While Houston is largely a classic Texas city with all of the things you may expect from a conservative, southwestern town, don’t be fooled. There are areas of Houston that seem like they belong more in San Francisco than in the middle of oil country. One such area is the Montrose neighborhood, a unique blend of disparate cultures and progressive 21st century attitudes.
Get to Know Montrose
Unique, different, eccentric, bright and flashy…you could use hundreds of words to describe the Montrose portion of Houston and you still wouldn’t find the perfect one. Perhaps, as Visit Houston puts it, this is an area where “anything goes.”
Established in 1911, Montrose is a largely residential neighborhood located almost exactly in the geographic center of Houston. It’s a four-square-mile pocket that’s known for renovated mansions, beautiful bungalows, tree-lined streets, and eccentric style that’s largely absent in the nearby business districts of the city.
Originally designed to be a streetcar suburb back in the early 20th century, Montrose was intended to be a highly marketable neighborhood that would attract people with wide boulevards, lively landscapes, and beautiful homes. But whatever vision developer J.W. Link had at the time, he certainly couldn’t foresee what Montrose would become: a wonderful hodgepodge of culture.
Montrose grew up a lot during the 1960s and 1970s, as the counterculture movement was kicking into high gear. Street musicians, anti-war protests, hippie communes, head shops, and artisan studios began to emerge. While not quite Haight-Ashbury, the corner of Montrose and Westheimer was definitely Houston’s center of what can now be viewed as a cultural revolution.
Also in the 1970s, Montrose became known as a center for the gay and lesbian community of Houston. At the time, there were as many as 30-40 official (and sometimes unofficial) gay bars. The Bayou Landing, which was thought to be the largest gay dance hall in the U.S. at the time, was seen as an iconic destination for thousands.
Since the 1990s, Montrose has changed slightly – while still holding on to its roots. The neighborhood has become more gentrified and new homes, nice boutiques, and fine restaurants have been incorporated into the area. Montrose still has a lively LGBT scene, lots of vintage and second-hand shopping, and plenty of artists and musicians, but it’s also a hot real estate market with historic residential architecture.
Montrose Amenities and Activities
A day in Montrose is best spent wandering the streets, poking your head into eclectic shops, and soaking up your surroundings. But if you want to make a list of some of the top Montrose amenities, activities, and sights, these should be included:
- The Menil Collection. One of Houston’s top art institutions, The Menil Collection is a beautiful art museum with free admission and accessibility to all. Surprisingly large, the campus consists of seven different gallery buildings, a bistro, bookstore, and popular park. The main building houses ever-changing exhibits, while the other six host more permanent collections.
- Buffalo Bayou Park. On a warm day, few places in the entire city of Houston are more enjoyable than Buffalo Bayou Park. This 160-acre park features bike trails, play areas, performance spaces for outdoor concerts, and a thriving dog park.
- Space Montrose. Any list of things to do in Montrose has to make mention of some of the unique shops that line the streets. One favorite of the area is Space Montrose, which features a variety of local and handcrafted gifts that have been produced by some of the area’s top artisans.
- Westheimer Bars. While much of Houston isn’t walkable, the lower Westheimer portion of Montrose certainly is. Much of the city’s younger crowd is drawn towards the area’s hip bar scene. Top spots include The Hay Merchant, Royal Oak Bar & Grill, Doc’s Motorworks, Catbirds, and Anvil Bar and Refuge.
- Rothko Chapel. Looking for the perfect convergence of religion and art? The Rothko Chapel is unlike any chapel you’ve ever visited. Commissioned by Dominique and John de Menil in the 1960s, this uniquely spiritual space is a place where people of all religions can come together to mediate and worship. Thousands of people from all over the world visit the chapel each year.
While these are some of the highlights of Montrose, the best parts of the neighborhood are those that are hidden from the naked eye. You’ll have to wander around to find what you’re looking for.
Montrose Business Climate
Many of the residents of Montrose also work in Montrose – owning or managing many of the shops and restaurants that line the streets. But many more work in surrounding districts of Houston, which is a magnet for large national and multi-national businesses across different industries.
Among the hundreds of businesses that are headquartered in Houston, 25 Fortune 500 organizations call it home. These include names like Phillips 66, ConocoPhillips, Sysco, Waste Management, and Apache.
According to Inc.com, some of the fastest-growing companies in the city of Houston include PPT Fiberglass, EPI Engineering, Southern Green Builders, Team Trident, Chief Outsiders, Cradle Solution, Security America Mortgage, and Worldwide Power Products.
Montrose School Information
Students in Montrose are zoned to the Houston Independent School District. For early childhood education, MacGregor Elementary School, Poe Elementary School, Wharton Elementary School, and Wilson Montessori School serve the different sections of Montrose.
Students are then geographically divided among two middle schools: Lanier Middle School and Gregory-Lincoln Education Center. All high school students are zoned to Lamar High School, but the magnet High School for the Performing and Visual Arts is also located in Montrose.
Two private schools, the Annunciation Orthodox School and The Harris School, are located in Montrose, as is the University of St. Thomas. Nearby colleges and universities include Rice University, the University of Houston, Texas Southern University, Houston Community College, and the University of Texas Health Science at Houston.
Montrose Real Estate Market
The Montrose real estate market has to be looked at as independent of the Houston market. It’s extremely unique and doesn’t always follow trends in the area. With that being said, things are really hot in Montrose right now.
Because Montrose is a primarily residential neighborhood in the heart of Houston, it’s very desirable for those with money. There are renovated mansions, townhomes, small cottages, and large bungalows. As of late-2016, the median home price was $612,500 – making it even more expensive than Midtown.
As far as investing goes, the average capitalization rate is right around 5 percent, while the cash on cash return tends to hover around 3 percent. Rental income averages close to $2,400, while occupancy rates are high. (It should also be noted that Airbnb rentals do very well in this area, attracting out-of-towners who come in for the weekend.)
Generally speaking, Montrose real estate inventory is tight. Only a handful of properties go up for sale at the same time – and they tend to spend less than two weeks on the market before going under contract.
Are you looking for a trusted name in Houston real estate? At Green Residential, we have more than a quarter-century of experience in business and see it as our duty to serve buyers, owners and investors of residential properties in the Greater Houston Area – including Montrose.
Founded by Leon Green and Harry Green, Green Residential is a family-owned and operated business that’s widely recognized as the premier residential real estate service company in all of Houston.