Walking through some parts of the historic Fifth Ward, it looks like Ike just blew through yesterday. Abandoned, worn-down houses line Brewster and Oats streets near the eastern corner of I-10 and the Eastex Freeway. And the familiar blue tarps still cover some of the roofs here.
James Joseph is vice president of Super Neighborhood No. 55, which encompasses the Greater Fifth Ward. Together with members of the Texas Organizing Project, he’s walking through the area to talk to other residents and record infrastructure in need of repair.
“I’m out here trying to see what we can do with some of the Ike funding where the community can have its input on what some of the things that we want to do in the community to go along with what’s being done — because there’s some great things being done, but there’s also some community things that we’ve had on the books for years.”
With federal money from the Disaster Recovery Fund, the city of Houston has been able to redevelop many apartments and also single family homes. Neal Rackliff is the director of the city’s housing department. He says for Phase 2 of the redevelopment, the city has $150 million to spend on home repair and reconstruction.
“We did a request for proposals for our multi-family developments and we have selected five development teams to move forward with round 2.”
He says the community was probably consulted more than for any past projects, with more than a dozen community meetings where residents could give their input to the redevelopment plans.
But James Joseph with the Fifth Ward Super Neighborhood says more can be done.
“We want to add to their plans. Some of their plans are good, but yeah, they missed out on some of the home things that the people from the community want to see, like, street name changes to some of the great heroes of this community, such as Barbara Jordan and Mickey Leland.”
He would also like to see some of the streets repaired, more grocery stores in the area, and recreation centers for kids.
Neal Rackliff says the city is open to working with the community on any reasonable requests.
“We are doing everything we can to really focus all the resources we have at the city to comprehensibly revitalize the communities we’re focusing on. So we’re absolutely open to suggestions and recommendations.”
Residents and their advocates hope that the city will address their wishes – if not with Ike funds, then through other means in future development plans.