Just a few years ago, Kevin Jones said he was afraid to let his kids play outside in the Fairview neighborhood.
“It was just wide open. It was like the wild wild west out here,” Jones said. “It was crazy. It was no place to raise a family.”
How to fix the neighborhood, and “rise from the ashes” of chaos, Jones said, was a complex problem, one that could not solely be fixed by police making arrests. That realization gave rise to The Phoenix Project, a public-private partnership that brought together Dayton police, Good Samaritan Hospital, the city, CityWide and neighbors. Conceived in 2003, the partners rolled out a strategic revitalization plan seven years ago, and its effect can be felt just by simply walking down the street.
Gone are the drug houses and rundown apartments that once lined Ravenwood Avenue, and in their place are newly-built lease-to-own homes occupied by families whose kids attend nearby Fairview Elementary. Where other dilapidated properties once stood, there is now a brand-new park, swimming pool and splash pad. Above that are surveillance cameras, provided by the hospital, that help monitor the neighborhood and assist police when there are problems.
“It’s all resident-driven,” Amy Clanton, director of neighborhood development for the Phoenix Project, said of the improvements. “But we’re still working to knock-down that perception folks have of the neighborhood (being) worse than it is.”
Officer Matt Heiser, one of two Dayton police officers assigned to the Phoenix Project, said it’s a very different scene than when he began patrolling on the city’s west side.
“It was kind of rough up here. The police were fighting people and a lot of guns and drugs came out of here,” he said.
Dubbed “one of the worst neighborhoods” before, Jones said the drop-off in crime has been so significant that his biggest worry now is “kids riding their big wheels in the middle of the street.”
“It’s still got problems, like every place else but I brag about the crime reduction over here,” Jones said.
The Phoenix Project is a 15-year plan, meaning at some point it’ll be left to the neighborhood residents to build on the improvements the project’s partners have made, Clanton said. After such a turnaround, Jones said he has no doubt neighbors can keep it up.
“If we keep staying the course we’re going to be all right,” he said.
For more information on the Phoenix Project and how to get involved, visit phoenixprojectdayton.org.
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