North Overton Project Praised & Criticized - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/10/03

North Overton Project Praised & Criticized

It looks like a war zone in places, with piles of debris scattered everywhere, and a constant plume of dust in the air. Residents in North Overton have had to get used to the sound of heavy equipment from dawn 'til dusk. But soon, this neighborhood should be peaceful for the first time in decades.

North Overton resident Winston Edward Johnson is one of the few residents still left here. "I really would like to live here, and stay here," says Johnson.

Johnson, who moved to Lubbock in 1993 from England, lives at 6th and Avenue U with his family. And unlike most of the rundown homes still left in North Overton, Johnson's is very well kept.

For now, the neighborhood is 89% purchased according to developer Delbert McDougal. The North Overton project is touted as the largest urban redevelopment project in the country, and it's way ahead of schedule. "We're still 16 to 18 months ahead of schedule and things are going very well," says McDougal.

But McDougal admits, there have been difficulties. "The vandalism is certainly a major problem."

Vacant houses have attracted all kinds of criminals, mainly arsonists. One group of concerned neighbors even drafted a list of concerns. In it, stating that residents live in a, 'constant state of uncertainty and paranoia.'

One neighbor tells us the vacant houses are dangerous at night. "The thing is, at night we are all scared of these empty houses."

But police say, considering the magnitude of this project, criminal activity has been relatively low. And violent crime and drugs are practically unheard of now, in a neighborhood that used to be notorious for guns and drugs.

McDougal says his group intends to allow homeowners like Johnson to stay, but most, McDougal says, welcome the negotiation process and want to sell for the right price.

Construction workers are tearing down vacant structures as fast as they can in order to deter more crime. And according to McDougal, 98% of the debris created during demolition is being recycled.

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