Comprehensive plan spurs new Tupelo award program

TUPELO – A downtown convenience store Tuesday won praise for putting a face on what a layman might call 70 pages of governmental gobbledygook.
Papa V’s received the city’s first “Moving Tupelo Forward” award for developing a gas station that embodied recommendations outlined the municipality’s new comprehensive plan.
The plan, called Tupelo 2025, was adopted last year as a guideline for how the city should grow. It contains some 70 pages of policy and procedure recommendations, as well as numerous appendices.
Within all that language is the general idea that Tupelo’s future should include denser growth patterns, more sidewalks and attractive mixed-use developments.
Papa V’s, which opened a store in April at the corner of Main and Elizabeth streets, incorporated all those recommendations into its development.
“People can hear about and read about a plan for the city, but people wonder, what does that really mean and what does that have to do with me as a resident?” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr. “This is what it means. This is why. This is the future of economic development and quality of life married together.”
Reed presented the award to Papa V’s owners John W. and Ben Robbins amid dozens of spectators, including City Council members and employees of the city’s Development Services Department, which initiated the award concept.
The award itself is a polished, engraved wooden arrow resembling the logo of Tupelo’s current comprehensive plan.
City Planner Pat Falkner said the award recognizes the role the private sector plays in implementing the comprehensive plan.
“You do a plan and you come up with great ideas of how the city needs to change, but the effort must come from the private sector,” Falkner said. “The process doesn’t happen automatically, and Johnny communicated with us and cooperated and really succeeded in carrying out the plan’s objective in his development.”
The 5,400-square-foot, two-story brick convenience store has stained concrete floors, retro metal light fixtures and seating for 38 diners. Old Coca-Cola and Pepsi signs hang on the walls. Windows from the second-story office space overlook the inside dining area.
Although it’s across the street from the Fairpark District and technically not part of it, John Robbins said he wanted the store to blend into the urban-renewal area with its brick exterior, attractive landscaping and sidewalks.
“We wanted something that citizens would be proud of,” said Robbins, whose grandfather launched Robbins Oil in 1938 with a gas station across the street from the current store.
Development Services Director BJ Teal praised Robbins for his cooperation with the city and the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, calling the result a “win-win situation.”
More “Moving Tupelo Forward” awards will follow, with another recipient scheduled to receive the arrow by the end of the year. Falkner said the number of awards and their frequency will depend solely on the progress of the private sector.
“We want to give one to projects that express and provide an example of our comprehensive plan,” Falkner said. “That’s where we’re looking for.”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal