The City of Houston launched a capital campaign to renovate Emancipation Park, which serves as an anchor for the redevelopment of the Third Ward, south of downtown.
The $18 million dollar vision will be a monument to the city’s African-American history. Design plans have been completed, and a two year construction is expected to begin later this year.
It was founded by former slaves who pooled $800 in 1872 to buy the land as a site for celebrations of Juneteenth, the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker spoke to a group called Friends of Emancipation Park inside the park’s gymnasium.
“It’s going to be one of the largest park overhauls that we’ve ever done, and it is intended to make this historic park a true destination park, to be mentioned along with a Memorial Park or a Hermann Park, or Discovery Green and now, Emancipation Park.”
Jacqueline Bostic is the great granddaughter to the Reverend Jack Yates, a former slave and minister who helped buy the park. She says it represented a willingness of the ministers back then to serve the community.
“It’s just wonderful, because for so many years the park was not really functioning properly. And now today, to see up alive and well and getting refurbished and everything — it’s unbelievable.”
Plans call for a good portion of capital improvement funds to be spent on a gymnasium, refurbish the community center, replace or renovate the pool, expand the park to accommodate parking, and create a covered plaza area next to their community center.
In addition to a state grant, the city has committed more than $2 million to the project. Another $4 million will be provided by a local government corporation created by the city to revitalize the area.