Crime-riddled neighborhood works toward renaissance

(WMC-TV) – The unincorporated area of Shelby County, known as Northaven, was once a vibrant suburb. Now, the neighborhood has seen better days.

Crack cocaine, gang violence, graffiti, and vacant homes have been on Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell's radar for eight years.

"I started taking a real direct interest when I served as sheriff because this was one of the areas where we were seeing a significant amount of crime," said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

Residents who remember a time when their subdivision thrived say neglected properties are now the primary reasons for Northaven's downfall.

"People buy the homes but they rent them and the renters don't care," said Northaven resident Anne Humphrey.

But Musette Clark cares. She has lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years.

"I feel like the Lord blessed me with this house. When He gave me this house I was 21 years old and I was so happy just like a kid at Christmas," she said.

She takes pride in her property and hears praises from people passing by.

Despite the bordering blight, Clark sets an example.

"I made a promise that I was going to keep my house up and be proud of where I lived and I was going to try to be a pillar in the community," she said.

"When you have a heart in the community those in my position have a responsibility to grow that and expand that and do whatever we can to help them get better," said Mayor Luttrell.

Action News 5's Jerica Phillips grew up in the Northaven community. During a walk through the area with Mayor Luttrell, he said community leaders are meeting with county officials monthly to discuss a renaissance.

"We're excited about taking back our neighborhood," said Northaven Neighborhood Association President Regina Love.

Love is working to revive the area with members of the Blight Patrol, Northaven Elementary principal Louis Padgett, and Impact Baptist church.

"It has to be the residents, the residents have to take responsibility," she said.

With a new community center and new fire station within the last year, Luttrell says evolution is taking place slowly but surely.

"I think you can take Northaven as a text book example of how you can take depressed neighborhoods and bring them back to life," said Mayor Luttrell.

"If you are comfortable in your heart with where you are, don't let the enemy or anybody else drive you out. Stand your ground," said Musette Clark.

County leaders are currently working on incentives to lure a grocery chain into Northaven.

Mayor Luttrell calls the area a food desert, with just one convenience store.

The mayor wants to hear from people in Northaven about what they want for their community.

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