CATEGORY: EDT Editorials

AUTHOR: JOER

Editorial, Friday, Oct. 31, 1997

Mayor Glenn McCullough pledged during the 1997 city election campaign to move quickly toward developing the "fairgrounds property" in downtown Tupelo.

The Fairgrounds Redevelopment Authority nominated and confirmed last week met Wednesday for the first time and set in motion the work that should result in substantial development of the tract before the end of McCullough's term.

The property 26 acres in the heart of downtown that for decades was home to the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show stands useless today but with vast potential.

McCullough's appointees reflect the kind of business and professional experience that should produce definite plans and proposals for action to make the property productive for the private and public sectors.

Few cities of any size own major developable tracts in their downtowns. Tupelo's good fortune in reclaiming the land when the fair association died and its agreement with the city was voided created an opportunity for both business and public-sector activity on the site and adjacent properties.

One of the proposals suspended during the previous city administration involves a new City Hall. Public opposition to the scope and costs proposed by a special citizens' committee derailed the project, but it isn't dead. The proposal needs to be revisited as part of the planning and consideration of what's appropriate on the 26-acre site.

The tract on the south side of Main Street near the Tupelo Coliseum obviously invites proposals for private-sector development. The land might be used for retail and business centers, hotels and appropriate downtown residential buildings. The key is deciding what's appropriate and most useful in the long term. The land is too valuable to pursue short-term projects for the sake of having some kind of structure on the land.

The redevelopment authority doesn't yet know what it can and would do with the land, but it shouldn't hesitate to make bold proposals and explore aggressive steps. The issue of adjacent land that is not yet under the city's ownership and control already has been raised. That question shouldn't be sidestepped. The boundaries of some privately held parcels would actually complete the tract in terms of logical development patterns.

The authority's work also coincides with the reassessment of downtown development approved last week for the Tupelo Main Street Program and the downtown association. All the parties interested in downtown's growth need to join minds and energies in shaping the fairgrounds' future.

Downtown's strength both reflects and guides the whole city's image and vitality.

Authority members have set up monthly meetings, and people with ideas about the property should make their proposals known in those public sessions at 4 p.m. on the third Tuesday in the 4th-floor conference room at Bank of Mississippi.

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