Why would anyone in South Dallas trust an outsider who says that he wants to help turn the economically and socially depressed area into a proud and prosperous one-merely out of the goodness of his heart? South Dallas residents have heard that promise plenty of times, and they’ve been desperate enough to want to believe it. But few can say they’ve ever seen anyone come to South Dallas with a promise that didn’t have a profit motive attached. The major complaint by the area’s leaders is that money in the form of business investments never seems to stay in the community.
That’s the kind of attitude businessman Ralph Greenwood is facing. How’s he dealing with it? He’s putting his own time and money where his mouth is and putting his reputation on the line.
Greenwood’s name isn’t too familiar in Dallas, and that’s the way he wants to keep it. He’d rather act as a low-profile orchestrator to see that South Dallas gets the things it needs. In 1982, Greenwood was on loan to the Dallas Urban League from IBM. While he was there, he quietly helped set in motion the South Dallas Economic Development Corp., which is intended to attract private investment to the area. He says he has special insight into the problems the area faces because he was raised in the South Bronx, one of the largest slums in New York.
When his year at the Urban League was over. Greenwood returned to IBM, where he works as a marketing support executive. During the past several months, he has spent a lot of time visiting area schools and political and business leaders trying to earn the respect and trust that is imperative in order to accomplish his goals. He admits that gaining that trust is difficult and frustrating.
Another of Greenwood’s interests has been the development of decent low-income housing in the area surrounding Fair Park. With the help of both black and white investors and a $190,000 loan from Re-publicBank Dallas, Greenwood has purchased a 24-unit apartment complex. (He bought a 16-unit apartment complex last year for the same purpose.) ARCrest & Associates, a local property management company, oversees the apartments.
The apartments are just the beginning of what Greenwood and many other people living in and around South Dallas hope will be a total economic revitalization effort. The city is already trying to accomplish on a large scale (through the Mayor’s South Dallas Task Force) what Greenwood hopes to do on a small scale. He says, however, that the task force is so complicated and politically strapped that it may take years to accomplish anything.
Greenwood believes in improving the quality of life in South Dallas. But he wants to prove to communities there that he can make a project succeed before he goes to them to ask for their support and confidence.
He says he’s confident that the apartment project will succeed . He says that any profits that are made will be put back into the community; he and his investors just hope to break even. “We want to give people the opportunity to watch what we’re doing and see for themselves how capable we are of doing it. Once we’ve done that, we can go to other people and show them the kinds of things we’re doing and ask them to help solve some other problems.”
Greenwood has no previousexperience in the apartmentbusiness. That’s why he has relied on Dallas businessmanand community leader BuddyMacateefor advice. Macatee,a minor investor in the apartments, knows that few Dallasbusinessmen are trusted bySouth Dallas residents. Hehopes that his associationwith Greenwood doesn’t hurtGreenwood’s chances of making positive changes in the FairPark area or anywhere in SouthDallas.