By STEVEN NALLEY
At a meeting of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership Friday, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Gregory said the Starkville Main Street Association has received a $50,000 grant from the Mississippi Development Authority for revitalization of a shopping strip near Starkville High School which currently houses Hudson’s Dirt Cheap.
Gregory, who is also manager of SMSA, said the news came to her Thursday. She said the property owner will still have to match the grant at 100 percent for the redevelopment to move forward.
“It’s a pilot program to see if spending money on the exteriors of strip center shopping centers will encourage retailers to relocate into those areas and generate sales taxes for the community,” Gregory said. “There were 13 communities that applied, and we were one of four to receive that grant.”
While SMSA organized the application for the grant, Gregory said the real credit for belonged to the Golden Triangle Planning and Development, which wrote the grant as required by MDA guidelines. She also said Austin Shafer, the GSDP’s new vice president of membership and the Chamber of Commerce, has done much to improve the city’s relationship with GTPDD. As Maynard had reported at previous meetings, Gregory said GSDP is still at work on bringing an unnamed business in the military industry to Starkville, a task code-named “Project Blue Eyes” to maintain confidentiality. She said Maynard also has a positive outlook for the Cotton Mill Project and expects it to close before the end of the year.
Gregory also said Paige Lawes of Three Generations Tea Room is working with Langston, to set up a celebration for the 175th anniversary of Starkville’s chartering, with SMSA planning a parade downtown in conjunction.
Gregory also gave a report on behalf of GSDP President Jon Maynard, absent from the meeting to attend a funeral in Florida.
Shafer gave a presentation of his own, announcing that seven new members had joined the GSDP in October, with 11 new members joining in November to date. He wants to restructure the GSDP’s membership program to offer more benefits to members, he said, giving members businesses discounts on health care programs and gym memberships for employees, for example.
Shafer said he also wants to investigate more opportunities for street vendors, including monthly events which would close off a given street where vendors could converge. Finally, he said, he is working to make Starkville part of Dillard’s “pop-up store” program, where Dillard’s turns an empty building in town into a Dillard’s for 48 hours, giving 10 percent of the profit to a charity of the GSDP’s choosing.
“I am calling every single day and trying to get this (pop-up store) done,” Shafer said. “Dr. (Larry) Anthony has allowed us to use the new old KIA building, and we’ve also talked to Level III. If you’ve ever been into that space, it’s gorgeous. Synergetics has been nice enough to say, ‘You can use our 30,000 square feet’ that they have behind it.”
Jeremiah Dumas, Ward 5 alderman and chair of the Starkville Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, said the CVB has hired Tripp Muldrow for the next year. Muldrow, an urban planner with Arnett Muldrow and Associates in Greenville, S.C., gave reports of retail leakage and gain in the charrette the City of Starkville held for Main Street in the spring.
“We’re still in the negotiation phase of figuring out exactly what it is that he wants to do,” Dumas said, “but with Cotton Mill, and knowing that we’re within six to eight weeks, potentially, of a drop-dead date either way on that, with form-based codes hitting, with a number of the good things and the excitement we’re all talking about, we thought it was best to have an outside third party come in and help us wrangle all these things together so we can make sure that we’re heading down the right process.”