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Beyond The Report: Project Gives Neighbors 'A Seat At The Table' To Restore East Lubbock's Economy

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Sarah Self-Walbrick/Texas Tech Public Media
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A mostly-abandoned shopping center on Parkway Drive in East Lubbock.

Cruising down Parkway Drive, businesses dot the side of the road. Locally-owned restaurants, in particular, hold their own in East Lubbock. There aren’t many food options, so most neighbors support what they have. 

But you also see empty buildings and shopping centers. Some, in pretty rough shape. 

 

 

Local historian Cosby Morton said it wasn’t always like this. 

“Because of segregation, we were independent,” Morton said. “We had to make do. We had to adjust.”

Morton recalled what the historically-Black neighborhoods of Lubbock were like when he was growing up, in the 1950s and 60s. 

 

“We had little stores, ma and pop stores,” he said. “They survived because we frequented them then.”

Money stayed within the community then, Morton said, rather than being spent on another side of town. That changed, he said, after desegregation and urban renewal efforts led by the city that caused a shift in population. 

“The whole area changed. We were left with virtually no stores,” Morton said. “I understand business, but one of the things is, it's not a cohesive neighborhood like it used to be.”

Reggie Dial has seen this community change, too. 

“There were a lot of things that were vibrant,” Dial said about the community he grew up in. “There were a lot of things pulling the community together. And somehow we lost our way, and so, we have to bring that back.”

Dial is a Lubbock native who directs the East Lubbock Resident Owned Business Initiative. He works to connect people not just with jobs, but careers — like the business owners and tradesmen he remembers from childhood. 

Through the 100 Black Men of West Texas group, Dial’s working on another economic opportunity right now. It’s called a community investment trust. 

“It's just a way for the community to invest in themselves at a low cost, protected investment,” Dial explained. “To create an environment where people in the community can live, eat and play without having to go to what we call the other side of town.” 

A community investment trust, or CIT, allows neighbors to invest in commercial real estate that benefits an area. That could be a $10 to $100 a month investment. The 100 Black Men organization and other community advocates are looking at the model to redevelop or open a new shopping center in East Lubbock. 

An ongoing survey that’s so far received over 500 responses shows an interest in bringing family-friendly activities, restaurants and retail shops to the center. Organizers want as much community input as possible to ensure the project serves the areas’ wants and needs. 

It’s the kind of commercial development outlined in Plan Lubbock 2040, the city’s roadmap for the future. The plan highlights the need for economic drivers to revitalize East Lubbock, where some amenities are hard to come by. 

Plan Lubbock 2040 notes that lack of services — like banks, entertainment and retail —is one weakness of North and East Lubbock communities. Interstate 27, which some residents say isolates East Lubbock from the rest of the city,  is listed as a barrier in the document. General lack of access to what the community needs is emphasized in a section of the plan that spotlights underserved communities. 

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Natalie Miller shares more about the community investment trust at the recent East Lubbock Empowerment Conference.

 

  

Community advocate Natalie Miller said the difference between this project and development that’s been talked about in the past is that neighbors will be connected and financially invested in seeing the project succeed. She said this time, the community is being invited to the table.

Miller has long been an advocate for neighbors making change within a community, rather than waiting for outsiders to try to make a difference. At the recent East Lubbock Empowerment Conference, Miller shared the results up to that point of the CIT survey.

She read one of the questions: “Should East Lubbock residents have more say about what goes in their community?” 

People laughed at the pie chart on the screen that showed 99% of people responded “yes.” The answer, Miller said, was obvious. 

Organizers hope to share more details with their neighbors and potential investors soon.

A new season of Texas Tech Public Media’s multimedia series “Beyond The Report” looks at how Plan Lubbock 2040 could affect neighborhoods that feel forgotten. For more, visit beyondthereportlbk.com.

Have a news tip? Email Sarah Self-Walbrick at saselfwa@ttu.edu. Follow her reporting on Twitter @SarahFromTTUPM.

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