If you are a Dallas Cowboys fan at all, you know who I'm talking about already.
Deion Sanders, the flamboyant free safety for the team back in the glory days of the 1990s, has always fancied himself as a "Prime Time" player.
In my opinion he made his case big time recently when he announced plans to lend his name and his backing to a housing and economic development venture in the heart of Fair Park--South Dallas.
Deion's company, Prime Time Development Corporation, will enter a partnership with the SouthFair Community Development Corporation, a highly respected non-profit with whom we at Central Dallas Ministries have cooperated in the past.
Sanders intends to build approximately 200 single-family homes in the Jefferies Meyers neighborhood. In addition, the plan will include two retail and business centers. Sanders and his team hope that the retail portion of the plan will offer a "wider-than-neighborhood" regional appeal to consumers.
Homes in the new endeavor will start at between $108,000 and $115,000. The hope here is to attract middle class wage earners to bring economic diversity back to the South Dallas community.
Sanders is thinking correctly.
Economic segregation is one of the most challenging obstacles to neighborhood health in Dallas, as well as in every major inner city area in the nation. The concentration of low-income families in neighborhoods above a density proportion of 40% dooms such areas to intractable poverty, unemployment and generations of difficulty (see Paul Jargowsky, Poverty and Place: Ghettos, Barrios, and the American City, 1997).
Public policy makers need to do more to incentivize developers like Sanders to accomplish more of what actually will bring neighborhoods back.
Sanders' notion is correct.
In fact, it is so informed by common sense that it escapes most folks.
Low-income communities can do better if infused with residents and consumers who operate with more capital than has been true of the majority of residents for many years. Once development begins, surprising rejuvenation often follows as inner city markets are given a new opportunity to work.
No doubt the proposition seems risky. Few for-profit developers are rushing into this part of our city to make deals.
Deion "Neon" Sanders played football with risky and reckless abandon.
The game he finds himself in now involves higher stakes.
I'm betting he picks off an opportunity and scores big for the community.
Whatever the final score, I'm a bigger fan now than ever before.
Go Deion, go!