Calvin Malone has been a resident of Franklin’s Natchez community for about 25 years.
Before he moved there, he lived along Fourth Avenue, where the Williamson County Judicial Center now sits. He moved his family — and even his house — to the corner lot on Park Street and Eleventh Avenue, built an addition and opened a barber shop.
Like any neighborhood barber, Malone hears it all. And he has strong opinions he’s not afraid to share.
Malone knows the heart of his community — the good and the bad — and wants only the best for the people he’s come to love. He’s not one to fight progress, but he insists on fairness for his community, particularly when it comes to property value.
“Gentrification is going on, and all we can do is hold on and keep on going,” Malone said.
In recent years, a lack of affordable housing and the gentrification of historic neighborhoods have become hot topics. For more than 20 years, changes have been happening in neighborhoods in Franklin and throughout Williamson County, but Malone believes that in the Natchez and Hard Bargain neighborhoods, homeowners aren’t getting what they deserve in the transactions.
“Developers aren’t offering enough money, and then folks find they sold something too low. 20 years ago, (developers) were sneaking in and buying lots around here for $15,000-$20,000.”
Some of those properties were inherited. The recipients — usually family members — either had no use for them or in some cases, properties were owned by senior citizens who couldn’t maintain them or were unable live alone anymore. They took what they thought was a fair offer, not realizing the actual value, Malone said.
“I’ve seen it happen in front of my house,” he said, pointing out that he’s also been approached many times about selling his own property.
“I’m not angry. Just pay me the same amount for my property you do for property on West Main (a block away). On West Main, they pay $600,000-$800,000. Here they low ball and offer $100,000.”
That’s a lot of money to someone who doesn’t have much. But unless the seller is moving in with family, that $100,000 won’t be enough to buy another place to live in Franklin or Williamson County, Malone said.
Within walking distance to downtown Franklin and surrounded by streets with homes valued at $500,000 and more, the character of the historically Black Natchez neighborhood is experiencing great change. When Malone arrived, there was a beauty shop, a “juke joint” and a couple other businesses.
The businesses have disappeared, along with many residents, but Malone said that “the ones left here now take pride in the neighborhood and pride in their homes.”
And then there is the development on Brilliantine Circle, which is behind his house.
He said that where quaint, little houses were located, “tall, skinny houses” are there now, and where it was mostly Black, it’s now mostly white.
“That doesn’t bother me; everything is not going to stay the same. Just give a fair price. People sell and then don’t have no place to stay. They end up in public housing. It’s really pitiful.”
Along Eleventh Avenue, large homes with small patches of green have replaced the small brick or frame homes with lawns, trees and gardens.
“Some people invest $800,000 (for a home) in the ’hood then complain about the ’hood,” Malone said. “The bigger thing is the new people moving in. They want to change the neighborhood. One guy wanted to put a neighborhood association over here.
“You can’t take the ’hood to Fieldstone Farms, but you can bring Fieldstone Farms to Natchez. Franklin and Williamson County are not a place for the poor.”
According to Malone, the Natchez neighborhood is now 40% white and Hard Bargain is 30% white. He predicts that other predominantly Black area neighborhoods will soon see the same changes.
According to Malone, the next areas will be the Green Acres subdivision off West Main Street and the Booker trailer park, which was recently purchased.
“Progress is something that’s not going to stop. You just gotta be strong enough to live through it,” Malone said. “I’m not opposed to it, just be fair and do it right. It’s going to happen. You can’t tell people who they can sell their property to. I just want the same price, so we can go somewhere else.”