A last-minute meeting at the Northside Community Center on Friday turned heated during presentations of a $3 million revitalization plan for the neighborhood that’s set to be approved by City Council next week.
Northside residents who attended the meeting expressed concern to City Councilman Carlos Flores that the project will eventually give way to further Panther Island development and eventual gentrification.
This is not the case, Flores said, and emphasized that the Panther Island project is completely separate and unrelated to the plan.
The meeting called after members of the grassroots organizations El Voto Es Latino and Comunidad 27 canvassed around the neighborhood on Thursday asking residents if they knew about the revitalization project.
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Tristeza Ordex-Ramirez from El Voto es Latino said they were able to visit 200 homes within a few hours.
The plan was announced in December and will be voted on by city council on Tuesday, January 15. If approved, the funds will be allocated to the Northside and city staff will start connecting with community members to understand which issues are most pressing.
Northside resident Olga Velasquez said the beginning of these repairs make her nervous. She said it signals the beginning of the end for the families who one day will not be able to afford to live in the neighborhood as it’s developed over time.
“It’s just that everything around us is coming up and improving and then suddenly this plan comes in to ‘revitalize’ this area,” Velasquez said. “It’s just suspicious and a lot of people are scared.”
Flores and city staff presented several indicators that they said are concerns for the city, building a case for a need for “stabilization” in the neighborhood. Those indicators are poverty, crime, unemployment and education.
The revitalization project, however, would address fixing sidewalks, adding street lamps and more. Further specific planning will take place after the funds are allocated.
Some residents came to the meeting because they wanted more information about the mailers they’ve received from developers offering to buy their homes. Flores referred them to the state attorney general’s office to report them.
Arnoldo Hurtado of Comunidad 27 asked Flores to delay the vote so more community members can give their input and learn about what will happen to their neighborhood. Flores said the vote has no bearing or negative impact on community outreach that needs to be done. Instead, it authorizes the money to become available for the indicated part of the neighborhood.
On Saturday, Jan. 12, El Voto es Latino and Comunidad 27 will host an event on Arneson Park at 9 a.m. to answer further questions about the revitalization project.