After the Queen of Soul’s death, a local Memphis organization has come forward with plans to renovate and preserve the singer’s historic house.

As the nation mourns the death of the “Queen of Soul” music, Aretha Franklin, who passed away on Thursday at 76 years old, the future of her childhood home in Memphis remains in question.

The ranch-style home, currently owned by one Vera Lee House, according to a local property records search, was at one point slated for demolition. Although it was saved by a judge, there’s still uncertainty around how to rehab and save the dilapidated structure.

“The house has been saved, it is not going to be demolished,” Jeffrey Higgs, executive director of the LeMoyne-Owen College Community Development Corp., the local organization spearheading the rehab effort, told Inman.

Higgs added, “We now have plans for the use and purpose of the renovation, this was decided last week, we have not finalized that yet and have not spoke to the family, but it is the best use of the house and represents Aretha and her father in a most appropriate manner.”

Aretha Franklin’s Memphis birthplace | Photo courtesy Thomas R Machnitzki on Wikimedia Commons

Although Franklin is mostly commonly associated with Detroit, where she lived as an adult, she was actually born in Memphis. Franklin’s childhood home, sitting at 406 Lucy Ave., was saved from being razed by a judge in 2016, according to a report in Memphis’ hometown newspaper, The Commercial Appeal.

At the time, Shelby County Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter cited both the history of R&B in the city and his own love of music, as a reason to save the home, according to the report.

Right now, finances are the biggest hurdle to getting the home rehabbed, according to Higgs.

“Certainly finances are always a challenge for a non-profit and on projects like this, so we are always seeking funding to implement our plan, and we plan to use all the tools necessary to ensure that we can raise the $175,000 needed to restore and program the house,” Higgs said.

The other issue is getting Franklin’s surviving family on board with the plan.

“The only contact I have had with the family is a conversation that I had with Ms. Franklin, June 2016, where she was happy to see us preserve the house, and she was all in favor of our efforts,” said Higgs. “Other than that, we have not spoke to anyone in the family. So our goals now are to share this [vision] and move forward with the renovation efforts.”

The DIY Network also expressed interest in paying for the the restoration and possibly relocating the home, according to the report, but Higgs expressed that local entities preferred to keep control over the home.

Last year, the city unveiled a plaque commemorating the history of the place as Franklin’s childhood home.

“Aretha Franklin rose from a small home at 406 Lucy Avenue in Memphis to become the Queen of Soul,” Memphis Mayor John Strickland posted Thursday on Twitter. “Today, we mourn her loss and celebrate the spirit she brought to this world.”

Fans have also taken to the site to pay tribute to the late songstress and her Memphis roots by playing music across the street and scrawling messages on wooden boards in the home’s windows.

Email Patrick Kearns

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