Midtown Houston is one of the city’s most historic areas. Well established by the mid-nineteenth-century, Midtown is a living chronicle of Houston’s past from ante bellum days to the revitalization of today.
Midtown refers to the neighborhoods south and west of downtown, east of Montrose Boulevard, and north of Interstate 59. One of the most historic is the old Fourth Ward, dubbed Freedmen’s Town. After the Civil War, the Fourth Ward was one of very few places in Houston where black people could own property. Freed slaves built shotgun cottages and moved in. Now a nationally registered historic site, many of their descendents still live there. In its heyday in the 1920’s and -30’s, Fourth Ward was Houston’s Harlem, with jazz clubs and restaurants lining Dallas street. Some of the cottages remain, along with a few brick-paved streets, but many valuable structures were lost when the area declined from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. Further south, the neighborhoods of Westmoreland, Courtlandt Place and Avondale were the River Oaks of their day, where turn-of-the-20th-century lumber, cotton and oil barons built spacious mansions on tree-lined streets. In the 21st-century, these neighborhoods, along with the old Fourth Ward, are again considered some of the city’s most desirable areas in which to live. Their proximity to downtown and established “look” are drawing people from far-flung suburbs.
Sandwiched between Downtown and the Museum District, the trendy Midtown neighborhood offers a range of restaurant opportunities, energetic nightlife options and boutique shopping that attracts many young professionals to the area. There, loft-dwellers share vistas of the Downtown skyline to the north and a view of the Museum District’s century-old oaks to the south.
In 1994, Midtown was officially declared a Tax Increment Finance District (TIFC), opening the area to renovation and development. Today, many remaining historic structures are protected, sharing brick-paved streets with architecturally cutting-edge townhouses and sophisticated low-rise lofts. The population is diverse, and includes long-time residents, young professionals, empty nesters, students, and students. Home prices range from the high $100,000s into the millions.
Midtown Houston is comprised of two organizations committed to making Midtown a model of urban living in the center of Houston, Texas. The two organizations are the Midtown Redevelopment Authority/Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Number Two and the Midtown Management District. These organizations undertake projects with widespread benefit to the area. Both organizations share the common vision of shaping Midtown into a thriving, pedestrian-friendly urban community, but the responsibilities of each organization differs.
The Midtown Redevelopment Authority (MRA)/Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No. 2 (TIRZ) uses incremental taxes generated in the District to provide basic infrastructure improvements and public right of way enhancements. The MRA solicits new developments, and coordinates with city departments and private developers to implement Midtown’s Redevelopment Master Plan. The TIRZ funds are used for public projects such as public parks, improved street lighting, capitol improvements and landscaping enhancements.
The Midtown Management District (MMD) provides several valuable services to the neighborhood, which enhance the efforts of the MRA. The main function of the MMD is to create a safer environment by providing additional contracted law enforcement; serve as an advocate for constituents to ensure their concerns are made known and addressed; develop community based events and projects to assist in attracting more residents, businesses, and investments; and work diligently to encourage interaction between residents and businesses to continuously enhance the District.
Thanks to the efforts of these two organizations, the District continues to thrive and grow into the safe, active, diverse urban neighborhood envisioned for Midtown.