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Proposed Riverside Terrace historic district has longtime residents fighting for their neighborhood

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Consider 2506 Rosedale to understand why the proposed historic center on the Riverside Terrace has entered an unlikely battle between neighbors in a historically black enlave.

The columnar brick house was once the family home of McHanna Jr., a longtime regent and citizenship leader at Texas Southern University.

The house is now owned by neighbor Asif Mahmood, who oversees the complete overhaul of the property, and is involved in a fierce battle over the proposed historic district he defended.

Mahmood, who moved to a neighborhood in 2018 and applied for a historic designation last year, wants to protect the wooded area, which he said was “slowly being discovered.” Some neighbors agree with the proposal. Many people disagree.

This issue devastated the normally quiet neighborhood of District 3, and prompted widespread opposition among the inhabitants. Most of the inhabitants are black and many are deeply rooted in the riverside terraces. The proposed historic district is not needed and states that it will boost costs and asset value. .. They fear that this move could drive out long-time residents.

Questions have also been raised about the role of conservation in cities built in swamps, where there are few old buildings and new construction is common.

Residents and city authorities are separated: Is the proposed historic district a gentrification tool or a breakwater against it?

The proposed Riverside Terrace Historic District story is about Houston’s changing face. This includes six months of bureaucratic debate, hundreds of frustrated residents, and at least one dead homeowner who attended absenteeism.

History of change

One recent morning, a paved road outside 2506 Rosedale rang in a truck. The earthworker loaded the soil into a dump truck, slowly removed the soil from a small mountain, and gave way to a circular driveway. More than a dozen contractors have prepared the construction of an unoccupied house, and its windows have opened, revealing an almost complete bowel renovation.

One window has a red tag and it is possible that some code violation has occurred.

It is unclear how Mahmud intends to use the home, which is one of several homes owned in the proposed district. He declined to comment on this article. Neighbors say he can rent a house as an apartment or on Airbnb. He already runs some in the neighborhood, his property records show.

His acquisition of these assets might not have attracted attention if he had not petitioned to make the Riverside Terrace a historic district.

After all, the neighborhood has seen a share of change. Built in the early 20th century, the building was once called the “Jewish River Oaks”. The overwhelming majority of Jewish families were subsequently locked out of the desolate areas of the town.

In the early 1950s, a white secretary bought a house on behalf of the cowherd Jack Caesar. When the transaction was completed, the secretary transferred his certificate to Caesar. Caesar was believed to be the first black man to integrate a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Shortly thereafter, someone detonated a bomb on Caesar’s pouch, blowing windows and destroying the front pouch.

Over the next few decades, wealthy black homeowners were still banned and dominated by certificate restrictions from buying homes in wealthy areas such as the Oaks River. In recent years, residents have seen a surge in modern metal-covered apartments in nearby areas, raising concerns that the same may happen in the neighborhood.

In December, three homeowners, led by Mahmood, requested the city to consider 51 homes as historic buildings. This designation has tax incentives, but homeowners must obtain permission from the project to change the appearance of their property. Too few homeowners approved the designation in the February vote. The city has reset the district boundaries to only 18 units to achieve a majority, as permitted by city ordinances.

The question now goes to the city council. The city council will consider whether to give final approval on June 8.

Community request

The problem goes to the confused city council in the controversy. At issue is the city count of district supporters and critics. A lawyer hired by the Riverside Citizens’ Association found seven alleged violations of the city ordinance governing the historic district. This could completely deny the proposal if it proves to be true.

In a district visit, two supporters said they voted for the Houston Chronicle as a way to maintain the continuity of nearby architecture. Martha Fail, who has lived since 2015, said she sought to prevent the construction of future “glass and steel” structures with “protruding overhangs” in nearby vacant lots.

One resident, former city council member Jew Don Boney, Voted for Withdrew his support earlier this month. The city refused to change his mind. In a document prepared by a lawyer, the Citizens’ Association states that this violates state law that allows homeowners to “revoke consent” during proceedings.

“I didn’t know this would hurt African Americans who have lived in the community and on the Riverside Terrace for generations,” Bonnie wrote in an email to city officials explaining his decision. rice field. “I now understand that this … does not reflect the needs of the community, but only a few.”

Opponents in the neighborhood are worried about limiting the ability to modify or sell homes and increase the cost of regular repairs of windows, roofs and exteriors.

Citizens’ groups claim another breach-a clear vote in favor of the district, cast by a homeowner who died a few months ago. The person’s adult guardianship system is believed to have given consent in the absence of them.

Given the alleged violations and the lack of transparency surrounding the designation process, many black residents of Riverside Terrace have called on Congress members to vote for the proposed district. I am.

“We’re talking about our home, one of the things African Americans have to tell our children,” said Elizabeth Smith, a longtime resident of Rosedale. .. “It’s our legacy. What they’re trying to rob us of is the wealth of our generation.”

Homeowners are one way black families have set foot in District 3, and they don’t trust city officials to protect their neighborhood, Smith said.

History is more than justifying distrust, said Shaniadia Evans, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice University who studied gentrification and displacement.

Blacks were systematically excluded from their homes for most of the 20th century, according to Evans. Blacks “couldn’t transfer wealth across generations like whites,” because much of the average person’s wealth is in property. Due to this disparity, the average black man has only one tenth of the wealth. Average white man.

She said concerns about repairing expensive homes should not be dismissed.

Black middle class and experts “may not be able to pay for the refurbishment and maintenance of real estate that meets the standards of the historic district,” Evans said. She said the willingness of homeowners to spend tens of thousands of dollars on improving real estate could be highly dependent on their inheritance, or its lack.

Catherine Rieser, who has lived in Rosedale for 22 years, voted to support the proposed district, but said she understood the concerns of her black neighbor. After months of controversy and discord between her neighbors, she seemed unmoved by the prospect that the district would not be voted.

“Blacks have a long history of being fooled by property,” she said one recent afternoon. “They don’t trust anyone else looking for their own interests. I don’t blame them.”

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