West University Place, often called West University or West U for short, is a city located in the U.S. state of Texaswithin the Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land metropolitan area and southwestern Harris County. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of the city was 14,787. It is nicknamed "The Neighborhood City" and is mainly a bedroom community for upper-class families.
West University Place is surrounded by the cities of Bellaire, Houston, and Southside Place. The United States Postal Service uses "Houston" as the city designation for all West University Place addresses, although the actual name of "West University Place" is also acceptable.
As of 2011, West University Place is the fifth highest fraction of households with incomes $150,000 or greater.
Almost all street names in West University Place are allusions to universities, colleges, and poets throughout the United States and the world.
Location of West University Place, Texas
|Coordinates: 29°42′57″N 95°25′59″W|
The city was developed in 1917 by Ben Hooper, a former Tennessee governor. The name "West University Place" originated from its proximity to Rice Institute, now known as Rice University. The first lots in the community were sold in 1917. Portions of West University were previously within the Harris County Poor farm, which extended from an area between Bellaire Boulevard and Bissonnet Street, eastward to an area near the "poor farm ditch."
In the 1920s, Lillian "Lilly" Nicholson, a Rice University English major, lived with a friend whose father was a city planner. The city planner asked Nicholson and her friend to name the streets of West University Place. Nicholson took names from her English literature book and gave them to the streets in West University Place. As a result, many West University streets are named after authors, such as Geoffrey Chaucer, John Dryden, and William Shakespeare. Cydney Mackey, a family friend of Nicholson, said in a Houston Chronicle article, "Aunt Lilly had always said she wanted to be anarchitect, unknown for women in that era, and this was her way of making a small but lasting mark on our city's landscape." One street, Weslayan Road, is a misspelling of "Wesleyan."
The city incorporated in 1924 because Houston was reluctant to extend power lines that far from the city center. West University Place, unlike Houston Heights, did not consolidate into the City of Houston. Because of the 1923 incorporation, Houston did not incorporate West University Place's territory into its city limits, while Houston annexed surrounding areas that were unincorporated. In 1939, the municipality refused to consolidate, later adopting a formal city charter the following year. The city had around 15,000 residents in the 1960s and the 1970s. The city had 12,714 people in 1990.
Prior to 1992 West University Place liberalized its development rules. This allowed developers to build new houses within the city. Don Stowers of the Houston Postsaid that West University Place changed from an "aging middle class neighborhood" consisting of mid-20th century bungalows and cottages to an increasingly wealthy community of "dare we say, young urban professionals in their austere red-brick Georgians." As new houses appeared, property values increased and the city began to get more tax money. Eventually, West University Place ran out of available lots, and its construction peaked. Area home buyers began to consider nearby Bellaire because it had more inexpensive and larger lots, and amenities described by Stowers as "comparable" to West University Place's amenities. In 2011 the group On Numbers ranked West U as the community in the Southern United States with the most highest quality of life. it was later ranked number one in a comparison of regional winners.
West University Place is located at (29.715929, −95.432992).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.0 square miles (5.2 km2), all of it land.
The City of Houston surrounds much of West University Place. The boundaries are roughly Bellaire Boulevard/Holcombe Boulevard, Kirby Drive, Bissonnet Road, and Community Drive.
The city's boundaries are Kirby Drive to the east, Union Pacific St. Louis Southwestern Railway railroad track to the west, Bellaire Boulevard/West Holcombe Boulevard to the south, and Bissonnet and Law Streets to the north. Viewed on a map, the city shape resembles a little house, with a "chimney" to the west side, and since it surrounds the city of Southside Place, a "door" is formed on the map surrounding Southside Place. (See map)
The Poor Farm Ditch is a ditch that drains into the Brays Bayou that formerly belonged to the Harris County poor farm. In 1928 the ditch was dredged after significant flooding had occurred in the area. On occasions the ditch still flooded. The commissioners of the City of West University adjourned their meeting so they could dam streets in December 1935. The Harris County Flood Control District, in 1954, widened and deepened the ditch and added a concrete bottom and siding. During that year the district installed a chain link fence. To make the ditch more attractive, the Sunset Terrace Garden Club planted oleanders around the ditch; the oleanders obscure the view of the ditch from Edloe Street to the east. The West University Garden Club maintained the flowers. A 2001 Edloe Greenbelt proposal called for the removal of the flowers.
From 1988 to 2003 the Friends of West University Place Parks Fund Inc., a volunteer board, and several West University-area businesses and residents raised $1.5 million to improve West University parks. The funds were collected to acquire additional green spaces and redevelop existing parks.
The first West University Place Recreation Center, formerly the Southwest YMCA, included a gymnasium, a swimming pool, and lighted sports fields. The City of West University had purchased the Southwest YMCA property around 2003. In 2008 residents approved a bond to build a new $8.8 million recreation center at a plot of land bounded by Bellaire Boulevard, Community, and Westpoint. The new recreation center does not have basketball courts. Russ Schulze, the chairperson of the Parks and Recreation department of West University Place, said that the city wants to construct a recreation center "for our residents, not something that will compete with nearby fitness centers or the Weekley YMCA, or to merely attract what residents outside West University want."
Colonial Park, at 4130 Byron Street, has a park and a recreational center. The park has a playground, a picnic area, two tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, a concrete walking path, and a pavilion. The center has a swimming pool, a weight room, a cardiovascular room, and racquetball courts. By 2003 Colonial Park had been enlarged and several facilities, such as a playground, pool, and tennis courts, had been added, due to efforts from the Friends of West University Place Parks and its allies. On May 11, 2009, the West University Place city council approved the design of the new Colonial Park pool, which was completed in 2011.
Friends Park, formerly the Rice Pocket Park, is located at 3771 Rice Boulevard. The park, the newest in the city, opened on December 11, 2007. Huffington Park, located at 3901 Milton Street, has a playground, a shaded arbor, picnic tables, and game tables. Whitt Johnson Park, at 6540 Wakeforest Street, has a playground, a gazebo, a picnic area, and a lighted basketball court. Judson Park, at 4242 South Judson Street, has a playground, a picnic area, a lighted tennis court, and a concrete walking path. Wier Park, at 3012 Nottingham Street, has a playground, picnic tables, two lighted tennis courts, and a basketball court.
The Harris County Public Library system operates the West University Branch Library in West University Place. The library opened in a section of the West University Community Center in 1942. As World War II continued the library was moved into the Reed and Yancey Realtors field office. After the war ended the library moved back into the community center. The current 6,100-square-foot (570 m2) library facility opened in 1963.
A West University Place street sign with the city's logo
A West University Place street sign with the city's logo