OUR OPINION: Mugshots’ announcement adds to Fairpark identity

Today’s formal groundbreaking celebration for a new Mugshots restaurant in downtown Tupelo’s Fairpark District further confirms the vision of Tupelo’s leaders who saw in a nearly derelict parcel of land in the city’s heart the potential for an extensive new generation of investment reflective of 21st century expectations, preferences and possibilities.

Mugshots, which has 11 other locations including a landmark building in downtown Starkville, is a casual dining restaurant long sought by the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association as an asset in Fairpark.

The lot, originally purchased from the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency for an Oby’s restaurant, was repurchased at the original $285,000 price when Oby’s did not exercise its option to bid. Johnny Robbins and Ben Robbins, brothers, bought the parcel in 2012 for $220,000 from TRA.

Fairpark also includes some of the adjacent properties on the north side of East Main Street and the Fairpark zone of influence extends eastward to U.S. Highway 45 on the south side.

That zone includes Papa V’s, a successful, upscale convenience store and cafe also owned by Johnny Robbins.

Other restaurants in the Fairpark sphere are Fairpark Grill, Park Heights and the Hilton Garden Inn Restaurant. Nearby on the east side of the Kansas City Southern Railroad tracks are Jim Bean’s Barbecue and Hardee’s.

Fairpark, it is noteworthy, was designed as a mixed-use urban development: Residential, commercial and public-sector occupants. Entertainment, which is a commercial enterprise, has been mostly episodic like the Elvis Presley Festival each spring and the Down on Main live concerts for three dates in the summer and into early fall.

A concentration of restaurants and cafes is a major asset because it provides good choice in promoting downtown as a leisure destination.

A multi-screen cinema would make Fairpark more fully competitive for entertainment spending.

In addition, Trustmark Bank, Renasant Bank and First National Bank all have invested in Fairpark properties and operations.

Residential investment has been slow but steady, with many parcels remaining for sale and development.

As more elements in Fairpark rise from the ground the idea of an inter-connected, walkable, pedestrian friendly neighborhood increases Fairpark’s identity as a distinct but well-integrated part of Tupelo.

Popular eateries like Mugshots fit the plan, the vision, the goal of Fairpark.

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