"People really want something nice for their community that will give them pride, that will give our kids pride."
As he stands next to one of the bumpiest sections of Lyons Avenue just north of Interstate 10, Joe Padilla can't believe decades of hard work are finally paying off. He's lived here for close to 50 years and has been fighting through bureaucratic red tape to get the city to fix the street, which runs through the center of the Denver Harbor neighborhood. Now, the city has broken ground on a $5.6 million project to redo a mile-long section of Lyons Avenue.
"We're hoping that it will encourage businesses to come. You have a nice street and the community is trying to better itself. There are several other projects that we have in the making that would bring affordable homes. Hopefully, young people will move back and the schools will be better."
The project replaces worn pavement with ten inches of steel-reinforced concrete, a huge upgrade for residents who have had to deal with potholes and cracks for years now. Wes Johnson is with the city's public works department and says the project is more than just about a new road.
"I've always been a big believer in that broken window theory; if one house in the community has a broken window and stays that way for a long time, people begin to throw bricks and rocks at other windows. So if you put something nice and new and shiny and functional here, something that's very practical that people deserve, I think that it's just going to build from here. You might even see some new businesses come along this little thoroughfare and of course we're always after good development."
Houston Mayor Bill White says it makes sense to invest in communities where renewed civic pride could encourage development, where a project as simple as a rebuilt roadway could lead to new businesses and residents.
"We're going to have a much better street, new drains, a better quality street. This is an important neighborhood, a lot is going on. We want to not only make it decent for the folks who have lived here for a long time but to create a quality of life that brings in the next generation."
Denver Harbor is a predominately Hispanic neighborhood on the northern edge of Houston's East End that's beginning to show signs of a rebirth after years of neglect. The new project should be complete within a few months.