For scores of South Gloster business owners and residents and people with a stake in the area – including city officials – what they heard Monday morning was no big surprise.
They were given the results of a “First Impressions” study conducted by Mississippi State University’s John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development, which sent a team of first-time visitors to the South Gloster area on three separate visits.
The South Gloster Business Association commissioned the study last year to see what it could do to help revitalize the area.
Jeremy Murdock, a project manager with the Stennis Institute, said the visitors’ overall impression of the South Gloster area was that it was cluttered and lacked identity.
However, he emphasized that the area has great opportunity to capitalize on its strengths like the North Mississippi Medical Center and associated medical offices, the historic nature of the corridor and vacant property that could be revitalized.
Entryways into South Gloster – from Main Street and North Gloster and from Verona – are nonexistent, he said. Particularly from the south heading north from Verona, “it’s a real rough entrance,” Murdock said.
All along South Gloster is a “jungle of signage and power lines, adding to the visual clutter,” he said.
Neighborhoods have been cut off from South Gloster, and the entire district itself isn’t connected to Mill Village, downtown or Fairpark like it can – and should – be.
Murdock said more sidewalks are needed, particularly around NMMC. Sidewalks, he said, drive pedestrian traffic, which in turn helps drive business and activity.
Bernard Bean, one of the owners of Harvey’s restaurant and a partner in parent company Eat With Us Group, said reinvestment will be an important part of South Gloster’s revitalization.
“Every time we’ve renovated one of our properties, we’ve seen economic growth – every time,” he said. “We have to think about that kind of impact for South Gloster and what will happen if we work together.”
Association president Rob Hudson said members of the group hope to meet with Murdock and his team sometime this month, then move toward getting short-term and long-term plans in place.
Some recommendations from the study:
• Capitalize on the health sector, which is the strength of the area.
• Improve connectivity throughout area.
• Develop connectivity to downtown, Fairpark District and Mill Village.
• Develop guidelines for having mixed use development.
• Enhance sign ordinances with amortization schedule.
• Establish landscape guidelines.
• Develop plans for future use of corridor.
• Educate property owners about current issues.