History of the JCDC

Founded as the state capital in 1821, Jackson, MS, remained a small town throughout the 19th century. Population spikes and expanded development in the 1900s and 1920s paved the way for steady growth through the 1970s with population levels exceeding 200,000 in 1979. After the large-scale growth of the 1970s, Jackson experienced the twin deleterious effects of sprawl and suburbanization throughout the 1980s leading to population losses for the first time in the city. By the end of the 20th century, Jackson was facing a decreasing population, a deteriorating housing supply, and declining property values.

Roy Decker, Director of Mississippi State University School of Architecture’s “5th-Year Program” from 1995 to 19998, saw an opportunity to engage students in the challenges of urban development and renewal in Jackson while fulfilling the twin missions of learning and service in a land-grant institution such as MSU. With the backing of Dean John McRea and the MSU Foundation, financial support was secured from the community to found the Jackson Community Design Center (JCDC) in 1996.

From 1996-2005 the JCDC served the local community by working with various non-profit organizations, churches, housing authorities, community development organizations, neighborhood groups, and the City of Jackson on projects that aimed to repair and improve the city’s deteriorating neighborhoods.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the fall of 2005, the JCDC laid dormant as Mississippi State University attempted to determine an appropriate response from the center. In 2006, the JCDC concluded work in the Jackson metro area, and transitioned to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to form the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio.

The JCDC was revived in 2009 as an outgrowth of the 5th-year program’s Urban Design course. Since then, the center has hosted forums, conducted educational outreach, as well as multiple schematic planning and visioning projects. As the JCDC secures additional institutional funding, the center plans to transition toward more research projects investigating the midsized American city and its challenges.

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