Third-Ward Rebound

Look in the barbershop and down the block. Almeda is on its way back.

They demanded that he drive them to his house. Knowing his wife and children were there, Jackson convinced them instead to accompany him to the shop, where they took several hundred dollars and his Jeep. Police found the car weeks later -- and Jackson scouted out one of the young bandits. He says he armed himself and chased the 17-year-old robber into a house, ready to kill him if necessary. But a woman stopped him on the porch.

During the holdup, "When I looked into those boys' eyes, I didn't see a soul, I saw death," he says. As he lay in bed that evening, his anger subsided when he realized how lucky he was in life -- and when he realized he needed to be giving back more to the community that had supported him.

Jackson is glad he didn't follow his dad's advice to avoid Houston.
Deron Neblett
Jackson is glad he didn't follow his dad's advice to avoid Houston.

While much remains to be done, the Third Ward has rewarded many of the early entrepreneurs. Within a few years of the arrival of Cut and Shine, the Almeda corridor from Blodgett to Old Spanish Trail has seen a lot of businesses come up and stay up.

"A lot of us came back, and it was a situation where whites could potentially buy us out," Julian says. "And we've maintained our strength with the support of the community."

Even Jahmeela Lewis, owner of hair salon Strictly Roots, felt there was a comeback on the way. "I just wanted to get a spot next to Reggae Hut because they were hot, and they sent a lot of business my way. But now I think that in the next five to ten years, this is going to be a major street, and all of this is going to be built up," Lewis says. "I'm just glad I got my piece of the pie now."

Coupled with hair salons and small shops are cafeterias, a health food store, a cleaners, a new $1 million mortuary, the legendary KCOH-AM radio station and more. A new designer boutique is on the way. With Almeda sitting directly in the shadow of downtown, and new developments such as Enron Field and the planned basketball arena, director Hadnot believes that there's just a natural spillover and that the "Third Ward will experience a full-scale revitalization in the next five years."

The redevelopment council offers contacts and other aid to entrepreneurs. The Old Spanish Trail/Almeda TIRZ provides business incentives and uses the rising property tax values to help fund community improvements such as beautification projects, street repaving and sidewalks. "We wanted to see Third Ward going in the right direction," says Hadnot. "We saw it as a mecca for black professionals where people could ideally live where they work and vice versa."

Meanwhile, the invasion of youthful black businesspeople has turned the community into a reflection of the younger people. Services from delis to art galleries mirror its working middle class. "And if there's a working-class community, then they're going to be buying things. That's why I came back," Jackson explains.

As an early real estate investor, he wasn't sure when the neighborhood rebound would occur. But a building he purchased then at $3 per square foot is now worth $17 per square foot. His holdings include a medical clinic, several undeveloped properties and his most recent acquisition, a recording studio.

However, Jackson counts his biggest success as the simple barbershop, where neighbors filter in for informal chats and updates on the development of the community. Single mothers sometimes drop off their boys for a few hours for male bonding, and some of the boys do chores for a little spending money. But it is mostly a matter of male mentoring from a man who cherishes his own memories of Saturday mornings on Almeda with his dad.

Jackson, echoing the lesson of life in the new Third Ward, explains it easily: "What goes around comes around."

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