Almost nine years after floodwaters from Hurricane Ike left two public housing sites uninhabitable in Galveston, Texas, displaced residents who were scattered throughout the region are returning home.

The mixed-income Villas on the Strand development connects Galveston's historic Strand commercial district to the East End.
Manny Chan The mixed-income Villas on the Strand development connects Galveston's historic Strand commercial district to the East End.

Developed by St. Louis–based McCormack Baron Salazar (MBS) in partnership with the Galveston Housing Authority, two new mixed-income housing developments—The Villas on the Strand and The Cedars at Carver Park—have been completed, overcoming years of opposition and a lawsuit from a local group concerned about mixed-income housing.

“We are accustomed to working through issues, but we didn’t anticipate how long it would take and the level of objection we had to work through,” says Vince Bennett, president of MBS. “We were glad to stick through it. There were many times that we were encouraged by others not to see it through, but it’s part of our DNA in terms of partnering with housing authorities and dealing with these issues of addressing the concerns of how mixed-income housing can be developed.”

To allay concerns, Bennett says MBS showcased best practices from its other public housing redevelopments. In addition, he says the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also was involved in helping to articulate why the federal agency and housing authorities have been adopting the mixed-income model.

The development team overcame the challenges to create the resilient and sustainable communities that are built to withstand future storm surges and flooding. The structures have a raised building design and feature storm-rated windows.

The 160-unit Villas on the Strand is in Galveston’s East End neighborhood. It includes 82 affordable and 78 market-rate units. The 122-unit Cedars at Carver Park is just west of downtown and includes 63 affordable and 59 market-rate units.

A portion of the units at both properties are reserved for public housing families returning to Galveston. MBS’ nonprofit partner, Urban Strategies, was able to reconnect with approximately 150 displaced households, with 49 of them deciding to return by the end of June.

“Residents who were displaced have been able to come back, and you see the joy in their faces and in their voices when they talk about coming home to a quality environment,” says Lou Bernardy, senior vice president and director of development, Texas, for MBS.

The redeveloped communities also include fitness centers, playgrounds, picnic areas and park space, and on-site management and maintenance. Both are expected to receive Enterprise Green Communities and Energy Star for Homes certifications.

In addition, the development team executed a series of public improvements and reintegrated the formerly segregated sites into the surrounding neighborhoods.

“We hit the target in terms of not only a high-quality development, but one that mixes incomes and really helps support the city and the neighborhood’s goals of a high-quality transformation,” says Bennett.

The $40 million Villas on the Strand and the $31.5 million Cedars at Carver Park and related public improvements were financed through HUD Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief funds administered through the Texas General Land Office as well as Replacement Housing Factor Funds and insurance proceeds through the Galveston Housing Authority and Galveston Public Facility Corp.