The House Is on Fire: Race, Gentrification, Houston and the de Menil Family Legacy

On August 16, 2016, a Houston Chronicle article, “De Menil Plans Artist Enclave in Acres Homes,” detailed a new plan to build a development of fourteen single family houses for artists in Acres Homes, a historically Black neighborhood on the north side of the city. The homes would be in the $300-450,000 range, far higher than the median home price in the city in 2016: $230,000. The development is to be called NoLo Studios, a common real estate move to invent a new name that sounds like a high-rent New York City neighborhood (NoLo means North of the Loop). Though the press is new, it appears from what is available online that the efforts to develop Nolo Studios are not. 

Of course, this happens all the time: developers build new housing with stratospheric pricing in working-class Black and Brown neighborhoods around the country without engaging in dialogue with community residents. The open debate happening in Los Angeles and in other cities around the country about gentrification is uncommon here in Houston, and rarer still is a substantive and critical analysis of what is happening. Though there are occasional pieces in the local daily, weeklies, and arts and architecture press, what is missing is a vibrant and systematic analysis of this process that considers the perspectives of local residents, especially Black and Brown folks.

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