FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Vanessa Manning stands in the west Fort Worth neighborhood near Lake Como where she grew up. Behind her, a decaying stone and wood building, once a neighborhood gas station and grocery store, is shuttered and decaying. Next to it, bits of an old foundation in a vacant sliver of a lot are tell-tale signs of the home that was once there but has long since been demolished by the city.
“It’s very sad,” says Manning. “It’s all throughout the community. 250 vacant lots. That’s just residential. That’s not considering commercial, which is what’s behind us.”
In many cases the lots have remained vacant and under city ownership for years. And nice homes often sit next to homes in need of repair.
Manning is working with private investors and the Fort Worth housing authority to try to turn the Lake Como area around.
She established a community development corporation called Emmanuel’s Promise. They’re starting with the small goal of five lots and five homes. Then they’ll find people who will move in for little or no money down. “Thats the biggest thing is getting people qualified and getting the interest back in moving back to the inner city.”
Reverand Maurice Barnes grew up in Como and has led a church in the neighborhood for 20 years. He says low-income housing alone won’t breathe life back into the community. He adds the people who left Como were searching for higher quality housing in the suburbs, not low income homes.
“You can’t concentrate everything in one area,” Barnes said. “There needs to be a spectrum of economic stratus for that.”
Manning says she agrees. The key to her community development corporation’s plan is to provoke interest in more private development — interest that has eluded Como in the past.
“Seeing is believing,” Manning said.”There’s always been a lot of talk but there’s never that, ‘Lets put it in action.’ We’re about to put it into action.”