Buying The Block: Entrepreneurs Buy Entire Blocks In Houston’s 5th Ward To Revitalize, Bring In Black-Owned Businesses

Written by Ann Brown
Buying The Block: Entrepreneurs buy entire blocks in Houston’s Fifth Ward to revitalize and to bring in Black-owned businesses. Photo: Buying The Block/Chris Senegal

One way to control what happens in your community is to own it. That’s what entrepreneurs are doing in Houston’s Fifth Ward with the help of crowdfunding. They are buying the community, block by block, and bringing in Black-owned businesses.

Houston real estate broker Jay Bradley and developer Chris Senegal came up with a plan 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, told the Houston Chronicle. “The path at this point is to help the community.”

The plan to rejuvenate the Fifth Ward is a collaboration between Senegal and the Cocoa Collective Xchange, a “conscious commerce” community marketplace that aims to lure Black-owned businesses into the area. The mission is called Buying the Block

Senegal started his redevelopment mission in the Fifth Ward by buying an old grocery store. Later Senegal began building 14 new construction townhomes on the property. This attracted young Black professionals who wanted to be homeowners in the project. It’s not only about bringing new people into the neighborhood. Senegal is also planning to redevelop other blocks to help build homes for families that have lived in the Fifth Ward for decades.

Buying the Block ultimately wants to attract investors back into the community to help fund long-term rentals along with commercial property, potentially including a restaurant, office space and a coffee shop. So far, the initiative has raised $657,000 from 1,038 investors on its crowdfunding portal, which offers investments in real estate projects under Regulation Crowdfunding, aka Title III Crowdfunding.

“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.”

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“When the community feels neglected, people come in and they don’t have an affiliation with the neighbors,” Senegal added. “You need to give more of a sense of revitalization to the neighborhood.”

There have been other buy-the-block efforts to empower Black communities across the country. Linda Smith launched the Buy the Block crowdfunding platform in 2010 offering investments that have the main goal of helping Black communities, according to Yield Talk. This initiative offers investors an opportunity to invest as little as $100, and connect with other investors to buy a piece of their first block, Black News reported.