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Building An 'Inclusive Future': City Of Dallas Begins Revitalizing Historically Black Neighborhood

A row of people stand in a line, holding shovels.
Ana Perez
/
KERA News
City of Dallas leaders and community partners hold gold shovels in front of a home being built in the southeast Dallas neighborhood The Bottom, commemorating the first step toward revitalizing the historic Black neighborhood.

For decades, a historically Black neighborhood in southeast Dallas known as The Bottom has patiently waited for revitalization. Now, those efforts are coming to fruition.

City officials and housing leaders on Tuesday took the first step toward revitalizing the southeast Dallas neighborhood by breaking ground on a $110 million redevelopment plan for 400 new homes individually priced at $200,000.

"We are going to transform this community," said Dallas City Council member Carolyn King Arnold, who represents District 4.

The Bottom neighborhood, along the Trinity River, has seen years of neglect and demolitions. The decline started during the Great Depression and was further deepened in the 1930s when the levees destroyed a portion of the community built into today's floodway.

In the early 2000s, efforts between the city and community partners began, but new development had been stalled.

Now, developers say there's an "inclusive future" ahead for the 126-acre neighborhood project. The first block of houses will be built on South Denley Drive.

"I have a real problem with people on the outside coming into the community trying to dictate day-to-day to this community," Arnold said.

Image from iOS (41).jpg
Alejandra Martinez
A new home is being built in the historic Black neighborhood known as The Bottom in east Dallas. This is part of a new plan by the city of Dallas that will create affordable housing and encourage economic development.

For the council member, it's important that the community's identity remain intact as new development takes shape. Arnold has led the charge for new infrastructure at The Bottom by removing properties from the flood plain, fixing forgotten streets,adding new street lighting and improving Wi-Fi to help close the digital divide.

City officials say about 70% of the land at The Bottom is vacant lots, and some of the area's plumbing is 150 years old.

"The first phase needed to be the citywide zoning case and of course the kind of housing to get built that we all hope for and expect, and of course the housing came last," said Richard LeBlanc, president of Texas Heavenly Homes (THH).

THH is working with the city on revitalization. LeBlanc said a top priority was fixing the neighborhood's old infrastructure, only then can homes be built.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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