A group of pastors, business owners and community leaders from the city’s southeast side stood ready Wednesday to start tackling crime and poverty issues in the Ash Crescent neighborhood.
Gathered at Cooper Missionary Baptist Church on Riverside Drive, the neighborhood leaders, along with Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray, Mayor Betsy Price and city staff, kicked off revitalization efforts that will take place over the next year. On Tuesday night, the City Council approved a resolution designating Ash Crescent for the Neighborhood Improvement Program and funding those efforts with $2.77 million in one-time money.
“I see it as a great opportunity,” said Barry Harper, pastor of Greater United Missionary Baptist Church and president of the Belmont Neighborhood Association, which was created less than a year ago to start drawing attention to the neighborhood.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Harper said. “I grew up over here. I just recently moved back. It’s a great neighborhood.”
Ash Crescent is the second neighborhood selected for the revitalization program, designed to make street, sidewalk and other quality-of-life improvements. In return, the neighborhood will be safer and more attractive to private development. It’s the neighborhood where Best Maid Products packs pickles to be sold across Texas and the Southwest. For years, litter has been a huge blight.
Allen Gray, whose district includes Ash Crescent, described the area as an island. Incomes and education levels are low there while poverty, unemployment and crime are much higher than in other areas of the city.
“It is just the beginning of things to happen here,” she said. “There’s not a park, there’s not a school, there’s not a child care center, there’s not an after-school program. For about 30 years, we have not done it well in this neighborhood. But we’re changing the narrative on that today.”
Ash Crescent residents soon will be asked to complete a survey about the things they’d like to see done. Once the results are in, work will begin quickly, said Aubrey Thagard, the city’s neighborhood services director.
Already, street lighting will soon be upgraded, and Read Fort Worth, an initiative of the mayor’s office, businesses and the Fort Worth school district that is working to ensure all third-graders are reading at grade level by 2025, will be brought to neighborhood churches.
Ash Crescent hasn’t had the attention it’s needed for quite a while, Price said. The revitalization efforts should go a long way to bringing pride back to residents as well as increases in home values in the area south of Rosedale Street to Glen Garden, and between Riverside Drive and the Martin Luther King Freeway.
“We’re creating front-porch communities where people know each other ... and care about your neighborhoods,” she said. “This is a long-term commitment from the city. We’re just not going to dump $2.7 million and leave.”
The city is winding up work in the Caville Place/Stop Six neighborhood, which served as a pilot for the program.