EDITORIAL: Fairpark celebration

Tupelo's citizens and people from across the Northeast Mississippi region are invited at 4 p.m. today to a celebration – the dedication of Fairpark, the lively “green space” that's the official, visual centerpiece of Fairpark District.

Festivities on Troy Street in the district – anchored by Tupelo's still-new City Hall – mark an impressive milestone in the redevelopment of the former fairgrounds tract. The Fairpark name is derived from the site's history and its previous landmark status for past generations.

Today's celebration – with refreshments sponsored by one of downtown's oldest residents and most ardent supporters, R.W. Reed Co. – showcases what some thought impossible but which is an expanding certainty.

The park called Fairpark symbolizes everything worthwhile in the larger redevelopment enterprise: new investment in place of derelict property, order and structure replacing trashy disorder, and life in the form of new businesses and residents.

Six years ago, when Fairpark started without a name, it was only a plan. Then it became blueprints and designs, and finally structures and the accessories of development.

The new park, with a playful and innovatively designed fountain given in memory of Frances Purvis Reed by her family, remains a work in progress like the rest of the district. What's panted in it will grow. The passing of weeks into months and months into years will see increasing numbers of people come to enjoy the kind of emotional, physical and visual renewal it offers.

Beyond the park, the district itself is blossoming.

All but three lots in Phase I are sold. New businesses are open; others will come soon.

In Phase II, which is largely commercial, 10 to 12 lots are sold or in final stages of negotiation, out of 26 available.

Phase III has new businesses springing out of the ground, and others are in final stages of design or planning.

Phase IV – the final phase – is a substantive concept ready for the next shaping and sculpting of designers and investors.

The development includes residential lots purchased and new housing either under construction or about to be started. An apartment complex with condominiums is ready to go.

Professional offices, entrepreneurial commercial buildings and other ventures are putting money into the Fairpark District, recouping the $23 million original urban renewal bond issue and placing taxable property on the city's rolls.

It was planned, and it's working.

Across the street on the south side of the BancorpSouth Center, the final kinks are all but straightened before construction begins on the new Hilton hotel property and convention center.

All of it is a natural extension of the historic heart of downtown – and an improvement on what used to be there.

Come downtown today at 4 p.m. Enjoy the city's welcome and Reed's hospitality. Walk around, drive around, look around.

The heart of Tupelo is transforming itself.

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