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Goodbye King’s Flea Market, Hello Villages at Palm Center

Vested partners in the Villages at Palm Center gather the day before demolition.
Vested partners in the Villages at Palm Center gather the day before demolition.

The Palm Center at the corner of Griggs at Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd will receive a facelift in the next year as the old King’s Flea Market will face demolition to become the new Village at Palm Center, affordable living in an area that is seeing lots of new development.

There will be a four story mixed unit, mixed – income living complex that will hold 222 units and 200 of them will be for low to moderate income. 22 of the units will be at market rate. The breakdown will be 154 apartments and 68 townhomes. There is a call back list for units and once the doors open they will start to call the people who are on the list.
“The low income housing will be based off of the incomes of applicants. They are mixed at 30% Area Median Income (AMI), 50% AMI, and 60% area median income and it’s for the whole Galveston and Houston area so a lot of the people who live in the community now can afford it”, according to Chris Akbari of ITEX.

The impending Metro rail that has already paved its way down MLK, Jr. Blvd proved to be an alluring aspect to the ITEX Group, when Clark Colvin, saw the area and began to visualize what could be the future of a once thriving neighborhood that has earned the reputation of being blighted.

“Two years ago Clark Colvin came to me with the idea of demolishing a flea market here in Southeast Houston and rebuilding housing,” said Chris Akbari, President of ITEX Group. “I kind of thought for a second he was crazy because I didn’t really know what he was talking about that day; but as I started to really evaluate all of the enterprises that are going on here in Southeast Houston, all the revitalization and all the collaborative efforts with the management district, with TIRZ, OST Partnership and all the neighborhood organizations that came together to really work to revitalize and do things in the world today where housing is being pushed into the suburban areas it is a tremendous benefit to have revitalization in the inner city of Houston.”

Akbari explained benefits of restoring the inner city community instead of pushing residents out so they have to live in the Pearland and in the outer suburban areas.

“It’s a chance to revitalize a part of the community that has needed it for quite a long time,” said Akbari.

This project had help from citizens as well who had a vision for their neighborhood and allowed ITEX to make it happen for them.
Neal Rackleff, Director Houston Housing and Community Development Department, was an integral part of the $40 million project, providing $15.3 million in city funding to get it underway.

“How do we go from neglect and disorder to unity to light to beauty,” questioned Rackleff? “It takes people. It takes good people.”

He recognized the hard work of the community and reassured them that great things are happening there. Also District D’s Councilmember Boykins was attributed for his approval of the allocation of the money. He was cited as a champion of the community.

“We are really proud to be at the forefront of the resurgence of this community. The Village of Palm Center will have state of the art amenities including a 4,000 square foot community center, 2 playgrounds, a fitness center, ample green space, 222 units and 200 will be dedicated to people with low and moderate income,” said Rackleff. “One of the reasons we chose this area and we were quite strategic about it was because this area is on the upswing and people who live here are well aware. It was important to find a way to make sure that those with lower income can remain in this community as this wave of gentrification passes over us. It’s on the light rail, right next to the Houston Texans YMCA.”

Councilmember Dwight Boykins of District D was extremely excited about the new development in the area. As a native of the area he has big plans for the future of the Palm Center.

“I have to thank the Mayor for her commitment to the Village at Palm Center,” said Boykins. “It is a $15.3 million dollar financial investment into District D, with 15% set aside for Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE).”

Boykins did request for jobs for local residents and for non- violent ex-offenders.

“This project is going to revitalize this neighborhood; we are going to put some mixed units here, retail under the ground. We are going to protect this neighborhood,” said Councilmember Boykins. “This is going to be good for our community, we are going to bring it back you guys and I’m so, so excited.”

He also mentioned that it was easy to get a project like this in that area. The land was there, an investor and developer that wanted to come in, along with the potential of the neighborhood and rail coming.

“In their calculation they had to determine if it was worth it and they saw future development with 610 and the universities here and land locked with University of Houston is prime,” said Boykins.

The defining element of this project is the shopping area that will be located on the first floor of the complex. It was stressed by the community and their councilmember that the right retailers come in that will match the community’s needs.

“It will be small retail because the square footage will go for living accommodation. That’s why it’s called mixed use because underneath on the first floor it will be commercial like a coffee shop, a little convenience store,” said Boykins. “We want it to fit the community. There is no need to put a product in here that nobody is buying because you want it. We want it to be service because the nearest major store is off of Mykawa and Gulfgate but you have all these people in this area here that need basic services.”

Super neighborhood President, Preston Roe, was in support and attendance as he too worked with the project to address the needs of the community. As a 50 year resident in the same house, he remembers how vibrant the area once was mentioning the Montgomery Wards that use to be there.

“We are coming back to bring the neighborhood back to what we the ones who have been staying in this area have once knew it to be. In times that have passed this has been a fluid area but the area went down. Many people left but I stayed,” said Roe. “As people see it grow they will gradually come back into the area.”

Demolition starts on Thursday, December 4th to tear down what is affectionately known to Houstonians as King’s Flea Market and it will last 60 days and then vertical construction will start. Construction will last about 14 months and the newly erected Village at Palm Center will be open to the new tenants.

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