Following in the footsteps of their neighbor Stop Six, the Ash Crescent neighborhood of Fort Worth is working toward a major change.
Via $2.77 million from the city as the 2018 target for neighborhood improvements, the neighborhood is undergoing some major changes, much like Stop Six is doing with the $2.56 million it received earlier.
The funding comes from a half-cent allocation of the municipal property tax rate to provide capital projects, improve public safety and attract private investment in underserved neighborhoods.
The Ash Crescent neighborhood is relatively small – just .56 square miles – and contains less than one percent of the city’s overall population. The area is roughly bounded by Sycamore Park and Cobb Park on the east, Riverside Drive on the west, Rosedale Street on the north and Glen Garden Drive on the south.
However, it has faced some big challenges, including:
*Fifty percent of the population being at or below the poverty level.
*Unemployment is at 16.2 percent (more than twice the city average).
*Sixty-three percent of the homes are rentals.
*Ten percent of the homes are vacant.
*The median housing age is 57.
*Only 26 percent of the population has a high school diploma.
*Crimes against persons are 54 per 1,000 (more than three times above the city average).
*Property crimes are 78 per 1,000 (more than 1.5 times the city average).
Residents listed their top priorities as:
*Crime and safety.
The top five improvements have been:
*Cleaning up vacant property.
*Removal of bulk waste and junk.
*Demolition of substandard structures.
Thagard said community outreach is being done. Also, 83 new LED streetlights are already in place, along with 41 infill lighting to be installed by late September, and 49 arterial changeouts and pole painting before mid-July.
“We’re going to light up Ash Crescent,” Thagard said with a smile.
The first phase of sidewalk upgrades is set for September through December, with the second phase scheduled for winter through early spring. In all, about 15,000 linear feet of new sidewalks will be put in place, Thagard said.
Street repairs will include 1.38 lane miles by early July, he said, as well as forestry work such as dead trees and low-hanging limbs. As of April, 90 percent of cutbacks were complete.
As for code compliance, as of the end of May 628 cubic yards of illegal dumping was removed, along with 7.2 tons of litter, and several structures had been identified for demolition. Criminal investigating of illegal dumping is underway, and more, with additional crews coming in July.
The area has already 20 surveillance cameras installed, Thagard said, with 30 more to be installed by late July. Thagard believes these will greatly help curb the area’s problems with drug trafficking and prostitution.
“Those cameras help to really tamp down criminal activity in Stop Six, and we believe they’ll do the same in Ash Crescent,” Thagard said.
Thagard said plans are to also install a self-service book vending machine that will hold 200 books. The location will be announced soon.
This, he said, will work hand-in-hand with such programs as Summer Play and Learn and the First Tee youth golf program.
Also, a project known as Team Better Block envisions improvements that will include places for folks to gather, with fun things for youths such as an obstacle course, a bike riding area, and even a tire swing.
“It could be a place where people not only gather, but recreate,” Thagard said. “We’re going to be working with the community to see what we can do to make that a reality.
“When we strengthen them (neighborhoods), we strengthen the city of Fort Worth.”
Mayor Betsy Price praised the progress and expressed excitement for what lies ahead for Ash Crescent.
“When we started this two and a half years ago we said it would be a hand up to inspire neighborhoods instead of just going in and saying, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,’ and leaving them,” she said. “I think their sense of pride will just increase. It’s happening in Stop Six, and it’ll happen in Ash Crescent, and we’ll just multiply it all over the city.”