Corpus Christi neighborhood under attack

“We don’t allow other people to speak to who we are. We speak, we define who we are, and we are a neighborhood.”

Longtime Hillcrest resident Henry Williams

Hillcrest, a historically African American neighborhood first established in the Jim Crow-era, is no stranger to the industrialization of Corpus Christi, with refineries prominently located in their backyards.  

It’s an ongoing issue, accounting for the dwindling number of residents in the neighborhood over the years, and one the remaining residents figured had been settled when the federal government stepped in and offered a housing buyout back in 2015, after a Title VI lawsuit was filed with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.

A buyout many remaining Hillcrest residents stated simply wasn’t comparable enough and one they just couldn’t afford in the long run. 

“How could you afford the buyout?” said 65-year-long resident Lamont Taylor, as he explained the weight of the benefits not matching up.

“Say you have a 2,100-square-foot property and they decide to offer you a 1,500-square-foot property somewhere else. Is that fair? Is that equitable?”

For Henry Williams, another longtime resident, this neighborhood represents history, and one he simply refuses to leave behind. 

“I live in the home that my father built,” said Williams who later identified his father as Dr. H.J. Williams. “There are two parks in the Hillcrest neighborhood, and they are both named after my father who was one of the earliest civil rights leaders during the earliest Civil Rights Movement here in Corpus Christi.” 

Yet, after the chaos of the buyout subsided and the remaining residents assumed the city’s industrial projects in that area would no longer take place, the location for Corpus Christi’s newest desalination plant was revealed to the public in 2022.

The city’s proposed Desalination Wastewater Treatment Plant had been originally labeled as the Inner Harbor project, a much broader term compared to the actual location of the Hillcrest neighborhood. 

“We were never informed beforehand, we didn’t even know that they considered the Inner Harbor Hillcrest,” said Taylor. 

“We were simply told,” said another long-time resident Daniel Pena. He explained the hopeless state many remaining residents were left in, who simply wanted to just piece what’s left of their neighborhood back together again.

According to the residents, another shocking factor of the plan was the fact that the city was also planning on building the desalination plant within the neighborhood’s designated buffer zone. 

“The city had labeled the area as that themselves,” said Taylor.

“They were not to build anything inside the buffer zone, and then the city just decided to do it anyway, without even letting us know beforehand.”

Corpus Christi City Councilmember Jim Klein, who also opposes the Hillcrest plant, revealed that the facility could have been located just about anywhere else.

“The water that’s going to be generated by this desalination plant, if it’s built, is gonna provide water for the entire water system and city.” 

“So, you could really build the desal plant anywhere they have a water source. You can build it whether it’s in the ship channel, you can build it over in Flour Bluff or you can build it along Ocean Drive,” said Klein. 

“We’re convinced that this plant was simply a bad idea for the neighborhood and for the environment,” said Williams.

“That it would be detrimental to the Hillcrest neighborhood in the sense that it will deal with the decrease in our property values. It will also bring additional industrial problems close to contamination and eventually lead to the ultimate contamination of our waters.”

As for the decision of this plant being next to a populated area, Klein also shared his opposing viewpoint to the majority of the council. 

“It’s not for a neighborhood, it’s not going to be good for them. There may be air emissions from the desal plant, but at the very least there’s gonna be a lot of noise from it as well.” 

“This is your grandmother, your grandfather, your great-grandmother you are doing this to,” said Pena, as he identified the majority of remaining Hillcrest residents as seniors.

“So, who are they ultimately taking advantage of by doing this? The poor and the old.”

As many residents see it, this plant is just another issue thrust onto the Hillcrest neighborhood by the industrialization projects of Corpus Christi. 

Another issue they simply can’t handle, tacked onto the long list of basic quality-of-life issues they are already facing, according to Pena.

“We can’t keep neglecting what’s going on in our neighborhood. There’s corners without lights, people with tarps still over their roofs, even telephone poles falling over that have been that way since the storm of 2017 and still haven’t been fixed,” said Pena, as he explained the challenge of having to personally move out whole apartment complexes because sewage was backing up into the building.

“We’re still trying but we’re losing hope. There’s nothing for the residents to grasp, the city has not made it available to us, so it’s as simple as that.”

Ultimately, it is the opinion of Pena and many others that, “desalination is a good idea when it’s done the right way.”

Which according to residents means not in our closed-bay system and certainly not next to their neighborhood. 

As for the claims of some stating that the community of Hillcrest doesn’t qualify as an actual neighborhood, Williams says it best. 

“We don’t allow other people to speak to who we are. We speak, we define who we are, and we are a neighborhood.”

6 thoughts on “Corpus Christi neighborhood under attack

  1. I was told earlier on before the relocation program that our properties would not used for commercial use. Desalination plant would be used to serve the local industry water shortages in future years . It’s clearly theft by deception . The four part agreement was was written with very vague language to benefit the Port of Corpus Christi . The stance of the creation of jobs Is a far fetch in that most plants are operating under new technology instead of them using manpower . Promises were made at during negotiations and now their claims are not come to fruition . And yes having sold our family home of 60 years was a sore mistake for myself and family .

    Ron Navarro
    1414 Peabody cctx 78407
    Corpus Christi Community Advisory Board Member 8 years

  2. Corpus Christi does what the hell they want. They say..come vote or come do this. But, we the minority black..brown and some white..get treated like dirt! There’s no help for the homeless people who are not all drug addicts. Some can’t afford life. With a disabled get about 555.00 in monthly benefits and maybe 128.00 in food stamps. What the fuck can you do with that!!! I’m tired of this crap?! We the minority need to stand up for one another.stop voting for the same people who promise to do this and that. But nothing ever gets done.

  3. I lived in 901 Lexington ave for 60 yrs of my life .We were given a great opportunity to be relocated. I just don’t understand why these people are refusing to relocate.

  4. This is a common practice in low income neighborhoods throughout the U.S.. There is no regard for minorities, when there is a city, county or state project that the well to do do’nt want in their area those governments will readily impose it on the poor. The poor have less resources to fight back with, so it’s a slam-dunk.

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