Neighborhood Crash Course: Downtown

Downtown, baby. Where it all began. Everyday, millions of people in the Gulf Coast area get in their cars and start the trek toward a little area called Downtown Houston. You can see it from almost 20 miles away and it is one of the most visible and recognizable skylines in the modern, urban world.

Downtown is the most important urban center in the American south. It is the second largest financial and business center in the country, second only to New York. It has the second largest Fortune 500 presence in the country and hundreds of the world’s most prominent corporations have headquarters in downtown. It is a major stop on a tour of the world’s economy.

We know people want and need to work in downtown. But what’s it like to LIVE there? Do people even live in downtown? Why yes they do, friends. Yes they do. In fact, downtown could be one of the best, most under-the-radar areas to live in this vast city.

Downtown is an urban professional’s dream. There are luxury high rises and industrial, urban lofts of plenty, all boasting great amenities and breathtaking, skyline views of the city. If you fancy a large yard, downtown might not be for you. But for the apartment dweller, downtown has lots of offer and your neighbors will be hip, driven urbanites, just like you.

But it isn’t all mile-high buildings. In recent years, urban development projects have created a much warmer feel to the area. Most of the historic Main Street buildings are still intact, reminding us that Houston has been around long before urban sprawl. And those sky scrapers make for a pretty interesting backdrop to what looks like a John Wayne movie set.

Downtown is divided into several districts:

  • Skyline
  • Shopping
  • Ball Park
  • Convention Center
  • Medical
  • Historic
  • Harris Country
  • Warehouse District

Each of these areas have their own unique feel, but residents of downtown can enjoy them all. Downtown has everything you need and more, from great jobs, to green parks, to boutique shops and restaurants.

Downtown is also home to some of Houston’s most prominent attractions, including the George R. Brown Convention Center, Minute Maid Park (Go ‘Stros!), and the Theater District, which happens to be the second largest theater district in the country (second only to, you guessed it, New York. Oh, Big Apple, why must you always upstage us??)

But perhaps the greatest advantage to living in downtown is the convenience. When you live and work in downtown, it’s easy to forget how large this city really is. Many downtown professionals have access to public transportation and sky walks, and may not touch their cars for days at a time. The METRORail blows right through downtown, and you can take it to get to many of Houston’s other neighborhoods and attractions, such as Reliant Stadium. Cab fares around downtown are rarely more than $6. And, you can beat the heat on your lunch break by doing a little shopping and grabbing lunch in the underground tunnels.

Living in downtown also makes it possible to avoid some of the dreaded Houston rush hour traffic. If you live and work in downtown, you might be able to avoid it altogether most days. And if you live in downtown but work in other areas of the city, guess what–you’re moving against traffic during those crucial times of day. This is a major selling point for downtown in my book!

What downtown doesn’t have, you can easily find nearby. It’s a short commute to the Heights, Midtown, Rice, the Medical Center, and Montrose. Everything you need is at your fingertips. And, you’ll get a taste of true urban life in Houston. But because downtown isn’t currently a high demand neighborhood–like the Heights or Washington Avenue–you can live pretty darn well without breaking the bank. So you if you want to live in downtown Houston, better keep its greatness a secret.

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