Group investigates Fairpark housing competition

TUPELO – The Tupelo Redevelopment Agency, the governing group for the downtown Fairpark District, is researching a housing design competition with the hopes of spurring residential activity in the area.
TRA Chairman John Oxford at the November board meeting introduced the idea of a housing design competition in which TRA would accept plans from the community to build a home in between Midway Drive and Fairpark Drive.
Oxford cited several reasons for the competition, including showing the community what a well-designed house under 2,000 square feet could look like. He also said it would be a good morale-booster for the neighborhood, which shares Fairpark with commercial enterprises and City Hall.
“I think it’s more advantageous for us to take it on and just do it than wait for someone else to do it,” Oxford said. “We would basically be the financier and owner of the house. We already own the lot.”
TRA owns the lot as part of a 50-acre urban renewal development project started in 1999. The city of Tupelo issued $22.7 million in bonds for the purchase of property and development of infrastructure, with a projection that private investment eventually would be three times that amount.
The city created TRA, made up of city-appointed volunteers, to oversee the money and the development.
Debbie Brangenberg, the city’s liaison for TRA and the executive director for the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, said one of the challenges with Fairpark has been getting buildings to comply with the design criteria set for the district. The project, she said, would be a good avenue to show residents what TRA wants.
But the competition raises several questions, Oxford acknowledged.
“Who sells it? Who does it?” he said.
TRA board member Jim Collins echoed those questions and the feasibility of the project in the current housing market.
“It’s not a bad idea,” he said. “I’m just not sure about the timing of starting this thing. We’ve got 1,000 houses for sale in Tupelo right now. It might sell. It might not.”
He also wanted to know if this would be a one-time deal.
“We just don’t need to get caught in the home-building market. If we sell it, we might want to build another,” Collins said.
The TRA board did not vote on the housing design competition. Instead, it authorized Brangenberg to do more research and make a full proposal to the board. A timeline has not been set for the proposal.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.

Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal