December 27, 2011 10:44:00 AM
Local economies have evolved. We've gone from chasing smokestacks to embracing small business and entrepreneurship.
At the center of this economic model is a vibrant downtown.
The Starkville Historic Preservation Commission's push to get its downtown recognized as a national historic district can only enhance its ability to tap into the growth a thriving downtown can offer.
The city already boasts four historic districts -- the Nash Street District, which preserves Tudor revival, craftsman and colonial revival architecture from the 1930s and 1940s; the Cotton District near Mississippi State University, site of a former expansive cotton mill; the Greensboro District, a neighborhood of merchants and civic leaders in the 1860s and 1870s that also offers examples of Tudor revival, craftsman and bungalow homes; and the Overstreet District, which has examples of Queen Anne, Victorian, colonial revival, folk and mid-20th-century craftsman and bungalow homes.
Designation with the National Register of Historic Places can mean up to 45 percent in renovation tax credits for the 104 downtown property owners.
Starkville residents need only look east to Columbus for an example of how a restored downtown can attract and keep businesses, as well as become a source of community pride.
Columbus established a Main Street program in 1985, and a handful of downtown believers started a series of renovations that led to nearly every historic building in downtown being restored.
Since then, downtown Columbus has continued to grow, with such additions as the Riverwalk, more than 140 upper-level lofts and apartments, restaurants, specialty shops salons and boutiques.
The Mississippi Main Street Association designated the city of Starkville as a Mississippi Main Street Community in September 2010. The university is growing -- Mississippi State University surpassed the 20,000-student mark this year and has grown by 2,500 students over the past three years. Starkville already has great places to eat and shop. And aldermen are hosting public hearings to implement a new zoning system that would make it easier for varying types of developments to be neighbors in downtown and near the college.
The timing is right for the city of Starkville to invigorate its downtown.
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