By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The South Gloster Business Association is on the right path, but it shouldn’t expect change to come quickly.
So advised Debbie Brangenberg, executive director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association. She was the guest speaker at the South Gloster group’s meeting on Friday.
“This is much larger than what I had in January 1991 at our first meeting,” she said, noting the crowd of about 50 people at the center court of Gloster Creek Village. “We probably had six people. But this is where it starts – with you.”
Brangenberg knows what it takes to get a group interested in change. More than 20 years ago, she came to DTMSA with similar plans to improve downtown Tupelo, much like Friday’s attendees have for South Gloster Street.
The group, meeting for the second time this year, hopes to revitalize an area it thinks has been neglected or overlooked. Members are pushing for road improvements, additional landscaping and other efforts to attract new businesses and retain old ones.
“We want to get advice from people who have done this before and can help us out,” said Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell, who helped reorganize the South Gloster Business Association earlier this year.
Brangenberg relayed her experiences in revitalization efforts in downtown Tupelo, saying there were ups and downs along the way.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” she said. “It’s taken us 20 years and we’re still developing, still changing our plan. But you can see what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
Brangenberg said DTMSA followed the National Trust Main Street Center’s four-point approach to commercial district revitalization – Design, Organization, Promotion and Economic restructuring, or D.O.P.E.
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* Design is getting the area in top physical shape, taking a look at landscaping and signage and also taking an inventory of the area.
“You have to look at the positive and negatives, and you might not like some of the things you’re going to find,” Brangenberg said.
* Organization involves getting everyone working toward the same goal and is driven by volunteers.
“You’re already doing it,” she said.
* Promotion involves three areas: image, retail businesses and special events.
Brangenberg said “you should celebrate the least little thing; elevate your accomplishments.”
* Economic restructuring means diversifying and strengthening the assets already in place.
“You need to take a full inventory of what you have” to get a better idea of what might be needed, she said.
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Newell said he was encouraged by the turnout and the continued interest in what the South Gloster group was trying to do. He also said he was pleased that Brangenberg offered to provide resources and give advice whenever she could.
“I’m very encouraged by what’s going on,” Newell said. “You can sense the level of energy and enthusiasm.”
Newell said a South Gloster task force had been assembled, which included Butch Bastion, Debbie Bebout, Rudy Dossett Jr., James Hull, Bruce Ridgway and Clay Short.
The task force will develop a master plan and report back to the South Gloster group at a later date, Newell said.
– Greg Pirkle, chairman of the Major Thoroughfare Committee, will provide an update of roadwork plans for South Gloster Street at the next meeting of the South Gloster Business Association. The meeting will be May 28 at 8:30 a.m. at the Gloster Creek Village.