Jubilee Homes Celebrates 31 Years: A Tribute to Former Syracuse Model Neighborhood Executive Director, Tom Francis

On July 16th Jubilee Homes, held their annual celebration.  2019 was special as the 32 year old Housing organization honored the contributions and memory of Tom Francis, former Executive Director of Syracuse Model Neighborhood Corporation, a housing organization that’s transformed the South Salina Street area back into a neighborhood.

By managing a stock of affordable apartments and commercial properties; SMNC saved a crucial part of Syracuse when it was heading towards becoming just another bad neighborhood. The seeds planted by Tom Francis makes it possible for a revitalized commercial corridor that includes a mixture of apartments and commercial properties that has become the genesis for the Sankofu District.

Mayor Ben Walsh, Walt Dixie and Laurie Francis (click to enlarge)

Before the business district could be developed there was a lot of housing that had to be rescued, rehabilitated, rented and maintained.  Tom Francis was also honored at the event by having a street named after him, Tom Francis Way, will be located near one of his developments, Coyne Circle.

Tom’s widow Laurie was in attendance along with their children, Stephanie and Jeremy. In her comments about Tom, Laurie said, “we could never get him to leave Syracuse, this is where his heart was and where he did his work.”

At the event Mayor Ben Walsh and Onondaga County Executive Ben Walsh assisted with the presentation of honors to the Francis family.

31 years ago, the area now called Jubilee Homes was barren, block after block had been torn down due to blight conditions. The community responded with an initiative started by Reverend Larry Howard of Hopp’s Memorial CME and South Avenue area stakeholders.

“Tom A Francis Way” sign is displayed at the event. (click to enlarge)

As it states in Jubilee Homes mission statement – “Our vision is to provide access to home ownership, economic growth and employment opportunities to the community to turn generational poverty into generational wealth in our community”

Fast forward 32 years, the community-based organization is responsible for rebuilding a neighborhood. Over 85 homes built from the ground up or rehabilitated by Jubilee Homes. Area homeowners were organized and worked collectively to generate public and private interest in their grocery store concept. After a decade of hard work the group managed to attract Price Right Marketplace to the South Avenue corridor. The group recently unveiled a plan that would transform the streetscape of South Avenue by building mixed use buildings to complement the development that’s taken place over the last 32 years.

The event was catered by the following; Henry’s Hen House Catering, Sarita’s Food Truck, Desserts by Yolanda, Liquid Catering Service and Samantha Spot Catering & Comfort Cooking.  Keeping with their commitment of inclusion minority vendors were utilized for the event that was held in the Empire Room at the New York State Fairgrounds.

Jubilee Homes Executive Director Walt Dixie and Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon (click to enlarge)

Walt Dixie thanked his staff and the minority caterers who provided a diverse array of food choices. Brownskin Band provided the ear shattering sounds.  As attendees celebrated an organization that has achieved what they set out to do 32 years ago, bring back a neighborhood that had been decimated by blight, resulting in vacant lots surrounding Southwest Community Center. This was a celebration of an organization that was responsible for creating a socially conscious, politically active community, out of the ashes of urban decay.