After 6 years, work will soon begin

After more than six years of planning between a longtime local arts nonprofit and the City of Houston, construction of a 32,000-square-foot cultural arts center, including two theaters, is set to begin this been to the site of a long strip mall in southwest Houston.

The Edison Cultural Arts Center, slated to open next year near West Fuqua and Hillcroft, is the brainchild of local nonprofit leader Charity Carter and her husband, Troy Carter. It will include a 400-seat theater named for the late Houston Councilman Larry Green, as well as the 165-seat Black Box Theater. The project will be the second and largest phase of the Edison Center master plan, whose repurposing of the 12.5-acre site near Houston’s border with Missouri City began with the opening of the 126-unit Edison Lofts apartments in September. .

Carter, a Missouri City native who opened the city’s Robert & Bertha Edison Performing Arts Center in 2007 (named after Carter’s parents), and Houston Vice Mayor Pro Tem Martha Castex-Tatum hope the project will serve model for community leaders to stimulate what they call “revitalization without gentrification”. In this case, Edison Center, with its mixed-income housing component, is envisioned as an example where a predominantly black community like the Fort Bend Houston neighborhood can benefit from and contribute to community investments while still having access to enough affordable housing to be protected. against being displaced by wealthier residents from outside the region.

cultural arts center in the Edison Center master plan, Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Missouri City.”/>

Charity Carter outside an empty strip mall, which is the future location of a cultural arts center in the Edison Center master plan, Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Missouri City.

Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle/staff photographer

“So many people are expecting ordeal to come and save our communities, but the government can’t do it alone,” said Castex-Tatum, who has served as the Carters’ liaison to the city since Green, a early political champions. of the project, died in 2018. “The Carters are an integral part of Fort Bend Houston and are truly civically engaged. That they wanted to invest there was extraordinary.

NEWSLETTERS

Join the conversation with HouWeAre


We want to foster conversation and highlight the intersection of race, identity, and culture in one of America’s most diverse cities. Sign up for the HouWeAre newsletter here.


A beneficial trick

For Charity Carter, the project began around 2015 when her nonprofit, which also runs summer and after-school dance and theater programs for children, began to outgrow its 3-mile Texas Parkway site. 200 square feet and had to start renting additional rooms for its theater. productions. Seeking to purchase a larger property, Carter, a third-generation entrepreneur, first looked at what was the former Premiere Cinema site in Missouri City before one of his student’s parents brought to his attention the 107,000 square foot Willowridge Commons site.

“It was four times the amount of space we needed for a fraction of the cost, so my dad gave me a serious amount of money for a down payment,” said Carter, 47, founder and president of the Edison Arts Foundation. “I knew Missouri City and Fort Bend Houston were a proud and historic African-American community that had disappeared, and I saw there could be a rebirth.”

Indeed, the region has long had a strong black presence. Established in 1837, Fort Bend County in 1850 was one of six counties in Texas where blacks made up the majority of the population, according to the Texas State Historical Association. More recently, Missouri City was the site of an influx of middle-class black families in the 1970s, while notable Willowridge High School alumni include NFL Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ actor Isaiah Washington. Missouri City’s population today is approximately 40% black, 18% Asian, and 18% Latino.

Charity Carter outside an empty mall, which is the future location of a cultural <a class=arts center in the Edison Center master plan, next to the Edison Lofts Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Missouri City.”/>

Charity Carter outside an empty mall, which is the future location of a cultural arts center in the Edison Center master plan, next to the Edison Lofts Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Missouri City.

Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle/staff photographer

“The [Edison Center] The site is in the city of Houston, has an address in the city of Missouri, and is in Fort Bend County, so it’s a mutt,” Carter said. “But pooches are great because they’re mixed. This is what this area represents for me.

In 2016, however, the Fuqua Street mall site had seen better days. Once anchored by a Kroger supermarket, the mall gradually fell into disrepair when the grocer moved over 20 years ago, leaving the site with a collection of local businesses and empty storefronts.

“The gendarme had an office there just to keep an eye on the property,” Castex-Tatum said. “It was a horror.”

The plan comes together

Beginning with Green, however, Carter began recruiting public sector advocates for public funding as well as potential architects and developers to outline a project that would include a residential component to complement the arts center, including the 400 places will be built. off the former supermarket site. Houston-based developer DWR Development Group was contracted to build the residential component and Studio Red Architects of Houston was hired as the designer.

Meanwhile, the City of Houston provided $8 million for the $26 million project, where 19 of 126 apartments are rented at market price while 54 units have been set aside for households earning 50% or less of income. median of the region. Other funding sources have included $3 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act — the COVID-19 stimulus package passed by Congress in early 2021 — and $2 million from the George Foundation — a fund established in 1945 by wealthy Fort Bend County ranch owners Albert and Mamie George.

An affordable apartment surrounds the pool at Edison Lofts on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Missouri City.

An affordable apartment surrounds the pool at Edison Lofts on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Missouri City.

Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle/staff photographer

Launched in September, Edison Lofts was fully let late last year and has a waiting list for its units. The resort includes a swimming pool, outdoor grilling area, business center and fitness club as well as on-site solar panels to offset some of the property’s electricity costs. Korey Swoopes, a 27-year-old manager at UPS, moved into a two-bedroom unit at Edison Lofts with his 11-year-old daughter last year and has so far enjoyed living there. Living in the area since childhood, Swoopes, who pays market price for his unit, said he hopes the new apartment complex and arts center will entice neighboring landlords and businesses to invest in the improvement of their properties.

“This is the best apartment in the area, hands down,” said Swoopes, who noted his daughter uses the computers and printers in the business center to complete school projects.

The Edison Lofts clubhouse on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Missouri City.

The Edison Lofts clubhouse on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Missouri City.

Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle/staff photographer

“They have pretty much everything you need,” he said.

Carter estimated the project still needed another $2 million to be fully built, though she said the Houston-based Brown Foundation — founded in 1951 by Herman and Margarett Root Brown and George R. and Alice Pratt Brown – agreed last month to contribute. $1.5 million.

“For so long, the Fort Bend Houston community has felt like a forgotten area, so this is just another opportunity to amplify its importance,” Castex-Tatum added. “We are still looking for people to help bring this project across the finish line, but success breeds success.



Comments are closed.