Concept graphic of possible improvements coming to S. MLK Drive near E. High Street.
Growing up on Jackson’s south side, Anthony Parker says he witnessed his neighborhood deteriorate. “I’ve lived it. And now to be a part of its revitalization is highly important to me,” Parker said.
Parker is Board Chair of the MLK Corridor Improvement Authority (also called MLKCIA). The board consists of residents, business leaders, and local officials who oversee all aspects of the authority. The MLKCIA is made up of properties along the entire length of Prospect Street, MLK Drive south of downtown, and select properties along the MLK Equality Trail and S. Cooper Street. In addition to $4.5 million in funding from the City, the authority will use a portion of existing tax dollars captured from these areas to reinvest in the neighborhood.
This does not bring any new taxes. Parker says authorities like the MLKCIA have been successful in bringing economic booms to cities across the country. "While the format is not unique, we are looking for unique solutions to improve Jackson,” Parker said.
Formed in spring 2021, the authority spent its first year and a half getting resident feedback and collecting data on neighborhood needs. Board meetings were moved from City Hall to the MLK Recreation Center in 2022 to make them more accessible to residents. “There’s a misconception that we’re only focused on certain pet projects. The work we do will really be based on resident desires. That’s why it’s so important for our neighbors to be involved,” Parker said.
While there have been conversations about the MLKCIA bringing a grocery store and more housing to the neighborhood, the board intends to start with smaller improvements in 2023. “I expect residents will see smaller projects that make a big impact over the next year, such as a facade improvement program for homes and businesses, more lighting, and better connectivity,” Parker said.
If you’d like to get involved or learn more, meetings are generally held at the MLK Center, 1107 Adrian St., on the fourth Thursday of every month at 5:30 p.m. “When you build up a neighborhood that’s been torn down, the entire community benefits.” Parker said.
MLKCIA Board members (left to right) Thaddaus Williams, George Brown, Arlene Robinson, Philicia Richmond, Mindy Bradish-Orta and Anthony Parker. Not pictured: Diane Washington, Daniel Mahoney, James Johnson and John Willis.