East End Houston Tour: Before and After

Houston’s historic East End, located immediately east of downtown Houston, has seen a lot of change over the past century and is still evolving. Page Senior Principal and Chairman of the East End Foundation Art Chavez grew up in the neighborhood and is now raising his own family there as well. When the Urban Land Institute (ULI) chose the East End as one of three neighborhoods to spotlight on a tour of reviving urban neighborhoods as part of their annual Spring Meeting, Page was asked to lead it.

The tour started at the East End Esplanade with a breakfast that Page provided and a presentation on the pro bono statistical analysis of usage of the Esplanade, which Art had facilitated. The Esplanade was subsequently repositioned as a central nerve for the community and is now an attractive pedestrian avenue that hosts a local farmer’s market and draws families and visitors.

Another Page pro bono project in the East End was the design of the plaza for Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Catholic school. The institute has provided education to a diverse population of students from all over Houston for the past 100 years – a true reflection of the neighborhood’s cultural background. Page Principal John Clegg teaches a Texas Tech University College of Architecture graduate studio in Urban Design, which created concepts for a future cultural center in the plaza. Today, two of those students now work at Page.

The East End was home to many Asian and Hispanic immigrants in the early 1900s, and more people continued to settle in the area because of the proximity to industrial work. The expansion of the community supported the growth of other small businesses for shopping and eating. Over the years, the majority of the Asian population relocated to southwest Houston, but East Downtown remained a historic Hispanic neighborhood.

ULI tour participants witnessed the rich Hispanic culture reflected throughout the architecture, cuisine, rhythm and language of the community. The area is now home to many local businesses, artists’ studios and the BBVA Stadium, which hosts the Houston Dynamo soccer team. It also boasts light rail transit, bike paths, miles of trails and green space and is attracting millennials and others who want to live in an affordable urban environment.