TUPELO - Two downtown groups are trying to figure out how to spur residential development downtown.
The Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association and the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency, which governs Fairpark, had two focus groups last week to seek input about what is needed downtown. A third meeting was held last month.
The goal, according to Debbie Brangenberg of Main Street, is to "take a look at what were doing currently and how we can make it better."
About 20 people total weighed in. They included Fairpark residents, potential downtown residents, downtown business owners, real estate agents and landlords.
Some of the Fairpark residents at Thursday's meeting expressed frustration with the lack of housing development in their district.
John and Sherry Avila, the first two homeowners in the district, said they were sold on the idea of a mixed-used area bustling with restaurants, businesses and homes in various price points.
"It hasn't happened," John Avila said. "We don't have the lower-end homes."
The Avilas have their home for sale.
And John Avila said he's seeing young professionals skipping Fairpark and moving to Robins Street or Saltillo instead.
Marianna Coffey is one of those young professionals. She's a teacher who wants to live downtown but she couldn't find any vacant homes or apartments in her price range. Coffey and others at the focus groups said it was difficult searching for residential vacancies downtown.
Added Blair Hughes, owner of Park Heights, "I don't think getting people here is the problem. I think finding them a place to live is the problem."
The TRA board has discussed adding houses in $120,000 to $150,000 range. The TRA board last year even discussed building something in that category as a starter home. But nothing has happened yet.
Calvin Cosnahan, a resident in Fairpark, said the residents with $250,000 to $300,000 homes are concerned about the less expensive homes hurting their property value.
"It's a very big concern of ours to maintain value," he said. "We have people who really have a lot of money invested in those homes."
Tripp Muldrow, the facilitator and consultant hired by Main Street, said he plans take all the suggestions and add them to his own research. He expects to present recommendations to Main Street next month.