Real estate developer teams up with organization to buy block in Fifth Ward

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A local organization and a real estate developer are teaming up to renovate abandoned buildings into new homes and businesses in Fifth Ward.

Houston-native Elizabeth Akinkugbe said she wasn't even looking to buy a home when she learned about a new housing development in Houston's historic Fifth Ward neighborhood.

"I feel like I'm at home. It's not just the house itself, it feels like home to me," Elizabeth Akinkugbe said. "I think this development is huge, and I think it's a great impact for the community to also be a mentor, somewhat, to kids that are growing up in areas like this. With everything going on, it's important for kids to know that anything is possible, and we're doing things to make it a better community."

Local real estate developer Christopher Senegal bought the entire block with the idea to develop it into affordable housing.

"When I bought it, it was an old grocery store," Senegal said. "To replace it with something that could be a motivation for the people in our community, that's the ultimate goal for everything I'm doing right now."

The entire block has now been sold. Senegal said he is developing several more blocks while also building rental homes for elderly couples and families that have lived in the area for generations.

"There's a sense of pride in the neighborhood again that hasn't been there for a while."

Senegal teamed up with Cocoa Collective Xchange to continue the mission and bring black-owned businesses into the neighborhood as well, calling the campaign, Buying the Block.

"It's the only way for us to have a stake in what's going on," the organization's founder, Arleita Myers, said. "It's actually being homeowners, stakeholders, and by bringing this money back in, that's what's going to keep us alive, keep us flourishing."

She said it's about changing the narrative on gentrification, investing back in the neighborhood and being the change you want to see in your community.

"Come on back home because the doors of the community are open and we're waiting for you," Myers said.

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