EDITORIAL: Downtown alliances

The Tupelo Redevelopment Agency and the Neighborhood Development Corporation, both operating under municipal government’s umbrella, cooperated exactly as intra-governmental operations should in donating land and funds for first-time homebuyers participating in a state-funded grant program.
The undeveloped, prime residential site on Tolbert Street near its intersection with North Front Street in the Park Hill neighborhood near downtown Tupelo offers a sweeping view of Gum Tree Park and part of downtown.
The property, owned by the redevelopment agency because it is a successor to a previous development program that had title, has room enough for the seven homes planned under a $270,469 grant from the Mississippi Development Authority for first-time owners. The grants, up to $35,000 each, will assist the first-time owners in obtaining their homes and financing.
Land for the planned seven, or more, grantee-owned houses became problematic when the NDC learned that it had to return the money because it owned only three lots of the necessary seven.
Now that the land has been transferred to NDC the grant funds will become fully available and the program can move ahead.
The land, which generates no tax or other revenue for anyone as it exists, could produce up to $16,000 per year in municipal property tax revenue once all the homes are built and occupied, based on a retail value of about $100,000 each, TRA Chairman John Oxford said.
In addition, TRA board member Tim Prewitt, a construction engineer with the JBHM architectural firm, is exploring developing several designs that would be appropriate for the site, but Oxford said that idea has not been fully discussed and TRA has taken no position.
TRA’s prime mission is redevelopment of the Fairpark District, the former fairgrounds property in downtown Tupelo. TRA administers the rules, regulations and covenants related to Fairpark and handles the original sale of real estate in the nearly 50-acre site. Fairpark is an urban mixed-use development: governmental, commercial, retail, and residential.
Oxford said owning and developing the Tolbert Street property was outside the scope of TRA’s responsibilities and mission.
Nationwide trends measured by federal agencies show dramatic increases in urban residential development since 2000, including during the current housing and economic downturn.
Tupelo is not a major metropolitan area, but its downtown growth parallels findings that central cities’ growth has more than doubled in their share of new development in the past five years.
Fairpark’s long-term success is directly linked to success in other parts of the central city, and its land donation helps that cause.

NEMS Daily Journal

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