LOHO preparing master plan for areaBy ANTHONY WARREN,
A master plan could be key to helping LOHO address its crime problem.
In October, residents there will have an opportunity to sign off on a proposed master plan specifically for that community.
LOHO joins a long list of communities on the Northside who have turned to strategic plans to provide security, maintain property values and improve quality of life.
Last year, the Belhaven Improvement Association (BIA) implemented a comprehensive security plan and earlier this year, the Fondren Renaissance Foundation (FRF) announced that it was working with the city on a plan to improve parking in the Fondren Business District.
And about a month ago, the Heatherwood Area Homeowners Association began working on its master plan, which will focus, in part, on traffic calming and beautification.
Groups say the master plans are a good idea because they help communities outline specific needs and goals, increase accountability and increase buy-in among residents.
In some cases, associations have brought on experts to help craft the plan. Association leaders have also reached out directly to residents and business owners to determine the top priorities their plans should focus on.
“We’re focused on short-term and long-term solutions,” said LOHO board president John Morgan Hughes.
LOHO was spurred to create a master plan after a spike in crime in the neighborhood last year.
“For us, it’s almost weekly that we’re having property crimes,” Hughes said. “We are at a critical point where we have to act.”
Hughes’ home was broken into twice last fall. After the incidents, he sent out a survey asking residents in the area to list their top concerns.
“We sent out 200 surveys and got 150 responses back,” he said. “Far and away, (people listed) safety and security as their number one priorities.”
LOHO runs from Meadowbrook Road in the north to Eastover Drive in the south. It is bordered by Ridgewood Road on the east and the I-55 North frontage road to the north.
A draft of the master plan was released earlier this year. It includes closing six of LOHO’s 11 entrances and adding new landscaping and marquees at the remaining five.
Hughes said the closures would cut off entrance and exit points for would-be criminals. The new landscaping would help beautify the area, addressing a second major point for homeowners – the protection of property values.
“Closely (behind security) was protecting property values,” Hughes said. “A lot of people have invested money into renovating their homes.”
The plan will be put up for a vote in October, at the LOHO association’s annual meeting.
LOHO’s plan includes several elements of the plan implemented by the Belhaven Improvement Association last year.
BIA’s comprehensive security plan was drawn up in 2017 following a neighborhood “security summit.” About 35 people from the area’s residential, business and educational sectors attended.
The meeting allowed leaders to identify Belhaven’s “security weaknesses and how to address them,” BIA president Reed Hogan told the Sun previously.
The plan also focuses on strategic landscaping, beautification, long-term infrastructure needs and commercial corridor growth, Hogan said.
“We put a short-term emphasis on beautification, branding and security. We have already started this process with landscaping, gateway enhancements, historic columns, historical markets, security cameras and more,” he said.
So far, new security cameras have been installed at two major Belhaven entrances, as well as Laurel Street Park. New landscaping and brick columns have been installed at Peachtree Street at Riverside Drive and Greymont Drive at Fortification Street. New Belhaven banners have also been placed along Fortification Street.
Fondren and Heatherwood are also working on plans.
It’s too early to tell exactly what projects will be included in the Heatherwood plan. However, associated president Ann Fry said one of the major emphases will be on beautification.
Heatherwood has approximately 400 homes located between Old Canton Road and Ridgewood Road.
Recently, the association brought on local landscape architect Brad Stringer to help draw up the document. Stringer is also working on the neighborhood’s application for a public access gate.
Fry said the residents have always been supportive of beautification projects in the community and said the plan is needed to help leaders focus on the big picture, rather than one project at a time.
She said it’s especially important to begin master planning as the neighborhood gets older.
Said Fry, “We have a lot of young people moving in and we want to keep it attractive to them.”
A new planning effort in Fondren is focusing not on beautification or security, but parking.
Earlier this year, officials with the Fondren Renaissance Foundation told the Sun they were working with the city of Jackson to draw up a parking plan for the Fondren Business District.
The district runs from the intersection of Old Canton Road and North State Street to north of Duling Avenue.
Parking there has been a problem for years, and has only gotten worse with the major streetscape project under way. Adding to the challenge is the fact that an additional green space that has been used by visitors to Duling Hall is now unavailable due to the construction of a new Trustmark National Bank.
To alleviate concerns, Fondren and city officials have tossed around several ideas, including parking time limits in certain areas, as well as issuing permits for long-term parking on nearby residential streets.
Since the announcement, city officials have had a couple of discussions with stakeholders in the district, but did not have a timeline for when the plan would be created or implemented.