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Jackson Medical Mall gets into housing business

Foundation broke ground on new facility last week

 

The Jackson Medical Mall Foundation is getting into the housing business.

The Foundation broke ground last week on a nearly $3-million development of 24 affordable and green, single-family homes in the Homestead Heights neighborhood at the intersection of Prosperity and Easy streets off Woodrow Wilson Drive.

Foundation director Primus Wheeler said economic and community development has always been part of the non-profit organization’s mission, in addition to providing healthcare for the underserved. The Foundation, which was formed in 1995, took over the old Jackson Mall, turning it into the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center. The facility comprises 53 acres and 900,000 square feet of leasing space.

The Foundation board includes members from Jackson State University, Tougaloo College and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

MDA supplied $2.6 million in federal stimulus dollars for the project, and the remainder came through Affordable Housing Program grants through Trustmark National Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas.

Wheeler said the 24 homes are the first phase of a $15-million plan for Homestead Heights that will take place over a seven-year period. Plans also include renovating existing area homes, adding parks and a community center and building multi-family condos. 

The houses will be “green,” containing special energy-conserving insulation as well as Energy Star appliances.

Across the country, the average low-income household spends more than 13 percent of its annual income on home energy costs — almost twice the national average of 7 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Anyone can apply for the new homes, although there are some income guidelines, said Amia Edwards, housing resource specialist for the Foundation, which offers free credit counseling. The average credit score is around 550, but a 620 or better is needed to qualify for a loan, Edwards said. More than 100 people have already showed interest in the new homes.

The City of Jackson transferred the ownership of more than 10 lots to the Foundation, said Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. The city obtained the lots from the state, which gained property ownership due to foreclosures or unpaid taxes.

Johnson said he remembered when the Jackson Medical Mall was frequented as the Jackson Mall in the late 1960s, but later the facility fell on hard times before being revitalized by the Foundation. Johnson said he had interest in improving the surrounding neighborhood. The business community in downtown Jackson has seen recent revitalization, but that’s not enough, he said. “We have done our thing downtown. Let’s get around town.”

The Medical Mall website boasts that the facility is the only one of its kind nationwide, offering healthcare, human services and a retail and economic development component for its community.

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