For Matt Doffing, the guy in charge of building the new Dynamo Stadium, progress is a good thing. Standing across the street from the construction site, he’s watching earth movers and cement trucks complete the stadium’s foundation.
“It’s the beginning, but we’re just getting out of the ground, so the bulk of the foundation and concrete work is going to wrap-up here in the near future. From that point, the vertical construction is going to shoot out of the ground.”
A few blocks to the north and east, another transformation is taking place, but this one is still mostly on paper.
“To turn around an area, what you have to do is you have to do is do a lot of different things at the same time, then keep all those balls in the air.”
Patrick Ezzell heads the East End Management District’s efforts to transform an area along Navigation, basically the neighborhood around the original Ninfa’s location, from a mostly light industrial working class neighborhood into what is known as a Livable Center.
“It’s sort of like when you go to another city and you get out and you walk to a restaurant, you walk to a little grocery store, you walk down really nice streets that are well-lit with trees and everything is within reach. People are working there. People are living in the neighborhood. Everything is within reach and you go “Wow. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had this in Houston?”
Part of Ezzell’s vision includes street markets in a park along the center of Navigation and even a museum district of sorts. With 300 vacant acres in the immediate area, he says now is the time to shape the neighborhood’s future before someone else does.
“If we did nothing, this area will redevelop and you’ll get a lot of growth here. But the growth without any influence from the outside or working on sort of the community desires, will be more like anything from mini-warehouses to high-density
apartments to whatever people can make work. So what we’re working to do it help it be redeveloped in a way that makes sense for the community.”
The first of the improvements will be paid for with $5 million in federal economic stimulus money. They’ll mostly include street and sidewalk improvements. Ezzell says the vision is clear, even though you can’t see a lot of it yet.
“I would say that this canvas already has a shape and our job is to really listen carefully, and based on those cues try to fit all the needs, the desires of the stimulus package, the desires of the neighborhood, the desires of businesses and the desires of the residents.”
He says the area has what he calls a strong urban fabric already in place that just needs a plan for the future.