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Rockport revisited: Two years after Harvey

Mayor says affordable housing for workers is biggest issue

ROCKPORT, Texas – Even the little things in Rockport are reminders of Hurricane Harvey. 

"I've had 18 flats since the storm," said Mayor Patrick Rios, holding one of the nails that still litter the city.

Two years after the hurricane made landfall on the coast and devastated Rockport's homes and businesses with Category 4 winds, Rios said his city is on its way to recovery, even if the pace of it can be frustrating.

REBUILDING THE COAST

"You know, weeks go by and you sit there and you go, ‘I'm still working on this one project that I've been working on for three or four weeks,'" Rios said. "But if you look back after a month or a quarter or a year and you see how far you've come and how much the staff and how much help, you know, how much progress we have made, it's a little bit reassuring to know that we're getting there."

But as Rios guided KSAT on a tour of the city Sunday, it was clear there was still a ways to go. Next to rebuilt and fixed-up homes sat empty lots, where the wreckage had simply been cleared away. Rios said there are some instances where the city will have to step in on some properties where repairs haven't yet been made.

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"I hate to say it, but we might have to have them demolished, get them out of here from a health and safety standpoint," Rios said.

In a city where the population is estimated to have dropped from 10,500 to 8,500, the availability of affordable housing to which people could return is one of the biggest issues in Rios' eyes.

"Our businesses are starting to reopen, but they have staffing issues," Rios said. 

The city lost every multifamily apartment complex and every condominium due to Harvey, Rios said. Many condominium projects have come back, he said. Some are in the process of coming back.

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Some of the apartment complexes are also back, Rios said, including some that are subsidized. However, it's not enough to get everyone back in.

There are highlights amid the challenge, however.

Though some of the hotels do not appear like they will be returning to business, Rios said tourists have been coming back to Rockport.

And the city is close to finishing a reconstruction and revitalization project at Memorial Park. 

"This project will be the first project in the city of Rockport that we'll be able to completely tie a ribbon around and say, ‘We're done with this,'" Rios said.

Rios even views the pending relocation of City Hall as an opportunity. The old building has sat vacant since Harvey ripped open the roof. It suffered structural damage, and Rios said it is filled with mold. 

As a replacement, the city will be rebuilding in conjunction with a new county courthouse that Rios called a "downtown anchor project."

"It's going to be something that will anchor our downtown, will show people that Rockport is definitely back. We're here for the long run. We're here to stay," Rios said.

In all, the mayor hopes that Rockport will be "substantially" recovered within another three to five years.

For now, "It's going to look and feel different," Rios said. "But when three years from now, it's going to look so much better than it did before."


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