Highway 80?The Forgotten Commercial Corridor
Highway 80, once one of the most important business corridors in the city of Jackson, is now lined with closed businesses, boarded up windows and dilapidated buildings.
A city-wide economic rally was held last night on the parking lot of Wilson Kia on Highway 80. A crowd of nearly 300 people gathered to show support for the area, and for Jackson mayoral candidate Frank Melton.
In his speech, Melton said that one of the key leadership issues in his campaign is housing and urban decay. “Highway 80 and the surrounding area is a sad example of what Jackson has become. The business people who have stuck it out here are to be commended, in light of the situation. I believe that the Highway 80 corridor has been forgotten by city leaders. But if elected mayor, I won’t have to do anything on Highway 80, because there is a group of people who already have a plan in place and they are working hard to make this area better.”
Melton introduced Nina Redding of the MetroCenter Area Coalition, who had a few words to say about their efforts. “It’s great to see such a big crowd, and to talk to you all on behalf of the coalition. Highway 80 may never be what it once was, but I promise you it will certainly be better than it is now!” Melton said that if elected mayor, he will work with the coalition to help them achieve their goals for the area.
A few of the business owners who have remained in the area are concerned about their future there. Howard Buford of Buford Plumbing said the area “absolutely needs some help. It has become a blight area, with vacant buildings. It seems like it’s been more or less forgotten by the leadership of Jackson.” Buford moved the business to the area in 1970, and at the time, the area was thriving. “When Metrocenter came in, the area was just booming. Now I’m worried about the future of Metrocenter.” Buford said the entire area is just drab now. “I really thought when the new Home Depot came in, things would get better. I think so many people are afraid to just try to give it a go here. If one good restaurant would come to the area, I believe others would follow.”
Bob Reed of Rainbow Signs says that he’s all in favor of someone trying to help things along on Highway 80. “The city seems to have forgotten we’re here.” One of the main things Reed says has caused the decline in the area is crime. “Drugs and crime go hand in hand, and the area is rampant with both.”
Chip Triplett of Park Development has apartments in the area. “We’d like to see the crime and drug problem eliminated. Someone needs to take control of the situation.” Triplett says the perception for some people is also a reality. “If this crime problem could be brought under control, some businesses would probably come back and flourish. But look at the old K-Mart building, and now McDonald’s is gone. That’s something that can’t be ignored.”
Businessman Manny Crystal of Jackson Iron and Metal says that Highway 80 has fallen into a state of disrepair. “Highway 80 was once a very important business area of the city. However, over the years, the area seems to have attracted certain activities that are not necessarily beneficial to what the city should be. I know it’s a problem that’s found in most cities this size, but that doesn’t mean we should accept it. What needs to be done is a cleaning up of the negative parts of the corridor. It seems that crime, prostitution and drugs are all inter-related, and the more that can be cleaned up, the better, unless of course, you’re in a business that caters to that kind of activity.”
Melton For Mayor Campaign