Houston's Emancipation Avenue District Partners with Prestigious Revitalization Program

A community-based economic revitalization initiative, focused on Emancipation Avenue (formerly Dowling Street) in Houston’s Third Ward, will work with the Texas Historical Commission (THC) as part of the Texas Main Street Program in 2018. 

Through its participation, the Emancipation Avenue Provisional Main Street will take advantage of the award-winning economic revitalization program that helps historic commercial neighborhoods develop while preserving their heritage. Emancipation Avenue will enter the Texas Main Street Program in the provisional category. This status allows the THC to better understand the community's historic assets and challenges by working over the coming year with community stakeholders, the Emancipation Economic Development Council (EEDC), and their partnering application sponsor, Project Row Houses.  

The Main Street program emphasizes entrepreneurship and small-scale, incremental developments that are sustainable for the community, while still promoting significant economic activity and investment. Provisional participation in the program contributes to a foundation for full participation in the Main Street program in 2019 and the creation of a customized tool kit of solutions for the neighborhood, helping residents and property owners balance new investment with home-grown enterprises and revitalization. Ultimately, the full program could be utilized along the Emancipation Avenue corridor from Alabama Street to Interstate 45, once a vibrant business corridor serving the heart of one of Houston's most influential African American communities. 

"The timing for this is ideal, coinciding with the City of Houston’s Complete Communities Initiative and the work of community partnerships like the Emancipation Economic Development Council," said THC Executive Director Mark Wolfe. "The community and stakeholders have already invested in numerous successful planning efforts, and our reputable Main Street model will complement and advance that planning." 

Houston last participated in the Texas Main Street Program with the Downtown Market Square district from 1991–2000. It has been almost a decade since the program has worked with a commercial neighborhood within the state’s largest cities. 

"We are excited and poised for this opportunity to strengthen and deepen our community's collective efforts to revitalize, preserve, and protect the historic Third Ward through our participation in the Texas Main Street Program," said Assata Richards, vice chair, Emancipation Economic Development Council. 

During 2018, Emancipation Avenue area stakeholders will work on developing neighborhood commercial revitalization projects with THC staff from the Texas Main Street Program and its affiliated Town Square Initiative. The application to the THC was submitted by Project Row Houses, an arts and culture nonprofit in the neighborhood, with the EEDC. The Main Street and Town Square programs will officially begin their relationship with the district January 1. 

The Texas Main Street Program began in 1981 as one of the first state coordinating programs in the U.S. Since then, 176 Texas communities have participated in the program, generating more than $3.7 billion in overall reinvestment into historic downtowns, creating more than 37,000 jobs and 9,200 small businesses. 

For more information on the Texas Main Street Program, visit the THC’s website at www.thc.texas.gov/mainstreet. 

Project Row Houses is a community-based arts and culture nonprofit organization in Houston’s northern Third Ward, one of the city’s oldest African American neighborhoods. The mission of Project Row Houses is to be the catalyst for transforming community through the celebration of art and African American history and culture. Learn more at ProjectRowHouses.org 

The Emancipation Economic Development Council (EEDC) is a collaborative of organized, informed, and engaged faith-based organizations, nonprofits, community development corporations, businesses, residents, local government entities, and other stakeholders from the community. Learn more at http://emancipationhouston.org