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Fifth Ward revitalization

I’m very glad to see this renewal project going on it the Fifth Ward.

But now the stains of that past are being scrubbed clean by the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation with what it calls the Lyons Avenue Renaissance.

The multimillion-dollar project aims to attract new businesses and homeowners to one of Houston’s oldest neighborhoods. It’s being funded in part by grants from Starbucks, Reliant Energy, the city of Houston, Mission of Peace, the NBA and Gulf Coast Community Services Association.

Since May 2012, abandoned lots have been cleaned, parks and homes have been constructed and retail spaces are being built along the Lyons Avenue Corridor, which stretches from Waco Street to Jensen Drive. Along with the main office for the Lyons Avenue project, two accountants and a hairdresser have opened for business.

“We are looking at creating a community of transition and a community that has life and sustainability,” said the Rev. Harvey Clemons, project chairman. “You cannot build it for yesterday. You must build it for tomorrow.”

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During NBA All-Star weekend, basketball stars joined volunteers to build a new playground in the Lyons corridor for the newly named Legends Play Space. Due later in April is the solar-powered splash pad donated by Reliant Energy. Both are just a part of the revitalization efforts in the Lyons neighborhood.

A new 10,000-square-foot city library, a health and wellness facility, about 100 units of housing for independent living seniors and mixed-income residents and the restoration of the historic Deluxe Theater are also expected to be completed by 2015.

So far the redevelopment corporation has spent more than $2 million in renovations. The entire project is estimated to cost $30 million.

What I like most about this is that it has the approval and participation of neighborhood residents. Renewal and redevelopment shouldn’t mean that the people who already live there get priced or bought out. There are plenty of places in Houston to get a McMansion or a townhome with gold bathroom fixtures. There’s not nearly enough places with affordable housing. Ideally, projects like this can help make it be that the children who grow up in the Fifth Ward will want to, and be able to, live there as grownups. Maybe even entice some former children of the Fifth Ward to come back there, since as the story notes the area has seen its population shrink and change in recent years.

The project expects a 4 to 6 percent population growth once the first phase is completed, said Kathy Flanagan Payton, CEO of the redevelopment corporation.

A grocery store and shopping center also have been discussed.

“People don’t want to live where they don’t have amenities,” she said. “It’s a food desert here because they don’t have available groceries within a five-mile radius.”

Housing is nice, but amenities are critical. Nobody wants to drive to another part of town, especially in Houston traffic, to go to the grocery store if they don’t have to. I look forward to seeing the next phase of this project.

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One Comment

  1. Ross says:

    No grocery stores within 5 miles? That’s just not true. From a point on Lyons, midway between Waco and Jensen, a 5 mile radius picks up all of the Heights, including the Kroger at 11th and Shepherd, the Kroger on 20th, the Kroger on Studemont, the Kroger on West Gray the Fiestas on Patton and Fulton, the Randalls in Midtown, and all of the stores in the East End. I’m sure it would be nice to have a closer store, but they hurt their case by making statements that are factually incorrect.

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