Wednesday, August 11, 2021
The City of Jackson, working with blight-elimination partners, has demolished 117 properties across the city using a $2.95 million grant from the Mississippi Home Corporation, officials announced at a press briefing on Monday, Aug. 8. Design Build Solutions, Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area, Midtown Partners and Voice of Calvary Ministries are working with the City in the process.
"Without these partners, there was nothing that would have been done because the blight-elimination program required us to have a community partner in order to actually access the money," Director of Planning Jordan Hillman said at the briefing. "The blight-elimination funding was used for acquisition, title cleanup, demolition, and will be used for ongoing maintenance for up to three years."
Preventing Illegal Dumping and Removing Eyesores
In December, the Jackson Free Press reported the problem of blight in the city of Jackson. Numerous properties lay abandoned, and some become illegal dumping sites constituting eyesores.
"I would like to look forward to how our partners will continue their work and their ongoing maintenance. And actually to see how these properties get reused as we move forward over the next few years," Hillman said Monday.
Midtown Partners Executive Director Kristi Hendrix said the nonprofit received "over $100,000." The Department of Planning provided a document that showed that the organization demolished seven properties.
"Sometimes we think that it would be relatively inexpensive to take down these blighted projects, but by the time you acquire them, you do the environmentals, you abate the asbestos—most of these buildings have asbestos—you demo, you do the cleanup, you clean up the title, you pay the liens, you pay the back taxes, sometimes you have well over $20,000 invested in a property that you would only get a fraction of that back," Hendrix said.
"So projects like this and programs like this are very important to organizations to be able to do this work within our neighborhoods without placing that financial burden upon us."
Clean-up in Multiple Wards in Jackson
Design-Build Solutions worked with Rosemont Baptist Church and Revitalize Mississippi on parts of the project. Revitalize Mississippi Executive Director Andy Frame said that their mission of cleaning up abandoned properties ties into the program.
"And it's really a great feeling to be on this end of it and see so many properties cleaned up and so many properties that are now kind of a blank canvas for future development and turning a negative space in the community into a more productive space," he said. Those spaces can host affordable housing, parks and gardens, and green spaces, he added.
Mississippi Delta-based Design Build Solution worked on 49 properties in Jackson in wards 3, 4 and 5, focusing on west Jackson and the community surrounding Rosemont Baptist Church and Lake Elementary School.
The planning director explained that Voice of Calvary Ministries worked on 44 properties in Wards 3 and 4 around the Jackson Zoo, Livingston Park, Lake Elementary and Rosemont Baptist Church. Midtown Partners worked on seven properties in ward 7.
"Habitat (which worked on 17 properties) dedicated their interest in Wards 3, 6 and 7 impacting the Broadmoor neighborhood, the Medical Mall area, and neighborhoods near JC Park and the community surrounding St. Teresa Elementary and Key Elementary Schools," Hillman said.
Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said the partners' work is vital, but that the State of Mississippi should do more to reduce the amount of time, energy, and money expended in clearing titles before removing blights from communities, to enhance financial efficiency. The State owns many blighted and dilapidated properties in Jackson.
"There was a significant discussion about all of the title clearing work," the mayor said. "We want to also see some shifts in how we address things as a state so that we can have an appetite to get to more of these structures."
"This (work) is important because it signals to the community that we care; it signals to the community that they are not abandoned and forgotten like some of these properties," he added.
Email story tips to city/county reporter Kayode Crown at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @kayodecrown.
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