STARKVILLE — Alaina Prentice Phillips’ business might not be on Main Street, but she wholeheartedly supports a planned Main Street redevelopment project.
Phillips has owned Merle Norman on Russell Street — near downtown — for the last 10 years, and she said redevelopment efforts will be beneficial to businesses, though she does admit that there will be growing pains.
“When it’s done, it will be beautiful,” Phillips said. “It will improve the walking paths for downtown, making it more accessible for customers to come into stores.”
Phillips sits on the Starkville Main Street Association board, which voted unanimously to support the redevelopment plan. The board of aldermen last week approved a design plan from the Kimley-Horn firm for the estimated $9.5 million project.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said the city already has $4.7 million dedicated to the project and hopes to receive more from the state in the next fiscal year.
“Actual digging in the ground work should begin next year, probably the end of next year,” Spruill said.
Once funding is in place and the project can begin, it will take up to two years to complete, Spruill said.
The plan is broken down into three main areas: roadway, parking and pedestrian. There is an emphasis on “slowing down traffic,” according to the design documents given to the board, and making the area more pedestrian friendly.
Major roadway redesign points include the removal of the right turn lane on eastbound Main Street, the removal of the center turn lane from Jackson Street to Washington Street and the conversion of angled parking in much of the area to parallel parking.
While the initial plan included the removal of up to 45 parking spaces, the revised plan has a loss of 36 spaces on Main Street. However, a plan to convert Lafayette Street into a one-way and add streetside parking would drop the net loss of downtown parking spaces to 16.
The pedestrian redesigns are planned to work in tandem with the improvements made to the roadway, with more sidewalk space due to the change to parallel parking and the reduced width of the affected streets.
The plan mentions beautification efforts, including decorative paving, the installation of furnishings, including seating, bike racks and trash receptacles and street trees.
Ward 3 Alderman Jeffrey Rupp voted to approve the plan, saying it would create a “sense of pedestrian space.” Rupp is serving as the liaison between the city of Starkville and the Main Street Association.
“It has been shown that when you have that place, it helps attract people to your downtown,” Rupp said. “Starkville has to be very focused on keeping downtown viable.”
Rupp told The Dispatch the plan is an attempt to “model our downtown” after other successful southern towns.
Rupp shared some concerns, mainly whether businesses could get enough customers to stay open during the construction.
The lone nay vote during the alderman meeting was Ward 5’s Hamp Beatty. He emphasized that while he is pro-redevelopment, he has issues with the plan and its design, along with its price tag.
“I think that we could do some things downtown to enhance the looks of it, without having to significantly redesign how traffic flows, and how we park and make turns,” Beatty said. “It concerns me that if it gets crowded, we’ll have congestion. I don’t want anything to inhibit people coming downtown.”
Beatty mentioned that his main concern is that the city is trying to “create a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist,” adding that Starkville’s downtown is already functional.
Beatty noted that he “isn’t anti-tax or anti-doing nice things,” and he hopes his misgivings are proven incorrect.
Some Main Street business owners also have concerns, including Moe’s Original Barbecue owner Whit Stuckey.
Stuckey told The Dispatch his main concerns stem from whether or not customers will make it to the stores around the construction, adding that a grant should be established for business owners who lose customers due to the construction.
“It’s an awesome project,” Stuckey said, “but (up to two years) is a long time to wait.
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