Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Texas: Allen Parkway Village Redevelopment Project (Houston)
During August and September, the consultant archeologists hired by the Housing Authority for the City of Houston (HACH) excavated 411 human burials from the Allen Parkway Village (APV) complex. The condition of the burials was varied, from scant remains to intact burials with associated burial artifacts. The orientation of the burials, the use of wood caskets, and the features of the coffin/casket remains, are consistent with mortuary practices of the late nineteenth century. Determination of the ethnicity of the burials may present a challenge given the relatively scant skeletal remains.
The burials will be removed, documented, and reinterred in a cemetery created by the city in the northeast corner of the redevelopment project. This option does not affect the project design, as it will use an area previously designated for use as a children's playground. A final report will be prepared for the consulting parties and the community that details the results of the excavation and provides an overview of what the burials and associated burial artifacts reveal about the former cemetery.
In December 1995, the Council executed an MOA with HUD, the Texas SHPO, and HACH for the redevelopment of APV, a public housing complex constructed in 1941. The project includes funding from several HUD programs with the largest amount, $36 million, allocated from HUD's HOPE VI program, a new initiative focused on revitalizing distressed public housing by reducing its density and attracting mixed-income populations.
APV and the adjacent Freedmen's Town Historic District are both listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Consultation for this undertaking was complex given the objections of residents and their historic preservation advisors to any redevelopment that would not preserve the complex in its entirety. Consultation focused on direct and indirect effects to both properties, with considerable concern among the community regarding future development within Freedmen's Town. Consideration was also given to potential effects on archeological sites identified during preliminary testing, including possible human remains associated with a cemetery removed in 1941 to facilitate construction of APV.
While HACH was preparing the infrastructure for new construction, contractors encountered several sets of human remains. In accordance with the terms of the MOA, which had anticipated the discovery of burials, the signatories developed a plan for the treatment of the remains. The Council endorsed the implementation procedures required under the treatment plan. However, the mayor subsequently halted all construction activities in response to widespread community interest in this late-19th-century cemetery thought to contain remains of African Americans. Residents and preservation advocates objected to the treatment plan that had been developed, requesting that the burials be left in place rather than removed and reinterred. Eventually, HACH selected an option that will require disinterment, but will keep them on site at APV.
Charlene Dwin Vaughn
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