Southside residents and business owners attended their second public meeting, Thursday, March 11 to address concerns and suggest improvements for the once thriving community. The event was held at Soiree’s Events and Catering located on Irvin Cobb Drive in Paducah.
Earlier this month, the city held its strategic planning meeting identifying 12 priority items. Neighborhood Empowerment with specific attention to the Southside is one of 12.
Several speakers stood up to express their thoughts and feelings about the continued decline and lack of interest for Paducah’s Southside. Last week, approximately 100 people were in attendance. Thursday evening’s meeting was as successful with more great ideas proposed and heard.
Paducah Mayor George Bray said the city is looking at a new grant opportunity that's primary goal is to gather information on homes in the area for the purpose of being labeled historical markers. He said the grant was small but helpful and a place to start.
One of the speakers Thursday evening said she purchased a couple of abandoned houses on the Southside. One idea could be for the city to match funds to help renovate many of the dilapidated homes. The mayor said this is one of the ideas that’s ‘percolating’ right now.
Former city employee Tammara Tracy said the city needs to use ‘data to make decisions.’ She used the example of the Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane and the way he turned things around and revolutionized baseball. The speaker said this is how our leaders need to approach the Southside...by thinking outside the box.
One by one, speakers rose to the podium to share a story, make suggestions, or simply express feelings. One of the speakers said he has lived on the Southside much of his life. At one time, his neighborhood was full of homeowners. As the years have passed, neighbors have moved away or passed away and many of the homes were forgotten and left behind.
He said once abandoned, people scavenge the homes for copper pipes, even the duct work. All that’s left is an empty shell. Many of these homes had good bones. He wonders why so many are abandoned and why properties are unclaimed? He called his neighborhood a ‘ghost town’.
Oscar Cross Director Neil Clark said he grew up on the Southside. Growing up, he lived in several homes in various neighborhoods. Now, those homes have been demolished. He’s hoping for better ‘alignment and the potential to share the wealth together.’
Steve Ballard, owner of the Old Bait House on the Beltline said, “As a business owner, I'm committed to helping this side of town, we’re all committed.” He said businesses on the Southside want to help fund improvements. He suggested holding meetings outside of this forum for Southside commercial business owners.
“There are two threads,” said Mayor Bray. “There’s neighborhood development and the business side.” He told business owners that ‘the city will get behind you.’
Pastor Charles Dunbar took to the podium. He said he would like to see an entrepreneurial program developed. Also, low interest loans and grant opportunities. He wants to ‘build people up and transform lives.’ He would like to see training for the youth to get jobs.
Mayor Bray said, “We all love Paducah and we all love community.” As the city begins to pull together information from the last two meetings and start to formulate a plan, they hope to see the Southside transform into a thriving business community where citizens are proud of their neighborhoods and happy to be part of a town called Paducah.