OUR OPINION: West Jackson project will require patience

Whenever a high-profile redevelopment project of any kind kicks off, the hope is always for quick, visible results. More often than not, however, it takes a slow, steady process to make things happen.

That’s certainly the case with the city of Tupelo’s West Jackson Street redevelopment project. As outlined in a story in Sunday’s Daily Journal, the Neighborhood Redevelopment Corporation – the nonprofit entity managing the project for the city – has hit a few snags, primarily in the reluctance of some property owners in the area to sell at a price NDC considers reasonable.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Owners of the primarily rental houses in the area targeted for redevelopment know that the city wants and needs those houses to make its project a success. So they’re holding out for top dollar, in spite of the fact that most of those properties are in poor condition. If these property owners hadn’t been willing to invest in keeping their houses in good shape before now, it’s predictable that they would try to get the best deal possible to unload them so the city can remove the blight they’ve caused.

It’s tempting, but unrealistic and unproductive, to plead with these landlords to consider the public good in selling their properties. They’ll sell when and if they’re ready.

In the meantime, the NDC is determined to press on and do what it can working around the hold-out property owners. It’s important that the project not lose momentum as it deals with delays, so planning for smaller combinations of properties should continue uninterrupted.

A key milestone in the project could well be when a developer is secured for the apartment building at the corner of Clayton and West Jackson. Before the city purchased it last year, it was a crime-infested drag on the area. At first, NDC envisioned tearing it down, but the building is in good shape, and some kind of commercial development there could be pivotal for the neighborhood. Some developers have an expressed an interest, and NDC is expecting proposals in mid-May.

Much is riding on the success of the redevelopment of the West Jackson Street area. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it could determine the future course of neighborhood redevelopment citywide. If blight is not reversed, it spreads, and reversing blight takes intentional, well-planned, targeted efforts.

Those efforts may not produce results overnight. But with patience and persistence they can and will make a big difference in the long run. Pulling back is not an option.