West Jackson property targeted for demolition

Tupelo stockBy Robbie Ward
Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo’s Neighborhood Development Corporation has voted to demolish blighted and closed apartments on West Jackson Street and two other nearby houses, signaling the nonprofit’s resolve to hasten progress in the long-anticipated nearly $3 million redevelopment project.

Acquired by the city earlier in the year as an effort to limit crime and to use for future redevelopment, the apartments at West Jackson Street and Clayton Avenue have been vacant for months, displaying a sign showing the property is owned by the city.

Duke Loden, chairman of NDC, and city officials from Development Services Department told members of Joyner and Gravlee neighborhood associations Thursday about recent efforts and plans for the neighborhood redevelopment project, seen by city leaders as a pilot that could be expand to other blighted Tupelo neighborhoods.

Beginning demolition of properties acquired by the city is a necessary practical step in the redevelopment process, but also symbolic to the community.

“We want to show something is going on,” Loden said.

The Tupelo City Council authorized in June for NDC to take day-to-day control of the redevelopment project and report monthly to the city. The organization must get authorization to receive more resources after spending $250,000.

For decades, community leaders have discussed needs for improving tired neighborhoods and creating more housing but took little action until the West Jackson project.

“This is a demonstration that if you’re going to return value to neighborhoods, you’ve got to put money into it,” said Tupelo City Planner Pat Falkner. “It’s something the city has talked about needing to do but has never put the money out to do it.”

With NDC working with the city’s Development Services Department staff, the groups anticipate completion of a master plan for the project by late early fall, Falkner said. In the meantime, NDC will continue to acquire properties and begin demolition on some of the lots.

The project will focus on properties along the 1100 block of West Jackson Street. Falkner said the master plan will split the properties into three categories: those targeted for demolition, improvement or protection.

After demolition, Loden said construction of new houses likely will begin in 2014.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com