With last-minute reprieve, school gets chance to mend divided neighborhood

For more than 15 years, as Cabrini-Green was torn down and new developments have risen, the promise of a mixed-income neighborhood has, at best, sputtered forward.

"It's getting better," he said. "It's still an uphill battle."

We were walking past a subsidized senior-citizen building on the same side of Cleveland as Manierre. Across the street were houses valued at more than $2 million each.

Many residents, newcomers and old-timers, are upset that drugs, violence and racial tensions persist. Burnett blames some of the problems on people who no longer live in the neighborhood.

The new mixed-income developments, he noted, don't allow residents with a felony on their record. But everybody's got relatives.

"Everyone who used to live in the neighborhood feels this is still their home, so they come back," he said. "They're more comfortable selling drugs here than where they live now. All the felony guys are the ones selling drugs."

He shook his head.

"Man, you messing it up for the people who live here."

We rounded another corner, past an older, smaller subsidized development, near the corners where, in warmer times, lots of people can be seen milling around, talking loudly, some dealing drugs.

One problem, Burnett said, is that the good kids dress like the troublemakers. You can't tell by looking.

He's convinced that better communication would help quell the fears and resentments that, along with the very real crime, keep the neighborhood on edge even as it prospers.

A good, integrated school would help people connect.

Manierre, spared from the closing list at the last moment, has a chance to be that school.

"Thank you," cried a woman who walked out of the day care center housed in Manierre as Burnett walked back to the front. "I ain't ever hugged you in my life, but I'm going to hug you now."

For all of Manierre's struggles, it has opportunities that many schools lack, like the support of major businesses. Target, which is building a nearby store on former Cabrini land, paid for the school's new library.

"Lot of resources," Burnett said. "Now we just need to capitalize on it. Make it so that a lady who lives across the street wants to bring her kids over here."