Marcus Bottom needs beautification, community center, residents told

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 7, 2001

Jackson State University graduate student Alfred Moses talks at Marcus Bottom Sunday at KFC on Halls Ferry Road. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[05/07/01] A community center and beautification are listed as priorities to enhance development in the Marcus Bottom area, graduate students from Jackson State University told residents at a public meeting Sunday.

The School of Urban and Regional Planning from the university has been conducting surveys among residents and business owners in the five-block valley between Bowmar Avenue and Cherry Street for 14 weeks.

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Four residents and one property owner attended the meeting Sunday to hear the results of the surveys and the students’ suggestions on what needed to be done.

Dr. William M. Harris, head of the JSU department, said the purpose of Jackson State’s involvement is to find out what opportunities exist for economic development in the neighborhood and the effect in the community if the plans are put into action.

A group of students known as SWOT, listed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the economic development of the area. Also, student Ben Wesley listed the residents, the 14,000 cars passing through daily, the terrain and the proximity to tourist attractions as strengths.

Among the weaknesses, student Alford Moss noted the lack of businesses, a lack of sidewalks, no historical sites or landmarks, no barriers to protect people, primarily children, from high-volume traffic, and a lack of relationships with other business organizations.

“Economic development starts with building up the community,” student Kim Hilliard said.

The findings showed the area did not take advantage of its rich history and students found a lack of incentives for businesses to come to the area.

Suggestions included taking advantage of federal funding for inner-city businesses, involving the city for beautification enhancement and building alliances with organizations such as the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote tourism.

“Political involvement has been non-existent in the community, which separates residents from the city,” student Adrian Brown said. “There are few businesses due to a lack of economic development and a lack of resources.”

Mayor Robert Walker, who lives in the area and attended the meeting, said plans are in the works to develop a task force for Marcus Bottom and a list of names should be available in seven to 10 days.

“It’s important to advise people on what is available to them,” Walker said. “We need to increase the interest of residents in this neighborhood to own businesses. We want to see this area develop in terms of heritage and commercialism.”

Harris said Jackson State will continue to be involved in the plans for Marcus Bottom.

“This is not a one-stop shop,” Harris said. “We plan to continue to work with the City of Vicksburg. Much still has to be done. we have to get to the next level…how to implement the recommendations.”