Tupelo residents rank downtown's top, bottom sites

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Downtown Tupelo is under the microscope this week as officials with two national groups lead workshops on how Main Street communities can improve.
The national placemaking workshop publicly kicked off Tuesday with a luncheon facilitated by the New York City-based Project for Public Spaces and the Washington, D.C.,-based National Main Street Center, which is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Tupelo was selected for the pilot program after a national competition.
Placemaking, according to Steve Davies with the Project for Public Spaces, is turning a neighborhood, town or city from a place you can’t wait to get through to one you never want to leave.
During the luncheon at the BancorpSouth Conference Center, about 90 attendees were tasked with helping Tupelo become a better place. They started by identifying the best and worst places in downtown Tupelo.
They also singled out the places with the most opportunity.
Tuesday night, a crowd of about 80 were split into groups and tasked with coming up with recommendations for a handful of sites downtown.
Attendees at the workshops included downtown business owners, city leaders, downtown residents, historic preservation advocates and Mississippi Main Street Association leaders.
Many of the best places nominated by the group were retailers and commercial tenants, such as the porch at Cafe 212, the rooftop at Park Heights and the entire Main Street shopping district.
The worst places included portions of the actual street of Main Street and many blighted buildings, such as the former auto parts store at the corner of Main Street and Commerce Street.
The opportunity areas included the Tupelo Farmers Market, the Court Street park and the building that houses the former De Lighthouse.
Davies, senior vice president of the Project for Public Spaces, said the goal of the workshops are to evaluate Tupelo and see how downtown spaces can be improved.
He emphasized the “power of 10,” explaining that every place needs to have 10 things to do. A successful downtown district, he said, has at least 10 places with 10 things to do in each.
For example, activities in front of a book store might include having a conversation, taking a seat, reading a book, taking a break from a bike ride and reading a newspaper.
Tupelo, he said, has great assets but they operate as islands. He encouraged participants at the workshop to think about ways to get the actions to work together.
Tupelo residents got started brainstorming solutions Tuesday night when workshop participants were sent to seven different locations downtown and tasked with critiquing each one.
Locations included Fairpark, Courthouse Square, the Tupelo Farmers’ Market and the crosswalk at the railroad tracks on Main Street.
Suggestions ranged from small improvements, such as picking up trash and adding trash cans, to more expensive projects, such as building a permanent stage in Fairpark or bathrooms at the farmers’ market.
Davies and the other national visitors will compile all the suggestions and come up with initial observations, which will be presented Thursday.
Debbie Brangenberg, executive director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, said the long-term goal is to take the suggestions and use them to improve downtown.
“Thursday, they start the dialogue with immediate findings and observations and we start working through them and prioritizing the feasibility and short-term and long-term goals. This is a long-term process, but it’s a start.”
The placemaking program continues today with a workshop with a similar game and with case studies of how improvements have been done in other cities.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.

Workshop results
– The Downtown Tupel on Main Street Associati on hosted two workshops Tuesday, with the goal of improvi ng downtown from Crosstown to the Elvis Presley Birthplace. During the workshops, attendees were asked to list the best and worst places downtown, along with the ones that have the most opportunity. The nominees were then narrowed down.
• Cafe 212
• Farmers’ market
• Fairpark
• Roof at Park Heights
• Papa V’s
• Elvis Birthplace
• Reed’s
• Main Street shopping district
• Corridor on Highway 45 between
the bridge and Veterans Boulevard
• Blighted buildings (old NAPA
• Large asphalt parking lot at Ban-
corpSouth Arena
• Intersection at Main and Front
• Main Street – the street itself
• The area on Main Street west to Crosstown
• Court Street park
• De Lighthouse building
• Farmers’ Market
• Empty buildings
■ Main Street is soliciting public nomi-
nations for best/worst/opportunity places
online through its Placemap. To nominate
a place in downtown Tupelo, go to

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