Someone asked us the other day what happened to all that grant money that was supposed to renovate apartment complexes along Broadway Boulevard and give the area a much-needed face lift. He was driving down the street and said it looked like not a single property had been fixed up. He was right.
Turns out, one developer came in with a grant proposal for a Broadway complex -- the Woodlen Glen Apartments -- but the Glenbrook Valley Civic Club, led by retired school teacher Ann Collum, fought it to the end.
"It's not something that benefitted the neighborhood, it was going to benefit the developer," Collum tells Hair Balls. "The ultimate goal is to redevelop Broadway. If you're tied up in an eyesore for 20 years, positive development isn't going to happen."
When the program kicked off in 2006, the city planned to spend $35 million in neighborhoods near Hobby Airport and on the southwest side of the city. At the time, Mayor Bill White called the project "one of this administration's major contributions." He added, "A large number of Houstonians make their homes in apartments and those dwellings must be brought up to standard."
According to Richard Celli, director of the city's Housing and Community Development Department, several proposals were lined up to renovate properties in the Hobby area, Woodlen Glen being the first. When the neighborhood association balked at the idea, the developer met with the group.
"He had the nerve to let me know that Bill White was his personal friend," Collum says. "You think that's going to cut any slack with me?"
Both the state and city reps for the area had to approve tax credits for the development, and in the end, city councilwoman Carol Alvarado -- she's no longer on council -- and State Representative Garnet Coleman wouldn't sign off on the deal.
After it fell through, Celli says, it was clear the other proposals would also, and the Broadway money was diverted to neighborhoods in Fondren Southwest and properties near Antoine Drive and De Soto Street.
Frank Michel, the mayor's spokesman, tells Hair Balls that the program has been a success, increasing affordable housing in the city and improving neighborhoods. He adds, "The failure to do any particular project doesn't mean the program or overall philosophy failed. We also have to take into consideration the concerns of the neighborhood."
Back to Broadway, Collum says "one of the best things that could happen is for [the apartments] to be razed." Celli says don't count on it.
"Those apartments will continue to deteriorate," he says. "But they won't be torn down until they cease to be profitable to someone as a cash business, and that's a long way away."