In South Dallas Today, City Officials Cheer as the Drug Houses Begin Coming Down

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It's open season on drug houses in Dallas today, with the Texas National Guard kicking off its two-week Operation Crackdown campaign -- demolishing around 50 otherwise vacant crack dens and stash houses -- and the city tearing down the first of South Dallas's Summer Breeze Apartments after a years-long court battle.

Carolyn Davis, who officiated this afternoon's ceremonial teardown at the Summer Breeze buildings, said she worked long and hard to get rid of the complex, because nobody else would have stepped up to do it. "This is another example of the city working with our community to take back the neighborhood, block by block," she said before a bulldozer moved in.

Dallas City Attorney Tom Perkins was almost giddy recounting how long the city had spent in court fighting to demolish the apartments, some of which have been boarded-up and without water or gas for years. "We think that when these properties are gone, you'll see a real impact in the surrounding neighborhood," Perkins said. So far, he said, the city's secured a court order to demolish 70 percent of the 228-unit complex at Hatcher and Myrtle Streets.

Built as Defense Department family housing at the close of World War II, the complex never quite lived up to developers' reinvention schemes as the last decades passed. Hilton Head Properties bought the apartments in 2005 and, for some reason, suggested that a "Miami style" gated community with palm trees and pools was a good idea. It never happened.

Now, as the city begins leveling the buildings, Davis and community members who joined her today are looking forward to brighter ideas for reinventing the location. "It used to be a beautiful neighborhood," said Clarine Whitaker of the Charles Rice Neighborhood Association. Whitiker told us she'd like to see affordable housing for seniors when the location's finally rebuilt.

"Hopefully we can see a Gap here," Davis told Unfair Park as the first building came down. "Hopefully we can see a nice, good shopping development with housing mixed in." It'd take a zoning change to allow for a grocery story and a complex like that, she said, but for now the bulldozer is enough -- "I'd rather see flat land," she said, pointing out the boarded-up buildings that still stood. "This was not tolerated in any other part of the city."

Jump for more, including video of the first building coming down.

Just after Davis led the countdown, Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway turned up to report that Operation Crackdown was off to a rousing start elsewhere in the city, with one house already down and four or five more on the docket for the day. "It's a huge week," Caraway told us -- and not just in his district, either. "I could've been a selfish person and just looked out for my district, but this is something that is good for Dallas," he said.

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