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Holiday Bicycle Giveaway : December 23, 2014

Houston City Council

Dwight Boykins
Holiday Bicycle Giveaway
December 19, 2014

Contact: Chelbi Mims (832) 393-3001

In recognition of the holiday season, Council Member Dwight Boykins is partnering with the University of Houston Police Department to host a Holiday bicycle giveaway for 15 children from Forever Families Foster Care and Adoption Agency.

Forever Families is a non-profit organization that provides adoptive and foster placement for children within Texas. Forever Families provides children with a safe nurturing and educational environment through connection with families that last forever.

Who: Council Member Dwight Boykins, University of Houston Police Department, and Forever Families

When: December 23, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Where: Intersection of Southmore Blvd. and Almeda Rd. Houston TX 77004

Why: “A bicycle should be an integral part of every child’s experience,” said Council Member Dwight Boykins. “It gives me great pleasure to partner with The University of Houston Police Department and Forever Families to make the dream of owning a bicycle a reality for these deserving youth.”

Phone: 832.393.3001 FAX: 832.393.3201

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The bricks came up to go back down: Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition saves the bricks for another day

Concerned citizens sit on the bricks to prevent further removal.
Concerned citizens sit on the bricks to prevent further removal.

The Freedmen Town Preservation Coalition (FTPC) showed how serious they are about protecting the historical bricks of Fourth Ward today as they firmly stood on the bricks, unmoved, forcing Conrad construction crew to stop removing the bricks.

On Wilson St, in Fourth Ward construction crews hand removed bricks for what was a demonstration of what will be. They dug up the bricks and stacked them on top of each other before the FTPC and concerned community members began to show unrest about the demonstration.

“This is just a trial,” said Alvin Wright, Public Information Officer for the City of Houston. “We are hand picking them up and taking them to a center to have them cleaned and to see if we are doing the process properly.”

The continuous fight over preservation and restoration has been continuous since June when Mayor Parker announced she would restore the streets in Freedmen’s Town/Fourth Ward after doing infrastructure to update utilities. The issue came in when community members realized the hundred year old historical bricks would be disturbed in the process.

For months the FTPC along with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee championing for them on the federal side have visited City Hall petitioning for a recall of the restoration project while holding press conferences, teach-in and walk throughs of the streets for people to learn history in order to appreciate their effort and join in.

Many entities are involved such as the Texas Historical Commission and TXDot. TXDot is working with the FTPC now to see if disturbing the bricks as is, is illegal due to the historical significance.

Congresswoman Lee said she wanted TXDot and the US Department of Transportation notified so they may begin a thorough investigation as federal money is involved.

The lack of communication between the City of Houston, the FTPC, TXDot and other powers that be led to the misunderstanding of when to touch the bricks and where. Today they all discovered that it will not be an easy task to take up the bricks and the FTPC showed constant displeasure in the process of taking up the bricks.

“They took them up without labeling them, how are they supposed to know where to put them back,” said Lue Williams of the FTPC?

Freedmen's Town Preservation Coalition President, Dorris Ellis Robinson, laid down in the trench surrounded by FTPC members on the bricks.
Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition President, Dorris Ellis Robinson, laid down in the trench surrounded by FTPC members on the bricks.

After a three hour stand off the bricks that were taken up were replaced in the street. President of the FTPC, Dorris Ellis Robinson, laid down in the trench where the bricks were removed after she led the protestors in the song, We Shall Not Be Moved.

The bricks were replaced and they remain for another day. The Congresswoman has requested another meeting with the City for January as she spoke with the city liaison for Mayor Parker, Keith Wade.

Construction crew replacing the bricks that were removed.
Construction crew replacing the bricks that were removed.
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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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New MLK, Jr. statue vandalized


A week after the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue donors and sponsors celebration at the beautiful promenade at MacGregor Park, two teenage males were spotted vandalizing the 8 foot image of Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to Sylvester Brown, Project Manager for the Black Heritage Society, a concerned citizen made a call that they witnessed two young kids beating on the statue with iron pipes.

The Houston Parks and Recreations department is working to assess the damages as they along with the Arts Alliance will help make the repairs to the new statue.

“This incident shined a light. We need security out there so the statue can be protected,” said Brown. “From my understanding Park Rangers chased them out but they were not apprehended.”

The incident was reported Friday, November 28th, just days after protestors gathered around the statue to pay respects to Michael Brown a slain African American teen in Ferguson, MO. The protestors are not suspected to be a part of this criminal act.

It is important to the Black Heritage Society that the statue is protected and that a security mechanism to protect it in the future is set in place. We want to prevent people from doing damage, and add protection for it 24-hours a day, said Brown.’

HPD has been contacted and the Sun is awaiting their response.

Story is still developing.