Where is Downtown Houston, anyway?

HOUSTON - In what is soon to be the third largest city in the nation, Houston prides itself on its food, endless sprawl, spaghetti of freeways and it's downtown.

Or is it Uptown?

One of the main things I heard out-of-towners here for the Super Bowl comment on most when asking them for their thoughts on Houston were, ''it's a nice place, great food but where the heck is downtown exactly?"

Perhaps the Scarecrow knows?

Nevermind, he's as confused as the rest of us.

Houston has "downtowns" doting the map in every quadrant of the city including Downtown (where the George R. Brown Convention Center, Minute Maid Park and Toyota Center are located) along with Uptown (Galleria), the Texas Medical Center, Greenspoint, Greenway Plaza, The Woodlands and perhaps even Westchase.

So what exactly is a ''downtown'' anyway? 

Webster's defines it as the ''main business section of the city.'' Downtown's are often located at the center of the city and if looking at the freeway map of Houston, clearly Downtown Houston sits smack dab in the middle. However, as the city continues to grow north and west, the population center of Houston sits somewhere around the Katy Freeway and Gessner according to a Houston Chronicle article, found via HAIF, regarding the now complete 35-story Memorial Hermann Tower.

That would make the Galleria area more of the ''downtown'' of Houston but in fact, it's not.

Downtown areas are often ranked by the amount of office space in square feet. Actual downtown Houston, according to @DowntownHouston, has 49,952,318 square feet of office space--not including 609 Main, the 48-story, 1 million square foot office tower under construction.

On the contrary Uptown Houston has approximately 29 million square feet of space-- greater than that of Downtown Denver with approximately 26.1 million square feet of office space or Downtown Atlanta with 16 million square feet or just about any other city you can think of outside of Chicago or New York City.

It's no wonder people get confused when they visit Houston as to where Downtown is. There are buildings (64-story, 901 foot tall Williams Tower) in Uptown that are taller than downtown buildings in many of America's biggest cities.

That's just scratching the surface. There's millions of square feet piling up in the Texas Medical Center where Methodist and Texas Children's are both adding massive new towers to their complexes, expanding an already impressive Med Center skyline.

All of that on top of the new towers going up in Greenway Plaza (20+ story Kirby Collection), Greenspoint and The Woodlands, which in and of itself has an imposing skyline for what was once a sleepy suburb lost in the woods between Houston and Dallas. The imminent ground breaking of the 20-something story 10 Waterway Square will only add to its dominance.

The bottom line is Houston is growing at a rapid pace; by some estimates as much as 140,000 people per year. It's growing more dense in the process, too. Many mega cities of the world such as New York and Hong Kong have large, sprawling skylines to stack people as high as they can to maximize the limited space. However Houston has endless space which will ultimately limit the amount of densely packed skyscrapers we see erected in the city. With a projected population of more than 11 million in the next 20 years, the construction crane will remain as the unofficial city bird of Houston. It will also continue to blur the lines between downtown Houston and all the other skylines we have in this big-shouldered city.

While we're on the subject, we Texans pride ourselves on everything being bigger. To any developers out there, how about plopping Texas' first 100+ story building right here in Houston in the midst of our continued construction boom? Perhaps then we'll be able to accurately locate the true downtown of Houston, Texas.

(© 2017 KHOU)


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