The Fight Against Blight 

A citywide initiative targets 25 neighborhoods.

In the 40 years Anthony Pratcher has called South Memphis home, he's watched the area become more run down. Homes have been boarded up and abandoned buildings have fallen into disrepair. But last week, a new citywide blight initiative brought a little hope to the area with the demolition of the building at 915 McLemore Ave., across the street from the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

"It's a great step for the neighborhood and it'll help us upgrade South Memphis," said Pratcher. "People have to travel this way to get to Stax, and we'd like our neighborhood to look good."

The demolition of that building kicked off the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which targets blight in 25 neighborhoods in the inner city, beginning with the College Park area in South Memphis. Mayor Willie Herenton said the initiative is a key component in his four-year citywide improvement plan.

Other targeted neighborhoods include New Chicago, Lamar Terrace, Orange Mound, the Mall of Memphis area, and the Midtown corridor.

The Division of Housing and Development has been working with community development corporations and neighborhood associations throughout the city to identify buildings that need to come down. On the list are two well-known Midtown eyesores. Both the old Baptist Rehabilitation Center on Crump Boulevard and the Coach and Four motel complex on Lamar Avenue are scheduled for demolition by the end of the year.

After the abandoned buildings are demolished, the initiative will switch its focus to establishing neighborhood cleanup programs, constructing affordable housing, and recruiting and retaining businesses in the targeted areas.

According to Sandra Mays, director of communication for MHA, her organization has $600,000 for the project until the end of the fiscal year in June. After that, she said the group will have millions of dollars from both federal and local funds secured for the project.

E-mail: bphillips@memphisflyer.com

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