The sight of the Tierra Vida neighborhood brought one 29-year-old woman back to Pasco -- to a part of town where she thought she'd never want to live.
"It's a total transformation. I was speechless" Norma Chavez said of the development. "As a child, we were always having to run inside because the cops were chasing the bad guys. Now it's unbelievable. You can actually go outside without having to worry about something going down."
Chavez and her two young children moved to Kennewick two years ago but came back in July to live at Tierra Vida, off A Street in east Pasco.
On Friday, her family celebrated the grand opening of the development's new 8,600-square-foot recreation center.
"One of the important things about it is my kids will have a place to play basketball, have a place to go after school in a safe environment," she said of the building that cost more than $1 million.
Tierra Vida includes a 95-unit apartment complex and 102 homes, with a total of 251 planned, said Adan Suarez, managing director of Community Alliance for Service and Advancement. CASA, an affiliate of Prescott-based Broetje Orchards, developed the site.
The development was originally intended to help Broetje workers realize the dream of home ownership, Cheryl Broetje, who owns the company with her husband Ralph Broetje, told the audience of about 50 people at Friday's ribbon cutting.
But what she called the country's "currently untenable immigration laws" kept some of them from moving in.
About half the residents at Tierra Vida are Broetje employees, Suarez said. The development is open to anyone, but discounts are given to low-income residents who volunteer in the community.
The recreation center includes a wooden basketball and volleyball court, a workout room and meeting rooms. Suarez said memberships are available to people who live outside Tierra Vida, and the building can also be rented out for events.
"As the kids own the place, they take care of the place," he said.
Tierra Vida has room to add new apartments and also land available for retail, Suarez said.
Cheryl Broetje said a great transformation had taken place in the once run-down neighborhood.
"It needed redemption. It needed to be brought back and loved," she said. "So it could be fruitful again."
The event showed why Pasco is an important part of the tapestry of the Tri-Cities, Mayor Matt Watkins told the audience. He said it reminded him of why he decided to make the city his home in 1995.
"One of the reasons I chose Pasco was the people, the community and the diversity," he said.
w Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom