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Residents air opinions in first charrette

March 29, 2011


Starkville residents put their two cents in Tuesday when asked to answer a series of questions which organizers say will inform a comprehensive look at Starkville’s core.
The process – known as a charrette – formally kicked off Tuesday and citizens got to answer the questions posed to them at the Greensboro Center.
The charrette process will take a close look at four major points – market analysis, branding and marketing, both for external and internal audiences; design and planning and implementation strategies, said Randy Wilson, director of design services for Mississippi Main Street Association.
“We have a phrase that we live by ‘To plan is human but to implement is divine.’ And so we want that to undergird our work,” he said.
Organizers want the vision to be public-participation-based, Wilson said. “We do not want to be a bunch of pretentious professionals who roll in here and tell you what you should do,” he said.
He said the plan needs to be asset-based, focusing on what the community possesses, “not trying to turn you into another place,” Wilson said.
Prompt feedback is another major component. “Our gift back to you is to give you a response to what you tell us as soon as possible,” he said.
He asked what people liked about the core area, especially downtown. The answers include the following:
• A sense of safety.
• It’s feasible to block off streets for events.
• Governmental services are all downtown.
• It’s a place people want to be day and night.
• Starkville Community Theatre.
• Restaurants and nightlife.
• Starkville Community Market.
• It’s family-friendly.
Some of the things people didn’t like were:
• Inadequate parking.
• Location of the county jail.
• The lack of connectedness to parks.
• Too many banks and churches.
• An absence of trees.
• Lack of a town green space.
• Additional play area for children.
• Highway 182 in general.
Wilson sought examples from other communities of features and aspects they liked.
These include:
• The appeal of Ocean Springs.
• Seating areas such as those in Ft. Collins, Colo.
• Festival plazas and public performance spaces.
• New buildings in Tupelo designed to serve as landmarks.
• The unified government of Athens-Clarke County, Ga. and its healthy downtown.
• The former Southern Living building in Birmingham, Ala. as an example for City Hall.
• Murals in Dothan, Ala.
• University towns where the campus blends into the community.
Wilson looked for a list of things people should not leave town without knowing or doing. This includes:
• Visiting the Left Field Lounge at Dudy Noble Field.
• Going to the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum.
• Leaving town with cheese from Cardwell Cheese Shoppe.
• Touring the Mississippi State University campus in general.
• Hearing live music.
• Eating at a local restaurant.
• Tailgating during football season.
• Attending the Cotton District Arts Festival.
He asked for a list of things the community thought the team must do.
This includes:
• Addressing Highway 182.
• Helping develop a plan for Russell Street.
• Supporting Safe Routes to Schools.
• Creating green and play space.
• Encouraging joint city and county projects.
• Developing bike paths, not lanes.
• Identifying a primary gateway.
• Helping people access grocery stores.
After the session, Wilson said: “Tonight was fantastic.” He noted the turnout was good, the input was high-quality and very thoughtful. It provided the team a lot of direction, Wilson said.
“We really try to build our plan around two things,” he said, noting these are the unique aspects the community possesses and the citizens’ stated aspirations.
The next public session will be back at the Greensboro Center at 6 p.m. Thursday, when those involved in developing recommendations will present their findings.

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