One commonality of development across the US is that urban communities have “hot areas” and they have “cold areas.” Hot areas are the new shiny places to reside with new schools, new and exciting retail choices, new and smooth streets and thoughtful concepts mysterious and appealing to the eyes of all who live, work and visit in their midst.
We all know what the cold areas are. They are the parts of town that seem to be forgotten, the schools are dated and low performing, the buildings and apartments too. Restaurants and family businesses have come and gone, investment grade levels are low, crime is high and kindness is hard to find. Just about everything that could pick up and leave for greener pastures, has in-fact, done just that.
Development is easier to comprehend or imagine on a piece of dirt than on a worn out piece of urban concrete. So, when cities set out to take on an area and redevelop or re-purpose and breathe new life into it, they better have commitment at all levels, including, but not limited to, local elected officials, neighborhood residents and business owners, municipal and county staff, and the support of private sector volunteers willing to donate time, energy, brain power and a little passion.
Here in Fort Worth, thanks to a strong push and commitment from a recently elected city councilman named Brian Byrd, there is a well-rounded push to revitalize one of those cold areas inside an urban core called The Las Vegas Trail.
The “trail” was originally developed as a residential area designed to provide single and multi-family residences for an Air Force base in western Fort Worth. Now, the area is dense with low income housing, subject to high crime activity, including child abuse, malnourishment and neglect.
There are significant voids in the area, like grocery stores, recreation, restaurants, streamlined public transportation and other retail, service and commercial conveniences available in newer, better maintained and wealthier parts of town.
So what is being done?
Councilman Byrd put together a core group of public and private sector community leaders with experience in six core areas to begin the planning and implementation process this past November 2017. These six areas of focus, Housing, Economic Development, Social Services, Health and Wellness, Public Safety, and Education, have a committee of volunteers to address their respective area.
The chairs and/or co-chairs of each committee get together monthly to share progress reports on behalf of their respective teams, receive a briefing from Councilman Byrd on his efforts, and to get an update from TD Smyers, volunteer director for the Las Vegas Trail project. TD serves as the management layer between the councilman and the committee chairs.
JLL is committed to supporting and giving back to our local community. The firm has done an excellent job of encouraging local team members to volunteer. I informed JLL Fort Worth office lead Todd Burnette that Councilman Byrd had asked me to chair the economic development efforts within the Las Vegas Trail. JLL has much to offer a program that is looking to revitalize a blighted area. With Todd’s support, we have been able to take on an important role on this project.
Our retail contacts and clients will certainly be able to provide hard and fast feedback on what will and won’t work. Our ability to catalog and determine “voids” in the targeted area will streamline efforts to attract the right mix of retail and service clientele that is currently missing and that the residents will support and our ability to gather and publish the right demographic information necessary for the development community will also greatly assist and expedite the neighborhood’s revitalization.
We believe this initiative will improve the current situation for many residents inside the Las Vegas Trail. There are too many good people working on this project for it to fail. With input from the residents in two community meetings we have chosen an overall strategic goal of achieving a high level of community pride throughout the Las Vegas Trail.
We have drilled down further to reach five “enabling goals:”
- Enhanced public Safety
- Reduced Poverty
- Greater availability of Quality Housing
- Higher levels of Public Health
- Increased Literacy
I plan to write regularly about the Las Vegas Trail initiative here on the JLL Sixty by Eighty blog. Perhaps those of you who read it and have similar stories of your volunteerism might will be willing to share your stories as well. If reading about the Las Vegas Trail nudges some of you are currently evaluating volunteering for something near and dear to your heart, even better.
Who knows, maybe we can all find our own “trail” to work on and give back to.