City of Jackson investing $4.5 million in ‘long neglected’ MLK corridor

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JACKSON, Mich. — The city of Jackson will set aside $4.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for its MLK Corridor Improvement Authority to kick start a revitalization of the city’s south side.

“$4.5 million obviously won’t correct everything,” city of Jackson Chief Equity Officer John Willis said. “That’s not where it needs to be in the community, but it’s a huge start. It’s something that can stimulate growth, something that can create incentives that get some things done that need to be done in the community.”

At one time in 1960, there were 61 businesses on Francis Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Drive) from Franklin Street to South Street, and today, there’s less than 20. Willis says it was partially done through disinvestment and decades old redlining practices.

Earlier this summer, city officials purchased a 1.3 acre lot on Prospect Street with the hopes of potentially working with someone to turn the property into a much-needed market.

“Some of the disinvestment that was made in housing and equity opportunities, those things haven’t been present in a long time,” Willis said. “So, to stimulate growth, whether that growth is in housing, whether that growth is in new business, whether it’s a road or street development, some of the infrastructure things that have to be done to attract businesses to that community. There’s a lot of moving pieces into it.”

Growth may also come from a proposed expansion of the MLK corridor to include more of the south side by adding Cooper Street from High Street to South Street as well as a neighborhood near the Martin Luther King Jr. Center.

Right now, the corridor goes from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to the city limits at west South Street and Prospect Street from Fourth Street to Cooper Street.

Willis wants to see it expanded because it will help re-fund the community and give the area more economic development through tax increment financing, which is a geographically targeted economic development tool to stimulate private investment in a blighted area that has been designated to be in need of revitalization.

“It’s important that we have as much development area as possible to increase what’s coming into the corridor,” he said. “As we increase the value of those properties, those tax increments come back into the corridor to help a continuous redevelopment process being there.”

Willis acknowledges this is only a start and says he and the city wants to hear from citizens to fully grasp what they want to see in the south side.

“The city of Jackson is doing for the community that hasn’t been done in the past is making sure the community is heavily involved in the process,” he said. “So, whether that’s consideration of where a grocery store would go, what type of work needs to be done, what we’re doing infrastructurally, where we’re looking at economic development, the community has a voice.”

The final reading of the proposed corridor expansion will take place Tuesday, Sept. 13, when council will vote on the plan.

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