October 19, 2012 10:31:08 AM
Sarah Fowler - firstname.lastname@example.org
The City of Columbus is taking steps to beautify and restore some less than desirable areas of the community.
City Planner Christina Berry said she has met with a consultant in hopes of formulating a redevelopment plan.
Berry met with consultant Arnette Muldrow two weeks ago and said since their initial meeting, Muldrow has created a rough draft of various improvements.
"We did a walk-through of the city and different wards to identify some areas and projects that gave us several ideas," she said. "I'm sure it will eventually lead to the creating of a (redevelopment) authority."
Berry also said she and Muldrow met with several council members who showed interests in forming a development authority.
Mississippi has a state development authority that focuses on attracting business as well as helping established merchants.
For example, the MDA hosted six workshops throughout the state in August and September that solely concentrated on owning and operating a bed and breakfast.
Berry said having a development authority with board members who are familiar with economic development and bring that knowledge to Columbus would boost the local economy.
"It works like a private arm of the city," she said. "You would have people on the board who are experts in that field centered around one central goal. You can get projects really pushed along faster."
Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box met with both Berry and Muldrow and said he supports Berry's efforts.
"I think it's a real good idea," he said. "I've been for it all along. It will give us an opportunity to look at some areas that are kind of run-down and hopefully bring in some private partners that can help redevelopment."
Box said the vacated Johnson Tombigbee Plant as well as the former American Bosch plant are both areas that could be ideal for redevelopment.
"Both those places would lend themselves to this real well," he said.
Berry said creating a plan would take approximately six months to a year.
"The first step is a redevelopment plan," she said. "We need to identify areas that are blighted, specifically commercial and industrial. Once we identify those areas, we'll work with a consultant to offer incentives."
Box said he was aware that redevelopment may be a lengthy process but insisted the end result would be worth the wait.
"It's a long-range plan and not something you do overnight," Box said. "I definitely think it will be worth it."
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah