Written by Matthew Pelz
In the three years since Hurricane Ike hit Galveston Island, Texas, the Galveston Historical Foundation has formed several partnerships with other community groups to promote an effective and lasting recovery. Our most recent projects bring us into cooperation with the Galveston Redevelopment and Community Enterprise (GRACE), a non-profit organization affiliated with the Galveston Housing Authority. GHF and GRACE will work together to purchase and rehabilitate neglected buildings to create affordable homes and workplaces for Galvestonians.
The program will revitalize neighborhoods and corridors through the redevelopment of mixed-use buildings at locations with economic potential. In keeping with this strategy, the first two buildings purchased through the partnership stand at the corner of 14th Street and Avenue L. One is a corner store that, like dozens of similar buildings through the city, served a vital role in early Galveston neighborhoods. The other is a late-19th-century cottage with unique architectural character. Both houses have survived countless hurricanes, proving the durability of their design and materials. In recent years, various owners altered and abandoned the houses, leaving them vulnerable to demolition before GHF and GRACE completed their purchase.
As managers of the projects, GHF plans to rehabilitate both buildings according to their original functions. The corner store will contain both residential and retail spaces and will feature a canopy to replace the original one lost during mid-20th-century renovations. The cottage, long vacant and in poor condition, will be a durable, sustainable home utilizing rainwater harvesting, energy-efficient technology, and climate-appropriate building envelope strategies.
GHF and GRACE will involve the community at every stage of the projects to maximize their potential as seeds for further development. We also continue to look for more opportunities to expand our partnerships. As we have learned during the disaster recovery process, the most successful efforts invariably come from different community groups finding common ground and working together at every opportunity.
Matthew Pelz is a Project Coordinator with the Preservation and Conservation Services division of the Galveston Historical Foundation.