FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Sitting in folding chairs in a newly-renovated apartment building Monday, city leaders joined federal and state housing administrators in applauding a slew of grant-funded updates to the apartment complex.

Residents hope the renovations will spur much-needed economic development and curb crime in the southeast part of town where the 172-unit Villas by the Park are located.

“This is so terribly significant,” said Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, who represents the district where the apartments are located.

It wasn’t just a dedication ceremony for a new apartment complex; officials said it’s a big step in rebuilding lives in southeast Fort Worth.

“Three years ago this was South Central LA,” said Cornelius Tuck, who lived at the apartment complex before the renovation when the complex was called Cobb Park Apartments. “This was terrible. Doors were getting kicked in. Cars were being broken into. The kids weren’t able to come outside and play because there was too much riff-raff.”

City leaders toured the renovated complex Monday. It was rebuilt with more than $2 million from grant money and with another $1 million invested by Wells Fargo Bank.

It’s a crucial piece of the renaissance of the Cobb Park area, neighborhood residents and officials say.

“It’s nice to see affordable housing come in and do in-fill in the market,” said Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth. “It makes a huge difference. It helps us keep an educated workforce, keep good families here in Fort Worth.”

And those families will soon have a grocery store, restaurants and shopping locations in a new retail center nearby. It will be the first time the community has had a full-sized grocery in the area in decades. The city is also using natural gas money to rebuild a nearby park with a lake, sidewalks and athletic fields.

Tuck said for the first time in years people in the area have, “A place you can call home.”

“Its much safer,” said Lakeisha Scott who returned to the complex after the redevelopment. “I would never let my children come outside over here. Now I feel free to let them come outside. Much better! A much better community.”

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