“But that’s not happening right now,” said Sheffield, owner of Affordable Cars. “Can we do something right now? We’ve got to make things happen.”
About 100 business owners and residents met Friday morning at Gloster Creek Village in a meeting called by Ward 3 City Councilman Jim Newell.
The purpose of the meeting, Newell said, was to gauge interest in organizing a South Gloster business association that would actively promote and market the area.
“The timing is right,” Newell said. “I see the area with the five-laning and Highway 6 poised for tremendous growth. Now’s the time to take advantage of the opportunities we have and look to the future.”
Newell said improving landscaping, roads, parking and lighting will help attract and keep businesses.
“Those are just some ideas,” he told the crowd, “but you have ideas that need to be brought to the table, too.”
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. also attended the meeting, and said it is in the city’s best interest that all areas of the community do well.
“One of my goals is having every part of town be a good part of town,” he said, adding that it takes “elbow grease to work together.”
Newell said a South Gloster task force will be formed to look at ways to bring more retailers and other businesses to the area, as well as help the ones already there. The task force would have six to eight people, perhaps selected by the mayor, the Community Development Foundation and South Gloster business owners, he said.
“My thought right now is if we can get this task force together, it would meet once a month, then the association would meet quarterly or every two months so we can bring something to the table,” Newell said.
The quality of South Gloster Street itself was a concern brought up by several business owners, who said they don’t understand why the road in some places is in such bad shape.
Some complained that other areas of the city seem to have their road problems, such as potholes, fixed quickly, while South Gloster gets little attention.
“It’s horrible, especially right in front of Domino’s,” Sheffield said. “If you sell a new car, it won’t be a new car anymore if you drive over that spot. I’ve seen many cars get dinged and scratched. Laying gravel there doesn’t make sense.”
Newell said he’s not sure if work on Highway 6 can move faster and said that the widening project depends on the Major Thoroughfare Program.
Next in the program is building the northern loop connecting Coley Road to Barnes Crossing Road. South Gloster’s widening is scheduled to happen after that’s done, and it’s part of the current five-year plan that ends in December 2011.
Butch Bastian, the vice president of the Lee Acres Neighborhood Association, said the more than 630 homes in the group have been clamoring for more businesses for years. More restaurants, more retailers, more grocery stores are what the area needs, he said.
“There’s so much potential for them,” he said.
And Len Pegues agrees. Pegues is a managing member of GCV Group LLC, which owns Gloster Creek Village. Once the city’s retail center as the Tupelo Mall, it has become a mixed-used development center with medical offices, retail stores, restaurants and a call center.
“We’ve gone from having three tenants to 40, so we still have growth available here,” he said. “It’s gratifying to see what’s happened, because it was virtually abandoned.”
The rebirth of Gloster Creek Village can serve as an example for others along the South Gloster corridor, and Pegues said there’s more support coming from city leaders.
“I don’t think we had it before, but we think we have it now,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working on this and to keep it going.”
Nancy Taylor, owner of Taylor and Co., a children’s boutique and gifts store inside Gloster Creek Village, said she, too, is encouraged by the talk of revitalizing the area.
Taylor opened her shop last fall and said she’s been pleasantly surprised by the results.
“We feel like we’re in a good location that’s centrally located with easy access,” she said. “But I’d love to have more neighbors around me, too.”
Newell said that’s exactly why he’s pushing the development of the area.
“The traffic count on South Gloster is about 18,000 cars per day; around the mall it’s about 24,000,” he said. “I’m not saying we’re going to get that kind of traffic, but we will see an increase once the road work is complete. And that’s why we need to be talking about what we need to do to prepare for that.”
Realtor Tommy Morgan, who attended the meeting, said getting the road work done as soon as possible is critical.
“With that in place, everything else starts to flow; that’s when the money starts flowing,” he said. “Any pressure to apply to finish Highway 6, we need to see what we can do.”