Two Houston Neighborhoods Have Plans to Get Better

Two historic Houston neighborhoods are ready to launch aggressive campaigns to revitalize their communities. As Jack Williams reports, the blueprints for the future of Houston's Northside and Independence Heights neighborhoods are ambitious, with an eye on collaboration and smart growth.

The Northside is in a way the spine of the city, starting just north of downtown east of I-45 all the way past the North Loop. Independence Heights is a pocket just north of the North Loop and west of I-45. Both are now part of a plan to get better, through projects both large and small. Amanda Timm is executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a non-profit that's helping the Northside and Independence Heights find money for their plans.

"People have already noticed the potential in these neighborhoods, so what we're working on with the neighborhoods is to make sure the current residents can enjoy this revitalization and be part of it. It's about creating mixed income communities so that people of all income levels and can be there and enjoy a great neighborhood. It's really building a sustainable community that can take care of itself for the long haul."

In the Northside neighborhood, an area with about 29,000 residents, plans include projects like pocket parks and plazas, more affordable housing, improved hike and bike trails and a transformed Moody Park. Mary Lawler is a resident and is leading the revitalization efforts.

"We want to play a strong role in shaping our future. We don't want to wake up in five years and find our neighborhood has changed in ways that aren't benefiting our residents. So we really wanted to look ahead, figure out what we want our future to be and then bring together the players that can make it happen."

About 14,000 people live in Independence Heights, a proud community with African-American roots. Plans there include more schools and libraries, better sidewalks and improved health care services.  Tanya Debose leads the Independence Heights Redevelopment Council.

"Seeing ourselves at the table is very important to us. It's a part of our identity. And now we know that with this support and with the people coming onboard with us we're able to make a huge impact into what can happen in this community."

Houston Mayor Annise Parker has pledged her support for the revitalization efforts. She says neighborhoods have to want to change before they really can.

"We can go in and pour money into neighborhoods where the community is not ready to receive that change or work in collaboration on that change and its wasted dollars. These are neighborhoods and communities that are ripe for revitalization. It's a tough economy to do it in but because we have strong community partners, it can happen."

The two neighborhoods were chosen out of eight finalists for the revitalization support. Some projects are already underway.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...