Groundbreaking takes place on old Dixie Homes property

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The old Dixie Homes was the home of many prominent Memphians who have gone on to become leaders and legends.  That's why a new 400 unit housing and retail development that will replace it was named Legends Park.

Rosetta Franklin is one of the legends of Dixie Homes.

"Well, Dixie Homes was just a beautiful place to live in," Franklin said.

From 1935 to 1951, Franklin lived in what was one of the first public housing projects in the country. Now, at 80 years old, Franklin attended the groundbreaking for what will replace her old stomping grounds.

The new Legends Park will be a mixed use development; 400 apartments and retail space that will mix families that qualify for housing assistance with families at any income level.

"We're making a difference in the lives of people in this community and that's what government should do," Memphis mayor Willie Herenton said.

For Rosetta Franklin, it is a welcome rebirth of a neighborhood that had become crime ridden and dilapidated.

"When I started driving back through here and saw it going down it just hurt my heart," Franklin said. "And to see all of this, I'm grateful. I'm really grateful. My prayers are answered."

Franklin said some of the best memories of her lifetime were spent at Dixie Homes.
She hopes a new generation of families will share that experience at Legends Park.

Construction has started on phase one, which will be about half of the units. That should be completed in 12 to 14 months.

But while the project is in progress, where are the lower income residents who once lived there and did the crime that was once common at Dixie Homes just up and move to another neighborhood?

Razing and replacing lower income housing has its challenges.

One, is finding homes for all the displaced families.

"Every family that relocated from Dixie Homes was assisted in finding appropriate and adequate housing," Susan Glassman of Urban Strategies said.

And since poverty is often linked to crime, where does that crime go when residents relocate?

Crime analyst Dr. Richard Janikowski said shifting families around is not enough to address the problem.

"It's a much more complicated picture than that," Janikowski said.

That is why the city developed Memphis Hope.  A team of case managers that work with the Memphis Housing Authority to make sure families forced out by urban progress don't fall through the cracks.  $7 million in private funding is providing residents with job training, job placement, assistance with healthcare, daycare, and life skills.

Janikowski said that often low income residents are not committing crimes, but when communities deteriorate as Dixie Homes did, it attracts a crime element.

Click here to e-mail Anna Marie Hartman.