BY EMILY LE COZ
TUPELO – Dozens of new homes planned for downtown’s Fairpark District will cost too much to directly help close the city’s middle-class housing gap.
Starting at $120,000 for the apartments and almost scraping the $300,000 mark for some single-family homes, the selection there will better suit a niche market of residents with higher incomes, said one of the developers, John McCallum.
Indirectly, however, the upscale development’s proximity to several aging neighborhoods could boost home values there enough to lure back the middle class.
Fairpark “is a niche market, but what I see is that it’s stabilizing the area, which then makes the older neighborhoods around that more desirable,” said Debbie Brangenberg, Fairpark District project manager. “It’s trying to look at the bigger picture.”
As far as residential
The residential phase of Fairpark opened late last year with 26 lots – 7.4 acres of property – for sale.
So far, 21 lots have been sold and construction has started on six town houses and one detached single-family dwelling. Within several years, more properties will join them.
They join several commercial and city buildings in various stages of completion, including City Hall, a business incubator, a real-estate agency and a retail development.
According to Tupelo city planner Pat Falkner, the residential element of the new neighborhood is beneficial, but not in a way that affects the overall housing market.
“Having residents mixed in there is good for downtown, but it was never the primary focus,” he said. “The primary focus of Fairpark was to promote more business in downtown. And the residential area was designed to help with that.”
Still, Fairpark could help revitalize more than just the few acres upon which it sits.
Real estate broker Norma Cother agreed with Brangenberg that improvements to one area of downtown would enhance the whole. But she cautioned that property values in other downtown neighborhoods would not instantly jump because of Fairpark.
“It’s not an automatic thing,” she said. “But, yes, anything that is going on in the downtown area only enhances those neighborhoods that are also in the downtown area. Whether it will bring their property values up, I don’t know. But it will give another option to people who want to live downtown.”
Besides Fairpark, roughly 30 above-store apartments exist within downtown’s main business corridor, the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association estimated. And The Belfry, a recently completed luxury apartment complex on South Front Street, adds 11 more units. These fetch between $150,000 to $450,000.
Despite the high prices, despite the zero-lot lines and despite the niche market, creating more downtown housing like that at Fairpark could help Tupelo overall, say proponents of such initiatives.
Many of them spoke in October at Tupelo’s Downtown Housing Summit, which drew builders, developers, bankers and even Mississippi Development Authority executive director Leland Speed.
“Downtown housing in my book,” Speed said during the two-day event, “is as close to being the silver bullet as exists for the revitalization of our communities.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at 678-1588 or email@example.com