DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The earth shook and a house came tumbling down Friday in Oak Cliff, but it wasn’t a disaster.
Instead, neighbors cheered as an earthmover reduced a dilapidated house in the Trinity Heights Neighborhood to a pile of rubble.
Next-door neighbor Lula Gusters says she waited years for the moment.
“That’s a good thing! Yes!” she pronounced as the structure came down.
The vacant house had recently been a haven for drug users and the homeless, according to Gusters and city officials alike. She has lived in her home 32 years.
“I won’t know what to do, I come out of my door and look over here and this is gone,” she, said, pointing at the demolished home. “You know what? I am so happy to see this go I could just shout all over!”
It’s the first of 250 demolitions set for this year alone under Mayor Mike Rawlings’s Grow South initiative.
“The property values have just gone up in this neighborhood because we did this, and that’s real money,” Rawlings said. “We have 60 percent of the land mass, 15 percent of the tax base, the most beautiful part of Dallas right here. We need to make it a reality.”
Grow South collects private money for the mayor so he can guide development toward the southern sector.
Earlier, he addressed about thirty people who came to witness the demolition.
“Southern Dallas is not a charity case, ladies and gentlemen, it’s an investment opportunity. It’s an opportunity for capital to come, businesses to grow, and citizens to have a great life,” he said.
The Grow South initiative will also create a neighborhood association in Trinity Heights, the first of thirty such groups the mayor hopes to create as Grow South gains momentum.
He is optimistic other private groups will build new homes here.
“We’ll work with Habitat (for Humanity), we’ll work with an independent home builder and, I think, build a much better home than this was. It was a little shotgun house that was drug-infested,” Rawlings said.
Nearby neighborhood associations applauded the demolition.
“Just great joy when you look at this neighborhood and see this eyesore to be gone,” said Connie Buford of the Liberty Heights Neighborhood Association. “So hopefully this lot will get sold and some new young people will buy homes and get building in this here.”
Rawlings tasked Councilman Dwaine Caraway to identify blighted properties for tear down.
“And in order to grow the first thing you have to do is clean up,” Caraway said. “It gives us an opportunity for folks to believe in their community.”
The city says there are roughly 600 properties needing similar demolition treatment. And to underscore the point, Caraway dragged the mayor a block-and-a-half down the street to another property he has his eye on.
The councilman showed Rawlings and the city attorney a run-down property with four abandoned cars in its back yard.
Caraway says neighbors complain it’s a nuisance.
“We will begin to go through and clean up these neighborhoods and try to bring back and restore hope,” he said.
Rawlings, too, promised action on the home.
“We’re trying to find the owners and we’re trying to figure out why it’s like this and we’ll move heaven and earth to make this go away,” the mayor said.