By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The West Jackson Neighborhood Revitalization Project took two key steps this week.
The city began a three-year project to improve the neighborhood between North Gloster Street and Joyner Avenue in January with the purchase of the blighted apartments at the corner of West Jackson Street and Clayton Avenue.
This week, the last of the six families who lived in the apartment building were relocated. Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said he is proud that the families were able to find better homes that in many cases were less expensive than the West Jackson Street apartments. The cost for a two-bedroom, one-bath unit was $680 a month.
“It will improve the quality of their lives,” Reed said.
Three of the families relocated within Tupelo and three relocated to Verona, said code enforcement officer Debra Byrd, who worked with Reed and city chief operating officer Darrell Smith to assist the families.
“Several apartment offices and rental management companies assisted us,” Byrd said. “I’m ever so grateful to Anchor Church,” which volunteered its assistance in helping families move.
The families were able to relocate by the time the city would have been required to start charging rent, Reed said.
“We’re moving forward with the redevelopment of the neighborhood,” Reed said.
Also this week, city planners held a collaborative session with architects, contractors, developers, real estate agents and city council representatives to get input for creating an inviting neighborhood for middle-income families that blends well with the cottage styles in the Gravlee and Joyner neighborhoods.
The planning department invited 27 people and had nearly 40 attend Thursday.
“We had incredible response and enthusiasm,” said B.J. Teal, city development services director.
The city has committed $1.83 million for the project. Plans call for the purchase of blighted properties, demolishing buildings that can’t be salvaged and improving the neighborhood’s utility infrastructure and streetscape in phases. The open lots will be sold to private developers who will build homes aimed at middle income families. A citizen-driven committee backed by the city’s professionals will oversee the revitalization effort.