New Beginning for Run-down Mesquite Apartments | KERA News

New Beginning for Run-down Mesquite Apartments

Mesquite, TX – (Children are playing and squealing on a playground.)

Suzanne Sprague, Reporter: Cascade Park is now Westlake Village. Raw sewage no longer flows through the grounds. The security gate has been fixed. Everyone has a new air conditioner. And there's a brand new playground for the dozens of children who call these apartments home.

(Here, more sound of children on the playground)

Susan Barcenas, Resident: They have really cleaned up around here. I really have to give them credit....It looks like a totally different complex. Totally different.

Sprague: Susan Barcenas has lived here 6 years. The changes she's pointing out came when St.Stephen, a non-profit corporation that grew out of Catholic Charities, took over the property a year ago.

Barcenas: I got new carpet. I got new cabinets under my sink because they were rotting out where they got wet. I got new tile. New screens on all the windows, which is great.

Sprague: Westlake Village held its grand opening yesterday after St.Stephen invested roughly $2.3 million to renovate the property. Their purchase of the complex had to be approved by a federal court because a number of residents were plaintiffs in the 15-year-old Walker housing desegregation lawsuit against the Dallas Housing Authority. Monsignor Killian Broderick is the president of St. Stephen. He stresses the corporation is not in this to make a real estate killing. Monsignor Killian Broderick, St. Stephen: The mission here is primarily on families....There's programs for more effective parenting. There's job placement help, job training....Our purpose is not real estate. Our purpose is families.

Sprague: St. Stephen is one of several non-profits involved in affordable housing management locally. The corporation's directors have sold off low-income properties where their mission wasn't working. But they have a good track record with four other properties, including a mixed income apartment complex in Coppell. Mike Daniel, the attorney who represented the residents who sued the former property owners, says he feels good about the future of Westlake Village.

Mike Daniel, Attorney: [I'm] very optimistic. The people that took it over have a good track record at other projects and they have performed before and have given every indication they will continue to perform at Cascade....There's no reason to expect them not to. Obviously we have to continue to monitor and keep checking on it, but I'm reasonably confident it's going to work.

Sprague: All the families at the complex, even those not on public assistance, can utilize social service programs Catholic Charities will provide on site. But current tenants, like these high school boys, have mixed feelings about what the future will hold.

Boy #1: They gonna mess it up. The kids. The slide's gonna be messed up and everything.

Boy #2: They should keep it real nice ?cause I'm gonna try my best to help out, keep it up ?cause I don't want to live in no messy environment and stuff.

Sprague: As long as Westlake Village accepts tenants who receive public housing assistance, it will remain under the purview of the federal courts. But its new owners are have a larger vision. They hope that by providing a safe, clean place to live, their tenants' notion of self-worth will grow...part of their holistic approach to end the cycle of poverty.