Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. So does council member Chuck Beatty. The fact that dream is coming true on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard seems like poetic justice to Beatty.
“I grew up on eastside [of Waxahachie],” Beatty said. “I guess you could say that was more of the Black side of town.”
On Monday, the Waxahachie City Council approved two developments at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard – the Crescent Creek Villas and Kaufman Township East and West. Developer Chris Acker said both are critical developments in increasing connectivity downtown and giving more exposure to the businesses there.
But outside of the monetary value, there’s a deeper significance to these housing developments on MLK Jr. Boulevard. Back in the 1980s, the east and west sides of town were quite segregated.
Beatty said the Waxahachie of today is different from the way it was back then – and he wants to help leave that period well in past.
“We wanted to rebrand it,” Beatty said. “We started calling it Waxahachie East.”
Acker moved to Waxahachie in 1985 and quickly befriended Lamont Moore, the quarterback who helped the Indians football team win the 1992 4A state championship.
But outside of school, a line divided the two of them. A line, Acker said, that neither were allowed to cross.
“It was a drug-ridden area,” Acker recalled. “We weren’t allowed to go past Kaufman Street. That was just a rule. This side’s black, this side is white. You weren’t allowed over there. I wasn’t allowed to drive down the street he lived on.”
Moore said the "Eastside," as it became commonly referred to among residents, was a dangerous, violent place. Fights would break out frequently, and the houses weren’t near the quality as they were on the opposite side.
“There was some violence in the late 80s and early 90s, especially with the drug epidemic,” Moore said. “Growing up as a kid in that area is what made me what I am today. Adults around the area raised kids that didn’t have a good home life. I was lucky that my parents had and instilled the values in me that made me the man that I am today.”
That line on Kaufman Street separated Acker, Moore and their communities in the 90s. But in 2016, Beatty raised interests to Acker in rebranding the area to better represent the Waxahachie of today.
It was then that Acker started planning on developments that would help do just that.
In 2017, the Waxahachie City Council approved a 10-townhome development at the intersection of Franklin and Monroe Streets. It would eventually be known as the Franklin Street Townhomes.
According to a previous Daily Light article, the first floor of each unit features a two-car garage with an elevator that takes the tenants up to the first floor that features three bedrooms, four-and-a-half bathrooms and, even higher up, a rooftop patio.
The development was awarded the 2018 Best New Construction award for a town with under 50,000 population by the Texas Downtown Association in November, along with the Mexican restaurant Two Amigos Taqueria.
Acker said these projects aimed to increase downtown residency and foot traffic.
“We’re trying to move more people towards it,” Acker said. “You shouldn’t have to be a destination. You should be a walk.”
At around the same time that the projects were being developed, Acker ran into Moore at a gas station. He said that Moore expressed admiration for the Franklin Street Townhomes.
“He said ‘Hey, I’d really like to rent one of those townhomes from you,’” Acker recalled. “I said ‘Well they’re for sale, and they’re all pretty much sold.’ He asked how much are they? ‘Well, they are around $450,000.’ He said he couldn’t afford that, but 'I’d love to live downtown.' I said ‘Okay. I’ll get to work on that.’”
THE FIRST TENANT
Earlier this year, Acker began planning on the Crescent Creek Villas and the Kaufman Township developments — with a similar goal to the Franklin Street Townhomes in driving traffic further downtown.
“In the last 36 months downtown, we’ve added $28 million in development in declining and underdeveloped areas – the majority of that being infill situations,” Acker said. “Monday night, we proposed $12 million in new development, with $8 million being Crescent Creek and Kaufman East and West.”
He wasn't alone during the Monday night presentation, either. Acker brought a guest with him – Lamont Moore. Acker said he wanted Moore specifically to be the first person that signs a rental lease on one of the Crescent Creek Townhomes.
“He told me 'I’d love you to be the first tenant once I get them built,'” Moore recalled. “Somebody that’s in the community, somebody that is known and recognized. That way people can see we’re trying to eliminate this.”
Acker said he expects the Crescent Creek and Kaufman Township developments to win even more construction awards than the Franklin Street Townhomes did – mostly because they’re rental properties instead of for-sale properties.
But Acker said the recognition is secondary to his real goal on that intersection. He said he wants to rebrand that entire area and has already purchased land at the intersection of Wyatt and Murdock Street for future developments he has planned.
“This was just step one,” he said. “We’re going to start moving down MLK doing the same thing. We’re trying to do away with that line of separation – the divide. Not only are we rebranding it Waxahachie East; we’re also doing away with the segregation that had been there for as long as we’ve known.”
“There’s no more of that line right there at Kaufman,” Acker continued. “In 40 years, you won’t see it. You won’t even know it was there.”
Beatty said he looks forward to the project’s development and can’t wait to see what the finalized look of Waxahachie East will be.
“We have one Waxahachie — united — not separated by race,” Beatty remarked. “Just one Waxahachie. That’s been my dream.”
Acker said construction on Kaufman Township East and Crescent Creek Villas is expected to begin in spring 2019, while Kaufman Township West isn’t likely to start construction until fall or winter.