Like many American inner-city neighborhoods, the Midtown neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi has suffered blight, deterioration, and population decline in the last 50 years. In 2009, there were many abandoned and dilapidated homes and a high percentage of vacant land. Much of the older housing stock was in poor condition. The infrastructure was (and much still is) old, undersized, and deteriorated. The level of criminal activity was high, largely unreported, and unacceptable. Property values were low and stagnant. Banks were generally reluctant to lend to individuals or businesses in the neighborhood. Despite strides that were made prior to the Midtown Master Plan project by Habitat for Humanity and other stakeholders, the neighborhood was not growing nor was it self-sustaining. The social contract and the private market were failing.
The Midtown Master Plan is the result of a year-long community-based master planning process that engaged neighborhood residents, business owners, non-profit organizations, and institutional partners. This process included numerous community-wide meetings, resident surveys, and individual partner interviews in order to gather input and feedback on the community’s needs and vision for its growth.
The resulting plan is a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategy that includes housing, economic, health, security, and sustainability initiatives. The planning work is part community organizing (initiatives) and part strategic development (interventions), designed to build a road map for revival. The plan recognizes that in depressed inner-city neighborhoods, the most important asset is its people. The second most important asset is its land. The planning work strives to help organize the people of the community to work together to positively affect land value as a strategy to raise capital for everyone. Further, partnerships with anchor institutions are developed for support and investment. The plan, adopted by the Board of Directors of Midtown Partners, Inc. in February of 2010, is enthusiastically embraced and championed by the community. Midtown Partners, Inc. dedicates staff and financial resources to spearhead the ongoing implementation of the Master Plan and ensure that it remains a living document that continues to foster engagement by residents, businesses, and other community stakeholders. Since the Master Plan was completed in 2010, over 60 new affordable residences have been built, and a new charter school and afterschool program have been established. Many partners have joined in the work including Millsaps College and the City of Jackson. New businesses have opened; financial and health services for residents have been established; education programs have been expanded, and new residents are beginning to secure mortgages and move into the neighborhood. The private marketplace is beginning to emerge, and a healthy community revival is in progress.