At “Night Out on 15th Street,” the city’s annual 5-course charity dinner (from local restaurants), at a 300 foot long table down middle of street in historic arts district
Biggie Smalls’ Big Poppa (“and that’s what people call me”).
With a mature city and aging infrastructure, Plano (pop 286k) wondered: How do you keep older neighborhoods vibrant and desirable so people want to live in that part of town?
The year after his election, Harry started the “Great Update Rebate,” incentivizing residents to rehab the exterior their homes. Criteria: homes must be at least 35 years old, valued at $230k or less (indexed to inflation), and used mainly to improve what creates curb appeal, eg, siding, windows, and fences, not interior granite counters or backyard swimming pools. The city will contribute 1 dollar for every 4 you spend, up to a renovation value of $20,000.
Harry says he thought of this because realtors told him certain areas of town had great schools and people wanted to live there, but when they drove up to see houses for sale, they never went in because they didn’t look as appealing as they could.
The results? As of June, the program has been going 38 months, there have been 404 applicants, and homeowners have invested $10,576,000 in renovations at an average cost of $26k. 91% of the homes are owner-occupied, and most are in the central part of town. The city has put in less than $2 million.
In addition, Plano is purposely coordinating infrastructure and revitalization projects in those neighborhoods, such as creating intersections and medians, and installing traffic lights. Staff will review elements of the program after this year and perhaps tweak it a bit, but Harry says basically it’s been a big success.
Born in Haiti and grew up in Harlem at Broadway and 125th in the shadow of the Cotton Club and Apollo Theatre. Mom cleaned offices, dad worked in factory and drove taxis. Got a BS in geology from City College of NY (’85). In 1994, followed the woman who would become his wife to Dallas (she came to do marketing at Frito Lay). Good with numbers, Harry became a financial advisor: eight years with AG Edwards, five with Morgan Stanley, now at UBS. Served on the City Council 2005 to 2011, elected in 2013 as Plano’s first African-American mayor (only 7% of its population is African-American).
Likes watching reality TV shows with his two teenage daughters, eg, Love and Hip Hop (filmed in NY), and Love and Hip Hop Atlanta. Laughs at how unreal the “reality” show is, and tells his kids they’re learning great “negative” life lessons from watching.