others and don’t get involved in the community. It’s a mixed bag just like in the far out suburbs.

    Well planned suburbs have incorporated community centers that go a long way in fostering relationships with neighbors not much different than community activities that occur in the Heights and in the Washington Ave area.

  • I disagree with you kjb, I think the layout of the streets can have a significant effect on how the neighbors interact. Did you know Tanglewood streets were laid out the way they are with several curving to give the feel of inclines where there were none lending it to a more genteel feeling as opposed to the straight street grid which is a bit cold. With those curvy streets, they still have a pretty straight street grid, but with more gentleness.

    While cul de sacs may create community within that cul de sac, I think it cuts the few houses on it off from the rest of the streets and therefore offers fewer opportunities for casual social interaction and in effect creates an us against them.

    Of course these are all generalizations, but developers deal in generalizations anyway.

  • EMME, you should see Lake Jackson. Laid out in the 40’s as a company town for Dow Chemical. The architect Alden Dow was a member of the Dow Chemical family and he deliberately set up curved streets to 1) keep traffic speed lower and 2) have every lot be unique (slightly different shape and size.) The downtown (if you can call it) area has streets with names like This Way, That Way, Parking Way, Winding Way, Circle Way, and Center Way. There’s also an Any Way, and a His Way near a church. All of the original residential streets are named after flowers and trees, and the original street map is very biomorphic. What that means is that it is very confusing to non-residents (and most residents for the first few years.)

  • Marmer, I love that about Lake Jackson.

    The land for Tanglewood was purchased from Humble Oil (now ExxonMobil) for a pittance. Mr. Farrington was thought to be off his rocker when he developed Tanglewood. And maybe he was, but it succeeded.

    The streets of Tanglewood are names from the Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne. And most will have an R and an S in the names as those are said to have a better ring to them when rolling off the tongue.

  • Don’t forget the city of Friendswoods was all land for Exxon at one time. Exxon formed the Friendswoods Development company (after seeing Mr. Farrington making money off of Tanglewood) to develop there own land into subdivisions and homes versus just selling it off.

    Friendswoods is still here today and the development company is still around and is spun off of Exxon as its own company.

  • Cul de sacs are an example of great marketing. There’s absolutely no evidence that they make anything safer, but it’s quite clear that they impede traffic, slow down emergency response vehicles, and drive up maintenance costs.

    In the 1950s suburb where I grew up, there were a limited number of them, and they existed because natural barriers like steep hills made continuing the street impractical. Most of the area was streets in grids which were perfectly safe, not overrun with speeding traffic, etc. The marketing of the cul de sac as the ideal place to live has been quite successful, but trying to find a benefit to it you wouldn’t find on any suburban street is tough.

    Interestly, Virginia is no longer going to provide any public maintenance for new cul de sacs. Basically, they’ve said, this is a bad idea, it’s expensive, and if you want it, you can pay for your own street maintenace, snow removal, etc.

  • Wow, I grew up on a cul-de-sac in the suburbs of Virginia (but it was real Virginia, not NoVa). It was necessitated by the presence of the local drinking water reservoir behind the properties at the end of the street. :-) We never had snow removal down our street even in the big blizzard of 1977. The dads would all park at the top of the hill and walk down. We kids all sledded down the middle of the street because we knew that none of the neighbors would be foolish enough to try to drive down. I think even the mailman walked the block.

  • I agree with kjb434, that
    “There is a myth about people in the far out suburbs not knowing there neighbors. I say it’s a myth because all depends on if you are the kind of person to want to get to know your neighbors.”

    I lived in The Woodlands for 21 years, raised kids there & headed my n’hood watch. I was one of those who made a point of knowing my neighbors & I created a community because I wanted to impact my world, make a safe network of contacts, and insure my home’s value.
    However, as I see it, the trouble is that this sort of ‘community’ requires constant energy infusions and may not be maintained over time, as economics, people and fashion take hold…

    See, if it wasn’t for the assessment-supported covanant-police, The Woodlands would devolve into something much less lovely & utopian!
    People get lazy.
    People shift their focus.

    So how can “I can create my family’s neighborhood!” remain in the minds of residents, in old or new neighborhoods?

  • “(but it was real Virginia, not NoVa)”

    NoVa, where the population is growing and where the money to pay the state’s bills comes from?

    The “real Virginia” is pretty dependent on that unreal, dreaded northern slice.

    -Former Northern Virginian