OUR OPINION: Neighborhood renewal offers visual boost

By NEMS Daily Journal

The necessity of the city’s purchase of a large tract bounded by Clayton Avenue, Blair Street and Chapman Street becomes more obvious as the demolition of derelict apartment buildings begins, making way for a new neighborhood park, walking track and recreation area.
The city purchased the site from out-of-town owners for $376,000, using available bond funds. Bids will be let in a few weeks for the rest of the demolition work started this week by city crews. The Tupelo Fire Department had used the buildings earlier for controlled-burn training fires, and some components, like external stairs, will be used by the city for other projects elsewhere.
The former apartment structures had become a haven for drug dealing, prostitution and other crimes over the years, hastening the decline of housing along Blair Street. Most of the larger Clayton Avenue neighborhood’s leaders welcomed the city’s action, seeing it as a way to reverse deterioration and restore the area’s standing as a family-friendly enclave.
The move was supported by Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and a 5-1 majority of the City Council.
Planning for the design of the new park is ongoing, with involvement by the Tupelo Planning Department, the Parks and Recreation Department, and citizens of the neighborhood. Citizen input is especially necessary because people who live nearby know what can help; the professional planners bring a broader view of what has worked in other cities and in other Tupelo parks.
City planning chief BJ Teal has been meeting directly with neighborhood association members.
Citizens with suggestions about the park’s design and elements are asked to call the Mayor’s Office in City Hall, (662) 841-6513, and information will be forwarded to the right department heads.
The widely respected Urban Institute, which is a research engine about urban life in all dimensions, said this in its report, “The Public Value of Urban Parks”: “This connection between urban parks and neighborhood quality is receiving renewed attention from community developers as they strive to make their neighborhoods more attractive to low-income and, increasingly, middle-income residents.
“A recent survey for Community Development Corporations (CDCs) – which were once focused largely on housing and commercial development activities – reveals that about 20 percent of CDCs now invest in open-space programs, and that this activity area is undergoing the most rapid expansion. This finding should be no surprise. CDCs respond … and the communities’ priority is often more green space.”
Tupelo made the right decision.