Neartown is an area located in west-central Houston, Texas, United States and is one of the city's major cultural areas. Neartown is roughly bounded by U.S. Highway 59 to the south, Allen Parkway to the north, Bagby Street on the east, and Shepherd Drive to the west. Neartown neighborhoods include Cherryhurst, Courtlandt Place, Hyde Park, Montrose, Vermont Commons, Mandell Place and Winlow Place.
- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 3 Culture
- 4 Cityscape
- 5 Government and infrastructure
- 6 Places of interest
- 7 Economy
- 8 Education
- 9 Media
- 10 Health services
- 11 Parks and recreation
- 12 Notable residents
- 13 Gallery
- 14 Notes
- 15 See also
- 16 External links
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Neartown is considered one of the eccentric and demographically diverse areas of Houston. In recent decades, the area hosts a significant community of young adults, gay men and lesbians, punk rockers, artists, as well as a vibrant thrift, vintage, and second-hand shopping area.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Neartown was known for its Bohemian flavor—this would spawn both the Westheimer Colony Art Festival in 1971 and the subsequent street fair in 1973, which would become known as the Westheimer Street Festival. Starting in the 1990s, the area has become increasingly gentrified with a trend towards remodeled and new homes, high rents, upmarket boutiques and restaurants.
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Neartown has many of Houston's oldest neighborhoods. The Neartown Association began in 1963.
Houston's urban real estate boom starting in the 1990s transformed Neartown and significantly increased property values. The area around the intersection of Montrose Boulevard and Westheimer Road went from being a place of abandoned buildings, sexually oriented businesses, and low rent; to a neighborhood of yuppies and new condominium construction.
Before the Westheimer Street Festival's demise in the early 2000s (decade), some Neartown residents voiced concerns about the festival affecting their quality of life, ranging from street parking to traffic gridlock.
From the United States Census 2000 demographics, about one-quarter of the residents are homeowners. Three quarters are renters including many students from the University of Houston, Rice University, and the University of Saint Thomas, and employees working at the Texas Medical Center, Downtown Houston, and Greenway Plaza. The area is ethnically diverse, with primarily Latinos, Filipinos, and Whites living in the area.
The City of Houston's Planning Department refers to Neartown as a mixed-use community. Since the 1990s gentrification, musicians and artists are being replaced with higher paid professionals (attorneys, educators, medical professionals) due to higher rents. Neartown has "wound a tortuous course from Silk Stocking and Low Rent and back again."
Adjacent to the community is the River Oaks Shopping Center, Houston's first shopping center, located in the Neartown community, east of River Oaks. Constructed in 1927 and designed by architect Hugh Prather, the center, originally known as River Oaks Community Center, was one of the nation's first automobile-oriented retail centers. Its design, with arcs of retail space on either side of West Gray Avenue, was considered a model for future development. Portions of the historic shopping center were demolished in September 2007 to redevelop the site for bookstore and a parking garage. As of 2008, Landmark Theatres operates the River Oaks Theatre, an "arthouse" theater, located in the center. The theater is the last historic movie theater in Houston that is still being used as it was originally designed.
Neartown is southwest of Downtown Houston. The Neartown Association area is roughly bounded by U.S. Highway 59 to the south, Allen Parkway to the north, Bagby Street on the east, and Shepherd Drive to the west. Neartown neighborhoods include Montrose, Courtlandt Place, Winlow Place, Hyde Park, Cherryhurst.
and First Montrose Commons. According to the Neartown Association, the area's character is often likened to the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan, New York City. The Neartown neighborhood at Van Buren Street was the Houston Press "Best Hidden Neighborhood" in 2002.
In 1973 Neartown had what Thorne Dreyer and Al Reinert of the Texas Monthly described as "old buildings ranging all the way from Victorian Epic to Ramshackle Plywood." During that era locals disputed the community's boundaries. Thorne Dreyer and Al Reinert of Texas Monthly described Neartown as "that kind of neighborhood: people either want in or out of it." In 1973 the two said "generally speaking" that the boundaries would be Shepherd Drive, Smith Street, U.S. Route 59 (Southwest Freeway), and West Gray. The area consists of 7.5 square miles (19 km2) and, in 1973, had around 30,000 residents. Dreyer and Reinert said "The spatial boundaries are relatively easy to determine—Exxon makes maps that help with those—it's the spiritual borders that are hard to fix."
At that time the "Westheimer Strip" was a commercial area along Westheimer Road. Dreyer and Reinert said that Neartown became "identified" with a group of European-style restaurants and sidewalk cafés along five blocks of that strip; many of the restaurants were housed in renovated pre-World War I houses. The two said that the establishments are giving Neartown the title "Houston's Left Bank" "not altogether deservedly." They added that the restaurants and "an electric assortment of" antique stores, boutiques, specialty shops, "and the like" give the Westheimer commercial avenue "a little cosmopolitan flash to an otherwise languid Boomtown." Non-Americans started the sidewalk café phenomenon in Neartown.
Government and infrastructure
The community is within the Houston Police Department's Central Patrol Division, headquartered at 61 Riesner. The Neartown Storefront Station is located at 802 Westheimer. The City of Houston purchased the building used for the storefront with federal community development funds. By September 20, 1990 the Neartown Business Alliance spent around $4,000 per year to maintain the storefront.
Houston Fire Department Fire Station 16 serves the area. The fire station is in Fire District 6. The station opened at the intersection of Westheimer Road and Yupon in 1928. The station moved to the intersection of Richmond and Dunlavy in 1979.
City Council District D covers Neartown. As of 2008 Wanda Adams represents the district. Since the City of Houston Redistricting of 2011, Neartown has been represented in Council by Ellen Cohen in District C.
County, state, and federal representation
A portion of Neartown is located in District 134 of the Texas House of Representatives. As of 2008 Ellen Cohen represents the district. As of 2010, Sarah Davis represents District 134. A portion of Neartown is located in District 147 of the Texas House of Representatives. As of 2008, Garnet F. Coleman represents the district. Neartown is located in District 13 of the Texas Senate. As of 2008 its representative is Rodney Ellis.
The community is located within Texas's 7th congressional district. As of 2008 the representative is John Culberson. Since redistricting effective for the 2012 election, Neartown has been redrawn into the Texas 2nd Congressional District, served by Ted Poe. The United States Postal Service operates two post offices, the University Post Office at 1319 Richmond Avenue and the River Oaks Station Post Office at 1900 West Gray Street, in Neartown. The River Oaks post office sits on a 109,159 square feet (10,141.2 m2) property with a gross building area of 18,098 square feet (1,681.4 m2). In January 2009 the USPS announced that it will put the River Oaks Post Office property up for sale. In October of that year the USPS announced that it, for now, will not sell the River Oaks post office.
Places of interest
- Menil Collection art museum
- Rothko Chapel
- Houston Center for Photography
- Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum
- Museo Guadalupe Aztlan
- Museum of Printing History
- KPFT 90.1 FM, a Pacifica Radio affiliate, located at 419 Lovett Boulevard
- Houston GLBT Community Center
- Pride Committee of Houston
- Houston Greek Festival, usually held in October, on the grounds of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral
- Cathedrals and Churches
- Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral
- Chapel of St. Basil at the University of St. Thomas (Texas)(designed by esteemed architect Philip Johnson)
On July 1, 1983 Continental Airlines's headquarters were located at the America Tower in Neartown, and would remain there until the relocation to Continental Center I in Downtown Houston, announced by the airline in 1997, that occurred in stages in 1998 and 1999.
Colleges and universities
Neartown is home to the University of Saint Thomas.
Neartown is also close to Rice University, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the University of Houston, Texas Southern University, Houston Community College Central, and University of Houston–Downtown.
Primary and secondary education
Pupils in Neartown are in the Houston Independent School District. Neartown is divided among Trustee District IV, represented by Paula M. Harris as of 2008, Trustee District V, represented by Dianne Johnson as of 2008, and Trustee District VIII, represented by Diana Dávila as of 2008.
Gregory-Lincoln Education Center (in the Fourth Ward), MacGregor Elementary School, Poe Elementary School (in Boulevard Oaks), Wharton Elementary School (in Neartown), and Wilson Elementary School (in Neartown) serve separate sections of Neartown.
Pupils in Neartown reside within the boundaries of three middle-school attendance areas. Lanier Middle School (in Neartown), Ryan Middle School (in the Third Ward), and Gregory-Lincoln Education Center serve separate sections of Neartown. All Neartown area pupils are zoned to Lamar High School in Upper Kirby. High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, a magnet high school, is in Montrose.
Histories of schools
For a period, Montrose Elementary School was in Neartown. Southmore Elementary School opened in 1921, Wilson in 1925, Lanier in 1926, Poe in 1928, and Wharton in 1929. Southmore was renamed MacGregor Elementary School in 1930 and Lamar opened in 1937. Ryan opened in 1958 after Yates High School moved to a new campus. Gregory-Lincoln opened in 1966 and uts current facility opened in 2007. Before the start of the 2009–2010 school year J. Will Jones, which formerly served a section of Neartown, was consolidated into Blackshear Elementary School, a campus in the Third Ward. During its final year of enrollment J. Will Jones had more students than Blackshear. Many J. Will Jones parents referred to Blackshear as "that prison school" and said that they will not send their children to Blackshear.
Gallery of public schools
High School for the Performing and Visual Arts is a magnet school
Neartown is home to the Annunciation Orthodox School (a K-8 private school) and The Harris School. The Kinkaid School was located in the Neartown area until 1957 when the school moved to Piney Point Village. 
Gallery of private schools
The administrative offices of the Houston Public Library are located in the Marston Building in Neartown. The City of Houston spent $1.3 million to renovate the Marston Building to accommodate HPL staff. The administration moved to the building after the Central Library was scheduled to close in 2006.
The Eleanor K. Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library of Houston Public Library is at 4100 Montrose Boulevard.
Legacy Community Health Services  and Montrose Counseling Center  are located in Neartown. In 2006 the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center was moved from the Houston Department of Health and Human Services to the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. It became the West Gray Adaptive Recreation Center.
Parks and recreation
Ervan Chew Park, a fenced-in, approximately 9,000-square-foot (840 m2) park, is located at 4502 Dunlavy Street. The park (originally Herbert D. Dunlavy Park) was acquired by the City of Houston in 1945. In February 2000 the park was renamed for Ervan Chew, a Chinese-American Eagle Scout who grew up in the area and won the Silver Beaver Award, which was delivered by Ronald Reagan, in 1986; Chew died at age 42 in January 1999. Chew Park has a basketball half court, small soccer (football) field, a dog park and a baseball diamond. Ervan Chew Park has little league games and dog parties. The Neartown Little League, located in Neartown, holds its games at Chew Park. Chew Park was the first park to let dogs run without leashes in a special zone. The Friends of Ervan Chew Park funded the dog zone, which was dedicated in May 2004.
- Denton Cooley
- Walter Cronkite
- Clark Gable
- Howard Hughes
- Lyndon B. Johnson
- Mirabeau B. Lamar (the site for Lamar's family home is now Woodrow Wilson Elementary School)
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- Neartown Association
- Houston Chronicle Article on Montrose
- Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus
- Houston GLBT Community Center
- Gay/Lesbian nightlife guide to the Montrose area
- Avondale Association a neighborhood within Neartown
- Audubon Place Association a neighborhood within Neartown
- Richwood Place Association a neighborhood within Neartown
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