Rising tide : stormwater management, historic preservation, and sustainable redevelopment in Houston’s Fifth Ward
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Houston's Fifth Ward neighborhood is one of the last remaining areas of the inner city to have not yet seen large-scale redevelopment. Situated just northeast of downtown, the neighborhood's population is predominantly low- to mid-income African Americans; demographics are similar today as they were during the neighborhood's prime, from the 1920s-60s, when the Fifth Ward was a cultural hub of Houston famous for its musical culture of zydeco and blues. The ward's rich history also has dark spots, however, specifically its longstanding reputation as a center of poverty and violent crime, and its physical vulnerability to damaging floods. Much of the neighborhood's built history is unpreserved and unprotected, at risk of being wiped off the map by both development interests and extreme weather events. By modernizing the city's approach to stormwater management and infrastructure and strengthening its historic preservation and emergency management practices, Houston could help preserve one of its oldest communities, while also decreasing flood volumes, improving air and water quality, saving money, and establishing a pattern of smart growth citywide. In addition, neighborhood level efforts to promote placemaking via preservation and sustainability efforts can help the Fifth Ward leverage the redevelopment process to change its reputation, ensuring a future for the community that respects its past.