Of Beer and Building Community | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Of Beer and Building Community

The owners of Lucky Town Brewery explained how they want to be part of the regrowth of midtown at a community meeting at CS’s.

The owners of Lucky Town Brewery explained how they want to be part of the regrowth of midtown at a community meeting at CS’s. Photo by Courtesy Whitney Grant

As I write this, I'm preparing for a meeting by looking over a task list of the Housing Subcommittee of the Core City task group of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership's Vision 2022 effort.

Vision 2022 provides a framework for the Greater Jackson region to combine economic development and livability for the area. A number of committees and subcommittees are implementing the program. Those groups are made up of residents, business leaders, activists, municipal employees—any citizen who wants to be involved. Their task is to address specific areas. The committee's goals are mapped out with timetables for achievement, but we have flexibility for members to identify what—and whose involvement—is needed to get there.

The Housing Subcommittee of the Core City group (Core City is addressing issues specifically within the City of Jackson's limits) meets regularly at Koinonia. This diverse group identified macro-issues, such as needing more density of housing and different types of housing, and use of vacant land. Next, we're conducting research on best practices and taking steps to address the issues.

We've looked at the midtown area's recent development and implementation of a neighborhood plan for revitalization as an example. Architect Roy Decker, of Duvall Decker, was instrumental in that process—which seems to be effective in large part because it emphasized current residents' needs and voices. Decker sees the process as a model that can be adapted and used in other neighborhoods; in fact, a similar effort is now underway in west Jackson.

One thing we've circled back to in our group is the fact that economic development of an area falls on housing. It is really interesting how closely—and how quickly—housing and other development go hand-in-hand.

With that perspective, I was excited to receive an email about a meeting at CS's with the folks from Lucky Town Brewing Company. The company is ready to house its own brewing facility here in Jackson. Lucky Town built its brand and product over the past three years while contracting with a third party in Alabama to actually brew the craft beer. The space the company identified as a perfect site is in midtown, and the brewmasters want to meet with residents and other supporters as they go through the process of applying for a zoning variance.

Not unlike midtown's (re)development, Lucky Town Brewing Company grew strategically and over several years. Brewmaster Lucas Simmons started homebrewing beer almost ten years ago as a hobby. As his home-based tastings attracted ever-growing crowds, he envisioned bringing his beers to an even wider audience. About three years ago, he joined forces with Chip Jones, and they started the process that led to Lucky Town.

Today, the company brews three beers—Ballistic Blonde, Flare Incident and Pub Ale—that can be found on tap at local bars and restaurants. Ballistic Blonde was a Top 5 on-premise seller for Capital City Beverages.

"We knew that Midtown is where people make things and, while people think of brewing as manufacturing, there's really a craft to it, so it's a natural fit with that aspect of things that's going on here (with studios like 121)," says Jones of the neighborhood's artist community, such as studios like 121.

"There's also an industrial history in midtown, and the community is unique in having aspects of art, industry and residential," Simmons adds. "It's special, and we want to be a part of that."

Hearing interaction between the brewers and residents of the neighborhood that night at CS's, I was struck by how community development really happens.

A lot of times we think about it in abstract terms, or of big faceless developers coming in and building massive projects. But, really, when it happens effectively, it's like this: local entrepreneurs taking a chance on their dream and on an area; residents who stay in a neighborhood when others flee and new ones coming in because they see potential, and, most importantly, all of those folks talking to each other along the way.

Neighborhood by neighborhood, this is happening all around us. It's exciting to be a part of it, to learn about and to support it. Wherever you live, work or play, I hope that you'll look around, take interest, and get involved. That's how vision becomes reality.

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