The Remaking of Vickery Meadow

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Sunchase neighbors The Ivy, an historically troubled complex plagued by crime, transiency and neglect. The owners of Sunchase bought The Ivy in December of 2010 and have been working to make it suitable for refugees and to raise the standard of living there. The building's management expects construction to finish in December, but the makeover has already begun. After taking over The Ivy, its new owners evicted tenants who didn't pay rent or caused problems, and they're now marketing the property to resettlement agencies.

"They are just thankful that they are here," Nur says of the refugees.

Nur is patient enough to extend rent deadlines for good tenants, and she offers Valentine's Day conversation hearts to a little girl who comes to the office with her parents. Her empathy and generosity have limits, though. If it seems as though someone can't pay their bills or will prompt calls to the police, they're out before they're in, she says. "We just deny them," Nur says. She denies nearly as many applications as she accepts, she says.

Her resolve comes with consequences. Veins of cracks wind through a window of her leasing office, stemming from a small circle that looks like a bullet crater. Nur says it was probably from a rock thrown by someone she denied an apartment. The previous week, someone scribbled "FUCK" across a sign at the Sunchase entrance. And twice this month, she says, cars — driven by people angry that she denied them a home, she suspects — tried to mow her down as she crossed the parking lot between the Sunchase and Ivy.

If her role as apartment arbiter makes her uncomfortable, she doesn't show it. "Who was drinking beer outside the apartment?" she asks one tenant, who recently drew police attention.

The same afternoon, Nur stops to see Rasmiya AlGhrawi, an Iraqi grandmother who moved to the complex more than a year ago. The women greet with a big hug and three cheek kisses.

AlGhrawi lost two of her daughters and her husband to violence in Iraq. She moved here after her remaining daughter, Israa Alchalach, fled their country and landed in Vickery, fearing that, as a translator, she would be killed like her two sisters.

On another afternoon, walking through the parking lot of The Ivy, Nur stops to chat with two Bhutanese refugees, and later flags down a Persian man who caused a leak in his apartment when he tried to self-install a bidet. As she makes her way around the complex, two children peek from behind a sheet hung over a window, smiling and waving. Nur explains that the family has blinds but insists on keeping the sheet on the window so the children can play.

"They will work; they will pay their bills; they will have a family life," she says of her refugee tenants. They are sometimes the victims of crime when they forget to lock their doors or carry cash on them because they don't yet have a bank account. She says, and police agree, that they are almost never the perpetrators.

Most long-time Vickery residents don't mind that the refugees are a fixture in their neighborhood. It's just not what they're used to. Palise recalls spotting an African woman walking up the road a few years back, in a bright floral dress. She was carrying a microwave on her head.

It was a scene "right out of the pages of National Geographic," he says. "It's interesting to drive down the street and not see yourself over and over again," Palise's neighbor, Johnson, adds. "They're still wearing their caftans and their interesting headwear."

But Johnson hopes that the neighborhood's role as transitional home for refugees doesn't keep the neighborhood itself from transitioning.

"We still remain hopeful that our neighborhood will kind of re-surge," she says. "And we don't want to think of ourselves as, this is where rents are cheap and people don't particularly keep up their properties. ... I think it's great that these people have a place to come ... but too much of anything is not good."

On a Friday evening in January, a Dallas police officer winds his patrol car through the maze of apartment complexes. "We don't call it Vickery Meadow; we just call it Five Points," he says.

It's cold and the sun is down, but the neighborhood buzzes. Three young Nepali boys carry a soccer ball as they walk through the parking lot of The Ivy. A middle-aged man from Nepal walks to class to practice his English. He moved to the area 20 months ago with his wife and three children, he tells the officer, who chats up residents through his open window.

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Leslie Minora