Walls, Mississippi — passed over for other DeSoto County cities that experienced chart-topping growth in recent years —is on the market. Finally.
The town of fewer than 2,000 people is seeing a housing boom of sorts. Three developments broke ground in 2021, a significant change from the previous five years when Walls hosted only one.
To find the latest batch of new homes under construction, head south down U.S. 61 past the Mississippi-Tennessee line as if you’re going to the casinos in Tunica. Watch for the white post-and-rail fencing and the sign, “Mallard Park,” approximately across from the town clerk’s office. Turn at the cotton patch.
The mayor, Keidron Henderson, says the town’s day in the sun isn’t attributable to any one factor. He first mentions the pandemic and the housing inventory scarcity that swept the nation.
“That’s helped out with inventory being lower than normal,” he said.
Henderson then spoke of Walls itself. Sort of like a fellow with a crush.
“The precious town of Walls, as I affectionately refer to it,” he said. “When people start looking at Walls, they see its plusses. Its beauty.”
The mayor grew up in Walls. He became its first Black mayor during the first year of the pandemic, finishing the term of Patti Denison, who stepped down for family reasons. Henderson won a full term earlier this year.
Walls is situated in an ideal location, he said.
“We have access. We’re 25 minutes from Downtown (Memphis), 25 minutes from the airport, and 25 minutes from Tunica. We just opened Johnson Creek pedestrian and cycling creek,” said Henderson, a bicyclist. “It’s beautiful. You can suck in the air.”
Mallard Park’s first 50-home phase was approved during those five lean years. The development changed hands during the initial months of the pandemic. Meridian Premier Homes broke ground on the second, 76-home phase this year.
Jeff King, co-founder and principal, said Meridian focuses on property on the outskirts of sprawl, to discover the next hot suburban build.
Walls fit the bill.
“We spend a lot of time as a company researching where to go next. We look at jobs, where people work,” King said. “We’ve built in Somerville. We’ve built in Oakland.”
As the pandemic kicked off, they watched people moving from cities for suburbia again.
“Everybody wanted to leave. We wanted to get ahead of that. People don’t realize how close Walls is to everything,” King said. “You’re not living in the city, but you’re not so far.”
The Mallard Park homes boast high ceilings, lending a spacious feel to the interior. The model home features 2,204 square feet with five rooms that includes a small office. Prices start at $275,000 with annual homeowner association fees of about $200.
In addition to location, Walls benefits from a reputable, countywide school system. The town has four schools. Walls Elementary is near Mallard Park.
“You still have the amenities,” said Roxanne King, Meridian’s acquisitions manager.
But not enough amenities for the mayor.
“We have growth aspirations, but quality of life is what I ran on,” Henderson said. “If we want to get a steak, we shouldn’t have to drive an hour round trip.”
Walls officials want a bank and places to eat and things to do.
“We don’t have a lot of that here. The basic goods and services,” Henderson said.
To get the businesses, city officials are focused on living spaces.
“We’ve got to start with rooftops,” the mayor said.
The 2020 U.S. Census revealed Walls grew by about 10% during the previous decade. The county as a whole grew about 14%.
But for decades, Walls languished while other DeSoto County cities boomed. In 2011, Olive Branch was identified as the fastest-growing city in America between 1990 and 2010.
About 200 rooftops will be added to Walls with this year’s approved developments. The average home will be 1,732 square feet.
Officials broke ground on The Reunion at Church Road and U.S. 61 last spring. The Landing is on Star Landing Road adjacent to Lake Cormorant Elementary.
“We’ve just got to continue to build off the momentum,” Henderson said.
The 46-year-old mayor hopes to appeal to a broad spectrum of people. The younger crowd — the U.S. Census revealed the average Walls citizen is about 28 years old — and the older crowd that frequent nearby casinos. They all want some common benefits linked to quality of life.
Ifetayo Madden, 40, and her husband, Joseph, were charmed by Walls. They saw children happily playing basketball and considered it a great place to raise their first child due next year.
The couple rented part-time in Memphis for work when their home in Drew, Mississippi, burned down. They were out on a Sunday drive on U.S. 61 and happened upon Mallard Park.
“You pass by the sign that says ‘Walls,’ but you don’t know anything about Walls,” said Ifetayo Madden, who moved to Walls in June.
“It’s that little itty-bitty town, when you blink, you miss it.”
Well, maybe it won’t be that way much longer.
This article was written by:
Toni Lepeska, Special to the Daily Memphian
Updated: November 29, 2021 10:56 AM CT | Published: November 29, 2021 4:00 AM CT