It is encouraging to see projects that focus on ridding our community of blight. That’s what’s happening in South Memphis. We recently transferred 71 blighted properties from the Shelby County Land Bank to two nonprofit organizations that know how to restore communities.
The Works Inc. and Southeast Regional Development Corp. (SRDC) have extensive plans that will reduce blight and, with any luck, help address the need for affordable housing, grocery stores, other retail, and more green space.
For over 20 years, The Works has completed successful projects across our county. They have developed and financed the sale of new and renovated affordable single-family homes and redeveloped multi-family properties. In South Memphis, The Works has announced plans for a new Lincoln Park subdivision. It’s on the site of the old Lincoln Junior High School and the original Southside High School on South Orleans Street. The Works leadership specifically chose blighted properties to redevelop and mitigate blight near that new development. SRDC has been transforming neighborhoods for 30 years, including a set-aside program for low-income families. Over the course of several months SRDC officials have met repeatedly with South Memphis residents who want to see more housing and retail. They are especially eager to see the proposed micro-grocery stores in their community. Just a few months ago, a grocery store in the 38106 ZIP code closed its doors. That location had been home to a full-service grocery store for more than 50 years.
Dozens of blighted South Memphis properties, like this one, will now be revitalized by two local nonprofit agencies.
All of these properties have been in the Land Bank for too long. We are eager to get them out of the Land Bank and into the hands of proven agencies like The Works and SRDC. Both of these organizations have finger a on the pulse of this community. They know residents want to own their homes. But to do that, the community needs better housing stock. The transfer of these properties could be a big step in that direction. In addition, these nonprofits have already made an investment in their new holdings. They paid $1,500 to cover transaction fees for each property. The contract also requires that they pay a living wage to anyone hired to handle upkeep.
Most of the properties in the Land Bank are there because of delinquent taxes. Getting them into the hands of new owners helps the surrounding community and the entire county.
South Memphis is in need of a holistic, community-led redevelopment. Health Department statistics show that its 38106 and 38126 ZIP codes, have the shortest life expectancy in Shelby County. We also know that it has too many underwater home mortgages.
This community is much more than these statistics.
South Memphis has a rich history. It is the home of legacy Stax Records, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and LeMoyne-Owen College. It is the birthplace of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. The residents of South Memphis are committed to their community and deserve affordable homes they can purchase to build wealth for future generations.
We are here to support them and will do everything we can to strengthen South Memphis.
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