A second in a series of articles in the Clarion-Ledger about abandoned buildings in our capital city. I say abandoned because they’re not just vacant, waiting for their next occupant–more, they’ve been abandoned by their owners, left to the destroyers. The article discussed the strange case of the area around Jackson State University where abandoned blocks of homes sit right next to blocks that are full of people going about their lives.
Late in the afternoon on an unseasonably warm January day, Jackie Luckett paused on her porch and took in the scenes along Jackson’s Deer Park Street.
To her right, children tore up and down the 1400 block, racing each other on bicycles. Adults chatted in groups while keeping an eye on the little ones and occasionally shouting out warnings to slow down.
But in the other direction, the 1500 block was void of activity. Dead. Luckett said the block depresses her. It’s like her street is slowly being abandoned, and she can’t understand why, when it’s just across the Metro Parkway from Jackson State University, the largest college in the metro area. She can hear the band practice from her porch.
“It doesn’t make sense to have this right here,” she said. “Somebody should want to put money in this community.”
Amen, Ms. Luckett! We’re not talking about a community that has ceased to function, where crime and drugs have taken over. We’re talking about a college neighborhood–in other towns, they can’t cram enough people into these kinds of areas.
Let me tell you a little story to illustrate that it’s not just that neighborhood: Once upon a time, on the middle/working-class side of the Fondren neighborhood (home of the hip and urbane), sat a 3- bedroom house in the GI Subdivision, probably built in the 1940s. This house sustained terrible roof damage in the tornado of March 2008–that’s almost a year ago now. The owner, who rented the place out, almost immediately erected a temporary roof frame and tarp. So far, so good. Presumably, at some point since then, he has received insurance money. Even if he hasn’t, a wise investor would fix the roof ASAP, and then, even if he didn’t have the money to complete the repairs right away, at least he would still have a good-sized house that was safe from the elements. But instead, the tarp has long ago torn away, exposing a good chunk of the interior to the rain, and now the rest of the roof is starting to sag because it’s not properly supported. I also notice that the front door has mysteriously disappeared. What’s the story here? That house probably had an income of $1000/month–that’s a nice little chunk of change in my book. Even apart from any preservation issue, it doesn’t seem to make sense economically.
Why are so many owners walking away from their investments in neighborhoods that could support those investments, leaving the neighborhood weaker and weaker with each abandonment until finally even those who wanted to fight for their community are forced out too?
It’s very sad, and like Ms. Luckett, I don’t have an explanation.