Vicksburg Garden District plan stems from residents taking control of their neighborhood

Published 3:05 pm Thursday, March 16, 2023

A group of residents and property owners in the Pearl and Speed Street area are looking to improve it and make it more appealing to tourists.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen on March 10 approved an ordinance designating an area bounded on the south by Speed Street, east by Washington Street, west by Pearl Street, and north by the KCS railroad tracks, including the 2100-2400 blocks of Oak Street, as the Vicksburg Garden District.

The area, which is in the Vicksburg Historic District, is home to six residences listed on the National Register of Historic Places — Cedar Grove Mansion, Floweree, Belle of the Bends, The Corners, The Captain Carroll House and The Bellevue Kitchen.

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According to the ordinance, the district’s purpose is to foster development, revitalization, and renewal of the historically significant community “through the enforcement of building, housing, and related codes and the planned improvements to the area.”

The members of the district’s steering committee are applying for 501c(3) status to raise money to help those who can’t afford to repair their property.

“This is neighbor helping neighbor,” said Cedar Grove co-owner Kendra Reed.

She said the idea for the garden district has its roots in a crawfish boil during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We evolved into this group of neighbors pulling together, talking about how we can clean up the neighborhood; how we can do it,” she said.

The group later brought in planner Jimmy Gouras who helped them go to the mayor to discuss their plan and see if they could get help from the city to create a garden district and help enforce building codes and help beautify and clean the neighborhood.

Reed said the city has already prepared a five-year master plan for the district.

“I know we’ve got a number of historic homes in this area but you have some others that are old but they’re not quite historic,” Reed said, adding that members of the steering committee would approach the owner of the rundown property and ask them to fix it or demolish it.

“So that’s kind of how that would go if there’s a tenant in there or if there’s a homeowner in there who can’t afford to fix it up, then we’re starting a 501c(3) so that we can raise funds to help them to paint the front door or whatever,” she said.

“So it just depends, it just depends on what the situation is and it’s the city’s commitment to provide the city inspectors to locate those violations and try to get some action on the sidewalks and street lighting, gas lighting and signage for the neighborhood.”

Macy Whitney, owner of The Corners, said the committee has also asked the city for period-style lighting.

“I don’t know if they’re going to be gas lines or they’re going to look like whatever they’re putting around the city, which is kind of a change because the rest of the city is going to be compatible with what the city is putting in, but just looking like a historic lantern type.”

Reed said the goal of the district and the steering committee is to have the residents help each other. And while they realize the goal of fixing up the neighborhood will require the city’s help, “It’s not going to be, ‘Let’s dump this on the city because the city can’t do everything.  This is us taking as much power and control as we can to help each other and to look out for each other.”

If the garden district’s plan works out, the residents hope it will serve as an example for other neighborhoods.

“We would love to help other communities in Vicksburg be able to fix up their neighborhoods and to band together and take what works for us and to share that,” Reed said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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