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What’s the big deal about downtown?

What's the big deal about downtown?


I'm often asked why I focus on downtown revitalization so much.  The three most common areas in rural areas that we hear need to be addressed are workforce, housing and leadership. How does downtown revitalization fit into that picture?


Your downtown is the heart of your city. It's the one place that everyone can identify with and claim ownership to. The buildings downtown tell our histories and encompass the memories of its people. The parades, the celebrations, the get togethers are generally held downtown and what people remember.


Andy Kitsinger, principal at The Development Studio says "In most cases downtowns serve as the engine for local economies. However, downtowns are much more than a profit center to cities. They also represent the image and character of a city to the rest of the world. Downtowns are unique in that they are typically the only neighborhood that belongs to and is shared by everyone in the region."


For local industry to attract workforce to the area, they will want to showcase the quality of life in the community. Schools, parks and an active downtown really matter to people who are looking to move to your area. It's believed that if you can't take care of the face of your community (downtown) how can you take care of me as a resident?


Second story housing downtown is gaining popularity for a variety of people. The trend to living in a walkable community is rising.  You can now work from home and live in the downtown area and accomplish everything you need in one area. Having a car is not so important anymore, with the advent of affordable rentals and being able to work from home. We're seeing young people taking advantage of this trend. Not surprisingly, we are also seeing baby boomers wanting to move out of their sprawling homes into a a loft unit downtown. This makes room for the young parents to move into those former baby boomer homes.


But first you need the vibrant downtown area that includes retail and services. You need to focus on the things that showcase quality of life for your residents. These events and activities typically happen downtown.


In the Survey of Rural Challenges* the top five concerns were:  
1. Downtown is dead
2. Losing young people
3. No one shops in town
4. Missing out on tourism opportunities
5. Need new residents


All of these concerns can be addressed by starting with downtown revitalization. Helping your downtown and retailers will create a more vibrant downtown and reason for shopping. Bringing back the pride in your downtown, and involving your youth in the process, helps to bring those same youth back to town after they've gone to college or trade school. When tourists visit, they want to eat and shop - and explore your downtown. If you're working on 2nd story housing, now you're offering cool and unique places for people to live.


Downtown matters, it's the heart of your city. Keep that heart beating and healthy!



From Small Biz Matters

New Members elected to Miss. Main Street State Board


JACKSON, Miss. -- Three new members have been elected to the Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) Board of Directors. The new members were nominated and elected by the statewide board.


The new members are Tray Hairston, attorney at Butler Snow in Jackson, Mayor Carolyn McAdams, Chief Executive Officer of the City of Greenwood, and Chance McDavid, director of the Asset Development Division at the Mississippi Development Authority.


Hairston focuses his practice on public finance, economic development, and government relations. Before joining the firm, he served as Counsel and Economic Development Advisor to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant. He has served as Bond Counsel for various cities and counties throughout Mississippi. He is also an adjunct law professor and regularly publishes scholarly legal articles. Hairston currently serves on the economic development steering committee for Tougaloo College and is a board member of Mississippi Today.


Mayor McAdams is responsible for all functions of the executive branch of Greenwood's municipal government. McAdams serves as the Chief Executive Officer for the City of Greenwood over five departments (administration, city clerk, fire, police, public works) and two divisions (human resources and inspection). She is in charge of all day-to-day operations and decision making and works closely with the City Council by proposing policy items that benefit the citizenry of Greenwood.


McDavid was recently named the Director of the Asset Development Division at the Mississippi Development Authority.  Previously, he served as senior Extension associate with the Southern Rural Development Center and Department of Agricultural Economics at Mississippi State University. He has nearly 15 years of experience in community and economic development serving at the local, regional, and state levels with university Extension and outreach as well as serving as Vice President and Chief Operations Officer for the Greater Starkville Development Partnership.

The MMSA board is made up of a statewide group of business, government and community leaders. Remaining members of the 2017 MMSA Board of Directors are as follows:
President Allison Beasley, Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District; President-elect Ed Gardner, Entergy; Treasurer Kevin Stafford, Neel-Schaffer, Inc., Past-President Suzanne Smith, Renasant Bank; Steven B. Dick, Mississippi Power; Chris Chain, Renovations of Mississippi, Inc.; Kagan Coughlin, Base Camp Coding Academy; Tara Lytal, Main Street Clinton; Russell Baty, The Main Street Chamber of Leake County; Steve Kelly, Board Member Emeritus; Keith A. Williams, Hancock Bank; Katie Blount and Michelle Jones, Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Jim West, College of Architecture, Art and Design at Mississippi State University; Glenn McCullough, Mississippi Development Authority; Ken P'Pool, Mississippi Department of Archives and History; and Leah Kemp, The Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State University.




Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association semi-finalist for Great American Main Street Award

Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association finalist for Great American Main Street Award


Tupelo chosen out of many downtown communities from across the country             


TUPELO, Miss. -- Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association was announced as a Top Ten Semi-Finalist for the Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) on Sept. 1. This award is the most prestigious award a Main Street community can receive.


    The GAMSA continuously draws a large array of applicants from all across the nation. Three Main Street communities will be selected as overall winners for this award. The results will be announced in March 2018 at Main Street America's national convention in Kansas City, Mo. This award recognizes communities that revitalize their conventional downtown areas and create a vibrant, transformed Main Street.

    “The Great American Main Street Award is the highest recognition given out by the National Main Street Center,” said Patrice Frey, the National Main Street Center’s President and CEO.  “Each year, we look forward to celebrating the semi-finalists, who are exceptional Main Street America organizations, working to create more economically, socially, and culturally vibrant commercial districts. They are a testament to the power of the Main Street Approach, and the great potential of downtown districts in cities and towns across the country.”
    Tupelo is a vibrant, small town located in the center of the Mississippi Hills. Famous for being the birthplace of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock n’ Roll still serves as strong foundation for tourism and entertainment in Downtown Tupelo.

    In their impressive 27-year history, the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association has generated over $165 million in public/private investment and received over 60 awards. However, their true legacy is the impact their work has made for the people who call Tupelo home. Tupelo Main Street continues to make Tupelo an even better play to live, work and play.

    "It is an honor to be chosen a Top 10 Semi-finalist for the GAMSA award," said Debbie Brangenberg, executive director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association. "Our organization has spent almost 27 years laying the foundation for a strong and successful downtown.  To be recognized nationally for our efforts acknowledges the dedication and hard work by many."


    "The longterm, incremental philosophy of Main Street is perfectly demonstrated by the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association,” said Jeannie Zieren, Mississippi Main Street’s director of training and information services. "With time, patience, and incredible local support and public-private partners, Downtown Tupelo is a state and now nationally-recognized, award-winning Main Street program!”

    Two Mississippi Main Street communities have received the GAMSA, Columbus in 2010 and Ocean Springs in 2013.


    To read more about the GAMSA semi-finalists, visit For more information on the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, call 662.841.6598 or visit




Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) was created to provide economic development assistance through historic preservation to its 56 member towns, which focuses on issues embraced by the Main Street Four-Point Approach® - Organization, Promotion, Design and Economic Vitality– that are designed to match resources available in Main Street communities.

As a Main Street America Coordinating Program, MMSA is part of a powerful, grassroots network consisting of 45 Coordinating Programs and over 1600 neighborhoods and communities across the country committed to creating high-quality places and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development. MMSA partners with the Mississippi Development Authority and several private investors in the state.


For more information, visit ;

OUR OPINION: Tupelo’s Main Street deserves national attention

OUR OPINION: Tupelo's Main Street deserves national attention

Northeast Daily Journal


Tupelo’s Main Street is in the national spotlight after being recently named one of the top 10 semifinalists for the Great American Main Street Award.


Being a finalist for such a prestigious national award speaks volumes to the tremendous transformation that’s taken place on Tupelo’s Main Street over the last few years and the tireless efforts from a number of community leaders who have spearheaded those projects.


Each year, the National Main Street Center recognizes what it deems exceptional Main Street communities whose successes serve as a model for comprehensive, preservation-based commercial district revitalization with the Great American Main Street Award. Since the award’s inception in 1995, more than 90 Main Street programs have been honored.


Two Mississippi communities have won the award previously: Ocean Springs in 2013 and Columbus in 2010.


According to Main Street America, GAMSA winners “represent the diversity of communities in the Main Street America network – small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts from every region in the country.


Winners will be recognized next spring at the Main Street Now Conference.


Selection criteria for the award are:


• Overall strength of the Main Street program and documented success in creating an exciting place to live, work, play and visit


• Demonstrated impact aligning with the Main Street Approach


• Commitment to historic preservation


• Active involvement of the public and private sector


• Model partnerships, including inclusive engagement of community members and local stakeholders in the downtown revitalization process.


Tupelo’s Main Street is a perfect representation of all those items and is one of many throughout the region that, at the hands of some visionary leaders, have truly turned around communities.


No doubt one of the focal points for Tupelo’s inclusion in this national award is the work on the Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail, a project that spanned 11 years and took a community-wide effort to accomplish.


The $11.5-million project was funded by the City of Tupelo’s Major Thoroughfare Program and a $2.3-million transportation enhancement grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Apart from its primary mission of connecting downtown Tupelo to the Elvis Presley Birthplace, the project also sought to transform portions of Main Street into a more pedestrian-friendly area with the hopes of increasing commerce for retail businesses and restaurants.


Main Streets are still very much the lifeblood of a number of communities across Northeast Mississippi and that couldn’t be more true in Tupelo.


Just about every day of the week, Tupelo’s Main Street is buzzing with residents and visitors alike taking in the sights, shopping and dining at the several restaurant options available. There are many communities across the country that would stand envious of such a well-kept and active Main Street.


We applaud the work that’s been done by so many to transform Tupelo’s Main Street. Being a semifinalist for a national award of this stature only reaffirms the work that’s been done and should give leaders a new energy to continue pressing forward.

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Ocean Springs, a town with a reputation as an “arts community” has several art galleries and was hometown to the late Walter Inglis Anderson, a nationally renowned painter and muralist.

Mississippi Main Street Association
P.O. Box 55747 | Jackson, MS 39296
Phone: 601/944-0113
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
District Offices:
P.O. Box 445 | Columbus, MS 39703 | 662- 364-0435
426 Northpointe Lake Dr. | Oxford, MS 38655 | 601-941-5409
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Mississippi Main Street is a program of the National Main Street
Center and the Mississippi Development Authority