You either "get" Clark Griswold or you don't, but we think the world is a better place because of twinkly, festive and colorful Christmas lights. Granted Chevy Chase's character had more than his share of bad luck in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, but there's one neighborhood here in Houston where they've got the whole holiday lights thing down to a science.
Woodland Heights, a quaint neighborhood northwest of I-10 and I-45 north, just wrapped up its popular Lights in the Heights event Saturday night. Michael Graves, director of communications for the Woodland Heights Civic Association, says it began as a small neighborhood festival and is now celebrating its 33rd year. Run entirely by volunteers, the organizers control traffic problems by closing down a couple of streets, turning others into one-way traffic flows, and partnering with Lyft. Neighbors contribute to the ambience by decorating homes, playing Christmas carols and even hosting jazz bands on driveways or porches.
Each year the Lights in the Heights committee hands out awards for all sorts of categories, including most traditional, best block, most wattage, most colorful, most creative, and even for the home with the most inflatables.
Ashley Allison, who is co-chairing this year's Lights in the Heights committee along with Karen Stowers, tells us she hosts a party every year, something that her friends really look forward to. "It's always been my favorite event. We don't get a lot of seasons in Houston and it really gets everybody into the holiday spirit. We depend on people to keep it up; we know we have something special."
The neighborhood does seem to have an "all hands on deck" mindset, with volunteers helping hang lights for neighbors who can't due to age or infirmity. Others nominate favorite houses, bake cookies, sell merchandise, coordinate a family hayride, or host a toy drive.
Allison says she and her husband love the neighborhood's proximity. "My husband is a physician at the [Texas] Medical Center. It allows us to remain in the Loop but still have that suburban feel; there are a lot of volunteer opportunities," says Allison. "It's a smaller neighborhood — we feel like we're our own entity — it's only so many blocks wide and so many blocks long. You can have an urban lifestyle, close to downtown, but still live in a cozy neighborhood."
So how much does it cost to live in this cozy enclave? One look on HAR.com revealed 24 listings ranging in price from $460,000 for a circa 1926 two bedroom on Ridge Svtreet to $1.699 million for new construction on Euclid Street.
Brigette Larson, a Platinum agent with Greenwood King Properties - Heights Office, has lived in the neighborhood since 1995. "One of the selling features is its proximity to I-10 for the Energy Corridor, and all the performing arts opportunities downtown.
"We’re getting a lot of empty nesters who have been out in Memorial, their children are gone, they want a neighborhood that’s more walkable with easy access to downtown, theater, sports, the new renovations and enhancements of Buffalo Bayou Park, the hike and bike trail," says Larson.
In regards to area schools, Larson says there's strong parental involvement for Travis Elementary and Hogg Middle School. "Emily Guyre, [a board member] of Learn Local, wanted the school to improve and she started this great movement to introduce kids to the school," says Larson.
Beginning with Dr. Mina Schnitta in 2011, who at the time was Hogg Middle School's principal, and continuing with subsequent principals, they have been working to change the reputation of the school so that parents don't send their children elsewhere. Learn Local is a nonprofit organization that establishes a bridge between the area's elementary schools and Hogg Middle School.
Larson has the listing for the cute four bedroom, three bathroom bungalow at 811 Highland. Built in 1920, the property has been expanded and updated over the years, though architectural details like the exposed brick in the kitchen remain. The second story bedrooms have an extended second story veranda that overlooks the back yard with its wooden deck, mature landscaping, a grassy area and a shed.
Brigette Larson with Greenwood King Properties - Heights Office has listed the property at 811 Highland for $824,900.
Another home in the neighborhood, this one at 525 Bayland Avenue at the corner of Northwood, was also built in 1920 but has been completely updated. In 2014 the owners took it down to the studs and rebuilt the home to create an open floor plan with a chef's kitchen, plus a master suite that includes dual showers, a jacuzzi and a walk-in closet. Gary Bisha with My Castle Realty describes the neighborhood as "wonderful."
"The beautiful tree-lined streets and unique shops and restaurants make it feel like a 'hometown of yesteryear.' [It has] a true sense of community, which is pretty amazing since it's located in the middle of one of the largest cities in the country," adds Bisha.
Gary Bisha, CNE - Owner/Broker with My Castle Realty, has listed the property at 525 Bayland Avenue for $1.185 million.
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Search for available properties in the Woodland Heights area at Har.com.
For more information about Woodland Heights, visit woodland-heights.org.
For information about Lights in the Heights, visit woodland-heights.org/lith.
For information about the Learn Local initiative, visit learnlocalhogg.org.