Alma Del Toro, Clint Ford and Sebastian
“Sebastian loves downtown,” says Alma Del Toro of her 18-month old son. “All the stimulation is great for him.” She and husband Clint Ford moved from the Galleria area to their downtown loft to enjoy the entertainment and nightlife, thinking it would be fun to enjoy the urban lifestyle before they had kids.
“I wanted to experience a different side of Houston than I did growing up and saw downtown as that opportunity,” says Clint. “We live in Franklin Lofts, originally built in 1905 as the First National Bank Building – the original bank vault is still intact in the building's basement,” Clint says proudly of the historic significance of the stately structure. Alma was raised in Mexico and moved to the U.S. more than 10 years ago, living in Chicago and New York before finding her home in Houston.
“We had only been downtown for a few weeks before finding out we were pregnant, so we didn't really know what to expect,” says Clint. “Initially, the big concerns were around safety, having room for Sebastian to run and play, and closet space. Knowing what we know now, I'd argue that safety and room to run and play are just as good, if not better, than the suburb life.”
“We were worried at first, but we decided to stay downtown and wanted to see how it worked,” says Alma, who is now expecting their second child. “It’s so easy to hop on the train – you don’t have to mess with a car seat – and go to Hermann Park, the Zoo, Museum of Natural Science, Children’s Museum. And we love going to Discovery Green, too.”
Before moving downtown, Alma and Clint were season-ticket holders for the Opera and occasionally visited the Angelika Film Center to see independent films. “We do still sneak away to the theater when a big production comes to town or grab some last-minute concert tickets when a band we enjoy is coming to one of the concert venues scattered throughout downtown,” says Clint. “But what’s surprising to most of our friends is the thing we tend to do most downtown is get out and enjoy nature.”
“Our son Sebastian is just over 17-months-old and with his energy he is happiest outside, exploring downtown,” Clint glows. “Whether it’s on the walking trails at Buffalo Bayou, chasing ducks at the ponds in Sam Houston Park, enjoying the beautiful fountains in Tranquillity Park, or running through the fountains at Discovery Green Park, we spend the majority of our weekends enjoying the city outside of the buildings that most people associate with downtown.”
Several young couples with small children live in the building and have nannies, who often coordinate outings together. The parents in the building even are considering organizing an on-site day care.
“We thought we would have a party life downtown, but it turned into a great place to raise kids,” Del Toro raves.
Ruth & Jack Elvig
“We sold our house in the west Memorial area after 39 and a half years, but kept our farm in Round Top,” says Ruth Elvig, who moved to the Bayou Lofts with husband Jack about two years ago. Ruth and Jack have been married 55 years, and have been Houstonians 51 of those years.
“We wanted to be close to city life, such as the arts and museums,” says Ruth. “We spend as much time as we can in town because of all the city amenities.”
“We wanted to be where the action was,” says Jack. “We love being able to take our grandkids to arts experiences like The Nutcracker and Garrison Keillor.”
Treating their grandchildren to interesting experiences keeps the Elvigs quite busy, as they have some 11 grandkids ranging in age from 11 to 22.
“We have a lot of friends in town, too,” says Ruth. “And it’s great to catch up on shopping, visiting with friends and enjoying the entertainment. And we love to walk to downtown restaurants, like Mia Bella and Cava Bistro, plus Hong Kong Diner is in our building so it’s great to just call down for dinner. We also enjoy Spaghetti Warehouse and Jack loves to take the train to Breakfast Klub.”
“I walked to the new brewery on the other day,” says Jack referring to the recently opened Saint Arnold Brewing Company on the north side of downtown. “We like the variety of activity at our doorstep. There’s always something different to do. It’s just exciting. We have a small dog and love to go for a walk along the bayou, I especially like the lighted walkways from behind Spaghetti Warehouse all the way to San Jacinto Street.”
“I always say I would be sorrier if I hadn’t moved to downtown,” says Ruth, reflecting on the decision to give up their suburban house. “We had our farm in Round Top, but we wanted to stay in touch, to have that anchor in town. It’s just really great to be downtown. We’ve loved it so much. We are truly country mice, city mice.”
Josh Morton, a true young urban professional, is an attorney who lives and works downtown and has experienced life in and around several urban environments. The Texas native was raised in Dallas, moved to Long Island, NY for high school, went to college in New Orleans, attended law school in Boston and took his first job at a law firm in San Antonio. Josh was transferred to the firm’s downtown Houston office about two years later and moved to the Post Rice Lofts.
“I was surprised downtown Houston was so cosmopolitan, after living in Boston,” says Josh, who explains that he lived on Commonwealth Avenue in the center of Boston while attending law school at Boston University. “Living in downtown Houston, I really, truly walk to the theater, the cinema, the park all the time and I only take a cab when the weather is poor. I’d say my life is easier, not to mention richer, because I live downtown.”
When asked what he enjoys about living downtown, Josh’s short answer is “everything.”
“I can sum it up with one word – access,” he says. “There is a lot going on. I like going to the Hobby Center, Alley, Angelika, restaurants like Azuma Sushi & Robata Bar (right on the lobby level of my building), Morton’s Steakhouse, Mia Bella, 17 over at the Alden Hotel and Byrd’s market, which just opened up. For sports you’ve got Minute Maid Park (that just speaks for itself) and Toyota Center for the Rockets. These are all within easy walking distance, and if I need to I just take a $6 cab ride.”
As a resident of the Post Rice Lofts for more than three years, Josh raves that downtown Houston has greatly improved the residential quality of life, enhancing the sense of community. “Discovery Green is great,” he says. “They have a cool film series, which is perfect for a picnic on a date. And the Grove is phenomenal, of course. Oh, and I have to mention shopping at Houston Pavilions and going to Lucky Strike and House of Blues, especially their Foundation Room.”
For exercise Josh is a member of the new 24-Hour Fitness in Midtown. “I also like to run at Eleanor Tinsley Park or on the new Buffalo Bayou trails, which are also nice for a date.”
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this,” Josh says earnestly, turning to the topic of security. “Contrary to popular belief, downtown is very, very safe. It’s a misconception that it’s a risky or violent place to be. That’s not at all the case. I have never encountered any issues and I have walked to and from work for years, morning and night – even at 1 or 2 am. For non-downtowners, it’s worthy of correction.”