JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) – For nearly a decade, buildings in south Jackson have sat vacant, but city leaders say the time for redevelopment is now, and they want the community to play a part.

“This is the first time that you will witness this type of direct and intentional investment into this community,” said John Willis, chief equity officer for the city of Jackson and leader of the MLK Corridor Improvement Authority.

 It’s a mission Willis says started by asking one question: “Was there disinvestment that caused or that helped the south side become the hot spot that it has become in terms of crime, in terms of violence, in terms of some of the vices that the community has had to experience?” he said.

His research discovered that decades of disinvestment, starting as early as the 1930s, set the city’s south side behind.

“A lot of the things that you see that are in decline now, that period of decline started at about that time,” Willis said.

Today, he’s leading a team to revive this area along the MLK Corridor.

There are plans to use more than $4 million of American rescue funds to bring this area back to life: “a grocery store, something along that level…to help relieve some of the struggles that have been here,” he said.

City officials hope the new plans will attract more businesses and more homeowners, empowering and transforming the community in the process.

“This is definitely a project of the community, something for the community to be included in all the way,” Willis said.