Council members question West Jackson project

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Tupelo stockBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Some Tupelo City Council members used a budget transfer request Tuesday as an opportunity to question plans for the West Jackson Street redevelopment project.

After lengthy discussion leading to Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted to table a request to transfer $891,460 of city money for the redevelopment project from one part of the capital budget to another until getting an update on the nearly $3 million project.

Members of the Neighborhood Development Corporation, the nonprofit leading the redevelopment project, met in closed session with City Council members, Mayor Jason Shelton and other city officials to discuss the project.

Afterward, the council voted 6-1 to approve the transfer from one city account to another. Jim Newell of Ward 3 dissented. This action doesn’t allow NDC to use the funds for the project, but puts the funds into an account to disperse the money when the citizen volunteers for the project request the funds.

Newell and Willie Jennings of Ward 7 questioned the project’s direction after NDC members said months ago that the group is considering not demolishing the eight-unit apartments at Jackson Street and Clayton Avenue, instead considering options including converting them into four-unit condos.

Newell said he’ll continue to oppose the effort as long as it involves using city money to acquire property to improve the neighborhood.

“This is probably the fifth or sixth time I’ve voted against the West Jackson project,” Newell said of his vote Tuesday. “I don’t think the city should get into making real estate transactions.”

NDC has contracted with Tupelo architecture firm The McCarty Company to complete a master plan for the redevelopment project by the end of this month. The plan will include concepts for the project and determine which of the 17-22 properties to acquire for the project to help improve the neighborhood by razing some of the houses that have dipped in property values in recent decades and allow developers to build housing targeted to middle-income families.

Shelton, who supports the project, said he appreciates questions from the council members about the revitalization effort.

“A healthy discussion is good for any project,” he said.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com