City Plaza seeks to revitalize South Jackson

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The Jackson Square Promenade is a shopping center in South Jackson on Terry Road, near McDowell Road, that was once bustling in the late 1960s and 1970s,  predating the Metrocenter Mall and its impact on Jackson, Mississippi. Today, the almost 330,000 square feet, 32-acre property is witnessing a revival and a name change.

Now known as City Plaza, owners Dr. Karla McCullough and Erick Dampier have big plans for redevelopment and reinvestment in the Black community of that area and the entire city of Jackson.

McCullough and Dampier – through the Juanita Sims Doty Foundation and the Erick Dampier Foundation – held a Community Clean Up and Redevelopment Festival on April 23, 2022 at the property in an effort to promote pride in the community through beautification and to announce their future plans to transform the property. 

The 250+ volunteers from various organizations, fraternities, and sororities showed up to the event. “We were excited that the Metro Jackson National Pan Hellenic Council said ‘yes’ immediately to our partnership along with more that 50 entities volunteering to provide more than 250 volunteers for this effort,” said Dr. Juanita Sims Doty, a sponsor of the event. 

She continued, “I was thrilled for Karla and Erick to ask me to assist them with planning the Community Fest and Clean-Up as I truly understand the impact the City Plaza will have on the lives of children and families in South Jackson and Jackson for generations to come.  We want our work to not only help for today, but to leave a ‘lasting’ impact that will be around for generations to come.  And the City Plaza will provide just that.”

The vision for City Plaza started about a year ago when Karla McCullough’s son, Matthew McCullough, was recruited to a 5th grade Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team about two hours outside of the city of Jackson. McCullough wanted to support her son’s basketball talent but also desired to find an AAU team closer to home. That’s when a close personal friend mentioned Erick Dampier’s team. 

Dampier, a Monticello, MS native, led Mississippi State University’s basketball team to the 1996 NCAA Final Four before being drafted to the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the draft and 10th pick overall. He spent 16 years in the NBA, playing for the Pacers, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks. He came back to Mississippi in 2012 where he started the Erick Dampier Foundation that “provides youth with opportunities and access to develop their basketball, social, and leadership.”

McCullough was put in contact with Dampier’s wife Yolanda. “I called her and she said, ‘You can come out and let him practice. And then we’ll see from there.’ There were no promises,” relayed McCullough. “Matthew went to practice, and you have to know Erick to know that he is a man of very few words. He said, ‘Y’all come to the next practice.’”

The “a-ha moment” came around the time of Matthew McCullough’s first game with the 601 Heat team. McCullough was sitting in the car with her mother, Casaundra McCullough, and she said to her mom, “I wondered if Erick had ever considered opening a sports complex because he could really do something great.” About 20 minutes later, she walked into the gym, and Erick approached her, stating that he had heard about her grant writing and work in the community and wanted to talk to her about opening a sports center. McCullough expressed, “After hitting my mom on the arm a few times because I couldn’t believe that we had just had the same conversation, I knew it was a divine plan.”  

Dampier remembers growing up in rural Mississippi and teaching and coaching himself how to play basketball. At the time, and even now, Dampier realized that natural talent and skill can take you far but having facilities to train in, travel teams, and trainers can take a player to the next level of excellence.  “I want to change the landscape of basketball for children in Mississippi,” said Dampier. “I want to change the trajectory of the city of Jackson,” he added.

The catalyst for that change will begin with a fully functional sports complex that’s slated to open in 2024.  McCullough and Dampier have already worked on a rendering for the space which will include “10 to 12 basketball/volleyball courts, an indoor 50-yard football turf that could be lined for golf or soccer, a full fitness center because we want it to be a holistic approach to providing resources to an under-resourced community, and then we’re also talking about bringing in some restaurants,” listed McCullough. And they will continue to support the current tenants and add new stores, shops, and restaurants in the 50 spaces, approximately, on the property. 

Eventually, the business partners would like to add a health clinic to the complex.  But what they are most excited about is the education and mentoring component. “This is where the Erick Dampier Foundation meets the Juanita Sims Doty Foundation,” stated McCullough. 

McCullough, a Jackson native, is no stranger to mentorship and giving back. She is the executive director of the Juanita Sims Doty Foundation, as well as the owner of a small business consulting firm, community and project developer, grant writer, and child advocate. She is heavily involved in the foundation’s educational and mentoring program for male youth called the A-TEAAM which is a partnership with the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute. Its counterpart, E-STEEM, is for girls and is a partnership with the Cleveland Empowerment Foundation, Jackson State University, and Mississippi State University. 

“We will do an educational component called ‘Study to Play.’ Our intent is to provide one hour of study, whatever the academic needs are for the youth in the community, whether it’s test taking strategies or just pure mentoring or needing social support, emotional support, educational support. And we will provide them with that one hour,” stated McCullough. The partners also plan to institute a small overhead for youth to get in and use the facility which will ensure that the facility will continue to be a place of reprieve, recreation, and fun for the youth. 

The property at 2460 Terry Road in Jackson was the first property McCullough and Dampier visited. And even though it was not listed for sale at the time, they kept coming back to it and were able to purchase the property in December 2021. The April 23 cleanup was such a success that they are planning for another cleanup in the near future.

If anyone is interested in enlisting their child(ren), from grades 4-12, in Dampier’s basketball camp, which will be held May 14 from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, please contact Karla McCullough at (678) 907-0057 or email mccullough.karla@gmail.com. There’s an $80 fee to enter. There will also be a basketball tournament for any teams willing to participate during Father’s Day weekend – June 18th and 19th at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.

DeAnna Tisdale Johnson has stepped into the role of publisher of her family legacy, the Jackson Advocate. Since March 2020, she has led the publication to once again become an award-winning newspaper with a new logo and website to boot. She is a Jackson native, graduating from Murrah High School and Tougaloo College. She is also classically trained in vocal performance, and, though she’s never broken a glass, she’s known to still hit a high note or two.

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City Plaza seeks to revitalize South Jackson

By DeAnna Tisdale Johnson
April 30, 2022