Main Street to help fund historic rehabs

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association wants the historic shopping district to return to its aesthetic roots, and it’s willing to help businesses pay for some of the changes.
The Main Street board has started a facade grant program that will give downtown property owners money to improve the exterior of their buildings. The program offers rebates of up to $1,500 or 50 percent of the cost of the rehab, whichever is less.
To kick off the program, Main Street last week started a rehab on its office facade on South Broadway. A new door already has been installed and painting is expected to start this week.
The goal of the program is to increase the attractiveness of the area, preserve the historic qualities of the downtown district and complement other revitalization efforts, according to Main Street.
The grant facade program comes out of the organization’s design committee, which also spearheaded an educational series last year about good design principles.
Brandon Bishop of JBHM Architects chairs the committee.
He cited The Big Easy restaurant as a good example of building design in downtown Tupelo because of its storefront, signage and columns.
The storefront on The Big Easy is historically appropriate, he said, because it has large front windows that were used for advertising merchandise. The door also has been sunk in, providing additional showcase area, he said.
Additionally, the windows on the second story are historically accurate and the cornice, which is the decorative architectural element along the top of the building, hasn’t been covered.
“Historically, it’s intact on the building,” Bishop said.
The signage is appropriate, he said, because it is on the side of the building and is oriented toward pedestrians. Additional signage painted on the windows is pedestrian-friendly as well.
He said it was common in the 1970s for downtown merchants to replace pedestrian-oriented signs with large signs that were geared toward auto traffic.
“What we’d like to do is get downtown back to where (the signs) are pedestrian-friendly,” Bishop said, adding that they should be lower and oriented so passersby can see them as they walk.
Bishop’s committee will offer free design assistance to participants.
As part of the grants, the participants must comply with design guidelines for downtown, along with regulations from the city. Bishop said the committee’s goal is to get design guidelines in writing for downtown.
The principles, he said, will stress good property management and preservation of original architectural features, in addition to encouraging the compatibility of any replacement architectural elements and building additions.
The grants are funded with $7,500 of proceeds from the Tupelo Elvis Festival, which Main Street produces.
They will be given on a first come, first served basis to members of the Main Street association, according to the information packet outlining the program.
Eligible improvements include removing false fronts such as aluminum panels; repairing or replacing windows, doors and cornices; adding new, historically appropriate signage and awnings; and doing exterior painting in conjunction with a larger rehab effort.

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.

For more about eh facade grant program, contact the Main Street Association at (662) 841-6598.