Business involvement, improvement

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Published: November 12,2001

JACKSON — The Greater Broadmoor District, bounded by Beasley Road to the north, East Northside Drive to the south, the Illinois Central Railroad and North State Street to the west and the West Frontage Road of I-55 to the east, has begun a planned and comprehensive renaissance movement.

Area business leaders and neighborhood residents have partnered together to steer the effort of the movement and to make Broadmoor one of the premier neighborhoods in Jackson.

There is much history in Broadmoor. In the late 1940s, Northside Drive, then Tripp’s Crossing, was little more than a dirt road surrounded by forest and fields. The city’s commerce district, defined by North State Street, practically came to a complete stop at what is now Meadowbrook Road.

At the end of World War II, however, young soldiers found opportunity in the growing city. The perfect solution seemed to be the pastures north of Tripp’s Crossing, which soon became a much-needed housing development.

In September 1948 the Senate Chamber of the Capitol was filled with many young veterans who drew lots for the chance to build in the G.I. Subdivision. To commemorate their bravery, streets were named Manila, Normandy, Churchill and Casa Blanca. Eventually, the neighborhood known as Broadmoor was created.

Tricia Raymond, executive director of the Greater Broadmoor District, has been a homeowner 12 years in the Broadmoor neighborhood. The organization, which became tax exempt just last spring, is progressing step by step to bring about an organization that will bring the “spirit of the renaissance to the community here,” she said.

“We’re focusing our efforts on the (western) side of the interstate to ensure that the community continues to thrive and prosper,” Raymond said. “We’re just the typical neighborhood that’s seen all over the country that’s in its normal life cycle, and we’re catching it right at that point where it could either decline or turn around and prosper. We feel we’re catching it right at the prime time that we can ensure it will prosper.”

Raymond said she is happy about the amount of enthusiasm both businesses and residents have shown for the Greater Broadmoor District.

“I think word’s getting out slowly but surely of what we’re doing and the potential we have,” Raymond said.

Raymond said the first goal of the Greater Broadmoor District is security patrols.

“We’re currently asking businesses to join us in organizing a security patrol for the area, and we’re in the very beginning stages of contacting those folks,” Raymond said. “It’s coming along well but it’s a huge undertaking. After the businesses have gotten started in the security patrol then we’ll begin organizing the neighborhoods and property and homeowners to sign up for it.”

There are roughly 400 businesses in the Broadmoor area, about 3,000 rooftops and approximately 11 apartment complexes, Raymond said, and she added, “As goes the neighborhood, so goes the business district. Our confirmation of that is West and South Jackson. The people left and then the businesses followed.”

Today, Raymond said, the crime in Broadmoor is higher than that of the Fondren neighborhood, and she added that Broadmoor is losing residents.

“There was a little time where we were losing businesses but they’ve come back,” she said. “We need to get our crime rate down.”

John Batte, owner of Batte Furniture and Interiors on Northside Drive, is chairman of the board of directors for the Greater Broadmoor District. He said it is important for businesses to become members of the organization.

“You want a safe and attractive neighborhood, but Broadmoor has broader significance to the city,” Batte said. “If it’s allowed to deteriorate, that whole area of the city is in danger. All of us who own property have a vested interest in the immediate neighborhood around us. Also, it has historical value. In large measure, we’re (business owners) the ones with the resources to do it (improve Broadmoor).”

Batte said those in business in and around the area have a tremendous financial stake in what goes on in the neighborhood. He said businesses should be interested in keeping their employees safe, and in the direction in which the neighborhood is going.

“We have the wherewithal to pitch in and help,” Batte said. “It’s not something realistically, I think, just homeowners can do.”

Batte said the Greater Broadmoor District is currently seeking help from other businesses in the area. “It takes a lot of money and a lot of time,” Batte said.

Donny White, co-owner of W&D Enterprises, owns several properties in the Broadmoor neighborhood.

“I think that anything that helps the neighborhood be able to regenerate itself will help me attract better residents to my communities,” he said. “When you have a neighborhood that’s older, you have to encourage regeneration. I’m not sure it will directly help me but I’m willing to give it a shot.”

White said he considered it his “civic duty” to help his Broadmoor prosper.

“I don’t know that I’m going to generate great things from this but I don’t see any downsides to me helping and I can see some upsides to this,” White said. And, he added, “It’s tax deductible.”

The Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation (GBNF) was created for much the same reason as the Greater Broadmoor District; for proactive planning and to accept donations to benefit, enhance and beautify the neighborhood.

“We can acquire contributions of cash and property to make a difference in the community,” said Virgi Lindsay, executive director of GBNF. “Also, we’ll do long-range and strategic planning for the neighborhood.”

GBNF also has a security focus, although it is not run by the foundation but by the Belhaven Security Foundation, an entity separate from GBNF. In addition, Belhaven also has two garden clubs, the Belhaven Heights Community Association and the Belhaven Improvement Association.

“I think the work that this foundation (GBNF) is poised to do will certainly benefit businesses and residents,” Lindsay said.

Gwinn Magee, vice president of Baptist Health Systems in Jackson, said the hospital has been involved with business development in the State Street Corridor for some time, and has also helped in the development of Midtown. Among other things, the hospital is involved in helping Habitat for Humanity. Baptist Health Systems pledged $100,000 a year over the next 10 years to help with the GBNF’s efforts, according to Lindsay.

“Baptist has been very much interested in seeing continued growth and development (in this area),” Magee said. “We have continuing economic interest in this area of town. This is where we have our future. Our capital investment and whole future sits in our neighborhood.”

Camp Best, executive director of the Fondren Renaissance Renewal, said one of the reasons businesses should donate to their neighborhood foundations is because financial donations are tax exempt.

“When you formalize foundations like Belhaven, Fondren and Broadmoor, you provide them (businesses) with an easy vehicle to become involved financially and take a tax write-off by becoming involved.”

The other reason businesses should become involved in their neighborhood foundations is, Best said, obvious.

“It’s just important to have a healthy mix in any urban neighborhood of commercial and residential,” Best said. “It’s been proven for years that you have to have a healthy mix of good housing and thriving businesses to make the inner city community successful.”

Best said one of the Greater Broadmoor District’s first goals should be to accomplish something visible.

“Put up banners, put up park benches or planters or something that signifies to the rest of the community that this is an area that’s making a concerted effort to revitalize,” Best said. “Get one of your corporate sponsors or larger spo

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