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Gulf Coast Benefits from Main Street Program

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Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Communities Draw on Main Street Programs to Rebuild Their Historic Town Centers
(Urban Land - November/December 2008 - Developments)


Three years after Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast continues to bear much of the burden of the devastating storm. The effects on the western section of the Mississippi Gulf Coast were far reaching and are still evident all the way to the Alabama border. The resolve of the communities affected by the storms to rebuild is evident, particularly in the communities’ historic downtowns.

Most of these communities have benefited from the Mississippi Renewal Forum’s extensive planning charrettes, organized in October 2005 by the Mississippi Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal and the Congress for the New Urbanism. The charrettes provided insightful community visions and far-reaching blueprints for how to rebuild in more sustainable ways that respected the Mississippi Gulf Coast vernacular.

Since then, much progress has been made in reestablishing neighborhoods, providing new and smarter housing, and rebuilding infrastructure. The historic downtowns, however, continued to experience particular difficulties. Among the challenges were downtown districts that were not easily accessible, both physically and visually; poor image and perceptions that predated Katrina; struggling independent businesses; lack of a clear brand or downtown image; vacant properties and gaps in the urban fabric; poor market conditions; and key property owners not closely involved in the rebuilding process.

Since its inception, the Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) has recognized that historic downtowns are the heart and soul of the state’s communities and that special attention needs to be given to preserve, enhance and, in some cases, rebuild the town centers of the communities affected by Katrina. MMSA assembled the Mississippi Gulf Coast Resource Team to build on the charrette efforts with a focus on implementation strategies for the downtown core areas of six Mississippi communities along the Gulf Coast—Hancock County (Waveland and Bay St. Louis), Picayune, Gulfport, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, and Pascagoula.

As a framework, the resource team effort followed the four points of the Main Street Program—economic restructuring, promotion, design, and organization—to provide holistic solutions to multifaceted problems, recognizing that design alone would not provide the solutions needed. The team developed implementation strategies for business development, branding and promotions, gateways and wayfinding, streetscapes and public open spaces, facade improvements, infill development and redevelopment, and organizational responsibilities.

In every community, however, the approach was to work directly with property and business owners to ensure that the implementation strategies were based on the realities of individuals’ plans—not what the consultants thought the plans should be.
In Waveland, which experienced some of the worst devastation from Katrina, special attention was given to using Katrina cottages—small homes designed as an attractive alternative to Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers—as temporary incubator space for existing and new businesses. The idea was that the businesses could operate out of these facilities in the short term while permanent facilities were being constructed. Waveland had previously commissioned a more detailed follow-up charrette, so it was particularly important for the resource team to illustrate how its recommendations and strategies reinforced the charrette recommendations rather than took the community in a different direction.

In Biloxi, a historic downtown is overshadowed by an extensive gambling district. Rather than try to fight this reality, the team focused instead on capitalizing on the sizable visitor market and making stronger connections between that district and the historic downtown. Strategies included both promotional campaigns and design recommendations to help downtown restaurants and merchants capture some of this market.

While most agreed with the charrette recommendations that called for traditional streets lined with buildings, and structured parking located behind them, it was not clear to many property owners how to achieve this vision. Resource team strategies, therefore, emphasized a phased approach that included initial development along key street edges, with surface parking areas on the balance of the site that could be developed or infilled over time with higher densities and structured parking. The team used simple models to illustrate how new development could be phased over time while reinforcing important street connections right from the beginning.

Through the efforts of the MMSA and the can-do attitude of community leaders and residents, six towns along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast have been able to recognize that there is an opportunity in the rebuilding process to preserve and strengthen their historic downtown districts while implementing the long-term vision for their communities.

Tom McGilloway, a landscape architect and principal with Mahan Rykiel Associates Inc. in Baltimore, was a member of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Resource Team.

Breakfast with Santa

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Sunday, November 23 was Holiday Open House in Downtown Pontotoc. Several years ago, Santa would have breakfast with the kids and take photos. Pontotoc Main Street’s Design team and Promotion Committee wanted to bring this back. On Saturday, November 22, they partnered with the Fire Department and High School Baseball Boosters and had “Breakfast with Santa” at the fire department.

It was a win-win situation for all. Downtown Pontotoc had their own Polar Express bring Santa into town. He was ready to hear requests from 175 kids. They had pictures with Santa, train rides, showed a movie and breakfast for over 200 kids and parents. For a first time event, this was a great success. The event had very good partnering among different groups in the community. It produced traffic on Main Street, made money for the baseball team and filled a few orders for Santa.

Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce an official Southeast Tourism Society member

(Ocean Springs) - The Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce – Main Street – Tourism Bureau has officially become a member of one of the most prestigious tourism promoting organizations, the Southeast Tourism Society (STS).

As a member, the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce will have access to a number of resources such as networking, continuing education, cooperative marketing and other opportunities into the travel and tourism industry.

“This is a great opportunity and partnership,” said Margaret Miller, executive director of the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce – Main Street – Tourism Bureau. “It places Ocean Springs in a unique position to promote our one-of-a-kind small retail shops, restaurants, galleries, as well as the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center, Ocean Springs Fresh Market, ongoing festivals and events, along with area bed & breakfasts and hotels.”

The Chamber of Commerce previously participated in the Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College earlier this year and was recognized for the Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival as a “Top 20 Event” by Southeast Tourism Society.

Southeast Tourism Society is a non-profit membership organization with more than 900 members representing 12 states in the Southeast. The organization is dedicated to promoting leisure travel, sustainable tourism and the importance of the travel industry.

For more information, please contact the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce – Main Street – Tourism Bureau at 228-875-4424.

MMSA Announces 2009 Board of Directors

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JACKSON, Miss. November 6, 2008 - The Mississippi Main Street Association's 2009 Board of Directors met in the capital city of Jackson October 28-30 to finalize the association's strategic plans for 2009.

The 2009 Board officer slate is as follows: Chuck Ueltschey, Mississippi Power Company, is Board President; Randy Burchfield, Bancorp South, is Board President-elect and Treasurer; and Suzanne Smith, Renasant Bank, is Chairman and immediate Past President.

The 2009 Board of Directors are as follows: Steve Kelly, Entergy; Bill Andrews, Viking Corporation; Jimmy Heidel, Department of Planning and Development for the City of Jackson; H.T. Holmes, Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Kay Miller, Biloxi Main Street; Hibbett Neel, Neel-Schaffer; Barry Plunkett, Real Estate Developer; Leland Speed, Eastgroup/Parkway Properties; Gray Swoope, Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority; Jim West of the College of Architecture, Art and Design at Mississippi State University; and Billy Wiseman, Retired. Bill Scruggs of St. Dominic Health Services is a new Board Member.

Designated representatives to the Board include Joy Foy, Mississippi Development Authority; Ken P'Pool, Mississippi Department of Archives and History; and John Poros, The Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State University. Ex Officio members are Alex Thomas, Mississippi Development Authority; and Stella Gray Sykes, Mississippi Advisor to the National Trust.

The retreat was based in Jackson at the Old Capitol Inn and included a trolley tour of downtown Jackson, led by Downtown Jackson Partners President Ben Allen, the City View Project, led by MMSA Board Member Barry Plunkett, and the Belhaven/Fortification Street Project, led by Virgi Lindsay, Director of the Greater Belhaven/Main Street Neighborhood Association. The tour included stops in the Main Street urban neighborhoods of Belhaven and Fondren as well as the historic Farish Street distict. Dinner followed at Sal and Mookie's Restaurant in Fondren.

"We were excited to show the statewide MMSA Board of Directors our urban Main Street programs as well as the progress being made in our capital city," said Bob Wilson, Executive Director of the Mississippi Main Street Association. "I look forward to working with our distinguished Board line-up who are all dedicated to continuing the Main Street mission to develop Mississippi's downtowns."

The Mississippi Main Street program is an economic development program based in historic preservation focused on developing Mississippi's downtowns through a four point approach: organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring. MMSA leads the nation in program success and is a designated partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Mississippi Development Authority.

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Mississippi Main Street Association
P.O. Box 55747 | Jackson, MS 39296
Phone: 601/944-0113
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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