Residents of the Wright Avenue neighborhood, just south of Central High School in Little Rock, are making efforts to revamp their community in the face of high crime rates and deteriorating buildings.
Annie Abrams, a long time social activist and resident along Wright Avenue, recalled a time when the area stood for the grandeur of its homes and residents. She recounted a time when her cousin had bought a home when “this was a neighborhood as classy as any you’d think in Chenal now. But this was the Chenal.”
Demographic shifts and periods of disinvestment have led to significant changes for the neighborhood, which many now perceive as just an area of high crime and poverty. But Abrams, other community leaders and city officials gathered at the newly rebranded Wright Avenue Neighborhood Resource Center to challenge those perceptions. The area has a little bit of everything, said neighborhood association president Willard Proctor.
“As you go through the neighborhood, you’ll see like diamonds in the rough. I mean there are some areas that are really beautiful. And you’re like ‘Wow’. But you’ll drive down and you’ll see prostitutes and other things as well.”
Abandoned buildings are another problem. That’s one reason Sheila Miles, a former neighborhood association president, is working with the city to come up with a neighborhood plan.
“Some of the things that we’re focusing on include public safety, beautification, housing development and commercial development,” she said.
Miles fought for the reopening of the neighborhood alert center, which was closed for several years due to city budget restraints. The facility has now been rebranded and expanded as a resource center.
Andre Bernard, director of the city’s department of Housing and Neighborhood Programs says the center, with its staff devoted to code enforcement, community policing and social work, has to work together on many issues in order to strengthen the community.