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Columbus, Starkville ranked among state's most exciting cities


The 10 Most Exciting Places In Mississippi By Movoto Real Estate


Kim Bennett

Kim Bennett


Workers paint the front of 513 Main Street in Columbus Friday.

Workers paint the front of 513 Main Street in Columbus Friday.
Photo by: Zach Odom/Dispatch Staff



Andrew Hazzard/Dispatch Staff



Kim Bennett believes Columbus citizens have to invest in downtown for themselves. 


That's why she and her husband, Dr. Dan Bennett, bought the building at 513 Main St. The Bennetts are putting in a new business, "The Southern: A Social Venue." 


It will be a mid-sized rental space for social gatherings, luncheon and club meetings. The Southern will add another source of entertainment to downtown -- a source that is unique to Columbus, Bennett said. 


"Dick's Sporting Goods can't come downtown; Micheals and Hobby Lobby can't come downtown," she said. "All those things on (Highway) 45, it kind of makes itself. To me a downtown has to be made by the people in the community." 


Making downtown unique is among the reasons that Columbus was ranked number six by Movoto Real Estate's list of the top ten exciting cities in Mississippi. 


The list was comprised of the 20 most populous cities in the state. Rankings were based on nightlife per capita, restaurants per capita, percentage of restaurants that are not chains, population density, outdoor recreation venues, music venues and festivals and percentage of young residents age 18-34.  


Nancy Carpenter, the Executive Director of the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Lowndes County has 130 restaurants, around 100 of which are within Columbus city limits. The Movoto list said that Columbus ranked fourth in the state in restaurants per capita.  


"You're not talking about a lot of chains, you're talking about local eateries," Carpenter said.  


Carpenter said maintaining a vibrant, historic downtown is important to Columbus's future. For her part, Carpenter has lived, worked and sent her children to school downtown since she moved here 25 years ago.  


"The heartbeat of a city is its downtown," Carpenter said. " One of the reasons we have maintained a strong, vital downtown is that people are here 24 hours a day." 


One day in the future, Bennett hopes to live downtown, too. There are two apartments within the building the Bennetts bought last October, and Bennett said after her children finish college she hopes to move there.  


"I love the atmosphere of a downtown--the quaintness of it, just being able to walk everywhere," Bennett said.  


The Southern will not be a restaurant, though it will have a commercial kitchen. Bennett said that Marty Wages will be the caterer used for events at The Southern. The venue will provide the space, decor and piano for gatherings held there; food and flowers are up to the renters.  


The Southern building now sports a feature making a comeback downtown: a balcony. Balconies used to be everywhere on Main Street, but have become a thing of the past. Bennett said that she and her husband love New Orleans and wanted to put in the balcony because it helps make the city more interactive; she envisions carolers on the balcony during Christmas. 


In order to put a balcony on the building, Bennett had to show the city that 513 Main Street originally had one. An old picture, which can be found in the book "Chronicles of Columbus" shows ladies on the balcony when the circus came to town in 1906. 


The Southern's first event will be a Tennessee Williams celebration held on September 11th by Brenda Carradine. It will be a celebration of the history and the future of Columbus. 


Starkville ranked third. The college town scored big in the proportion of people age 18-34 and the amount of available nightlife and music festivals. Starkville even managed to out-eat Columbus; the home of the Bulldogs was number one in the state in restaurants per capita. Starkville also received praise for access to the arts; it ranked fifth in arts listings per capita statewide.  




Most exciting cities in Mississippi 


1. City of Biloxi 


2. City of Oxford 


3. City of Starkville 


4. City of Jackson 


5. City of Ridgeland 


6. City of Columbus 


7. City of Hattiesburg 


8. City of Vicksburg 


9. City of Meridian 


10. City of Gulfport 






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