Fairpark board envisions district's future

TUPELO – The Fairpark District might be known in 10 years for the abundance of eco-friendly homes or first-class Elvis Presley entertainment if ideas generated by a Tupelo Redevelopment Agency retreat turn into reality.
The vision for the future was the result of a recent retreat hosted by TRA, which is in charge of revitalizing 50 acres in downtown Tupelo, including the approximately 30-acre Fairpark District.
About 20 people attended, including businessman Tommy Morgan, Mayor Jack Reed Jr., Community Development Foundation President and CEO David Rumbarger, Tupelo Convention amp& Visitors Bureau Executive Director Linda Butler Johnson and Tom Ricketts, whose company owns the Hilton Garden Inn.
Fairpark, once the county’s fairgrounds, is a 50-acre urban renewal development started in 1999 by the TRA. It now includes the Hilton Garden Inn, the BancorpSouth Arena, the BancorpSouth Conference Center, City Hall, restaurants, offices, retailers and residences.
Of the top priorities identified at the retreat for Fairpark’s next five to 10 years, housing and public entertainment were the most discussed.
Attendees said the area needs housing with a mix of price ranges and sizes. TRA Chairman John Oxford said he’d like to see more houses in the $120,000-$150,000 range, along with the current ones in the $250,000-plus bracket.
Reed also suggested letting people lease homes, while others suggested pursuing eco-friendly homes and hosting a building competition.
The group also expressed the need for more entertainment options.
Rumbarger said he’s been looking into the possibility of an Elvis-related venue in Fairpark that would be much smaller than the arena and have entertainment from tribute artists. He recommended a $150,000 feasibility study before pursuing the idea further.
TRA also placed a priority on an updated master plan for Fairpark that would include input from groups with an interest in Fairpark and downtown.
Another priority was better marketing efforts that would promote the district to residents and tourists.
At the end of the daylong retreat, Debbie Brangenberg, DTMSA’s executive director and the city liaison for TRA, said she thought the discussions were productive.
“Nothing’s been said that’s totally out of reason,” she said. “It’s a great time for Tupelo. We have a unique opportunity for great things to happen.”
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.

The Tupelo Redevelopment Agency highlighted several priorities for Fairpark and the surrounding urban renewal area:
– Creating a residential area with a better mix of house prices and sizes.
– Adding entertainment options that will draw people.
– Updating a master plan and getting input from stakeholders.
– Improving marketing efforts to residents and tourists.

Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

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