My Montrose: Council Member Ellen Cohen
We’re at Rothko Chapel, with the recent high holidays and everything happening around the world – what does this space mean to you? And what does having a space like this in our neighborhood say about Montrose?
Montrose is a unique place – 2 blocks from here there’s jazz – but here, where we are, is quiet. It’s peaceful. And that’s really Montrose. It’s a little bit of this and little bit of that. Last week Menil had it’s 25th anniversary and I was lucky enough to be able to attend. And there were people all around the neighborhood, on the lawn, with their blankets. That’s the Montrose. It’s the yen and the yang.
I know you’re a big advocate of walkable communities – and Montrose is making strides in that direction – what do you see the largest barrier in overcoming it? What is one of the keystones in getting there?
Having a walkable community is exactly what it sounds like. We’ve got to be walkable. And we’ve got issues in Montrose – we have issues with sidewalks – we have issues making sure we have street light space so people can cross at intersections. We want to make it so people and leave their car at home and walk to the nearest grocery store, restaurants, shop and that ties into a greater way public transportation. People from other parts of the city need to get here without their car. They have to be able to get on a bus or take the rail to Montrose.
So much has changed in the last couple years: the new H-E-B, killer restaurants like Uchi and The Hay Merchant, and hopefully a great new complex where the old Sky Bar used to be. Its clear Montrose should be preparing for a boom of new residents and business – what advice would you give on how we should be planning for this growth?
That’s a good question. I think we are planning. The City is planning. The Montrose District is planning. Montrose has 15 civic clubs – so there’s a lot of interest among the neighbors. And when people get together they are planning how can we be intimate and welcoming. How do we say, “You will love it here. And you will find a place to park.” And that’s our challenge. And that ties in what we talked about before with integrated transportation – with buses and light rail.
We love the new bike share program downtown and the street sweeping program here in Montrose – but we also love our cars. And Montrose has long had a bad rap for parking issues. What solutions would you propose specific to Montrose for both residential and business parking woes?
I don’t know if it’s specific to Montrose – I represent District C with a lot of unique parking problems; we have Washington Ave, the Village, Montrose. While they’re each unique areas, the same issue is “Where do I park when I am here” What do I do when I want to go to a restaurant or one of these great shops? What we’re looking at is something call a Parking benefit district. We’re just talking about it. Massaging it. Possibly starting on Washington Ave. And if it works, then I think it’s the kind of thing that can be adapted to Montrose. We don’t particularly want parking on Westheimer – it’s a problem with cars pulling out. How do we do it and how do we preserve the neighborhood so that people can park in front of their own homes. Those are the issues. If you have an answer, I’d love to hear it. But we are talking about it.
For me? I just live a few minutes from here. So parking for me means getting on my bike, riding in Montrose and locking it against something and walking around. For someone driving in, the choices are really the outlying areas and walk in. We have fabulous museums. Visit one of the museums and walk on in from there to shop.
Favorite meal in Montrose?
I can’t say what my favorite meal is. I can tell you that in the last week I have been to Canopy, a birthday at Uchi, Niko Niko’s, Osaki and there’s always a good delicatessen there, too.
Are we talking breakfast? Lunch? Fancy? Informal? Business meeting over lunch? Italian? Asian? Mo Mong? It’s so great to have it all right here.
Niko Niko’s turns 35 this year. Southland has been around for over 70. It’s a reminder that among all this development, our classics remain – and many times in classic architecture. What business is “classic Montrose” to you.
That’s a tough one. When you said Southland, I remember not being able to find something and someone said, “If they don’t have it, no one has it. But they’ll know where to get it.” And so I think in that line, that would be a classic Montrose business. But I was also thinking that I am riding my bike around St Thomas – those buildings. The original buildings that have people living in them – or like Colomb d’Or- those are some beautiful architecture there. And also when I’m riding my bike, off the side streets and I’ll come across something I hadn’t seen before and say “Oh! What’s that?”
Fav place to spend money
I’m an equal opportunity spender. Often I’ll end up at the Chocolate Bar. When I’m going somewhere and want to take them something. What they have is so unique. It’s just a great place.
Pride Parade. I’ve been going since we moved here and last year I was honored to be the allied grand marshal
Favorite Montrose memory
I remember going to see Best Little Whorehouse in Texas at Tower Theater, which then became the bookstore and now, of course, is a Mexican restaurant, but that was the Tower Theater and to see Best Little Whorehouse there was like “YES! This is what it’s supposed to be about”
They’re all sung. Montrose gets its message out. The challenge is how do we get people to Montrose so that they enjoy a park, have an experience. There are so many great opportunities.
What can the residents and business owners in Montrose do to make a difference in their community?
There are something like 15 civic clubs … be involved in your civic clubs- speak up. Let us know at City Council what is on your mind. That is key. And, of course, it’s just a month to the election. Vote. Know what and who you are voting for.