Galveston, Texas’ original Port City

Click here to view the Galveston Album on my Flickr page
I consider Dwtn Galveston to be between W 25th and W 19th Streets and Broadway and the Ocean. Given that this is not a major employment center for the Houston Metro, I am evaluating it as a neighborhood.

Galveston is one of the most interesting cities in Texas in my opinion. It was founded 1825 when Mexico established it as a port city. Soon after Galveston served as the Capitol of Texas for a brief time. The City quickly developed into a strategic gulf port only out matched by New Orleans. Because of its ethnic mix of Mexicans and Germans, Galveston was very sympathetic to union causes and was a Republican stronghold in the south. It welcomed 3,000 freeman blacks after the Civil War. By the end of the 19th century, the City had a population of 37,000 Along with being a port city the Strand became a major banking center. This prosperity all came crashing down with the devastation of the 1900 hurricane killing upwards of 8.000 souls, the deadliest natural distracter in US history.  Galveston never returned to its levels of national importance or prosperity. During this time Houston developed a major shipping channel supplanting its port. Galveston, however, did emerge as a regional tourist destination, first as an open “red light” city in the 20s & 30s and eventually settling in as a beach, party, and cruise ship destination. The City also invested heavily on preserving its historic architecture, easily the best in the Houston Metro and perhaps the state of Texas.

Real estate values have increased in downtown Galveston in the past two decades. This is promising for urban in-fill to replace blighted and vacant lots blustering its urban form, but if not managed appropriately, could lead to hardships for its large minority populations. I also hope that real estate investment will translate to other infrastructure improvements (i.e. streetscaping, parks, waterfront, ADA infrastructure, and tree canopy).

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Gorgeous late 19th century architecture.
* Generally most intersections have curb cuts but few have modern ADA infrastructure.
* Great racial and economic diversity.
* Good variety of rental options with one-bedrooms ranging from 700K-2,000 in rent; 2-bedrooms between 1-2K.
* Lots of variety with for-sale as well. 1 & 2 bedroom condos near the waterfront sell anywhere from 225K-400. Historic homes start around 175K up to around 400K.
* As this is a major tourist destination for the Houston Metro its not surprising there are good cultural amenities in dwtn Galveston including restaurants, bars, live music venues, several community theaters, and lots of art galleries. Also several museums as well.
* Lots a typical tourist stores like boutiques, antiques, gift shops, and a bookstore. But also more traditional stores like banks, post office, dwtn library, and cafes. No larger retailors nor a supermarket or drug store.
* While no schools within the Dwtn area, there are several surrounding it within walking distance.
* Urban form is good throughout dwtn especially on Post office and Strand St. There areas also have the best streetscaping as well. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Modern buildings are pretty ugly, mostly from the 60s & 70s.
* While not the best public transit system, downtown Galveston is served by a streetcar.
* Given that there are few non-service/entertainment jobs and it’s a 55+ drive to downtown Houston, I felt that access to job center is fair at best in Galveston.
* I believe only 19th street hosts dedicated bike lanes. No public bike shares but several private ones set up for tourists.
* No 3-bedrooms for rent.
* Recreational space limited to a couple plazas and an ocean park along the pier. Shipyard and industrial really limit waterfront green space. Saengerfest Park, however, is well activated and laid out.
* While I generally felt self in dwtn Galveston, there is plenty of blight here.
* Modern in-fil is pretty unspring 60s&70s style.
* Fair amount of surface parking lots. Streetscape is uninspiring in a lot of spots.
* Street tree canopy not the best. Dead spots especially in surface parking lots. 

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