FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:The Greater East End Management District Responds to Unfounded Allegations
Houston, TX – On July 25, 2014 community leader Yolanda Black Navarro along with the Houston chapter of LULAC held a press conference to protest the “demolition” of Guadalupe Plaza Park (GPP) in the East End. The opposition was addressed specifically against the Greater East End Management District (GEEMD). While some voices may be opposed to the redevelopment of the GPP, the GEEMD respectfully would like to set the record straight.
The history of the GPP.
The Guadalupe Plaza Park was originally built in the 1980’s as a performance venue for the El Mercado Del Sol. After the failure of that development, the Mercado building was sold and developed into apartment lofts in 2002. In 2003, the parking lot was sold to townhome developers. The performance venue fell into disuse because of the opposition of the new residents that lived adjacent to the park. For last several years, the park has received virtually no use by the community and was occupied by homeless people. The park had a dated look with no shade from any large trees or any existing covering.
The work behind the redesign of the GPP.
In 2009 the Greater East End Management District (GEEMD) and the Houston Galveston Area Council (HGAC) conducted a planning study for the near downtown Second Ward area. During that process, 6 public meetings were held with stakeholders and community residents. The community asked for the redevelopment of the Navigation Esplanade to include space for pedestrians and as street market; the redevelopment of GPP so the community would have a park which they could use; and better sidewalks, more trees and pedestrian lighting. Regarding the GPP, a number of drawings were developed integrating the community’s desires. The GEEMD worked closely with all stakeholders and design engineers to create a park that would have green space that could be used safely by the community.
The source of funding for the GPP.
In 2011 and 2012 the Houston Parks & Recreation Department of the City of Houston (HPARD) decided to include the park renovation from the Livable Centers Study in a federal grant application. That grant was awarded in late 2012 and a concept drawing based on the original community input was developed by May 2013. That concept drawing was prepared by SWA under contract to the City of Houston, not the GEEMD
Community buys into the redesign.
The concept drawing, which reflects what is being built today, was taken to the Second Ward Super Neighborhood meeting in May 2013 for presentation. The reception was positive. The community was informed that this was the final concept drawing based on the drawings developed 4 years earlier with community input. The concept drawing was also presented to the board of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church which also received positive support.
A public exhibition is rolled out.
In October of 2013, the plan was on display on the East End Street Festival on the Navigation Esplanade, which over 5,000 people attended. All the comments received were positive. The Houston Parks & Recreation Department is overseeing the design and construction of the project with additional services provided by the Greater East End Management District. As indicated above, federal grants are funding this project. The redesigned park should be open by May 2015.
The project management of the GPP.
The HPARD is overseeing the design and construction of the project with additional services provided by the Greater East End Management District. As mentioned previously, federal grant funds have been utilized for this project. The redesigned park should be open by May 2015.
The GEEMD’s official response to some of the points raised by Ms. Yolanda Navarro and invited speakers to the news conference
Talento Bilingue will be demolished and we won’t have a cultural center anymore
The current Talento Bilingue of Houston (TBH) building will remain until Phase II is funded, which will be at some time in the future. Phase II will include a new cultural center and will become the new completely renovated home of TBH.
The Greater East End Management District has mislead the community
As mentioned previously, in 2009 the Greater East End Management District (GEEMD) and the Houston Galveston Area Council (HGAC) conducted a planning study for the near downtown Second Ward area. During that process, 6 public meetings were held with stakeholders and community residents. A final concept with a program for public uses was presented to the community in March 2009. In May of 2013, the concept drawing was presented to the Second Ward Super Neighborhood Association and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Board Council. In all phases of the process the GEEMD received enthusiastic approval.
The water fountain has been demolished.
The Azios Family fountain which used to be in the back of the park has been dismantled and will be reinstalled in a more visible location of the park once it’s renovated.
The memorial tree and plaque have been removed.
The HPARD is sensitive to preserving the iconic history of the Guadalupe Plaza. The Ely Escobar memorial tree is under its care and protection, this tree will be preserved along with the monument, the water fountain, and the columns.
A soccer field will be built.
The design never included a soccer field.
They are asking for$15,000 to renovate a mural when they had over $5,000,000 for the renovation of the GPP.
As mentioned previously Phase I of the renovation of the GPP is being funded through a federal grant, not the GEEMD. The cost for the redevelopment of GPP is $2,000,000 and it can only be spent in the park. The “Ventanas de Oportunidad” mural restoration is a standalone community initiative spearheaded by the original artists. The funds for the repainting of the “Ventanas de Oportunidad” mural are coming straight from the community and corporate donations. This beautifying initiative is a cause that the GEEMD and its foundation are supporting and promoting.