EDITORIAL: Fairpark's advantage

Henry Turley, whose guidance is deeply imprinted on the Fairpark development as a managing consultant, told a business-community crowd Tuesday that the wisdom of Tupelo's development decision is confirmed by changing growth strategies nationwide.

In a related but independent development, final financing documents were signed late Tuesday by Hilton Garden Inn developer Tom Ricketts of Memphis and others involved in the hotel and conference center project on the south end of BancorpSouth Center. A formal groundbreaking is set for the week of Oct. 3.

Turley spoke to the monthly Networking at Noon Luncheon at the Gum Tree Museum, an event underwritten by Cellular South.

Turley – a developer whose residential/commercial communities, Harbortown and South Bluff, have transformed downtown Memphis – said a recent national transportation conference in Newport Beach, Calif., cited the desirability of growth like Fairpark nationwide.

Highway builders and transportation officials who have built bigger and better roads into outlying areas since the 1950s now are turning back to closer-in areas, neighborhoods and parcels to take pressure off highway construction and skyrocketing maintenance costs.

The congressional act that built the Interstate Highway System as an evacuation route and military system in case of nuclear war did not anticipate that it also would lead to the shift of urban populations farther and farther into suburbia, Turley said.

Because the federal transportation trust fund is so heavily burdened wit both maintenance and new construction, the newest and most aggressive trend is toward redeveloping where existing streets and roads have “excess capacity” – where traffic volume doesn't overtax efficiency. As a consequence, Turley said, areas like Fairpark experience a renaissance of close-in living near downtowns, with residential neighborhoods, offices, entertainment and retail shopping mixed together.

Fairpark – a $23 million urban renewal project undertaken in 1999 by the city of Tupelo – combines public initiative with private entrepreneurship.

Tupelo's new City Hall is the architectural centerpiece, sitting about dead center of what used be the fairgrounds for the Mississippi Alabama Fair and Dairy Show.

Also out of the ground and either open or nearing completion are condominiums, row houses, freestanding homes, service offices, a banking operation, a real estate office building, a jobs incubator, and retail offices.

More is coming.

Turley – who helped guide Fairpark's concept and design – told elected officials, civic leaders and business interests before the first spade of earth had been moved a 10-year time frame for full development was the realistic schedule, based on his immensely successful experience.

So far, his insight has proven correct.

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