When you’re driving around Fort Worth’s east side Historic Stop Six neighborhood, you can’t help but notice the large number of vacant lots and the wide open spaces.
A year ago, the neighborhood didn’t look that way. Some lots had dilapidated and boarded up homes on them or were covered in weeds and dead trees. Or worse, they were covered in piles of trash that had been dumped illegally.
A new city program designed to jump-start troubled and underserved neighborhoods is turning that around. So much so that’s it is attracting local and out-of-town developers to Stop Six, something that hasn’t happened much in decades.
Lester Jones’ family has been in the home-building industry for decades. He grew up in Stop Six, and has returned to the area to build homes.
“I know what a thriving neighborhood it was in the past,” Jones said. The revitalization program, he said, “is right on time for that area.”
Jones Construction Co., run by his wife, Renee Jones, plans to build two $300,000 custom homes and has a $175,000 home under construction on Willie Street.
Historic Stop Six is considered one of the city’s most underserved and poorest neighborhoods. About 78 percent of the households are low- to moderate-income.
“Oh, yeah, it’s been neglected,” says Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, whose district includes Stop Six and Cavile Place, one of two public housing complexes dedicated to low-income people.
But, Bivens says: “It’s a two-way street. It’s not just the city neglecting its people, but people who do not know they have the voice to call. They’re dumping here every day. Put a sign up, put a camera up.”
And that’s what happened.
Stop Six/Cavile Place, a predominately African-American community, was chosen from a list of six places a year ago as the pilot for a revitalization program designed to pump money into improving some of the city’s more vulnerable neighborhoods. In all, $2.56 million will be spent in Historic Stop Six/Cavile Place.
The targeted area is bordered by Rosedale Street on the north, Ramey Avenue on the south, Stalcup Road on the east and just west of Edgewood Terrace on the west.
Public safety is the program’s focus, but improving a neighborhood’s appearance is also key. The program’s success will be determined by measuring data, such as crime stats and economic numbers, and intangible things such as improved public perception. It’s hoped the program’s impact would be felt for years to come.
As of August, 100 street lights, 77 feet of sidewalk and 77 handicap accessible curb ramps had been installed. The city and its contractors cleared 86 miles of curbs, removed 180 tons of trash and removed 266 trees. Dozens of properties have been acquired for single-family development.
“Stop Six has always been this freedom area, where you come and do what you want,” Bivens said. “It never had any positive news until this project came about. It was always bad news Stop Six.”
Ossie Brooks, 79, who has lived in Stop Six most of her life, said development is one of the first things she’s noticed.
“People are buying and making renovations,” Brooks said. “They’re nice houses now. I love Stop Six. I have no reason to move. I wish they could eradicate crime.”
Money to spend
As of Nov. 6, $1.62 million of the program’s budget had been spent, with the bulk of it, $883,437, on street and sidewalk construction and new streetlights. In September, Fort Worth police began installing surveillance cameras on the east side to help with crime-fighting efforts. In all, 18 cameras are up, with 10 of those in Stop Six revitalization program area.
Fort Worth Police Capt. Michael Shedd said it’s too early to tell what impact the cameras have had.
“I can tell you we’ve made numerous arrests,” Shedd said.
The balance of the project funds, about $941,000, will be spent by March 31, according to the city.
Eddie Brinkley, president of the Historic Stop Six Neighborhood Association, said a great number of streets have been repaired, many he feared would never be fixed.
“Lloyd Avenue is up to drivable standards,” Brinkley said. “It’s a lot better now. We’re moving in the right direction. What we want to see happen next is commercial businesses move in and put people to work. All the ingredients are there.”
Land is available and many residents need jobs, Brinkley said. The unemployment rate in Stop Six is about 21.5 percent, or 2.5 times the citywide average, according to figures.
Bivens said the home construction has spurred other residents to spruce up their properties. One nearby owner recently put a fresh coat of exterior paint on her home and the church down the street cleared a lot and is building a parking lot, she said.
“If you just start something, the people who have the means to do so will step up,” Bivens said. “I can promise you, things are better. People were, and remain, appreciative, even the ones who know there was neglect. They say thank-you now.”
A helping community
Bruce Datcher, pastor for the past 14 years of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church on Amanda Avenue, said they’ve welcomed all the new street lighting near his church. But he’s hoping the city’s initial work will spur residents to help each other.
“We’ve actually seen work taking place,” Datcher said. “It will be our responsibility to maintain what we already have. It’s a good start. I pray the progress will continue.”
As the yearlong program winds down and the city looks for its next neighborhood, City Manager David Cooke said some of the success of Stop Six will be measured by how much private investment comes along.
“Hopefully, we learn from this — what would we do different with the next neighborhood,” Cooke said.
So far, Brinkley, the neighborhood association president, said the program is working.
“I definitely would not give it an F. It would definitely be a B-plus,” Brinkley said.