Orange Mound preps for redevelopment

Reimagining historic Melrose

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The city of Memphis hosted a ‘Reimagining Orange Mound’ block party Saturday.

Before Harlem, there was Orange Mound.

The community is recognized as the first neighborhood in America built by African Americans.

Like many Memphis communities, Orange Mound has seen its challenges with crime and poverty but residents said it's time for a renaissance.

We spoke to Housing and Community Development leaders Paul Young and Joyce Cox about the plans.

"About a year ago we began working on the fair grounds project and as a part of that we started to have conversations with the Orange Mound community about what they wanted to see happen," said Young.

The focus of restoration is the historic Melrose High School built in 1938.

It has been a blighted property since it closed in 1979.

Inside the dilapidated school is an art gallery.

It's filled with paintings and projects submitted by students and artists that represent the ideas of redevelopment.

Funding for the re-imagining has not yet been secured but city leaders said an estimated $10 million would be a great start.

The plans mostly favor a multi-purpose project.

“Crosstown has shown everybody that you can do a mix use project successfully. So we’ve heard things like schools, post secondary schools, middle schools, a cultural center that acknowledges the history of Orange Mound, housing, retail, and all of those uses could fit in this building,” said Young.

He said the building is about 46,000 square feet.

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