Hello from the Fifth

HELLO FROM THE FIFTH Charles Kuffner spots demographic shifts in the Fifth Ward: “To interview the candidates in District B, I made several visits into the Fifth Ward, which is a neighborhood I can’t honestly say I’d been to before. One of these interviews took me past Fifth Ward Jam, which was cool to see. But what really struck me as I drove around was how close this all was to downtown. Gentrification and whirlwind change may not be a part of the Fifth Ward today, but I think it’s inevitable, and frankly is probably just around the corner. If you look at the neighborhoods surrounding downtown, it’s what’s left for redevelopment. The Heights, the Washington corridor, Neartown, the Museum District, Montrose, and Midtown are all pretty much built out — for sure there’s little if any cheap property available in any of them. EaDo and the Near Northside are getting there. But east of 59 and north of I-10, it’s as Gray describes it. If you’re a real estate developer, you’ve got to see the potential there.” [Off the Kuff] Photo: Robert Boyd

41 Comment

  • Nope. I don’t see it. The Third Ward, Riverside, South Union, Greater East End, the Clinton Rd corridor, and the Near Northside will have to be substantially redeveloped before that part of Fifth Ward sees market-driven change.

    Most people would rather live on top of a former Superfund site than live there.

  • Artists are already there. They are always the 1st wave of settlers…

  • The light-rail additions will help EaDo & Northside Village out sooner than later. There’s a lot of great old, abandoned houses that just need some TLC. Buy now while they’re cheap & use the extra money on renovations

  • Let the gentification begin :-)

  • ‘If you’re a real estate developer, you’ve got to see the potential there’.
    Potential to be shot…

  • @ markd: All the neighborhoods I just listed have artists too, however they’re all better-located relative to jobs, transportation, or education…and none of them were ever referred to as “The Bloody” anything.

  • @Cody – You are right there is potential for developers. Everyone is trying to keep up with the Jones’.

  • of course it’ll all go up in value, but expecting property values on the east side to outpace those of developed neighborhoods on the west side is still nothing more than a gamble. ignore location for a second and look at the distribution of high-paying jobs in the city. one could say that location to the city-centre (which by population and not geographic means is west of downtown as well) is not the driving factor in property values which may actually be more attributable to the distribution of those high-paying jobs.

    washington and the heights has been driven in large part by the growth of the GOM’s oil market as property values on the west side of town began to rise as well. these folks live in these near town places because they can afford it and the amenities make it worthwhile but i’d suspect they’d rather just pack up and head to katy than head to a less traveled part of town just to stay close to those amenities.

  • The rail will help EaDo & Northside Village (NoDo?) redevelop sooner than later. There’s a lot history in these older neighborhoods and these abandoned homes that just need TLC. Buy now while things are cheap & spend the rest on renovations.

  • Markd, what artists live in the fifth ward, and where? There are several studios near (basically under) the Elysian viaduct–is that considered the fifth ward? As far as I can tell, however, no artists actually live in those studios. (I might be wrong–artists are well known for sneakily living in places where they are expressly forbidden to live.)

    I’m not saying this to challenge your assertion–I am genuinely curious.

  • Looking at the available property in the 5th ward I don’t see any cute bungalows or old mansions that have been neglected. Almsot to a one, they are small 50’s pre-mans or cheap cookie cutters block after block. Its going to take ALOT more development in the rest of the areas around Houston before anyone starts exploiting this area because the way it looks, its pretty much all eventual teardowns.

  • Technically, the 5th Ward is everything north of the Buffalo Bayou and east of White Oak Bayou. But technically, Montrose is within the 4th Ward… The old boundaries don’t matter anymore.

    And yeah, artists are the urban pioneers of society. No doubt about that. But the places that they go to can be made cool. There are just so many other neat nooks and crannies in this town.

  • The Niche: Given the official location of the Fifth Ward, that means that we could call the area off McKee where the Last Concert Cafe an artists’ neighborhood. That’s a fair characterization. But I feel that are is too isolated from most of the rest of the Fifth Ward to could. Possibly I could see artists moving in directly north of that area in the semi-industrial buildings along Hardy/Elysian/Maury. If some more of those spaces could be rented out as artist’s studios, maybe that could be the leading edge. But then you have to have some artist-friendly amenities–bars, clubs–which except for the venerable Last Concert Cafe, don’t yet exist. But maybe someday.

  • @ RWBoyd – google “metalhenge houston” – very cool installation off of Maury near Lorraine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/22814080@N04/5968217884/

  • @13, Mr. Boyd:

    Please proofread. Your third sentence is not real easy to interpret.

  • I agree with Lost In Transistion. There’s a lot of developmental land there but no desirable housing stock which means, what? Townhomes? Are they even building those anymore? And it’s somewhat of an isolated area with the freeways, trains and bayou. For now, I’d guess it’ll continue to fully transition into another lower income Hispanic area, as that is where the population growth is which will serve as a placeholder for the bulldozer brigade.

  • Northside Girl: I’ve seen that piece, and it’s very cool–but I wouldn’t call it a sign of future gentrification. It is less than a block from The Houston Foundry, a facility filled with large scale artists’ studios. I’ve been there several times and as far as I could tell, no artists lived there (although I could be wrong–artists are very good at turning work places into secret live/work spaces–this is the origin of Soho in NYC, for example). To me, artists are the leading edge of gentrification only when they actually live in a place. Now when some artists decide to buy or rent some of the slum housing around that neighborhood and turn it into live/work space, I’ll take notice. It could happen.

  • I’m not sure it takes artists to gentrify an area. I don’t recall Midtown ever being an artist hotspot. In the late ’90’s Midtown was still a place where, as Cody puts it, there was “potential… to get shot.” But it was developers who saw cheap land buys that changed the area. Not artists.

  • Pyewacket: Substitute “area” for “are”. Sorry.

    Sadz: I completely agree. Artists moving into an area might be the first step to gentrification, but it’s not the only way it happens. Furthermore, the opposite is true as well–just because there are artists in a neighborhood doesn’t mean it will gentrify.

    It seems to me that if we look at four gentrified/gentrifying neighborhoods in Houston, we can make a reasonable claim for artists being the pioneers in at least two of them, and possibly three (and by “artists,” think musicians, graphic designers, writers, as well as visual artists). Montrose and Rice Military surely benefited from artists moving in and giving these neighborhoods a hip cachet. The Heights–I don’t know. Midtown–I don’t really know but I’ll take your word for it.

    In any case, even if artists move into a neighborhood, it still takes developers to effect the gentrification. Someone has to be willing to rehab or rebuild properties in a sketchy neighborhood–it doesn’t happen by itself.

  • @ RWboyd: Artists don’t just move anywhere that’s cheap. They want large inexpensive spaces. They want proximity to other artists and to universities to some extent. By virtue of all those warehouses, the East End has both. 3rd Ward has inexpensive proximity. The 5th Ward (as we define it today, not a century ago) has none of those things. It has nothing going for it at all.

  • The Niche:
    1) Large inexpensive spaces–Yes, to a certain extent.
    2) Proximity to other artists–yes, of course. Nonetheless, someone has to be first artist in!
    3) Proximity to universities–I don’t see this. The West End was the quintessential area where artists preceded gentrification in Houston, and it doesn’t seem particularly close to universities–no closer than many other inside-the-loop neighborhoods. And “Itchy Acres” is even further from Houston’s universities–and it was founded by a UH art professor.

    I’m not trying to shill for the Fifth Ward as an art mecca–I agree that there are other neighborhoods that seem better suited (the East End especially). It’s just that Northside Girl made a point that there was an area that had cheap warehouse/industrial space just north of Downtown around McKee St./Elysian/Maury and south of Lorraine that fit conditions 1 and 2 pretty well. Is that area considered part of the Fifth Ward? (This is a serious question.)

  • Speaking of artists I think we are forgetting to give props to 5th Ward heroes such as The Ghetto Boys and their mini big leader Bushwick Bill.

  • I tend to think of Montrose as the quintessential place where artists (and other freaky people) preceded gentrification. The “West End”…well it had big inexpensive spaces and was the last ungentrified expanse in the western part of the Inner Loop. It was a prime location before anybody with money realized that it was a prime location.

    The little pocket of studios just north of downtown (Vine Street Studios, Mother Dog, etc.) isn’t part of what most people think of as 5th Ward. Technically, all of the Near Northside was part of the 5th Ward, but for all intents and purposes nobody refers to anything west of 59 or south of I-10 as the 5th Ward anymore.

  • So what should we call the neighborhood that includes the intersection of Maury and Brooks?

  • Robert, I would unfortunately call that – Toll Road Alley, as the folks around there are about to be underneath (or displaced) by the Hardy Toll Rd extension, which is great for motorists in Spring/Woodlands, but terrible for the neighborhood. There are a number of really interesting homes and old buildings along Elysian that could benefit from outside-the-box development, and it is one of the best and easiest roads to enter downtown on from the Northside.

    PS: That is one awesome hand sculpture, thanks for sharing.

  • I would love to know more about the giant brick hand that greets you as you drive east of Lyons. Does anyone know what its origin is?

  • If you want to know why the 5th Ward hasn’t already been redeveloped, this article is a must read: http://www.governing.com/topics/politics/Land.html

    Garnet Coleman should be in jail for what he’s done to this City.

    If you are a developer, do you really want to swim against this tide?

    The land between downtown and UH had/has the potential to be an absolute jewel in the crown of this great City. Someone with really deep pockets could buy up the whole place (or at least a critical mass of it), scrape it clean and make a killing redeveloping it.

    It’s hard to make it happen one lot at a time though, which is exactly why it may never happen.

  • From Bernard’s article

    “You can tell a neighborhood’s turning,” he says with dismay, “when you see them out at night walking their dogs.”

    Wow, I’ve never felt like such a thug.

  • That article really casts him in a terrible light, and I think that quote can be easily misread. What he is talking about is very real and happening all over the USA. As an elected individual, isn’t he supposed to be representing his constituency? You don’t have to like this guy, but you have to give him props for taking a stand against the status quo.

  • @ Cody…My husband and I have been living in the Nickle since 1998 and are raising a family here. No one has been shot thus far.

    Interestingly, we have had several college interns who are studying community development stay with us over the years. And they tend to be just a bit disappointed by how “uneventful” the neighborhood can be.

  • This article only mentions the Third Ward, not the Fifth. Specifically it mentions that the Midtown TIRZ has used its revenues to “bank” Third Ward property. Is is also banking Fifth Ward properties? Or is another TIRZ doing so? (The Fifth Ward has a TIRZ, but I can’t imagine it has a ton of money to spend.)

  • Alison: Sorry. Yeah, I guess I was generalizing a bit.

  • Not only is Bernard’s article about the 3rd ward only, was also written in 2006! Have anything more recent to add? Maybe something more relevant about areas north of downtown?

  • That article really casts him in a terrible light, and I think that quote can be easily misread. What he is talking about is very real and happening all over the USA.

    The quote can be read many ways, but I can’t think of one that puts it in a good light. He either is commenting that he doesn’t like the kinds of people who walk their dogs, he thinks its rediculous that someone could be walking around the neighborhood at night or he doesn’t like “those” kind of people.

    Who is this elected person to tell me I can’t live in a certain area. Didn’t we overcome that with the civil rights era. And then, if he can’t stop me from coming, maybe he can make any property I buy in the area worthless to me. That’s the kind of backward’s thinking that helps Houston continue to sprawl.

  • Robert Boyd- The neighborhood, as I recall was around Jensen Dr & Quitman,(5th ward?) back around ’01-’02. Pulled electrical into a couple places where some artists types were setting up – they were getting out of the CSAW and that neighborhood around Commerce and the tracks. Apparently it was getting too political/expensive in the CSAW neighborhood.

    In the Jensen neighborhood the artists did live under the radar – we worked nights and weekends to be out of the view of city inspectors(funny, in that neighborhood they were hardly around anyway back then)

    The talk back then was that the big rail yard just the north-north east of downtown was going to be developed into more Downtown Houston awesomeness – restaurants, clubs, housing. Maybe a nicer version of Mercado Del Sol? Remember, shit was big in ’01/’02, we still had Enron Field.

  • That area seems ripe for redevelopment*. I don’t know whether you’d call that the 5th Ward or Northside Village or something else.

    *When (if?) they build the Hardy Toll Road extension, however, that little neighborhood will become an isolated no man’s land.

  • They announced a few weeks back that the hardy toll road will be completed along a rail road tract that is no longer used. If I recall correctly they said that the project would be completed in 2015.

  • Yep : another self inportant government “official: using thug tactics and being a fascist pig telling people where they can & cannot live. Garnet Coleman: join the 21st century and keep your racial politics out of the market place. All you REALLY want to do is stay atop the black community you claim to “represent”. You REALLY want to keep YOUR people poor and under your thumb. You’re a fraud and a sleazy slime ball douchebag. You’re a hold over from a by gone era: blacks wanting rights to integrate into society,yet NOT wanting society to integrate into their hoods. A TRUE HYPOCRITE full of double standards. One day you’ll be a NOBODY. And YOUR people are suffering because of people who have a secret ,HIIDEN agenda. You’re a sorry piece of work !!!

  • Oops: a few misspells.

  • Garnet Coleman wasn’t too bothered by gentrification in Fourth Ward so I doubt he is bothered by it anywhere else. However, he does have a “vested interest” in Third Ward which should have been investigated a long time ago but then he’s a sacred cow and so it hasn’t been. Of course sacred cows are usually knee-deep in the poop of the other cows which they might start throwing if someone looks too closely at what they’re knee-deep in which is how they become sacred cows.

  • Oh and I don’t get his comment about people walking their dogs but honestly I don’t get Garnet Coleman to begin with. Perhaps he meant to point out that when neighborhoods begin to improve the first thing you notice is that people begin to walk their Dobermans instead of just turning their pit bulls loose in the front yard.