Workshop held to plan downtown revitalization

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Vicksburg’s partnership with a national retail consulting, market research and development firm is starting to take shape with stakeholders this week.

Scott Emison, director of retail strategy with The Retail Coach based out of Tupelo, presented a Downtown Revitalization Workshop to downtown merchants Tuesday morning at The Bluff.

His presentation touched on what Vicksburg has done and still needs to do to cultivate the district as well as the impact of retail trends and a retail recruitment strategy.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“I always feel like the downtown core is where we need to spend the most of our work effort,” Emison said.

Emison’s focus is on downtown because he said all the other pieces tend to come together when there is a thriving downtown.

He was positive about Vicksburg’s location and ability to draw tourists, shoppers and traffic and said the town has a super regional market.

He said the city’s infrastructure and buildings were among the best in a position to move forward.

Downtown revitalization, he said, is not possible without community revitalization. The perception of the community is directly tied to commercial development.

“Community development precedes economic development,” Emison said.

Some of the first steps, he said, are to cultivate a district through way-finding signs, a gateway to downtown and a booming commercial atmosphere.

“I said cultivating because I really feel like what we’re talking about is a live element, something that we are trying to grow, something that is going to take all of us working together,” Emison said.

He emphasized that his company’s mission is not to close businesses here or cannibalize the market. Instead, he wants to support the existing business by bringing in complimentary businesses the city does not have.

Making a comprehensive plan to define downtown’s mission and goals is an important piece of the puzzle as well as creating a district through community branding, he said.

“We want to get more visitors into our downtown. I think for Vicksburg, that should be your No. 1 goal,” Emison said.

He encouraged downtown to be creative, original and open to new ideas. The stakeholders are invaluable when it comes to revitalization, he said, and it will take everyone working together and utilizing resources and opportunities to be successful.

Emison noted the current trend of outdoor shopping lifestyle centers that often almost recreate the downtowns of before, which were once thriving places but have over time lost their luster and importance as a location for retail shopping.

“We need to get back to where Main Street and downtown is that hub of the city,” Emison said. “Main Street and downtown renewal is critical to the success of the community and the long-term prosperity of its citizens.”

Emison also lead several Stakeholder’s Retail Work Session Tuesday evening at Nogales House.

The five 30-minute sessions focused on the city as a whole and gave local business owners and investors a chance to share their thoughts and concerns with him.