March 30, 2011 3:32:00 PM
It''s Starkville''s turn.
In 2009, a team of architects, artists and city planners assembled by Mississippi Main Street Association descended on Columbus, and over a whirlwind handful of days gathered input from local leaders and the community at large to assemble a plan of improvements, large and small, for the city. In 2010, the same crew did the same for West Point.
Starting today, the team is in Starkville, a newly minted Main Street community.
The meeting is called a charrette, a French word meaning "little cart." The term has its origins with French students hurriedly finishing up their work on their way to school. Designers also say that the cart symbolizes that all ideas are welcome -- anyone can show up and climb inside. Nothing is left out. The more ideas and input, in fact, the better.
We urge everyone with a stake in Starkville''s future to participate. We point to the fruitful exercise in Columbus as evidence of what can be accomplished. Before the charrette, the community was sharply divided over the location of a soccer complex. The city planners and artists honed the facility''s vision, describing -- and illustrating -- a complex that was as much a park as a collection of soccer fields. The meetings helped crystallize support for the project, and the multimillion-dollar facility is now under construction downtown.
The meetings also have an element of what might be described as marriage counseling among city and county leaders. Local leadership is encouraged to bluntly and candidly face the challenges and differences among each other, to forge common ground and common vision.
Of course, improvements come at a cost, which is Columbus'' and West Point''s biggest challenge. Another recommendation of the team in both of these cities -- beautify business corridors, including Highway 45 in Columbus and Highway 45 Alternate through West Point -- can''t be done during a trying economy when funds are scarce. But the team will also offer cheaper, low-hanging fruit, such as ways to market the city that leaders may not have considered.
Communication, and participation, are key to make the charrette process work. Starkville''s future begins tonight at the Greensboro Center, from 6-7:30 p.m. We welcome the Main Street team, and hope to see a good turnout at this and future meetings this week.