By PAUL SIMS
Economic growth is one outcome officials hope will arise from a planning process set to take place in Starkville early next year.
A charrette – or planning workshop – will take place over the course of March 28-April 1, officials with Main Street Starkville formally announced Thursday.
The Appalachian Regional Commission will provide a $25,000 grant to help fund the process.
Starkville Main Street officials are “extremely grateful” for the grant, which makes the charrette a reality for the community, said Jennifer Gregory, Starkville Main Street manager and Greater Starkville Development Partnership vice president of tourism development.
“I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the charrette presentations from other communities and they are truly amazing,” she said. “Not only does the charrette team provide a very visual presentation on recommendations and plans for future growth,” they will “provide tangible resources that will help us achieve these recommendations in the short and long-term future.”
Michelle Jones, president of Starkville Main Street, said matching funds will come from dues the local Main Street group supplies to Mississippi Main Street Association, some in-kind service from MMSA staff and other help.
National, state and local experts will help those involved look at the community “maybe in a way we haven’t before,” Jones said. “What we’re hoping is that we can come together with a comprehensive vision for where we want our community to be.”
The Main Street board “really sees our downtown as that core of our community that makes Starkville special,” she said.
The design charrette team will hold community meetings to obtain input and meet with individual groups and “people who ... have an interest in how our community looks and grows,” Jones said.
Specifically, Starkville will walk through the community master plan charrette.
Mike Armour, director of the state ARC office, told the audience gathered in the GSDP Welcome Center he went to Mississippi State University in the 1970s.
“I’ve seen the town develop. You’ve made strides and this just will be ... icing on the cake,” Armour said. “I encourage anybody who cares about the city ... get involved.”
Gregory said: “We really hope the community will extensively participate in the charrette process by attending the input meetings and providing feedback to the charrette team.”
In a statement on the charrette, MMSA Executive Director Bob Wilson said: “The results of the charrette program have been pretty phenomenal. ... They have created new businesses, jobs, private and public reinvestment as well as landscaping and street-scaping development, not to mention a newfound pride and enthusiasm in the community.”
The effort’s ultimate goal will be to provide Starkville with a continuing, flexible plan used to guide its ongoing revitalization and spark additional economic growth, officials said in the statement.
Gregory explained how the planning process could help Starkville reap economic benefits.
“Some of the elements of the charrette will include marketing and branding, historic preservation, beautification and actual ordinance and code recommendations that will help build on all the work that has been done” Starkville’s in downtown which has put the area where it is today, she said.
“... It is our hope these measures and recommendations will also increase tourism spending and overall economic impact in the area which will inevitably lead to a better business environment, an increase in jobs and overall business revitalization in the downtown district,” Gregory said.
About six to eight weeks after the charrette, the design team will provide community officials with a resource manual which includes funding opportunities, businesses to contract with on specific projects and work plans which help the community achieve its goals, she said. “The community will play an important role in this effort and will be a huge part of the Starkville Main Street program moving forward,” Wilson said in the statement.