Volunteers and community leaders used the Martin Luther King holiday to clean up a neglected location in an historic African American neighborhood that has suffered years of decline.
The Mill City neighborhood near Dallas Fair Park is a target for revival by the Mill City Community Association and a non-profit homebuilder called Builders of Hope.
Some long time residents watching the clean up Monday still had doubts about long term success after what they’ve witnessed in the past.
Volunteers focused on trash at city owned property on a notorious corner along Troy Street, where crowds hang out at night.
Celestine Young has lived in a house down the street since 1969.
“They be throwing down cigarette butts, beer cans, cups. loud music. They don't respect us at all,’ she said.
Young and neighbor Willie Mae Alexander recall when their neighborhood was much nicer, with tidy homes and yards.
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“I've lived here all my life and this has never been the way it's been the last two years,” Alexander said. “They hang out here all night. Some people sleep in this lot because they have nowhere to go. It’s time for something.”
The Mill City Community Association and the Builders of Hope sponsored the clean up.
Association leader Alendra Lyons said a cluster of homes for seniors, a community center and garden are planned on the clean-up property.
“It will be a safe place for them to come and enjoy and just make a transformation area over here,” Lyons said. “I can see where you can take something that looks like this and you can create something. Everybody can benefit. It is changing and it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen.”
Lyons said she is grateful to the volunteers who came out Monday to help make a difference on the holiday to honor a civil rights leader.
Builders of Hope already has new homes going up elsewhere in Mill City. The non-profit’s President and Chief Operating Officer, West Dallas Pastor James Armstrong, said Monday’s volunteer effort demonstrates the power of presence.
“One of the ways to revitalize a community is, you have to tackle those serious problems like crime and blight and that's what we're doing today,” Armstrong said. “You have to show up. It’s not enough for us to build affordable housing and then leave. You have to deal with the root causes of the neighborhood.”
Willie Mae Alexander said she has seen clean ups at the site before that did not make a lasting difference, but new homes might force the party people to leave.
“The people that buy the houses or rent the houses, whatever they’re going to do, they’re not going to put up with that. They’re going to have to go somewhere else,” Alexander said.
Monday’s Martin Luther King Day event included a prayer walk that passed in front of Celestine Young’s home.
She said she hopes the new promises come true.
“I'm waiting to see it. Like I say, I'm going to be 93. They better hurry up. I won't be able to see it,” Young said.
Records show another non-profit group had a 2004 plan to make use of the city owned property that fell through.