Belhaven and Belhaven Heights
Belhaven and Belhaven Heights are fine examples of “streetcar subdivisions” built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that popped up all over the country. Widely popular when they were built, these subdivisions still offer quality housing close to their city centers. At first blush, Belhaven seems to be the model of a properly preserved, historically significant subdivision. However, a deeper inspection reveals some important challenges: absentee ownership, commercial corridor erosion, and a threat from the widening of Interstate 55. These neighborhoods are the last well-preserved historic area close to downtown Jackson and cohesive planning is necessary to preserve these Jackson jewels.
2017 Update – In Progress
In 2012 the Historic Belhaven neighborhood joined neighboring Belhaven Heights on the National Register of Historic Places, making it the largest historic district in the state of Mississippi. In 2014, Greater Belhaven was designated as one of the 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2014 by the American Planning Association (APA).
Most structures in Greater Belhaven are included in historic districts designated by the City of Jackson and overseen by the City’s Historic Preservation Commission. Despite this, and notwithstanding diligent support from various neighborhood groups (including the Belhaven Improvement Association, Belhaven Heights Community Association, and Greater Belhaven Security Association), the neighborhood’s continued success is constantly challenged by urban blight. To combat this challenge, the neighborhoods formed the Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation (GBNF) in late 1999 to work on long-range preservation and revitalization through community redevelopment, security, and neighborhood communication. To further this work, the neighborhood was designated an Urban Main Street community in 2003.
To stand behind its mission, GBNF renovated a circa-1925 cottage at 954 Fortification Street as its headquarters, winning a Preservation Award from the City of Jackson in 2004; the Adaptive Re-Use Partnership Award from Mississippi Main Street in 2004; and the MHT Trustees Award for Organizational Excellence in 2004 for its efforts to preserve Belhaven and Belhaven Heights.
The people of Belhaven and Belhaven Heights continue to strive for a better community. In many ways, thanks to concerned citizens and groups like the Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation (GBNF) Belhaven and Belhaven Heights are better off than they were five years ago. Today the neighborhood enjoys greater community-led efforts to improve the area. Belhaven is currently building new neighboorhood entrances which will help slow down traffic on main thoroughfares in and out of the neighborhood as well as welcome guests. The neighboorhood continues to host several successful festivals and events most notably Bright Nights and Belhaven Lights, which was a smashing success in 2017,
Through the Main Street program, GBNF worked with the City of Jackson to redesign Fortification Street to be pedestrian-oriented and neighborhood-friendly, and to re-develop the Fortification, Jefferson and North State street areas using mixed-use zoning conducive to restaurants, shops, stores, offices, apartments, condominiums, and residential cottages.
In 2013 Baptist Health Systems completed The Belhaven, a nearly $100 million, mixed-use development at 1200 North State Street. The Belhaven has been a huge benefit to the neighborhood especially is premiere restaurant the Manship, located on the first floor. Nothing, however, has been developed in the area south of the Belhaven Building, around Jefferson, Fortification and State Streets. This area is still a haven for vagrants and criminals and will continue to be until it is been redeveloped. The $15.5 million Fortification Street Project was completed but the finished product was not as pedestrian friendly as originally intended.