Like many inner-city neighborhoods around the country, the West Jackson community has suffered from an abundance of multi-dimensional problems including blight, deterioration and population decline in the last 60 years. Despite the work to organize and revitalize the neighborhood by the City with a new westward parkway and some community development efforts by Jackson State, with some community development efforts, and other work by churches and non-profits, the neighborhoods were not growing nor were they self-sustaining. In many pockets of the area, the social contract and the private market were failing.
The West Jackson Guidebook is the result of a year-long community-based master planning process which 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 Guidebook is a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategy that includes housing, infrastructure planning, economic development, 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 planning work has been successful and effective because it is comprehensive and strategic. It includes both service and project recommendations, proposes a timed implementation plan, employs economic discipline, and builds consensus among all stakeholders. The strategy intertwines ground-up research with top-down analysis, and as such, is an effective community educational tool that transforms the neighborhood conversation from immediate problem solving to long-term growth. The process builds consensus around the viable steps that should be taken to allow the residents and stakeholders to solve the community’s immediate concerns while they work together to achieve healthy growth.