Davenport’s Goose Creek Heights mark decade-long turnaround

DAVENPORT - Flying soccer balls and happy kids seem like a dream at Goose Creek Heights.

"It's not something I would have thought 30 years ago would have happened," said longtime resident Cathy Longoria, on Friday, June 30.

Back then, the neighborhood along and near West 65th Street was crime-ridden Americana Park.  And the soccer field really was a fantasy.

"It was sticks, bats, weapons," she recalled.  "It wasn't good, and they weren't playing games."

But changing the name, image and attitude over the past decade prompted an anniversary celebration at Summer Ridge Apartments.

Tenant screenings, security cameras and a caring staff all played roles in the massive turnaround.

"There is no way I would be able to do this on my own," said owner Paul Forkeotes, who spent eight years buying surrounding buildings as well.  "It's really been a collaborative effort."

Police, neighbors and city leaders have been working together for years.  Officer Scott Fuller has been leading the charge from the start.

The neighborhood went from fielding the most police calls to nearly the fewest in Davenport.

Back in the day, he would toil 24-7 from the city's mobile precinct.  These days, you'll find him riding a bike around the neighborhood.

"The biggest reward for me, I guess, is to be able to support the people - men, women and children that actually live out here," he said.

A once-dangerous park, marred by drug deals and violent crimes, now houses a Head Start program and community center, where Neighborhood Watch meetings and other activities take place.

"It was built here by volunteers, all free with donations," Longoria said.

As kids kick around their new soccer balls, the field represents a remarkable transformation.  It was built on the site of a burned-down apartment building.

Plus, neighbors like Longoria are staying vigilant and vowing to keep it that way.

"We have a lot of new homes being built here," she concluded.  "Our property values are up."

Now, Goose Creek Heights is poising for many more decades of prosperity in Davenport.