New homes are routine in many North Texas neighborhoods, but they are cause for celebration after decades of decay in a Dallas neighborhood known as The Bottom.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday with the four new homes already under construction.
Mekeyas and Yoke Newaye drive by their new home several times a day with their kids to see the progress.
“We’ve actually wanted to live in this neighborhood for a while now, so when we found this house, we were really excited,” Yoke Newaye said.
The neighborhood close to downtown is east of I-35E R.L. Thornton Freeway and north of 8th Street.
Neighborhood Pastor Vincent Parker of Golden Gate Missionary Baptist Church has been pushing for this accomplishment after many years of city neglect and demolition of older homes.
“I’ve always known that it would take a long, slow slog to keep some momentum going because it was years where there was no momentum,” he said. “I’ve seen three, four, five mayors, and how many city councilpersons. So, it has taken all of them and everyone has built on top of that to make sure that something eventually would happen.”
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Dallas City Council Member Carolyn King Arnold said she watched the decline when she was a teacher at Townview High School at the top of the hill.
“And through the years just cry, every time I looked out through the media center and looked down to The Bottom, just to see the loss,” Arnold said.
There are around 500 lots in The Bottom. Around two-thirds of them are now vacant.
Dick LeBlanc said his firm, Texas Heavenly Homes, has been working for 15 years to build new homes in The Bottom. The firm owns 85 lots in what it now calls The Bottom District.
“What we learned was the infrastructure, the streets, the sewers, the water and so forth, were just old,” LeBlanc said.
To support new homes in The Bottom, the city of Dallas invested millions of dollars for wider new streets, utility lines, sidewalks and new streetlights with internet access.
Dallas Housing Director David Noguera said the city has a new commitment to affordable housing development.
“We're trying to be as strategic and as intentional as we can with our investments, with our resources, with our collaboration with various stakeholders,” Noguera said.
Dignitaries attending the ceremony Tuesday included Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and State Senator Royce West, whose law office is at the edge of the neighborhood.
“It’s taken a while to get here, but it appears as though we’re finally here,” West said.
Pastor Parker said he was excited to watch.
“The building and the streets are the result of years of labor so that feels good,” Parker said.
Texas Capital Bank is providing financing for the new home construction. Effie Dennison with the bank said minority contractors are involved in the home construction.
"This development checks every box of what you envision urban development to look and feel like. Everybody’s got a chance, everybody’s got a seat at the table," she said.
Mekeyas Newaye said his family enjoys the museums and parks downtown and he likes the city recreation center that’s right down the street from his new home.
“And so, for us as a young family, being able to be around all these recreational activities, it's priceless,” he said.
Dallas leaders hope more young families agree.
LeBlanc said affordable homes at The Bottom District will start around $200,000 with some market-rate homes priced around $350,000.
That compares with $306,000 as the median home price according to Zillow in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area.