By Robbie Owens

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Young, educated and flush with options, college professor Baranda Fermin could have bought a home anywhere but she chose South Dallas.

“There’s definitely at times, a sad hopefulness,” says Fermin, “like I hope things change: but, I don’t know if it ever will.”

So Baranda Fermin, PhD, and her CEO husband decided to go all in to help shepherd those changes—by becoming full time members of the community they were looking to serve. But, their decision raised eyebrows—if not some concern.

“My students were like no, ‘Dr. Baranda. No, Dr. B, that’s not where you want to live.’ ” But, Fermin says children in the suburbs—north and south—already have role models.

She wanted to live where she was needed. But, she doesn’t overlook the challenges.

“There’s definitely poverty here… the issue with poverty is, the only thing that can help poverty is resources.”

Whether those resources are financial or relational, Dr. Fermin says they are needed in south Dallas. She and her husband immediately got involved in the South Boulevard/Park Row neighborhood association and they’re already seeing progress that didn’t involve city hall.

“We’re seeing the improvements just out of our own windows—and from our own front porches. We’ve seen six families move in,” and she adds that other homes are being renovated and are awaiting new owners.

Experts say the lure of big city attractions and the growing frustration with traffic are fueling more residential growth in the downtown area. And according to Timothy Bray, PhD, the Director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research at UT Dallas, growth in nearby neighborhoods is “natural spillover effect of this desire to return to the urban center.”

In fact, Dr. Bray says over the past couple of decades living downtown has once again become the “new cool.”

Still, new residents to South Dallas must overlook the poverty that has not yet been resolved, while holding on to the future that more neighborhoods may one day resemble Park Row and South Boulevard.

“If you have a choice to choose south Dallas, and make that investment we need you to and we want you to.”  Fermin says a number of schools are within walking distance, giving her an opportunity to volunteer. But, more like her are needed.

“To allow for a community to fall apart and die—that’s a blemish on even the best part of Dallas… that’s like having a million dollar suit with a stain on it:  it still doesn’t look good, no matter how much you paid for it.”

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