Over the last several months, as I researched and wrote the "Changing Face of Houston" series of articles featuring Houston neighborhoods, several things became evident - Houston is a dynamic place that has experienced many transformations over its history, and the many communities contained within the city continue to evolve, reflecting the character of the people living here.
Houston is not the type of place where a person can just get used to things indefinitely staying the same, nor is it a city where it's wise to assume that a neighborhood experiencing a period of decline is down for the count. Learning the history's of some of Houston's communities gave me a deeper appreciation for the crazy patchwork of communities that makes up the city's landscape. It also showed me just how quickly and fundamentally many areas of this city is changing.
The entire Inner Loop seems to be gentrifying, in a process that's been going on steadily for years now - A far cry from when Montrose was considered so weird to many Houstonians, that people from other parts of town would flood Westheimer on weekends to cruise in their cars like tourists, or when The Heights was largely considered a poor area of town whose glory days were decades behind it. It's becoming more and more difficult to see the signs that those neighborhoods were once overlooked as nice places to live by many people, because both are booming.
And as the Inner Loop becomes more and more desirable and experiences changes typical for areas that are attracting wealthier residents, other parts of Houston are also changing. Driving around the Sharpstown area was a really odd experience for me, as I'd attended high school there in the '80s and had seen it go through some unpleasant changes. But many places go through growing pains, and Sharpstown today is emerging as one of Houston's most ethnically diverse and interesting neighborhoods. It, like many parts of this city is continuing to evolve, but Sharpstown is really beginning to shine as an example of what is happening all over Houston - Many different cultures are living side by side, making cultural contributions that bring Houston's status as an emerging International city into sharp focus.
And as an increasingly diverse population makes the Houston area their home, I suspect that the trends I've noticed will continue. The older Houston neighborhoods, some of which were long ignored, will be revitalized by that influx of new residents, while those closest to the city's center will gradually gentrify and become more expensive to live in. Some citys across the country have a feeling of everything being long ago "settled", while hardly any neighborhoods in Houston feel that way to me. Change is happening, has happened over and over, and will likely continue to occur long into the future. I almost feel like Houston should adopt the motto: " Don't get used to the way things are."
A person choosing to live in this city is probably better off embracing its nature and tendency to change, sometimes very quickly. Houston is becoming a very attractive place for individuals like Laura Levine, who along with her partner Mike Hildebrand, moved here from other Texas cities, lured in by the unique mix of cultures that makes Houston interesting . Their story is similar to many other people I spoke to, who feel like Houston is a welcoming environment to people of many different backgrounds, and who think that it's continuing to change in ways that make the city special. Like many people drawn to Houston from other places, Levine and Hildebrand fell in love with the city, and then decided to open businesses here, in turn contributing to the eclectic flavor that Houston neighborhoods tend to possess.
While change happens everywhere over time, Houston seems to change dramatically, and quicker than many other places, and it seems to be a constant. The Houston of 30 years ago was very different than today, and I suspect that in another 30 years, Houston will look very different than it does now. Neighborhoods will continue to change, long forgotten ones will be revitalized as new residents discover their charm, previously inexpensive areas to live may transform into hip areas with upscale populations, and new areas will bloom as different cultures settle into them. As these trends continue, more people will likely discover Houston for themselves, and our reputation nation and worldwide will also become something very different than it is today. Houston is amazing, and more and more people are beginning to recognize that fact.
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