Mayor goes door-to-door to clean up Clay Street

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Mayor Laurence Leyens, right, talks with Automotive Paint Center owner Jim Karel Monday about maintenance improvements near the fence separating his business parking lot and Church’s Chicken on Clay Street.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN

[10/09/01]Monday, Mayor Laurence Leyens went door-to-door along three blocks of Clay Street asking owners of private property to join the city’s effort to improve the appearance of corridors to downtown.

“This will help the businesses and the traffic flow as well,” Leyens said.

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Leyens and Code Enforcement Officer Wayne Scott visited about 10 businesses between Locust and Fillmore streets, asking business owners to make improvements from painting to correcting violations of city ordinances. For the most part, people seemed happy to make changes that would improve the look of the area as a whole.

“The town looks a lot better and I like what you’re doing,” Jim Davidson, owner of Parts Exchange, 1601 Clay St., told Leyens. “And I’ll do my part, too.”

Leyens asked Davidson to replace two broken windows at his business, repair a portion of the roof where leaking water has rotted boards and clean up the building next door Davidson also owns.

Leyens said that for the city’s part, about $500,000 in landscaping is planned for Clay and Washington streets and $980,000 has been allocated for new traffic lights along Clay that should improve traffic flow.

More cars travel Clay Street each day than any other city street in Vicksburg. According to a report by the Planning Division of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, about 20,000 drivers a day use Clay between Interstate 20 and Hope Street.

Improving gateway roads has been an emphasis of past administrations, too. Widening the Clay-Mission intersection was listed as a priority by former Mayor Joe Loviza in 1994. That work is now under contract and is to be completed by year’s end. Former Mayor Robert Walker commissioned a new code of ordinances for signs, paint, landscaping and more along corridor roads in 1998, but it has yet to be enacted.

All have said their hope is that cleaning up the major entrances into the city will bring more Vicksburg National Military Park visitors into downtown and the rest of the city.

“Our strategic initiative is to get people to turn right at the national park,” Leyens said.

Traffic counts indicate that about 23 percent of the cars traveling the area near the park continue into the downtown areas, yet admissions to the Old Court House Museum are a fraction of the 1 million who tour the national park.

Leyens said shops along Clay will benefit, too. Derrick Davis, owner of Wingo’s, 1307 Clay St., said he plans to landscape the outside of his business and replace a temporary sign with a new permanent one.

“We’re going to help out all we can,” Davis said.