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Charrette planners: Oxford's loss is Starkville's gain

 

Mississippi Main Street Association charrette planners unveiled suggested promotional logos for Starkville on Thursday, advising the city market itself as “Mississippi’s College Town.”

Mississippi Main Street Association charrette planners unveiled suggested promotional logos for Starkville on Thursday, advising the city market itself as “Mississippi’s College Town.” Photo by: Provided

 

The old Starkville Electric Department building is re-imagined by planners as an art cafe.

 

The intersection of Lafayette Street and Highway 182 is re-imagined with new signage and construction in the photo illustration at right by charrette planners with Mississippi Main Street Association.

 

Tom McGilloway, landscape architect with the visiting Mississippi Main Street Association charrette team, addresses the crowd Thursday at the Greensboro Center during the charrette’s final presentation.

 

 

Jason Browne

 

Starkville is "Mississippi''s college town." 

 

That was the identity and marketing strategy put forth by the visiting Mississippi Main Street Association charrette team Thursday at the end of the charrette''s final presentation. 

 

More than 100 citizens attended the event at the Greensboro Center, where a parade of maps and photo illustrations depicted the Starkville of the future. Focusing on the downtown core, the all-star team of planners and landscapers suggested where to plant shade trees (Main Street), where to eliminate right-turn lanes (the intersection of Russell Street and Highway 12), where to place sidewalks and crosswalks (Highway 182) and countless additional improvements designed to enhance the downtown experience. 

 

Then there''s the branding. 

 

Contrasting Starkville with Oxford, branding expert Ben Muldrow explained how the college town up north was making every effort to cast itself as a destination without mentioning its biggest asset. He urged Starkville to go the opposite direction. 

 

"Own it, because Oxford doesn''t promote itself as a college town," he said. 

 

The charrette team''s vision for "Mississippi''s college town" entails a common theme, complete with a suggested font, across all activities and festivals currently associated with Starkville, and the creation of some new ones. This "new State of mind" would see increased co-promotion of school-related events, like football Saturdays, and downtown businesses in order to increase traffic on game days. Once the traffic comes, better signage and more attractive streets will funnel it downtown before and after the games. 

 

If the plan works and Starkville can capitalize on the business opportunities presented by being a college town, the charrette team spoke of slowly developing downtown north to Highway 182 and east to Russell Street and building parking decks downtown. The old Starkville Electric Department building could be converted into an art gallery/cafe. 

 

Until then, Tripp Muldrow, the team''s marketing expert, said Starkville should play to its strengths. Despite not being a major shopping destination, Starkville is a popular dining spot. Thus, the city should continue to court new restaurants. 

 

Muldrow said Starkville is "leaking" $60 million a year in potential retail sales which have escaped to nearby cities, but the city is treading water in a poor economy. When the economy improves, he said, the city is well positioned for residential and retail growth. 

 

The charrette team even offered a single solution to solve two of the city''s largest concerns and help kick off the expansion of downtown. Taking a cue from the city''s municipal complex committee, the charrette team suggested the city build a new police station on the north side of Highway 182 between Jackson Street and Washington Street. This would allow the administrative offices at City Hall to expand, possibly adding an addition to the building in the adjacent police parking lot. And the police station''s presence on Highway 182 would spur growth on the neglected street. 

 

Following the presentation, citizens raved about the charrette team''s professionalism. But many also questioned where the money would come from to begin any of the suggested improvements. 

 

"The problem," said Wayne Wilkerson, a former landscape architecture professor at MSU, as he left, "Will come with implementation." 

 

The charrette team will meet with city officials today to discuss available funding sources, but the city is already participating in many federal and state grant programs through the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District. 

 

Bill Daniel, who has only lived in Starkville for two years but serves on the Convention and Visitors Bureau board, believes the charrette team''s suggestions to beautify Russell Street and the west end of Main Street would attract more visitors to the city. 

 

"You can''t deal with it all at one time," he said. "You have to pick out the things that make sense to start with. Highway 182 will be a challenge, but I''m looking forward to being here on the ground floor as a relatively new citizen and getting involved in it." 

 

June Carpenter, who has lived in Starkville more than 40 years, suggested putting a new, eco-friendly city hall on Highway 182 and leaving the police department downtown. 

 

Ava Moore was just happy Highway 182 was being discussed for development. 

 

"When people approach downtown there should be something that makes a lasting impression," she said. 

 

Mayor Parker Wiseman was feeling the entire presentation but couldn''t pick any suggestion as a clear priority. However, he did say the branding aspect of becoming "Mississippi''s college town" would be easiest to implement. 

 

"I think it''s fantastic. It says a lot about this community without a lot of words, which is exactly what you want a slogan to do," he said. "I think it embraces the concept of both the city''s independent identity as a college town and that the university is a large part of that identity, which is a good statement for this community."

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment usarover commented at 4/1/2011 2:07:00 PM:

Sounds like some people sat down (who possess a little common sense) and have a decent plan to reach for in the next few years.

Now, if we can get our Alderman and other officials to shut up about sidewalk ordinances and helmet laws etc. and just focus on building Starkville up and bringing in new business to our "Historic College Town"

It is sad that we had to pay a consulting firm to point out some obvious improvements.

 

Article Comment brian commented at 4/1/2011 9:40:00 PM:

Oxford doesn't have to market itself as a college town, a dozen or so national publications in the last few years have done it for them.

 

Article Comment wpmedic1 commented at 4/2/2011 3:56:00 AM:

Brian how about a quick list of those dozen plus national publications. I would be interested in seeing what they have to say about Oxford.

 

Article Comment brian commented at 4/2/2011 10:02:00 PM:

THE college town up north...

http://www.oxfordcvb.com/articles.html

 

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