Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Justine Residents Fight against Blight

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Justine Residents Fight against Blight

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

The years haven't been kind to the Justina Road area.

One of Arlington's first suburbs, Justina went from being a place where people moved to escape the core city to a place where people move away from to escape the maladies that beset many post-World War II suburbs.

One of those problems is the crime that moves in when homeowners no longer do.

According to the Times-Union, in 2010, one area of Justina accounted for 6 percent of reported business and home burglaries in Duval County even though census figures say it makes up only 0.5 percent of the city's population.

Also, according to the Times-Union, the Sheriff's Office and residents say that drug dealing is an ongoing problem even though arrests have declined from 14 in 2010 to two last year.

Yet Justina appears to have one crucial asset that is key to its revitalization - social capital.

Social capital refers to networks that exist among people in neighborhoods that serve to maintain shared values and social cooperation. In Justina, social capital is embodied in people like David Williams and Sabrenna Chambliss, who have been working with neighbors to stem crime in Justina and to restore pride.

Their efforts have led to packed houses at community meetings and talk of stronger efforts to bolster the economy and to improve services in the area.

That's all good because what it shows is that residents in that area aren't simply going to cower in their homes and watch their neighborhood slip over the tipping point without trying to wrest it back.

Yet places like Justina will face special revitalization challenges when it comes to reseeding itself with new homeowners.

Like most other suburbs that sprang up in the years between 1945 and 1971 (Arlington's suburbs expanded when the Mathews Bridge opened in 1953), Justina was built with a lot of one-story concrete-block homes that were built to accommodate the newest big thing: air conditioning. …

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