April 8, 2013 9:23:48 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
Starkville officials are optimistic a series of completed and ongoing projects will spur Highway 128 redevelopment and bring new businesses to one of the town's most crucial corridors
Last week, city engineer Edward Kemp announced an ongoing Mississippi Department of Transportation improvement plan that will use an estimated $2 million to overlay the aging roadway within city limits, develop landscape islands, improve sidewalk access and re-pour driveways over the summer.
That project is expected to provide an immediate aesthetic and overall infrastructure upgrade to the area. Previous board actions, including the passage of the Downtown-MSU Corridors Code and the approval of an outdoor storage ordinance, will also help streamline development and improve the area's appearance.
The city is also in the process of forming a redevelopment authority for the area, a tool Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman, said would help promote economic development. The proposed group could have the ability to assist with master planning and policy recommendations for future turn-key incentives, including Tax Increment Financing (TIF) packages. Mississippi Code sets standards and provisions for such entities.
Other Mississippi cities, including Jackson, Meridian and Pascagoula, have developed similar redevelopment authorities. Locally, the city has developed a steering committee for the project and presented the issue to the Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission.
"Highway 182 was identified through strategic planning as the central core of the community. It's an area most in need of (redevelopment) due to age and current development trends," Wiseman said. "It becomes critical when an area starts to have some blighted properties because those properties then become a hindrance to development opportunities in surrounding properties. That creates a cycle of blight where one blighted property may keep five other properties from developing over time, and as a result those could become blighted as well.
"It then becomes necessary to set a vision for the area as a whole to promote development that will lift the condition of all properties," he added. "Highway 182 is of great strategic importance to us. It has not been in the most flattering condition in the past years, and I feel it's important for us to continue taking steps as a city to ensure that the corridor improves."
The city previously tried to help seed development in the Old Highway 182 corridor with its former plans for a new police department. The proposed Starkville Police Department headquarters would have been located at an undeveloped property on the Jackson Street intersection. In 2011, voters defeated the $8 million bond referendum associated with the project.
Wiseman hopes the board of alderman can address the issue soon, but the city does not have a timetable to take up the matter. The language of the proposed legislation is still under development, he said.
"Then it becomes a matter of timing because this board is approaching the end of its term," Wiseman said. "There is merit to this board taking up the item because it has worked on it, but there is also some merit to starting fresh next term and taking up the issue then since it will be in the next term that much of the work setting the redevelopment authority in motion will occur."
Bid advertisements for the Old Highway 82 infrastructure project are expected to begin in June, and construction could start shortly after contracts are signed with MDOT. All sidewalk improvements will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Kemp said.
Starkville commuters should see the biggest impact from the project: a smoother ride.
Kemp said MDOT is slated to use new saw-and-seal overlay methods to help reduce road deterioration.
"Improving the surface and infrastructure of Highway 182 helps revitalization efforts in the area but more importantly improves the appearance of a major corridor and gateway into our community," Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Jennifer Gregory said. "Revitalization of the Highway 182 corridor has already begun by private investors and business owners, but there's still much work to be done."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch