Monday, August 6, 2012

Night Out Against Crime

Hey there! It's good to get out of your house every once in awhile and meet a few people that live near you. That said, a bunch of us Wedgewood Houston-ians will be out and about at the corner of Martin and Humphreys Street playing cornhole and other games and chowing down on food from the Hot Rod Grille airstream (free dogs, but they will also be serving up some kind of delicious BBQ item from their menu).

You can check out more info about the Night Out Against Crime here. Come say hi!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chestnut Square

Thanks to local journalist and blogger William Williams for noting some recent improvements in the Wedgewood Houston neighborhood as well as the potential that exists for the industrial area on the North side of the neighborhood that includes May Hosiery Mill and Houston Station (and the SNAP Center!).

When the Civic Design Center conducted their study of WeHo a few years ago, they included a vision for that area that they called Chestnut Square. You can read the whole thing here, the Chestnut Square part is on page 22. But here are the basic concepts:
  • Design of a plaza incorporating public art, outdoor dining, and open space
  • Infill vacant sites with buildings positioned to define the plaza and zoned to encourage uses to activate it
  • Adapt existing buildings to accommodate art gallery space, restaurants, and entertainment venues
  • Improve the streetscape by installing trees along one side of Chestnut, designating outside travel lanes on both sides as onstreet parking, and adding crosswalks for safer pedestrian access to the plaza
With the continued renovation of Houston Station, the popularity of Gabby's and the existence of area staples such as United Records Pressing and Ovvio Arte, this area definitely has the potential to become a very cool artisan district, if not already so. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Browns Creek Clean-up Update

We had a really great turnout for SNAP's annual Browns Creek clean-up.  

 It amazes me how much stuff we pull out of there every year. This year we focused on the section that runs through the fairgrounds.

Last night there was yet another planning meeting for the fairgrounds. While I do find the endless amount of meetings and studies tiring, I always walk away feeling confident that we are one step closer to restoring Browns Creek so that the surrounding community (and visitors) can enjoy it. Hopeful, I know, but I'm holding on to my ideals.

See the rest of the pics over at SNAP's Facebook page.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Growing Pains in 12 South

This video offers a really great look into the growing pains that our neighbors in 12 South are currently experiencing:

12 South - June 4, 2012 - An Installment of the Nashville Docujournal from The Moving Picture Boys on Vimeo.

Towards the end of the video the residents discuss pushing Metro Council to impose tighter restrictions on future developers in the neighborhood. One gentleman points out that the neighborhood has had those meetings in the past, but the community failed to follow through.

What can we learn from 12 South? For me, it just drives home that point that it is so important for residents of a community to be proactive in order to avoid the frustration of having to be reactive.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Knock, Knock. Go Away!

Sorry for the aggressive title, I'll explain in a minute. But first, I'm still alive! And I'm starting my summer semester. While I don't expect to be able to post regularly, I would like to update more often, mainly because there is so much that I want to share. So expect to see short posts from me more frequently.

If there is something that summer brings around that I definitely don't look forward to (besides the heat), it's the solicitors. Maybe it's because my naivety got the better of me a few years ago when I locked myself into an expensive 5-year contract with a security company. Or that time in college when a teenager selling magazines door-to-door talked me into paying extra for a children's magazine subscription that instead of being delivered to a local hospital as he promised, was delivered to me. For a year.

While my ability to be assertive and to just say no has gotten much better over the years, I still find it distressing to have to ward off salespeople at my own home. My safe haven. If I wanted a sales pitch, I'd hang out around the stand-alones at freakin' Opry Mills Mall.

There was a conversation about this recently on the 16th District Facebook page, and someone mentioned that it might be a good idea to have a 'No Trespassing' or a 'No Soliciting' sign. This prompted me to search for a non-obtrusive sign for my front door. Cute but with a clear message, I say. For these kinds of things I always search Etsy first. And Etsy did not disappoint!

I ended up going with this little guy from Lisa Bees Crafts. Only $7, but it was the free shipping that sold me. The day before my sign came in the mail, someone knocked on my door wanting to sell me steaks. I politely turned them down. The day before that, a cute little kid selling candy bars to raise money for his school. I bought two. Maybe my sign should say 'No Soliciting (unless you have candy and are under the age of 12)."

Anyone else have thoughts on this? How do you deal with solicitors?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Two Olives in my Martini, One in my Lap.

I have a history of collecting animals even though I repeatedly promise my husband that I'll stop. What can I say? I'm a sucker for pups who are down on their luck. Enter Olive.

I have a guest post up at my friend and neighbor Laura's blog, Heartbeat at my Feet. Laura documents her adventures of fostering pitbulls and pitmixes and she was nice enough to help me get the word out about Olive. Olive (also called Ollie) will be up for adoption soon! To learn more about Olive, where she came from, and how you can adopt her head on over to Heartbeat.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Gentrification and Wedgewood Houston

Ooooh that word. Gentrification. Can you feel the tension in the air?

I'm just wrapping up a research project for school in which I had to pick a social issue in my area of interest. I decided that I wanted to learn more about gentrifying neighborhoods and ways that communities can achieve revitalization while avoiding some of the negative effects that gentrification can have on low-income households.

I am fully aware of my status as a "gentrifier". That is, I bought my house at a relatively low price from a seemingly low-income individual, fixed it up, and I will likely sell it at some point for a profit.*

So is Wedgewood Houston going under gentrification? I'd say yes and no. The neighborhood has certainly not reached the point that nearby 12South has been experiencing, which is documented in this incredibly relevant City Paper article that came out last night. However a quick search on Zillow shows me that there is currently not a single house on the market in this neighborhood available for under $120,000. Increasingly, new and renovated houses in WeHo are selling in the $250,000 range. 

Excuse the quality. Photo taken at drive-by range
on my way to the office this morning.
Houses like the one on the right. It's pretty cute and also has new houses of a similar style on either side of it. I'm grateful that this developer did not opt for a McMansion style duplex with a shared driveway. These homes were also built on empty lots, so no one had to be displaced in order to put them there. But reflecting back to about five years ago, where as a young 20-something who wanted to buy a home in the city but couldn't afford anything over $100,000, those prices on Zillow have me cringing a little.

That said, we are still a majority rental home neighborhood (I've heard we are 30% homeowner, 70% rental, but I'm not sure how to confirm those stats) and I'm glad that we are such a diverse neighborhood. That is, a pretty decent mix of low-to-moderate income folks with a few higher income folks sprinkled in. But since developers have started realizing that this is a desirable location for people to live who can afford that kind of house on the right, it's the renters, like Russell O'Brien in the City Paper article, who usually are the most vulnerable to losing their homes.

Not that I'm scared that they are going to start tearing down every little brick duplex in the area to build $800,000 mammoths anytime soon. But in doing the research for my project, I learned that neighborhoods who start addressing the issue of gentrification early on are usually the most successful in navigating through it and lessening some of the unfortunate side effects. This typically involves a lot of communication, education and collaboration between residents, community organizations and local governments.

Don't get me wrong. I want the value of my home and my property to appreciate. I want a lot of the things that usually come with gentrification, like new sidewalks throughout the neighborhood, or coffee shops and restaurants and a new park within walking distance. But I think it can be done without burdening sweet old Ms. Bennett who lives across the street, or the family on Humphreys street who has rented their townhome for more than 20 years.

More on specifics later, but with the Master Plan for the redevelopment of the fairgrounds area coming out in just a few weeks (fingers crossed), I think this is a really good time to start the conversation. How do we achieve revitalization without displacing people from their homes? How do we keep affordable housing options available for the next 20-something looking to buy her first house in the city for a reasonable price?

*It should be noted that we would not have been able to do a lot of the improvements on our home without the help of family. For instance, rather than have a big, extravagant wedding, we opted to take my parents' offer on a smaller, more practical wedding with new windows and vinyl siding as our wedding gift.