Mark Williamson knows too well the issues Super Neighborhood 15 (Greater Heights) has encountered in revitalization efforts. With that in mind, when he was elected president for a second time last year, he vowed to be more aggressive in his efforts to restore the Greater Heights Super Neighborhood to the beacon it once was.
In an attempt to re-awaken what has fallen from a vibrant super neighborhood to a dormant organization over the last several years, Super Neighborhood 15 gathered for its annual meeting Monday, March 27. Monday’s get together was the first since 2016, and has become annual instead of quarterly – the result of declining interest that seems to have pervaded the group since before Williamson initially left the presidency a few years ago.
“The Memorial and Houston Heights super neighborhoods used to be pointed to as examples to emulate. Once upon a time they were extremely active with lots of folks involved,” said Mark Klein, president of Super Neighborhood 12 (Garden Oaks/Oak Forest), who has interacted with SN 15’s leaders in past years.
Williamson had been fervently searching for an avenue of reviving it in the years since his last presidency, and Monday signaled what he hopes is just the beginning of bringing Super Neighborhood 15 back to life.
“When I was elected last year, I got very busy and didn’t do much of anything to try and revive it then,” he said. “The last time we amended our bylaws we said we were going to have an annual meeting to have elections, and that we would call meetings as an issue arose. As it so happened, no issue arose in the last year. We haven’t found anything to really rise to the level of a crisis or an interesting topic over the past year, and I resolved to see what I could do now to reenergize it.”
Shortly before SN #15 set the date for the annual get-together, however, an opportunity presented itself, in the form of representatives from the Houston High-Speed Rail Watch. Those in attendance Monday saw a presentation for a proposal on how best to connect a possible high-speed rail terminal in the area near Northwest Mall to downtown without undue impact on the neighborhoods in between. Knowing the community response the high speed rail has generated in past years, Williamson admitted to using it as an opportunity to try kick starting the revival and pique residents’ interest — and his hunch proved correct, as nearly every chair was full during the presentation.
“They were interested in coming to our meeting. I wanted to make it a public meeting so that people who were interested would be able to come and speak on that,” he said. “We could have meetings with executive committees just to hear what people have to say, but to make it a full council meeting with the public invited, it was appropriate to have them in this meeting.”
Not the first rodeo
Monday’s proceedings were not the first attempts to revive what appears to have become a stagnant Super Neighborhood. A similar effort was inspired in 2009 by a crime wave of home invasions and retail store robberies. After, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee initiated a series of public meetings at the Heights Library.
Williamson said one attendee voiced the opinion that such an issue was something that should be handled by the super neighborhood. It was at that moment the light bulb went on, and is what continues to drive Williamson in his revival attempts today.
“We looked at each other and said ‘Do we still have a Super Neighborhood?” he said. “We discovered we did have one, but it had fallen into complete disuse. We started the current incarnation — which is sleeping rather than dead — and I’m hoping to wake it back up.”
Despite potential obstacles presented by things ranging from a potential lack of resources to a lack of confidence that it helps get residents’ voices heard or something else, Williamson remained cautiously optimistic about the organization’s future.
“I’m hoping that Monday’s meeting will help us get back on track,” he said. “We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Those interested can visit the SN15 Facebook page at facebook.com/GreaterHeightsSNC/.