Right smack in the middle of Houston is a small town, West University Place, two square miles, 16,000 residents. West U, as it is commonly known, started to develop in the early 1900’s. Though it is only about 5 miles from downtown Houston, at that time it was largely prairie, and Houston was very slow to get city services to the area. In response, some very forward thinking folks decided to incorporate, thus creating a new city with its own government, services and amenities.
West U was a working man’s community zoned to be single family residential. From the outset, strict zoning ordinances limiting business development to the city center and the perimeter were in place. This was quite a contrast to Houston which to this day pays a price for lax zoning restrictions.
There was a neighborhood grocery that was a gathering place for moms as well as a favorite after school stopping place for kids. It is gone now, replaced by a trendy and popular restaurant, however, the owner was sensitive enough to keep the original sign atop the building, so much a part of the history of West U.
Over the years Houston grew, people had to live farther from the center and suddenly West U, because of its convenient location, took on new life . Young people moved in, first remodeling homes and then, wanting amenities of newer ones, tearing down the old and rebuilding. Despite the improvements, much of the city’s history was lost as has happened in much of Houston.
Youth sports organizations were created, parks got facelifts, young parents poured energy into the school, all of which changed West U into an energetic family community. As things improved, the city began getting national attention and over the years it has been named consistently as a most desirable small town in which to live. You can imagine what that kind of publicity has done to real estate value!
So, why am I telling you about this small town surrounded by a big city? It is where I have lived, reluctantly at first because it was old and most of our friends were in new developments, for most of my adult life. It is where our kids grew up and where most of our long time friends still live. It is where I have volunteered and given much energy, even serving four terms on City Council. (Now, that is fodder for another story.) Very simply, it is home, it has a feeling of community that is often missing in urban areas and it is what makes living in Houston a pleasure.
So, what do you love about where you call home?
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