Soulsville Charter School renovating blighted former Southwest Prep building

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Southwest Prep Academy was one of the handful of empty schools Shelby County Schools had previously approved for demolition.

Now, contractors are hard at work after Soulsville Charter School purchased the vacant building, with a plan to lease it out as an elementary school.

The former Shelby County School, once on the demolition block, is getting a face lift.

"I'm just glad someone is doing something is with these schools. It's too many closed down schools in the neighborhood. It makes the whole neighborhood look bad," nearby resident Antoinette Ozier said.

The blighted empty building was often a magnet for crime.

"You have a whole lot of stuff going on around these closed down, abandoned buildings," she said.

A spokesperson with Soulsville Charter, located just a few blocks up the road, told us the school secured funding for the building.

They’re renovating it now, and the plan is to lease it to Memphis Delta Prep.

It will be an elementary school and then a feeder school for Soulsville Charter School, saying the building is in a rare spot and school officials saw it as a good opportunity.

"I think it would be good for the kids. I think it will be good for the community," Ozier said.

The doors might be boarded up, but the goal is to have them fully open with students walking through by the end of the summer or the start of the school year.

Besides being a new place to learn, schools are often considered the lifeblood of a neighborhood.

"In South Memphis, this is our area and our neighborhood. This is our livelihood," explained another man who lives nearby, Al Wright.

Those on the block believe the sound of the generator could be the beginning of a fresh start for the area.