'Dangerous' section of town turns things around

HOUSTON We're talking about the neighborhood around the Southwest Freeway where it meets the Beltway 8.

It has taken years and it hasn't been easy, but the area of southwest Houston once known as Fondren Southwest has managed to reinvent itself. The changes aren't just cosmetic. The community, which has rebranded itself as Brays Oaks, was once considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city. Now it is one of the safest.

Two years ago, the esplanades along Braeswood in Braeburn Valley were bare.

"We've been just every few months putting in a little bit. We've probably got about 40 or 50 rose bushes now. Just keep adding," said resident Jim Carithers.

It's a work in progress, much like the neighborhood itself. This area of southwest Houston struggled for years with an image problem. With the crime rate at a six-year low, it appears the community may have overcome it.

"It's not always about putting more police on the streets. It's about dealing with the core issues," said David Hawes, Executive Director of the Brays Oaks Management District.

He says several hundred thousand dollars in private money has been spent, not only to beautify the neighborhoods, but to make them safer. With one of the highest concentration of apartment complexes in the city, the district has forged strong relationships with police, homeowners, and apartment owners - many of whom have renovated and cleaned up their properties.

"When you combine affordability, safety and good schools, you've got a winning program," Hawes said.

And it is only the beginning. The district is trying to raise $15 million to pay for new parks and an extensive trail system to connect them in an attempt to make the area more pedestrian friendly.

Long-time residents like Dianne Morgan will do their part to keep the area looking nice. Perception, she says, goes a long way.

"I've been here a long time and I think it's very important. I think if it looks nice, people are gonna take care of it and have pride in where they live," said Morgan.

As the Brays Oaks Management District tries to spur economic development and fill up the vacancies in office buildings, Brays Oaks business owners looking to grow their businesses may be getting a much-needed boost.

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