Many real estate developers had approached local artist and personality, Kiki Neumann, in an attempt to purchase her 2-acre lot in Garden Oaks/Oak Forest over the years but, when the Friendswood Development Co. stepped up, the stars aligned. A new, planned community will occupy the 2-acre tract located at Lehman Road at North Shepherd Drive.
FDC is planning its third urban community in Houston on the parcel. The company will offer 10, two-story duplexes and 2, single-family homes in the 22-unit development which will include a pond with a community green space and a 100-year-old Oak tree at it center. Each home will have its own driveway and backyard, and most will start in the low $300,000s.
“I was not seeking to sell,” Neumann explained. “I’ve enjoyed the property for 20 years, but it simply became too difficult for me to take care of it. My family has ties to Friendswood Development so I already knew they are good citizens and good people. It was the right time for me to sell, but it was also a great choice for the local area.”
The Neumann family goes way back with FDC. Both of Kiki Neumann’s parents were professors with the University of Houston and held six degrees between them. Her father, Alfred Neumann, was the first chancellor of UH-Clearlake. Today, the library on its campus is named in his honor.
When Kiki’s dad lead the launch of UH-Clearlake as its first chancellor in the 1970s, FDC donated 480 acres for the university’s campus due to his work. Friendswood Development decided to name its Oak Forest/Garden Oaks community, “Neumann Oaks” to honor the entire Neumann family.
Always ahead of her time, Kiki Neumann tended a 1,000-square-foot garden on her land, raised goats and chickens, rescued homeless pets and created lots of one-of-a kind art. She has earned a following for her artwork crafted from reclaimed items such as old city fencing, yardsticks, and license plates.
What will happen to Neumann now?
The artist was introduced to another type of planned community. Avenue CDC is a Heights-based nonprofit agency dedicated to building affordable homes – a rare commodity in the near north. The organization’s mission includes enhancing the quality of life of locals while promoting healthy, vibrant, diverse neighborhoods.
With most of its development located north of downtown, Avenue CDC also operates affordable rental housing, preserves historic structures, and uses green building techniques to ensure energy efficiency.
Following the sale of her property, Neumann says it took her all of five minutes to decide to buy a home in CDC’s new “Avenue Place” located at Irvington Boulevard and Weiss Street. “The community has a walking trail, green space and a park. Each home has it’s own driveway and backyard, and we have a community garden and orchard. The best part is that every home costs less than $300,000. Where else am I going to find that around here?” she asked.
Avenue CDC also offers help to low income buyers. Down payment assistance is available up to $46,000 for income-eligible folks and families who earn 120 percent or less of the area’s median income.
There are still homes to be had. Avenue Place contains 76 newly constructed, single-family, homes with 95 as the target. While 41 have sold to low- or mid-income assisted buyers, another 28 went to regular buyers.
And why not? The community is sufficiently attractive to buck the stereotype of “affordable housing,” while remaining affordable.
“I really appreciate the feeling of unity there,” added Neumann.” We have all kinds of people – professionals, young families, educators, entrepreneurs, retirees, and artists. There is also mix of religions, ethnicities and members of the LGBT community too. The first few days after I moved, neighbors brought me house-warming gifts and home-baked cookies. It feels wonderful to be a part of this. I think Avenue Place was my destiny all along,” Neumann concluded.
For more information about Avenue CDC and what they do, readers can visit their website at avenuecdc.org/.