Jackson – It has been a mere five years since the establishment of the Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation (GBNF), a nonprofit organization founded to promote the preservation, economic growth and beautification of the city`s historic Belhaven and Belhaven Heights neighborhoods, but already the impact is evident.
“The founders also wanted to create an organization that could accept tax-exempt contributions of property and money,” explained Virgi Lindsay, GBNF`s executive director. “That proved very important because the foundation has been given 38 acres of property that is prime interstate frontage.”
Lindsay says several people have tried to develop the property over the years, but were frustrated because the plans never fit with the neighborhood.
“Now that the foundation owns the property, we can choose to develop it in a way that will enhance and improve Greater Belhaven,” she said.
What will become of the property is yet to be decided, but there`s no lack of other projects in various stages of completion in the neighborhood, which seems poised for a boom in economic growth.
One project was the result of another donation to the foundation – the gift of a cottage on Fortification Street from the McCarty family, founders of the Jitney-Jungle grocery store chain. The house was extensively renovated, following historic district guidelines, and now serves as the foundation`s headquarters.
“The house is an excellent example of adaptive re-use and shows what can be done with these cottages,” Lindsay said. “We have our offices in the front and an apartment in the back that is occupied by a law enforcement officer. Being located on Fortification Street has been valuable, too, because we are trying to encourage investment in this street, and people can see that we are investors ourselves.”
The ability to make this type of investment also stemmed from forming the non-profit foundation. Because of the organization`s status and efforts to improve the neighborhood, Mississippi Baptist Medical Center pledged to give GBNF $1 million a year over a 10 year period, subject to a four-to-one match.
“Because of the contributions we receive from the neighborhood, we have been able to meet that match so far,” said Lindsay. “We are in the third year of the pledge.”
Perhaps the most visible development in Greater Belhaven is the establishment of the Greater Belhaven Market, a producers-only, open-air bazaar held on Saturday mornings from April through December at the corners of Fortification, North and Carlisle streets. Modeled after New Orlean`s Crescent City Market, Belhaven`s market recently re-opened for its third season.
The market is also the site for a recently-established neighborhood event, the annual “Run to the Market”, a 5-K run/walk held each June.
In addition to the market, three new businesses have moved into the area in the last six months – the Original Husk Tamale Co., Belhaven Station restaurant and Flashback Video Caf