By NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippi State University’s “First Impressions” study of South Gloster Street in Tupelo provided strong confirmation of what many business people and city elected officials already knew: South Gloster is far from dead, but it needs some improvements to provide renewed momentum.
The study, commissioned in 2011 by the South Gloster Business Association through MSU’s Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development, offered ideas for improvement. In stating the obvious the study team affirmed that South Gloster as a commercial district has a huge concentration of jobs, anchored by the region’s largest employer, North Mississippi Medical Center, but it is rough around the edges and needs intentional visual improvement and longer-term planning for development.
South Gloster, for most of its history, was U.S. Highway 45 as well as Tupelo’s major north-south street. It remains Mississippi 145, and is among the most heavily traveled thoroughfares because it is still the main connector to the northern, central and southern commercial districts.
The heavy traffic count is a plus for South Gloster because it keeps people near existing businesses, and with uncontrolled access, provides opportunity for turnoffs into business parking lots its full length.
The ideas suggested by the survey team play to existing strengths and target challenges that have developed over time, in part because more is expected in commercial districts to enhance appearance than was the case decades ago:
• Capitalize on the health sector. Thousands of employees commute to the NMMC campus and the scores of physicians’ offices nearby almost every day. The hospital is a major 24/7 enterprise with a huge payroll.
• Improving connectivity may require longer-term street realignment and construction, plus better traffic coordination. The opening of the new Mississippi Highway 6 at South Gloster and South Green Street provides both great potential and challenges with an expected heavy traffic count.
• Guidelines for mixed use development would help restore the street as a partly residential corridor as well as expand commercial opportunities.
• Sign ordinances would improve the cityscape motorists and pedestrians see and should include placement of utility lines underground in the long term.
• Landscape guidelines and inclusion in the city’s capital budget in the years ahead for public properties would quickly change appearances from drab to energized.
South Gloster remains an important asset in Tupelo’s economy, and its business base is diverse. Making necessary improvements will enhance the businesses on and near the street and attract new ones with their own unique customers.