• Antron Johnson

Entrepreneurs buy entire blocks in Fifth Ward to revitalize and bring in black-owned businesses

Updated: Jun 18

What inspires Houston real estate broker Jay Bradley is to serve, strengthen and give back to his community. It's that drive that helped forge a plan with developer Chris Senegal to renovate and revitalize blocks within Houston's historic Fifth Ward.

"When you end up finding someone who has a similar passion, the path becomes its own," Bradley, owner of Equinox Realty Group said. "The path at this point is to help the community."

Bradley is in collaboration with Senegal and Cocoa Collective Xchange to bring black-owned businesses into Fifth Ward neighborhoods,  calling the mission Buying the Block. 

Senegal first started the redevelopment mission in the Fifth Ward by buying an old grocery store. After buying partially abandoned property near Liberty Road, Senegal began building 14 new construction town homes on the property which attracted young black professionals to be homeowners in the project.

He's now planning to redevelop other blocks to help build homes for families who have lived in the Fifth Ward for decades.

The big-picture vision for Buying the Block is to draw investors back into the community to help fund long-term rentals, flanked by commercial property, potentially including a restaurant, office space and a coffee shop. The initiative has raised $650,000 from 1,025 investors so far.

"I have enough to complete the project," Senegal added. "Additional investor funds will be used to acquire adjacent properties to expand the scope of the project."

Senegal was motivated to spearhead this project after he saw the damaging impact of "flipping homes."

"It takes a long time to realize the macro impact of flipping houses," Senegal said.  "People would ask me, 'Are you about to raise the rent?' or 'Who are you bringing into the community because we can't afford that.'"

Senegal added that a community will flourish when there's a continuity that exists."When the community feels neglected, people come in and they don't have an affiliation with the neighbors, " Senegal said. "You need to give more of a sense of revitalization to the neighborhood."

As the broker in the Fifth Ward real estate deals, Bradley echoes Senegal's sentiments to keep the ties strong and sustainable within the community.

One of the most important things for Bradley is also showing his 13-year-old daughter what it means to have a responsibility to serve others in your community.

"It's less about the dollar amount for me now, and now it's more about serving your community," Bradley said. "This is what she sees. It's a responsibility to do good for the next person."

Bradley adds that the beauty of Houston is that it thrives on its diversity.

"We have the most diverse community in the country," Bradley said.  "There's a need for diversity and inclusion so that everyone's needs get met. It's for Houston. We all thrive, and we are all better for it."

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