Three years ago this month, David Beebe and I trekked Bellaire Boulevard from west of Highway 6 to the Little Woodrow's on the train tracks at the West U / Bellaire border. We didn't continue any further because the prosperous stretch from that faux icehouse -- the last beer available on a street with a severe shortage of same -- to the Med Center bored us.
Ray Davies never sang about seeing stars on Bellaire Boulevard
I summed up that adventure thusly:
So that's Bellaire Boulevard. We didn't see a single abandoned shopping cart, unlike Shepherd, which seems to use them as mile markers. There's not enough trees. (Or bars. There are virtually no places to drink a beer on this street.) The closer in you are, the more boring it is. There are almost no pedestrians. It has one of the strangest bus-riding clienteles in town.
If Westheimer is mainly about the fetishes, broken dreams and vanities of Anglo whites, and Shepherd is all about the needs of cars, Bellaire is a world market of a street, a bazaar where Mexicans, Anglos, Salvadorans, African Americans, Hondurans, stoners, Vietnamese, Chinese, Koreans and Thais go to shop and eat.
Earlier this month, University of Houston architecture professor Susan Rogers examined the same street with more of a scholarly bent, one that probably didn't include her drinking screw-cap wine in the median of Bellaire Boulevard near the Bellaire city bandshell.
On a west to east axis, Rogers graphed both the country of origin and household income for each census tract that intersects Bellaire/Holcombe.
The result of this study will surprise no one who has driven or walked the street -- in broadest terms, the street is rich and white close in. Incomes plummets at the Bellaire city line; that is also where the diversity of birthplace explodes.
Yeah, yeah, you can see that just driving down the street. And yet her graphs are still very useful, because they both confirm what seems to be obvious and more importantly, quantify it. Her inclusion of continent of origin for the foreign-born is also very interesting.
Here's hoping she does the same project for other streets on the West Side; we imagine Bissonnet would be quite similar, with fewer Asians and more Africans and Latinos perhaps staying constant. (Household income approaching Main might even exceed that of Holcombe in West U.)
We'd be curious to see her do the same for a West Side street that runs north and south, like Hillcroft/Voss/Bingle.
But then we've never walked a mile like that on any of our hikes across Houston, so who are we to make demands?