By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Mayor Jack Reed Jr. on Wednesday unveiled his plans for a neighborhood park designed to revitalize a long-neglected residential area.
He said it’s the first step toward a citywide effort to improve older neighborhoods, boost property values and draw more families back to Tupelo.
“For the first time,” Reed said, “we’re taking real action” after more than a year of discussion about such a project.
Flanked by residents of the area and numerous city officials, Reed presented an architectural rendering of the proposed park: a 6-acre green space with basketball courts, children’s playground, half-mile walking track and parking.
It will replace two old houses on Chapman Drive and a dilapidated apartment complex on the corner of Blair Street and Clayton Avenue. The city announced Tuesday it would purchase those properties, all of which abut each other, for a total $376,000.
Funds for the purchases come from money allocated in a recently passed bond issue. The money also will cover the cost of demolishing the structures. It’s not immediately known when the demolition will take place and how soon park development could begin.
Reed also said he will encourage residential development in the area.
Neighbors applauded the news, saying it will remove an eyesore and breath new life into the district.
“This has been such a blight on our neighborhood,” said Bruce Brown, who lives with his wife Pat just a few doors down from the old apartment complex. “It will be something people will deliberately come to instead of something people deliberately avoid.”
The Rev. Cordell Phillips of the adjacent Inspirational Community Baptist Church said he welcomes the project and hopes it will provide an oasis for the children who call the area home.
“It’s a place they’ll feel safe,” he said.
Also supportive were the presidents of the Joyner and Gravelee neighborhood associations, who hope it will increase property values and enhance the area.
After a decades-long national trend toward large, community parks, many cities are returning to the concept of small, neighborhood parks, said Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis.
The proposed park for this area would be at the forefront of a new national trend, he said, and one of potentially several more in store for Tupelo.