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Northern Exposure

Klondike and Smokey City neighborhoods get city attention as a result of Crosstown plans.

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When Quincey Morris was growing up in the Klondike neighborhood just north of Jackson Avenue, the community was vibrant and self-sufficient.

"We had everything you needed in a neighborhood — grocery stores, pharmacies, a dry cleaners, restaurants," said Morris, who serves as the president of the Klondike-Smokey City Community Development Corporation (CDC).

Today, Klondike and the neighboring Smokey City community are considered food deserts, and the neighborhoods are home to vacant lots and blighted properties.

But city Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipscomb is hoping to piggyback off of the planned Crosstown development, which will kick off construction next year just a few blocks south of Klondike and Smokey City, to revitalize the two North Memphis neighborhoods.

"We can't leave these neighborhoods behind as we're developing these big projects like Crosstown" Lipscomb said.

Lipscomb and urban design consultant Ray Brown presented their ideas for Klondike and Smokey City, called the North Memphis Neighborhoods of Choice plan, to the Memphis City Council's executive committee earlier this month. There is currently no budget for the plan, but Lipscomb expects to ask the council to fund it in the near future.

The plan calls for the creation of a "health urban magnet" on Jackson between Breedlove and Manassas that would include health care offices spinning off from the medical offices planned for the Crosstown building. It would also include a park, retail space, and some multi-family, mixed-use development.

Farther down Jackson, between Bellevue and North Watkins, a "food urban magnet" with an urban farm, a building to host farmer's markets, a festival square, senior housing, and apartments would be constructed.

Within the heart of Klondike and Smokey City, in-fill housing would be constructed on Ayers and Mansfield. A city survey of those streets found 24 vacant lots on Ayers and 21 on Mansfield that could accommodate future housing.

"We also want to include some streetscaping on Jackson and rebuild the existing bayou into a true water feature," said Brown at the council meeting.

The plan also includes a "road diet" for Jackson, which translates to fewer vehicle lanes and an added bike lane.

Although the city's plan for Klondike and Smokey City is contingent on funding, Morris said her CDC is getting started in January to start better the neighborhoods with workforce training and literacy programs.

"Usually when they do a plan like Crosstown, they give a percentage of business to minorities and hire from within the surrounding community. So we are trying to put things in place where our residents can get job-ready," Morris said. "When the project kicks off, we want them to be eligible for jobs."

Lipscomb said redeveloping Klondike and Smokey City is part of a larger plan to tackle blighted neighborhoods across the city.

"We're reinvesting in these neighborhoods one at a time. You have to re-instill pride and make people want to stay," Lipscomb said. "But it's a challenge with the mere fact of blight and crime and the lack of job opportunities."

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