By NEMS Daily Journal
The Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association’s board of directors made developing real estate and filling empty retail and commercial space its top priority at a planning retreat last month – emphases that would lead to new jobs creation, property tax roll expansion and generally increase downtown’s attractiveness as the urban and governing center of Lee County.
DTMSA Executive Director Debbie Brangenberg said Monday the organization’s goal is to develop a “laser focus” on recruiting tenants and owners for available store fronts and offices in the downtown area. She has an ally in that focus in Tupelo Redevelopment Agency Chairman John Oxford.
Downtown is the city’s front door and its maximum positive impact can’t be reached with substantial vacant space. People are drawn to business activity, whether retail, residential or other commercial enterprises. The absence of business diminishes the appeal to any potential client or customer.
City government obviously cannot play favorites in seeking development of one area over another, so Downtown Tupelo Main Street and TRA are the designated advocates for downtown and the Fairpark District.
Brangenberg and Oxford both said they would like to see a unified approach to marketing all of downtown, in effect melding the marketing of Fairpark and the rest of the district defined by U.S. Highway on the east, Franklin Street on the North, Madison Street on the west and Magazine Street on the south.
“I completely agree with a laser focus on downtown and a unified approach to marketing it,” Oxford said. “That’s one of the main reasons we have a Downtown Main Street Association, to pull everyone together to drive consumers and visitors to our downtown area.”
Oxford said he receives ideas daily for Fairpark development.
“TRA’s job is to manage these for the city in a prudent manner while working with private sector businesses to recruit new entities into Fairpark. … We’re still not back to the days when investors and business people were coming forward with the capital to back new projects. But in saying that, I’m optimistic that we are going to start to see a break from the two-year slowdown very soon.”
The general business climate is rebuilding from the deepest pit of the recession. The tourism tax collections for Tupelo in May, the most recent month reported, were up 34 percent, a strong sign of increasing consumer spending.
The downtown association, TRA and investors should be fully prepared to seize the moment as business investment returns.