It was a scene so ordinary and so utterly improbable.
On Tuesday morning, a dozen toddlers frolicked in a fountain at the Dennis Street Park, just outside Dudley Square, racing around with ear-splitting delight. All around the park, handsome houses stood in the sunshine, their planters cascading petunias.
Twenty-five years ago, this Roxbury neighborhood was one of the most blighted places in the country, a monument to racism and neglect. Half of the 62 acres surrounding this park were vacant lots. And not just vacant lots, but overgrown wastelands where people dumped old refrigerators, burnt-out cars, rotting meat, and hazardous construction waste. Arson for profit was rampant. The neighborhood was left for dead.
“They found a lady dead over there,” said retired MBTA worker Ron Stokes, standing in his cozy living room, pointing in the direction of the toddlers. “The weeds were so high, it was only the smell that led them there. . . . You wondered how in the world [this place] could be part of a major city.”
How does such appalling desolation become uplifting beauty? “This here is what you call a miracle,” Stokes said.
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