Fort Worth councilman unveils plan to revitalize Las Vegas Trail area

Neglected for decades as their apartment-lined neighborhood descended into poverty and despair, the residents of the Las Vegas Trail area are the focus of District 3 city councilman Brian Byrd’s ambitious Las Vegas Trail Revitalization Project.

Byrd announced Thursday the creation of the project, and the assemblage of leaders spanning business, education, housing, social services and public safety.

The team of volunteers will convene Sept. 25 to begin hammering out strategies to combat issues such as poor housing conditions, high unemployment and crime rates, infant mortality and low-birth weight.

Byrd said the Revitalization Project is being modeled after the Jubilee Park Neighborhood in Dallas’ Fair Park area, a project that will celebrate 20 years of growth in November.

After modest beginnings, partnerships struck with corporations, foundations and agencies have helped to rejuvenate the area through the creation of quality, affordable housing, youth and adult education programs, after-school programs and health care services, among other initiatives, for its mostly working poor residents. The neighborhood’s hub is a multipurpose campus that includes a community center the likes of which Las Vegas Trail residents say is a desperately needed amenity.

“We feel a community center is very important to this,” Byrd said of his emerging project. “We will be working closely with people who live in the Las Vegas Trail area. This is a strategic plan, and if we don’t have input and buy-in of the people who live there, we will not be successful.”

Las Vegas Trail is a one-mile stretch of road from I-30 to Camp Bowie Boulevard. It is lined on each side by low-income apartment complexes and is beset by high rates of crime, violence, addiction and unemployment, while lacking suitable child care and health care options. A recent Star-Telegram special report helped to bring the blight to the attention of city leaders and activists.

After winning the council seat in May, Byrd joined Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, police chief Joel Fitzgerald, assistant city manager Valerie Washington and others on a bus tour of Las Vegas Trail. Last month, more than 400 people, including Mayor Price, attended a town hall hosted by the Star-Telegram.

Byrd joined a panel that listened to and addressed complaints, ideas and hopes of community members. A number of residents voiced their desire for a community center to be built on a nearby vacant lot that at the moment is designated for a park as part of Fort Worth’s 2018 bond package.

Byrd has since tapped TD Smyers, the head of the United Way of Tarrant County, to lead the Revitalization Project. He will oversee five focus groups: Public Safety (headed by Fort Worth Police Lt. Cynthia O’Neal); Education (Fort Worth schools official Karen Molinar); Social Services (Catholic Charities CEO Heather Reynolds); Housing (Mary-Margaret Lemons of the Fort Worth Housing Authority and Happy Baggett, a land developer); and Economic Development (David Berzina, a former Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce official).

Next month, Byrd will introduce the project to the community during a public forum. Residents are encouraged to join one of the groups.

Byrd said the project will start in “geographical bite-sized segments,” in which resources will target two or three apartment complexes. Results will then be analyzed before moving into the next group of apartments.

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