Mckinney Courier-gazette > News
McKinney teams up for east-side revitalization
Photo Courtesy of Dustin Taylor - First Baptist Church-McKinney members volunteered Oct. 6 to help in the Cities of Service kickoff project, revitalization of the La Loma neighborhood in McKinney. City employees, Volunteer McKinney, Habitat for Humanity and 3e McKinney are teaming up for the multi-year initiative.
People in McKinney believe that's how to have an impact. From different sides of the track, from separate groups, they're showing it. The Cities of Service initiative has begun.
"Any one of us by ourselves couldn't pull it off," said Dana Riley, Volunteer McKinney executive director. "But working together, we can."
A makeover of McKinney's east side is the mission. Better quality of life for everyone is the goal.
Through a partnership between the city, Volunteer McKinney, North Collin County Habitat for Humanity (NCCHFH) and 3e McKinney, the makeover is imminent. Every Saturday this month, volunteers and staff are taking to La Loma, one of the PRIDE Communities, and helping residents restore inside, outside and around their homes.
The initiative kicked off Oct. 6 when 3e McKinney volunteers - members of churches around the area - began cleaning up the old neighborhood, the first of five in need of repairs. They told residents about the project's onset and welcomed their help.
Together, they completed more than 50 of 80 revitalizations projects identified by NCCHFH's construction manager.
"This is a multi-year project, so it's going to take a while," said Larry Robinson, 3e McKinney director. "This is really helping revitalize a neighborhood where many just don't have the resources to do it."
The project truly began in August 2010 when McKinney became a City of Service, pledging to follow the lead of dozens of cities nationwide in identifying areas of need and developing a service plan centered on volunteerism. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and mayors from 17 other cities founded the initiative the year prior, and now more than 100 cities representing 49 million Americans have joined.
Last year, using an OneStar Foundation grant and the Cities of Service Playbook, consultants and citizens developed McKinney's impact plan. They identified education, transportation and housing as the city's most pressing challenges.
Issue-specific meetings and analysis of local census data pushed housing to the forefront.
Nearly 13 percent of McKinney homes were built before 1979, and most are east of Historic Downtown, as outlined in the city's key factors in selecting the revitalization priority area. Other determinants spoke to how 2,000 homeowners earn $20,280 or less, while about 6 percent of the population is disabled and about 6 percent is elderly.
It's hard for them to do it alone.
"Neighborhood revitalization is everything we do," said Celeste Cox, director of NCCHFH, which has been building homes in La Loma for a decade. "This is serving other needs and involving residents. They're solving their own problems with our help."
NCCHFH built seven homes on the east side this past spring, and with the help of McKinney's Planning and Community Services departments, singled out those "other needs" - repairs, trash clean up and landscaping, to name a few. Also helping develop a plan in recent months were residents from the PRIDE (Promoting Resident Involvement, Development and Enthusiasm) Communities, neighborhoods in which the city has sparked involvement and teamwork.
"Anytime a city has a rich history, the neighborhoods are older and they often need extra care," Riley said. "Initiatives like this bring together ideas for those communities that otherwise wouldn't come about."
For Robinson, McKinney police chief in the 1990s and city manager in the early 2000s, the initiative is another nudge in the same direction the city's been going for several years. While police chief, he said, the city was focused on repairing the east side, namely ridding it of dope houses and crime. While city manager, the city council put millions of dollars into such a revival effort.
"To me, this is just getting back into it," he said. "When you pick up and clean up a neighborhood, things get better."
Volunteers last weekend helped a handicapped resident remove a large dead tree, which in an unlucky storm could have been disastrous for his house and pocketbook, Robinson said. Other men were recruited to train residents how to remove similar debris from their yards.
Upon completion in each neighborhood, trained volunteers will educate residents on what it takes to sustain the renovations and improvements. Beneficiaries will be asked to participate in or recruit volunteers for another project outside their neighborhood.
Eventually all PRIDE Communities will benefit from Cities of Service, but first is La Loma, located east of Highway 5 between Virginia Street and Highway 380. NCCHFH is asking for at least 100 more volunteers to come out the last two weekends this month.
Alongside them will be Volunteer McKinney staff, 3e McKinney volunteers and, most importantly, La Loma residents. All together.
"They're excited because they can see the change," Cox said. "They're more proud of where they live, and when you're proud, you take better care of where you live."