Tearing Down The Old To Lift Up A Community

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"It's just like one of my best friends is leaving," former student Chris Coleman said.

He stood at the curb as a crowd gathered to celebrate the demolition of Alonzo Locke Elementary.

"It was a nice school it was really, really nice, really good teachers," 55-year-old Coleman said. "It really wasn't a bad area like a lot of people portray."

It's been a long time since school bells rang and teachers took roll.

The city believes the deteriorating school kept people who want to do better stuck without hope.

"It's psychological because it says people don't care about you and if they don't care about you, then why should you a care about yourself," said Robert Lipscomb, director of the city Housing and Community Development. "You're a nobody an you're marginalized."

This south Memphis neighborhood off Vance is one of six communities the city is trying to stabilize.

Lipscomb says the city plans to storm neighborhoods with wrecking balls -- destroying decaying eyesores in hopes of bringing confidence to neighborhoods.

"Demolition is just a precursor to redevelopment but if nothing else we'll get rid of the blight," he said.

Memphis chose neighborhoods with high foreclosure rates, high mortgage bills and heavily blighted buildings.

The destruction of Locke means one less in the Vance Avenue Choice Community.

"This is a government-owned building," Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said. "We can't stand up here and rail against some exploitative private developer who's just coming in this is a government on building. We're contributing to blight, so it's only right that we take responsibility for going in and tearing it down and cleaning it up.