Alana Haynes House grew up visiting a friend on Eighth Street near the Health Sciences Center.
She was impressed with the old, stately houses of the boulevard wider than most of the streets in that part of the city.
“I ran in track meets just down the street at Douglass High School,” said the achievement-oriented 31-year-old attorney.
Little did she know back then that one day she would be purchasing two of those lots to build her own house in the 1200 block of NE eighth.
Where the impressive houses once stood is now a series of open lots – essentially “new” land in one of the oldest parts of Oklahoma City.
The area was first platted for development in 1901, six years before Oklahoma statehood.
She is taking advantage of the careful redevelopment process being carried out by Oklahoma City Urban Renewal with federal Housing and Urban Development funds.
For the last several decades Urban Renewal has been using those funds to buy up what some see as blighted neighborhoods in different parts of Oklahoma City.
“It’s close to everything. It’s quiet. It’s a great community,” House told Free Press.
House and her husband, Nkem, already live in an attractive house her husband owned when they married in a part of the John F. Kennedy neighborhood a few blocks away.
It’s a success story for the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority.
“When we moved over here it’s just been a great place to live,” House said.
Blighted houses in that oldest part of what had been the black part of the city during the years of legal segregation had been bought up with HUD money and converted to large, new, mostly owner-occupant housing in the past decade.
The neighborhood has the look of the suburbs, but is much quieter and culturally diverse with views of downtown office buildings from any yard.
Oldest new land
Now the development is slowly progressing toward downtown and the even older parts of the former segregated section of the city.
The crown jewel of the renewing neighborhood is the Page-Woodson development named after the impressive building at the center of the project at 600 N. High.
It was last the Page-Woodson Middle School, but was originally built as Douglass High School when all schools in Oklahoma were segregated.
Eventually, Douglass moved to its third location at NE eighth Street and Martin Luther King.
Legal segregation ended and people in the neighborhood started moving to other parts of the city.
Page-Woodson Middle School closed.
As the housing grew older it became blighted, then abandoned, leading to the purchasing program by Urban Renewal.
In 2017, the movement is not away from the once all-black neighborhoods, but toward them as downtown has been revitalized and people are beginning to repopulate the inner city once again.
Now Alana’s lots will be where a new generation of professionals are building.
And she will build a new home designed by her family on the oldest new land in Oklahoma City.
Update: Ownership of the House family’s current home has been corrected. We originally said it was a lease house.