A concentration of revitalization efforts in Alief — a proud Southwest Houston neighborhood known for its diversity of people, cultures and businesses — is taking hold on Bellaire Street. Property owners are redeveloping shopping centers along the major economic thoroughfare, and the city of Houston approved a new $58M community center to anchor the commercial corridor. “Bellaire is jumping,” Alief Super Neighborhood Council Vice President Noreen Smith said. Will the investment activity seep into much-needed residential redevelopment? Community leaders hope so. All but one multifamily property in Alief is classified as Class-B and lower and the majority were built in the 1980s, which makes the area primed for redevelopment, and residents are ready to see more investment flow into their neighborhood.
The Alief community is often overlooked and undervalued, Alief Super Neighborhood Council President Barbara Quattro said. A new community center breaking ground next year has taken nearly two decades to be funded and approved by the city. She believes the slowness of redevelopment in parts of the community stems from a lack of governmental support and leadership and inactivity from local property owners. “They don’t call [Alief] the forgotten district for nothing,” Quattro said. Bounded by Westheimer on the north, Beltway 8 on the east, the Fort Bend County line on the west and Interstate 59 on the south, Alief has become a magnet for people looking for an affordable place to live relatively close to the city center. The median household income was less than $40K in 2017, according to the U.S. Census 2017 American Community Survey for ZIP codes 77072 and 77099. It is an increasingly diverse community within the overall cultural melting pot of Houston. About 38% of Alief residents are white, 25% black, 18% Asian and 20% other races, per the census.
“People like to come here for the diversity, the food and the price point,” said Southwest Realty Group founder Kenneth Li, who was also a founding owner of Chinatown, a commercial district east of Beltway 8 on Bellaire Street. “It is not just people in Houston. People know this is the place you come to see the diversity of Houston and authentic restaurants that you can only find in this community.”
The community has welcomed immigrants, refugees, middle- and working-class families, and they have formed a strong identity for Alief. “If you ask people where they live, they say Alief, not Houston. That is Alief proud,” Quattro said. But the perspective of the area can vary vastly between insiders and outsiders, and though some investors have seen value in commercial development they have been slow on multifamily redevelopment.
Publication: Houston Business Journal