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Southeast Houston's Game-Changing Development

Houston Mixed-Use

All eyes were on the inner core yesterday as the City of Houston Housing and Community Development officially began construction on the Village at Palm Center, an affordable mixed-use project that will revitalize Southeast Houston. (Proving that J.J. Watt isn't the only person in Houston making big moves.)

We snapped developers ITEX Group president Chris Akbari and Womack Development president Gerald Womack on site—the old King’s Best Market at MLK and Griggs is being demolished for the new project. Village at Palm Center will include 222 apartment and townhome units, 90% of which will be restricted for low-income tenants. It’ll also feature 15k SF of retail, a 4k SF community center, on-site daycare, fitness center, two playgrounds and green space. Gerald loves the location (it’s very central and on the new light rail line) and tells us he’s excited about what this will do for the area. He believes his project will be the anchor that transforms the neighborhood.

Here’s ITEX EVP Clark Covin with Houston City Council Member Dwight Boykins. Clark was the brains behind turning an old flea market into affordable housing; Chris says he thought Clark was crazy when he first pitched the idea two years ago. (Chris changed his mind when he saw the revitalization going on and the collaboration of groups working to improve Southeast Houston.) Nearby residents played a huge role in the project—they’ve been clamoring for a development like this for years, and ITEX worked closely with the neighbors to determine uses in Village at Palm Center.

Houston Housing and Community Development director Neal Rackleff says his job is to fight entropy, the principle that anything left unattended—like his garage—will fall into disorder. He says Southeast Houston is in an upswing, and putting low-income housing into this project is important to ensure that current residents aren’t pushed out by gentrification. TIRZ #7 executive director Theola Petteway laid out some other big things happening nearby—besides the new rail line, the Houston Texans YMCA (one of the nicest ever, Neal says) is now open, and the City is breaking ground on a new library across the street soon. Theola says in two years, MLK and Griggs will look fresher and will be more stable.

OST Community Partnership president Dr. Teddy McDavid says she’s particularly excited about the retail component, not just because she loves to shop (although she does plan on being one of the first clients) but because it will keep money inside the community. The $42M development of Village at Palm Center is possible thanks to a $14M disaster recovery grant from the City, plus an $8.5M housing tax credit.