In 1836, the Allen brothers, Houston’s founding fathers, stepped from their boat onto the banks of Buffalo Bayou in what is now downtown Houston. As has occurred in other cities, Houston’s downtown has undergone a renaissance, with carefully preserved original commercial buildings sharing blocks with modern skyscrapers, performing arts pavilions, high-rise residential buildings, and urban lofts. Many of the lofts and condominiums are located in venerable buildings whose histories add character and enrich the new with the old.
Downtown includes part of the old Fourth Ward, the Theater District, the Historic District, and the blocks surrounding Minute Maid Park. Those choosing to live in downtown are a diverse group, including young professionals keen to be in the center of the action, empty nesters desiring to be closer to artistic and cultural opportunities, and downtown business owners and operators.
The Theater District’s concentrated world-class facilities attract world-class performers. With close to 13,000 seats, Houston is second only to Broadway. Its main venues are Wortham Theater Center, Alley Theater, Jones Hall, and Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Bayou Place is an entertainment complex that includes Verizon Wireless Theater, an intimate setting with a flexible floor plan. The Hobby Center houses Broadway in Houston, a mix of touring blockbusters direct from Broadway or London’s West End. Jones Hall is home to the world-renowned Houston Symphony and the Houston Grand Opera, founded in 1913 and 1955, respectively. The Alley Theater, begun in 1947, offers a two-stage complex for the presentation of a wide range of classic, new, and neglected plays. The Wortham Center hosts the Houston Ballet, a top-tier company founded in 1955.
In addition to the arts, residents of Houston’s downtown love the convenience of being within walking distance of fine restaurants and sports facilities. The Houston Astros baseball team plays at Minute Maid Park, an architecturally significant complex that incorporates Houston’s historic Union Station. The Houston Rockets and the Houston Comets basketball teams play in their own arena, Toyota Center.
The variety of residential housing in Houston’s downtown assures something for everyone. Lofts and “soft lofts” predominate, either newly built or carved from renovated buildings, and available in a wide price range. High-rise residences run the gamut from entry level to luxurious on par with New York’s Upper West Side.
Adding to the convenience of downtown living is the new light rail system linking downtown with the Medical Center and the Astrodome complex.
Residents of downtown Houston find that there is energy to the place; a “hum” that keeps them vitalized and integrated into the flow of the city.
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