By NEMS Daily Journal
The city of Tupelo’s razing of the former Natchez Trace Inn property on West Main Street near the interchange with the Natchez Trace Parkway opens the way for a new generation of private-sector development on the 5.5-acre site.
Purchased for $1 by the city at a foreclosure sale in March, the property had stood vacant and derelict and became a haven for vagrants and illicit activities as a series of legal issues kept its fate in limbo for years.
Its demolition, with expected completion by year’s end, holds potential as a major piece of the city’s private-sector revitalization efforts. The location was prime when the motel/restaurant complex opened in the early 1960s. Despite its demise as a flourishing, popular haven for travelers and diners, the area around it has continued to develop. Ballard Park, for example, was still privately held land when the inn opened; now it is a significant destination for adult and youth competitive sports, day-to-day park visits, and major civic concerts – annually attracting thousands of visitors.
The Natchez Trace remains a daily thoroughfare for area residents, and it is a nationally designated scenic byway, with significant history-related upgrades in final planning stages.
The site, of course, does not necessarily need to be developed within the context of tourism. The city’s planners and private-sector developers can easily be brought into conversations about its greatest potential.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said Tuesday at a ceremonial start of the demolition, “This is a dramatic expression of the revitalization effort we’ve been talking about in Tupelo.”
Tupelo isn’t stepping out on a limb in focusing on the Trace Inn site. A special task force of the U.S. Conference of Mayors published a wide-reaching report in 2008 outlining policy, planning and implementation involving similar situations across the nation.
Many cities share commonalities in general approaches, but every city presents unique situations.
The Trace Inn parcel could serve as an anchor for a resurgent quality of life and new investment providing jobs and business opportunity in Tupelo’s west end.