About East Downtown Houston
In the 1930s many Cantonese immigrants moved to the former Houston Chinatown, then a part of the Third Ward area, from Downtown Houston in an effort to find more inexpensive land. The Cantonese opened several businesses, including grocery stores and restaurants, and held Chinese New Year celebrations. Immigrants from other East Asian countries, including Vietnam, moved into the Chinatown.
In the early 1950s the Chinese Merchants’ Association moved to the southeastern edge of Downtown Houston. Many Chinese businesses moved there, as a previous Chinatown in Downtown was replaced with commercial development by the 1970s. The EaDo Chinatown solidified as many Asian immigrants, including Viet Hoa, began moving to Houston in the 1970s. By the 1980s a theater, supermarkets, warehouses, a bank, and restaurants were located there.
By the late 1980s increasing numbers of Chinese began living in suburbs in Southwest Houston and Fort Bend County. In addition, the Chinatown was geographically hemmed in, with surrounding low income African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods and the Downtown area preventing additional growth. Two Chinese religious temples opened about 1 mile (1.6 km) south of the old Chinatown in the 1990s. There had been plans from private entities and the city government to promote and assist the development of the old Chinatown, but the economic recession harmed those efforts. Anthony Knapp and Igor Vojnovic, authors of “Ethnicity in an Immigrant Gateway City: The Asian Condition in Houston,” wrote that “Into the early and mid-1990s, Old Chinatown had considerable promise and this was evident in just its role in promoting tourism.”
The general development plans never materialized. The sewer system was not extensive enough to handle the proposed development. One major street connecting the old Chinatown with Downtown was closed when the Brown Convention Center was expanded. By the 1990s, many of the East Asian businesses left and had relocated to the new current Chinatown in southwest Houston.
In a November 28, 2002 Houston Press article John Nova Lomax described what is now known as East Downtown Houston as “a silent, godforsaken stretch of no-man’s-land that’s not really the Warehouse District, nor the Third Ward, nor the East End.” Lomax said that he used “that bulky definition” since that by 2000, the name “Chinatown,” still used in the 1980s and 1990s, “was no longer apt.” The area received its current name in the late 2000s.
In 2008 the management district and its namethedistrict.com website asked for suggestions for a new name for the district. Suggestions included “the Warehouse District,” referring to the abandoned warehouses, and “Saint E,” after St. Emanuel Street, a key street and the location of several bars and clubs. The district selected “EaDo,” short for “East Downtown,” one of the three most popular suggestions for the name of the district.
During the same year Dan Nip, a developer and East Downtown Management District board member, encouraged people to invest in the Old Chinatown area in East Downtown; if a person invests $500,000 United States dollars in the Old Chinatown and subsequently creates two jobs for ten years, he or she would become eligible for a EB-5 visa. By late 2009 the East Downtown authority began re-branding the district to reflect its current name. By 2010 a community of artists began to form in EaDo.
Living in Houston East Downtown
Prospective residents have many more things to look forward to in the coming months and years. Jessica Bacorn, executive director of the EaDo management district, has been overseeing several infrastructure and beautification projects, including hike and bike trails, street art, sidewalk enhancement and pedestrian amenities such as benches, trash cans and lighting.
A market-based parking ordinance just passed in EaDo, “a big win for [the] district,” Bacorn says. The management district is also working with both TxDOT and an organization called Scenic Houston to make certain areas along the freeways greener and more pleasant.
“The good thing about the developers we’ve been meeting with recently is they want to keep that funky culture vibe that EaDo has,” says Bacorn, noting that many old warehouses are being restored for new uses.
The commercial development is not showing signs of slowing down. Lovett Commercial bought a 99,000-square-foot warehouse, which it plans to transform into a sprawling mixed-use space encompassing restaurants, shops, art studios and offices. Former Houston Dynamo player Brian Ching will be opening his second EaDo venture this fall, East End Backyard, following Pitch 25 Beer Park, which opened last year. Hotel RL is also planning a location near BBVA Compass Stadium, slated for 2023.
Even bigger projects are also underway. The hotly debated North Houston Highway Improvement Project will have a major impact on EaDo, notably through a proposed 30-acre cap park that would replace portions of I-45 and I-69 between Downtown and EaDo.
“That would be a huge game changer for the district,” Bacorn says. The massive endeavor is currently projected to start in 2023, for full completion five years later.
It could take several years for EaDo to reach its full potential, but all signs suggest that it’s a neighborhood on the upswing.
East Downtown Houston Zip:
Things to do in East Downtown in Houston
There is no shortage of fun to be had in Eado. From bars to theaters, and even sporting events, no matter what day it is, something is happening.
Start with cocktail at Neil’s Bahr. This gamer-themed bar will make you feel like a kid again with video games, comic book library and karaoke. Or Chapman & Kirby may be more your style; a gastropub serving specialty cocktails and craft beers.
Speaking of craft beers, Eado is home to Houston’s own 8th Wonder Brewery. The local brewery regularly hosts trivia nights, live comedy and music on their enormous patio.
Entertainment venues like The Secret Group and Blue Box Theater offer comedy nights, live jazz and a variety of diverse entertainment. Warehouse Live, a prominent concert venue, showcases a variety of bands of all different music styles.
Soccer teams Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash also call Eado home playing matches at the BBVA Compass Stadium.
Explore Things to do on the East End of Downtown and check out our packages below.